Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Did He Just Laugh??

Yesterday I had to get my residency renewed, which involved several phone calls, waiting in line at one office, going to another office, a few tears, more waiting, and finally a few stamps and directions to wait some more.

Well, anybody who has known me for a while knows that I've changed a LOT in the past 6ish years.

My passport picture was taken 60 pounds ago, and on that particular day, my hair (which was cut very short) was not cooperating, and when the AWFUL picture came out, the lady in charge wouldn't let me take another one. So now I'm stuck with it.

Every now and then customs agents, bank workers, and whoever else looks at my passport will do a double-take or raise an eyebrow, and once somebody even commented on how much I had changed.

But yesterday at the immigration office....

Dude straight up LAUGHED.

He took one look and couldn't hold it in.

He didn't have any shame about it, either.

He didn't even try to hide it. Or even apologize.

He just kept on laughing, while I, taken aback, said, "yeah, I know, it's terrible".

Lucky for him, I'm not easily offended. And I must admit, it is funny. Especially when I'm having a good hair day (which I was yesterday) and wearing makeup (which I was yesterday), it looks like I'm some exaggerated before-and-after TLC stunt.

I would put the amazingly awful picture on here for you all to see, but I'm not gonna lie....there's no way I'm about to put that thing on the internet for all the world to see. Not on my life.

In other news, the sun came out recently. It's been wonderful! My friend Kaotar and I took advantage of a sunny Saturday afternoon and went to the park to play frisbee.

After a while Kaotar realized that she lost the pendant on her necklace (that her mom gave her when she was a little girl!), so we spent a good 30-45 minutes scouring the grass looking for it.

A man and his 6 year old son came along and helped us look. When Kaotar decided it was time to give up, we all started playing frisbee together.

Here I am showing off my awesome frisbee skills:

After a few minutes I looked to my right to see two little boys standing there.

You know how little kids do...

They were too shy to ask if they could play, so they just stood there, staring at me, until I noticed.

I asked, "do y'all want to play?"

They both nodded their heads vigorously.

Pretty soon the couple making out nearby decided it was time to move. That was when the real fun began.

No more worrying about knocking them in the head or running over them trying to catch a frisbee gone array.

It was great. The kids were adorable and they learned really quickly how to throw the frsibee fairly decent.

The 6 year old's dad kept cracking us up by calling out the score every time somebody messed up.

"Chile 5, United States 0"

"Spain 2, Morocco 1"

He was from Chile so every time he and his son had success, he awarded themselves more points.

Here are the 3 adorable boys:

When they got tired of playing frisbee they decided to "clean" the area. They went around gathering sticks, leaves, anything they could find, and putting them in this hole. They said it was so we could find Kaotar's pendant easier, but I think really it was just because they're boys and they like any excuse to play with sticks.

They say it's going to get cold again this week, and while I'm sad to see the beautiful weather go, I'm glad it came for a visit.

I can hardly wait for Spring!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Decision Making!

I'm not good at it.

Well, it's not that I'm not good at general I would say I make pretty good decisions. The problem is, it usually takes me a LONG time to make them, and the general process is usually borderline traumatic.*

Last May I did this exhaustive personality test that covers all the major points and tells you what your goals are, what your usual behavior is, what causes you stress, how you respond to that stress, gives suggestions on how to manage stress in that particular area, and oh so much more.

Today I was reminded about this personality test and decided to have a look through the results again, since it's been quite a long time since looking at it.

One of my pages on decision making says this:

"You generally dislike making quick or snap decisions. It is your nature to think things through carefully before acting. You are able to see many shades of gray, and consider the subtle sides of issues that others may miss.

Strengths: thoughtful, reflective, concerned about consequences

Need: It is important for you to have ample time to carry out your thoughtful approach to making decisions - looking carefully at all aspects of issues and considering the consequences of each.

Causes of stress: Since you constantly think of other ways that a project could be handled, you may have difficulty coping with a problem in a casual manner. Being pushed to make a decision can you make you feel rushed and hurried, leading to feelings of insecurity.

Possible reactions when needs are not met: indecision, over-emphasis on future, negative reaction to quick decisions."

