Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
And! See that little black box there? I HAVE INTERNET IN MY PISO!!!!
Thursday, December 8, 2011
These are basically the ugliest pasteles you have ever seen. In the US I never had to make them, I could just eat the ones M's cousin made. Here, I don't know what's making me all cocinera Salvadoreña, but I have a long list of foods I want to try and make. Salvadoran pasteles are like empanadas, but usually orangish colored cause you put achiote in the masa. Well I tried soaking the achiote in water, and it did turn orange, but when I mixed it, it imparted no orange color =( These are filled with chicken and mixed vegetables. They should be media luna shaped but clearly...this was my first time. I brought them to my friends at the locutorio who said it didn't matter how ugly they were, they taste good. I think they'll eat whatever I bring them though. Next on my list to try and make are arepas, which aren't Salvadoran but Colombian/Venezuelan. It looks like you make them similarly to pupusas though and the señora in the locutorio sold me a different masa to try and make them, so we'll see how it goes.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
So there's a huge supermarket in the basement of Corte Inglés called Hipercor. Hipercor is like the ''expensive'' grocery store and I was looking for real vanilla extract and my tutora said if any place was going to have it, it would be Hipercor. So after my class today I went to Hipercor and bummer, they didn't have vanilla extract. They did have those real vanilla beans though, where you have to scrape the caviar out but they were expensive so I didn't get them. BUT!!! my greatest discovery of the day was finding corn oil. It was like the heavens opened and God smiled down on me and said, ''I know you can't make real latin food without it.'' I love olive oil as much as the next person but you can't fry with it and I am not exaggerating, the ONLY other oil they sell around here is sunflower oil. It is the most wretched smelling stuff, it smells exactly like that 90s era perfume called Sunflowers. Who wants fried chicken that smells like flowers??
I've started cooking again and earlier this week I made ropa vieja that came out pretty great if you ask me. It only took four hours to make. [#Low&Slow] I tried taking a picture and my lens started fogging up.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Saturday, November 26, 2011
I am not an outgoing person. I find it very difficult to meet people and make new friends. In fact I can count my close friends on one hand. But what I lack in quantity I make up for in quality. That being said, I haven't met very many people here in Spain but the people I have met have been amazing. For example, my weekly visits with the doctor, I don't think he could possibly realize the impact he's had on my mental well being since I've been here. He is an amazingly upbeat, cheerful person and after our English classes I feel upbeat and cheerful! It's like free therapy without all the trauma. And considering he's paying me to speak English with him, he's always excited to explain the finer nuances of the Spanish language to me or discuss poverty in Spain or any other curiosity I might have about Oviedo.
Then there's internet café guy. You know that feeling when you become a regular somewhere, where people recognize you when you walk in? It's a feeling of belonging and that's what internet café guy has given to me. This sort of happened to me in Mexico too, you go to the same internet café enough times, you end up picking your favorite computer. I walked into the internet café here one day and internet café guy grinned at me cause my preferred computer was occupied. That simple nonverbal communication, a smile, made me feel instantly comfortable. Internet café guy even knows my preferred back up computer. I have to imagine this is what it's like when your neighborhood bartender knows exactly what you drink and when you need a single or a double.