There's quite a bit more, but this was the basic summary.

At the moment, I'm currently trying to make some big decisions (how much longer to stay here? Where should I go to seminary? What degree should I seek? Should I take some business courses as well?). I still have a bit of time left (a month, more or less, on the seminary bit) so thankfully I'm not yet to the stress point.

So let me ask you:

What do you think are some important things I should consider before making my final decision? Any tips on going about making the decision? If you've been to/are in seminary, what suggestions do you have?

Some of the tips suggested to me through the personality test are:
Establish a schedule
Make a list of pros and cons
Focus on one or two options at a time and slowly narrow them down

Anybody got anymore advice? How do you make decisions?

*The major exception to this general rule is when I decided to go to Texas A&M. While I still followed my general process of checking out options, considering consequences, etc, the moment I saw the giant "Welcome to Aggieland" water tower I pretty much made up my mind, even though it was only the second university I considered. The campus tour and advisor meeting that followed just served to reinforce my gut feeling and justify my seemingly snap decision.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


A few weeks ago I woke up one morning to a beautiful surprise - snow!!

Not just a few small flakes, but full, fat flakes falling in full force. (How's that for an alliteration?)

It wasn't long before the whole city was covered in a sheet of white.

My friend Elena was visiting me that week, so since we had no commitments for the day, we decided to head towards the park and enjoy the snow. Thankfully she had her camera with her, so even though mine was broken at the time, I still took a million pictures.

On the way we passed the Christmas tree by my house (the city took their sweet time taking down Christmas decorations). It looks as though the picture is in black and white, but really there was just so much snow, but if you look carefully you can see a little bit of color in the traffic light.

We got in touch with another friend and later my roommate and after quite a few snowball fights through the park, we set to work building a snow man. That day the whole city came out to the park, and there were snow men on every corner. The gardeners made make-shift sleds out of plastic bags and cardboard and took turns sledding down the hill by our snow man.

On our way out of the park we got a nice view of the city rooftops all covered in snow. What a beautiful day!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Finally Photos!

I finally bought a new camera!!

I'm so thrilled that I can take pictures again, and can't wait to get started, especially since the cow parade is in town!

As you might remember, I dropped my camera on the hard kitchen floor back in November, and along with my camera, the fall broke my heart.

My camera was my best friend (as far as inanimate objects go). She went everywhere with me. She fit perfectly in my pocket, purse, or handbag. She took beautiful pictures. She made me look really hot.

And then I dropped her.

Seeing as how digital cameras cost a pretty penny, I couldn't exactly just run to the store and grab a new one.

So for the past 3 1/2 months, I've gone without my best inanimate friend ever. I traveled to visit friends, I visited my mom, I saw more than an inch of snow for the first time in the town where I live, I saw art exhibits, I created memories with new friends and old friends...all without my best friend. I borrowed every friend's camera that I possibly could. I still don't have my hands on some of those pictures (but don't worry...there's supposed to be a CD in the mail for me).

But right now is sale season. For most of January and February nearly everything is on sale. After February, it all goes back to it's normal price until August and September, when they have a second round of sales.

If you don't get what you want during sale season, you're out of luck.

So I thought I'd look around and see if I could find a good deal.

I looked in a ton of stores, online and in-store. I looked at a second hand website. I even looked at buying one in the US and having it shipped here to save on the dollar/euro conversion (USPS flat-rate boxes make shipping quite affordable, especially for heavy stuff).

And by a stroke of luck I walked into the Corte Inglés department store to find that in addition to the winter sale price, they were having an extra 10% off for Valentine's Day.

And since I've never had a Valentine of my own, and everywhere else (even in the US) was selling the same (or similar) model for at least 20 Euros more....

I decided to be my own Valentine. :)

So happy Valentine's Day to me, from me.

And now I can take pictures!! I can hardly wait!!

But I'm wondering - what do I do with my old camera, the broken one? The lens is stuck half-way out and it only turns on long enough to say "lens malfunction" and then turns back off.

You can't just throw away a camera, can you?