Last week I met interview guy. Interview guy is kind of shy and nervous but that could just be because he has a major interview for a big job with a multinational corporation this week and the interview is in English. He's a bundle of nerves and he's already had 4 interviews for this job including a technical interview and they're flying him to Switzerland with two other candidates for the final interviews. I told interview guy, listen, at this point they already know you can do the job, it's just a matter of are you the right fit for them. You need to go in there and wow them with your sparkling personality. Make them see how great you are in person so there's no doubt left in their minds. Interview guy is not convinced. They gave him a long list of adjectives where he had to choose some that he thinks people would use to describe him and some that he would choose to describe himself. So we've deduced that they will probably ask him why he chose the words he did and that this is an opportunity for him to shine. Only thing is, some of his word choices were a little bit questionable. Interesting and coherent, really???? Out of all the possible choices. Ok so we went through each word and defined it and wrote out in English examples of why he chose this word and what he's done in his previous jobs that display the character traits. Word after word, interview guy was looking at me like I was a flipping genius!! I was surprised myself; I was pulling the most incredible examples out of thin air. Anyway, interview guy just needed someone to boost his confidence and he was super nice and I hope he gets the job. Also, Interview guy is the first car I've ridden in since being here in Oviedo. He lives in the suburbs and today we drove to a café to work and Interview guy exclaims, "I hate Oviedo! It is impossible to park here!" It's funny the worries you don't have when you're carless. I was sort of lamenting not having a car despite the fact that I haven't needed one once since arriving here but if I had a car I'm sure I could find all kinds of places to drive to. I miss driving.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Just to explain, normally all that furniture is inside that door to the left which is the living room but they were installing tile floors so everything is outside in the corredor, or kind of like an open-air covered porch area. Also, the water looks cloudy in the video but it's just got a lot of oxygen in it. Or at least that's my un-sciency way of explaining it.
House tour - part 1 from ordinary life on Vimeo.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I’ve been invited to a Thanksgiving potluck this weekend. I immediately responded that I’d bring mashed potatoes because I know I can make them and find all the ingredients despite the fact that I’ll have to peel 5 lbs of potatoes by myself. Then. Then I started hunting through the drawers of my meagerly equipped kitchen and realized I’d be mashing 5 lbs of potatoes with a fork. Damn it!! This means I’m going to have to spend money on some kind of kitchen tool that I will likely use only once. I am sure that they sell potato mashers in this city but I checked everywhere and couldn’t find one. And by everywhere, I mean the two stores within walking distance of my house. I do not have the transportation to drive all over looking. I checked Ikea, no dice. I checked Carrefour which is like a super Walmart or Target. They didn’t have it either. Like I said, I’m sure there’s a place but the only place left that was on my radar was El Corte Ingles. I have been SERIOUSLY AVOIDING El Corte Ingles since I got here. Corte Ingles is like Macy’s or Bloomingdales or Nordstrom plus super Target with a grocery store plus Best Buy plus Home Depot minus the lumber. It is massive. They’re all over Spain and the one here in Oviedo has like 3 separate buildings with like 6 stories each. Imagine like your favorite department store but the flagship version in NYC. I didn’t want to go in. I have been shopping deprived and everything here is different and not the same stuff you see all the time in the states and I just see and I want I want I want.
So, after my private lesson which is in the city center near the Corte Ingles, I decided I would quickly see if they had a potato masher there. At first I thought I was out of luck. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to find the masher I’m used to which looks like a wavy zigzag but I would settle for the flat kind with the holes in the bottom. There were rows and rows of shiny gleaming stainless steel whisks and ladles and strainers and garlic presses, then finally, all the way in the back, I found one lone potato masher, or as the label indicated, prensa patatas. It was heavy and shiny stainless steel. I held my breath and looked for the price.
Now before I tell you how much I overpaid on a potato masher, allow me to explain my rationale. Because yes, I had to rationalize this purchase. I have to make the mashed potatoes on Saturday and I have no time tomorrow to go out and look for another masher. If I leave it til Friday there is a very good chance I’d be cursing myself Saturday as I’m mashing with a crappy fork. I can use this masher again to make mashed potatoes or even to mash beans. This masher will last a lifetime. This masher is cheaper than a plane ticket home for thanksgiving. This masher will be a sentimental reminder of my time here in Oviedo. Or maybe just a reminder of that time I spent $30 on a potato masher. Yes folks, this potato masher cost 22€ which is currently equivalent to about $30. I am aware that there are people who can eat for a month with $30. They probably already own a masher they got at Marshall’s for $7 like I did once. I guarantee you though, I will NOT be leaving this masher behind.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Today however, was not bad. I gave a little presentation about Halloween to my classes and a crossword puzzle and they ate it up. The teachers loved it and now I have a proven formula for Thanksgiving, Christmas, MLK, President’s Day, etc. I’m starting to feel more comfortable here; today I pulled out my ipod for the first time since I got here for my walk to my tutoring session. I don’t know, I just felt good today and I want M here so we can feel good together. You know how they say, god only gives you what you can handle? I think if things here had been even slightly more difficult, I would have already thrown in the towel. Some people might call that “quitting”, I prefer the phrase “cutting my losses”. Fortunately, a lot of things worked out really well for me, like being picked up from the train by my landlord and being driven directly to an apartment I didn’t have to find myself or being walking distance to my school, the grocery store, and the internet café. Shoot, I could even walk to IKEA if I was feeling ambitious. The coordinating teacher I work with has been amazing. It is scary how much she looks like Jennifer Aniston. I wish I could take a picture and show you all. I think I might even be ready to pick up the camera and take a few pictures of Oviedo so stay tuned.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Monday, October 17, 2011
Friday, October 14, 2011
Take my picture over here, he said to me.
You want a picture with the sign? Why don’t you come over on this side, closer to it.
No….over here. Hurry and take it!
But you can’t really see the sign, I said. And those guys are sitting there. Why don’t we go around to the other side?
At this point, one of the guys sitting on the low wall behind him motioned him towards them. M stuck out his hand and the guy on the left shook it and scooted over to make room for him. I quickly snapped the picture, M shook their hand again, and we walked over to the cabs. Turns out, all those yellow shirted guys are members of the Honduran national soccer team.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Thursday, October 6, 2011
There's been a lot of banking business going on. First, I had to open a bank account here in Spain in order to get paid. I also have to pay my rent at the bank so I went to that bank which is also closest to my house. Stupid bank, they charge a fee, €7.50 every three months. Oh well, guess it's not too bad. Then they give me this passport looking book. The guy tells me my transactions will be recorded in it and I put it in the ATM machine to get money out. Weird but Ok. And then I ask about an atm card. He says I can get one but it will be €16. Come on! Have I wandered into 1982?? Does anyone else remember the green MOST machines? Anyway, I had to get this form filled out and signed by the bank to get paid. So then I get to the meeting with other people in the program and everyone else has this other bank that is from this century with free checking and free atm card. I thought about changing but it's too much effort and I still have to go to this other bank to pay rent and with the account there I can transfer my rent payment online.
Let me preface this next part with 'sometimes I get carried away' and 'I'm an over-analyzer.' So yesterday I was reviewing my US bank account online when I noticed a suspicious $5 charge pending. Suspicious cause I didn't know what it was and it listed the city as Baltimore and clearly I am not in Baltimore. And, I RARELY use my checkcard. I have heard about these scammers who can make fake cards and they try small transactions first to test the card before they go for the big one. So I shot off a message to my bank through their website. Then fearing I would be stuck with no way to get money, I ran to the atm and made a withdrawal before they canceled my card. Then I ran back to the internet café and transferred all the money in my account from checking to savings. Teach those scammers to mess with me! I thought about withdrawing it all and buying a nice purse but resisted. Today the transaction posted and my bank hadn't responded to me, so I called them. They had already canceled my card and I went through a verification process and they said they can send me out a new card to here in Spain. Awesome! I'm so glad this fraudulent transaction is only five dollars. I'm patting myself on the back for catching the scammers before they wiped out my entire account. The wonderful customer service guy transferred me to the fraud claim department. Big Stuff McGruff comes on the line and his voice sounds exactly like an ex-cop or ex-marine mp. He tells me how to file the claim on the website and they would research it and get back to me. I was about to say thank you and hang up but then I asked him how do they determine whether it's fraudulent or not. I mean, I know I'm in Spain and didn't—couldn't have swiped my card—how can you all know? So he said let me ask you a few questions.
McGruff: Do you remember making any purchases around $5?
Me (indignant): I'm in Spa—
McGruff: I didn't ask you that, do you remember making any purchases around $5?
Me (aggressive): NO.
McGruff: Did you make this purchase for $60 at American Airlines?
Me (affirmative): yes on the 28th , but this charge wasn't made until….wait. WAIT! (this my friends, is the sound a light bulb makes when it suddenly clicks on and it's so bright your eyeballs are glowing.)
Me (excited to have solved the case): OMG it's not a fraudulent charge. I know what it is! I know what it is! (I suggest Julie, in the airport, with the debit card!)