What do I do with it?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Nearly Cried

Today I walked into one of my favorite restaurants, a vegetarian buffet, to grab some lunch on the way home. I usually love everything there, but I have to be careful because they use a lot of walnuts, and I'm allergic.

Upon entering, my eyes were immediately drawn to a fabulous looking pasta salad, much better even than the one in the photo.

This pasta salad had spiral pasta, cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, baby spinach, and to top it all off....pesto. Oh how I love a good pesto.

Before loading a to-go box full of the delectable looking dish, I had the soundness of mind to ask, just to be sure, if there were any nuts hidden in there.

The girl thought for a moment, and then stated that there were probably pine nuts in the pesto.

"Pine nuts are fine."

"Let me ask the cook real quick, just to be sure."

She came back with the tragic news.

Instead of using pine nuts like any normal pesto, they use walnuts.

Why must they spoil a good thing??? Everybody else makes their pesto with pine nuts, and the whole world loves it! Haven't they ever heard, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"??

"Are you sure it's not pine nuts? Pesto is normally made with pine nuts." (the word for "walnut" is just "nut", so sometimes there's confusion when I'm asking what kind of nut something is)

"I know but our restaurant makes it with walnuts."

As pathetic as it may sound, I almost cried just then.

I stood there staring at the buffet, longing for the pesto, knowing it was poison to me, and I felt the tears welling up inside me.

The man paying for his own meal looked at me with pity.

I lingered a moment, trying to decide if there was something else on the buffet that might interest me.

Bean salad: walnuts.

Vegetable omelette: walnuts

Crepes: walnuts

Everything on the buffet today either had walnuts or looked completely unappetizing.

I said "thank you" and walked on out.

I considered going to the grocery store, but at 2pm the olive man and the cheese man and all the yummy things men go home to eat their own delicious, non-poisonous lunches.

I considered going home and trying to throw something together out of the randomness that is my refrigerator at the moment, but at the moment there's not a vegetable to be found in there.

So I went to Starbucks to get a nice, healthy turkey/onion/spinach sandwich on cranberry bread and of course, they were all out. I was too late.

Crushed, I opted for my second favorite, chicken pesto, which although delicious, has not a single vegetable aside from the tiny pieces of sun-dried tomato in the bread.

Margarita said, "here's Laura, back home again."

They love me at Starbucks. And I love them. I should have known that going anywhere else would be a bitter disappointment, but I did it anyway, and I paid for it. I'll never make that mistake again.

But it's okay. They'll have another turkey/onion/spinach on cranberry bread sandwich waiting for me tomorrow. And it will be gloriously sublime.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

We've Made Progress!!

My next door neighbor is scary.

He yells a lot.

He yelled at me once, and called me "woman!" It reminded me of my grandfather.

My roommate is slightly (okay, more than slightly) terrified of him.

I've taken him and his wife cookies a million times and they've still never invited me in for coffee, acted appreciative, told me later that they were yummy, brought me some home-made treat...

I've lived here for over a year and while we interact on at least a weekly basis, our conversations are usually short, superficial, or involve him yelling at me (like that one time the door was stuck and he yelled, "what do you want me to say??").

But TODAY....

I was downstairs at the bakery buying bread and a donut (they have the BEST donuts there!! They're dipped in chocolate or white chocolate and the inside melts in your mouth) when he came in.

As I walked out he said, "adios guapa!"

That was the FIRST time he's ever used the diminutive "guapa" for me!! That's a BIG deal!!

"Guapa" means pretty, beautiful, or handsome (in a feminine way) but is also a very common diminutive used among friends, neighbors, even strangers.

For example, most of the little old ladies in my building call me "guapa" when we pass on the stairs or on the street.

Most of the time you go get a cup of coffee the bartender calls you "guapa."

When a friend sends you a text message they say, "Hola guapa!"

You also get the creepy men in street grunting it at you, which I am anything but fond of, but aside from that it's a quite pleasant way of referring to any female with which you have some sort of interaction.

And after more than a year, my grumpy, kermudgin neighbor smiled and said, "adios, guapa!"


Next step: get his wife to speak more than 2 words to me.