Me (suddenly feeling very stupid): It was the stupid luggage cart!
McGruff: Are you sure?
Me (feeling very sheepish): yes because I remember thinking geesh it's $5 here (at BWI) but only $2 at Dulles.
I then went on to defend myself that it didn't post until 8 days later and blah blah blah. He said it was ok, you could never be too careful with your finances. He was able to restore the card we just canceled and cancel the new card before it was sent. I wish I had a better ending to this post. THE END.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
I’ve now traveled to El Salvador and back again 3 times. Each trip I have played the role of cheese smuggler. When news spreads that you’re traveling to the US you start to hear things like, “vas muy encargada?” or “do you have a little space in your suitcase that I could send something small to my family?” I literally told ONE person in the US that I MIGHT be coming home for a short visit and people in El Salvador the next day would say, “I’ve heard you’re going to Estados Unidos…” How in the world…I haven’t even DECIDED yet! Anyway, it is hard to say no. These are family members or family members of people who live with your family members. All year long they receive their remesas and they really want to send something in return. It is ALWAYS CHEESE. I get it, there’s nearly nothing they can send from El Salvador that one can’t buy in the US. I would even say that, one can buy Salvadoran cheese in the US. It doesn’t taste EXACTLY the same, but neither does the cheddar I bought from Super Selectos, so we’re even.
So they show up, the day before you’re scheduled to leave with a small package, wrapped in foil and black plastic bags and masking tape all around declaring PARA LUIS or quien sea. It is 5 lbs of cheese. Plus a few marquesotes and quesadillas (another 5 lbs) and after 5 people do this, you have eaten up your entire 50 lb baggage allowance on cheese. You also must thoroughly interrogate them on what’s in the bags because they will not tell you unless you ask and they will slip other things in. This is important because a) if it’s a liquid it can’t go in carry-on luggage, b) you can face penalties and fines for not declaring stuff at customs, and c) some things are not allowed in.
For example, someone wanted to send eye drops to their loved one in the US. Regardless of the fact that we have eye drops in the US, these weren’t some special eye drops, literally just visine, they need to go in checked luggage. Someone else wanted to send some dried fish. You know those small tilapias they farm everywhere in El Salvador…dried was the only way to describe them. Now, I don’t know if this fish is allowed in or not but it’s going to get questioned. Last time I brought a bunch of little bags of pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds). In general seeds are not allowed and specifically pumpkin seeds because of some beetle. Customs has all kinds of reasons why you’re not allowed to bring stuff in. You aren’t allowed to bring ANY citrus in because of possible citrus diseases. You actually are allowed to bring cheese in, the drier the better. If it’s runny though, it’s probably a no go. So I know I’m allowed to bring in the cheese. I’m not exactly smuggling it. The problem is, if you declare it, they WILL search you. If you say you have cheese, well they need to SEE the cheese and make sure it’s not the kind that’s prohibited. That takes TIME that you might not have when you’re running to make a too tight connection and don’t want to get stuck in Miami, Houston, or Dallas. So, I’ve heard, many many people take their chances and don’t declare their food items. Either one, because they know they’re not supposed to bring them in or two, because they don’t want the hassle and are trying to make a connecting flight.
The other thing is the weight. Cheese is heavy. I thought I had found a great deal on a flight from San Salvador to DC on Spirit Airlines, $65 plus taxes, so $165. I was only going for a short trip so I just brought a few t-shirts and one pair of jeans. I could’ve packed it all in a tote bag as a “personal item” which is the only free bag Spirit allows. Instead I ended up paying $38 to check a suitcase that was literally filled with 70lbs of cheese, marquesotes & quesadillas (dense sweet breads), and tamales de elote (again HEAVY). Since it was over 40lbs I also got hit with an overweight charge of $50 which brings my ticket price closer to $250. Which is not really a deal. The only deal part of it is that it’s a one way ticket and I didn’t know exactly when I was going to return so I wanted a one way.
SO knowing all that, my American friends inevitably ask, why don’t I charge them a fee? I knew the Spirit fees upfront and I thought, well I’m bringing some clothes anyway and a carry-on bag costs nearly the same as a much bigger checked bag so it’s no big deal. The big deal is when they bring 20 lbs vs. 5 and move me into the overweight category. At Spirit it may be $50 but American charges $100 for each overweight bag. Also, I did sorta suggest it once and the look I got was incredulous. It said you are a greedy heartless woman to charge someone for such a *small* package.
All this ranting to say, yes I’ll still smuggle your cheese for you. But I’m going to bitch about it on the internets every step of the way.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
toasted tortillas with cuajada--I actually eat this at home too but it tastes better in El Salvador!
buying a stack of tortillas for a dollar--We eat tortillas when we're in Maryland too but only when family comes over and makes them. In Maryland, M's family always made tortillas and there were always tortillas at the ready so I thought it was so weird when we got here and I learned that his sisters don't make tortillas. They know how to make them, they just find it easier to buy them. You can get a big stack of freshly made tortillas for a dollar.
joey meowing outside our door to let him in--joey is the kitten that wandered into the house one day and never left when he figured out he had hit the jackpot. I am acat lover. I have three cats at home (monica, chandler, and phoebe) and this little kitten made me feel a little less homesick during that first month here. The only problem with joey is I got him too late. He is evil! He doesn't know not to bite and I've tried everything I've read on the internet. He will grab my hand with his paws and pull it to his mouth and gnaw on it. Not biting through the skin, just chewing and then licking. Everytime you try to pet him, he grabs your hand to chew it. He is the most hyper cat I've ever seen and he follows me to the bathroom and runs ahead and climbs up the tree and then swats my head as I enter the bathroom. Malo!
picking limes off the tree when you need one--I never knew I needed a lime tree until I moved here. They call them limones indios but I'm pretty sure they're key limes. When they're fully ripe they're a really yellowish green color.
sweeping mountain vistas--the scenery here is beautiful. No picture I take can do it justice. It helps that it's the rainy season, everything is so GREEN. Verdant!
little kids showing up to play uno--I taught M to play uno just so he could teach the little kids here. Uno is great cause it transcends language. The only English word on the cards is WILD and that's easy enough to explain. Endless hours of fun.
getting to know all my new little nieces & nephews & cousins--I thought I'd want to live in San Salvador, thought I would HATE living in a small town. It's really not that bad and the little kids make a big difference.
Friday, September 23, 2011
frequent brown outs--this is more annoying than anything. The lights will frequently go out, then come back on, or dim and then get bright. If you use the microwave you can literally hear when the voltage drops.
hotdogs in tomato sauce--I eat pretty much anything that my sister in law makes if it means I don't have to cook, but hotdogs in tomato sauce or 'salchichas en salsa' is just wrong.
fridge that was never cold--I put all my drinks in the freezer, 'nough said.
4am trips to the letrina--I cannot make it through the night without having to go to the bathroom. I go right before I go to bed but still, 3-5 hours later I wake up with a need to pee that is like no other. So I have to get up, find my flip flops, grab the flashlight, and make my way there and I slip on the brick path every. single. time. These bricks get covered in moss and are damp from the rain. Even though I step carefully, I always slip. You guys are going to think I'm mean, but because of this, I make M get up too to make sure I don't fall and break my neck. Whatever, he has to pee too.
mosquito larvae in the pila--the pila is supposed to be emptied and cleaned with bleach every two days. We're not always on top of things and sometimes it doesn't get emptied or cleaned. Then these little mosquito larvae show up in the water and, well it's just not good.
dirt in the bed--it's hard to keep dirt out of our room because our bedroom door opens up to an open air area. I'm putting this one squarely on M, he will walk outside barefoot and then come back and hop in bed without cleaning his feet. IT DRIVES ME UP THE WALL. I constantly have to sweep out my bed.
charco (mud)--it obviously rains a lot here during the rainy season. The dirt roads turn to rivers and are so muddy. I have never worn shoes other than flip flops here because I don't want to have to clean my shoes. At least with flip flops I can just pour water over my feet and flip flops and be clean in a minute.