Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Today was a better day

Monday was awful. I was coming off of a crappy weekend. My gramma passed away. I didn’t feel like preparing for my classes. I left an important paper at the school with an appointment time on it and I showed up 3 hours early and was told to come back. Then I went home and called the US embassy in San Salvador to find out what the deal is. Calling the embassy really means calling a call center where you will talk to someone who doesn’t really know anything more than you do and paying $1.87 per minute for the privilege. I hung up from this asshole feeling beyond frustrated and I just had a little breakdown. Sometimes life just isn’t fair. I’m sick of waiting. Why does the waiver even need to be submitted in person?? Why do they still have my husband’s passport?? I have reached the point where I’m willing to sacrifice a little bit of money so I can get M here asap. Hopefully we hear something soon but if not, once he gets that passport, I think he will just fly out here and have to fly back again to submit the waiver. I haven’t seen M in a month and I know that’s nothing compared to the separation that some families go through but the only thing separating us is a plane ticket. And that passport, which hopefully he’ll get back soon.

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

Blood was shed

Meatballs were on sale and for some reason I thought I would like them. I saw them in a grocery store ad so I figured why not? They immediately made me think of dinty moore beefstew which I grew up on so I like it. I got home to discover I had no can opener. Or rather, no familiar can opener. In the drawer was this flat thing that I was pretty sure was a can opener. I started hacking away at the can. I managed to scratch and dent it up pretty good but I couldn’t even puncture it. I was fairly certain this was a can opener though. Damn foreign things! Where was my dad when I really needed him? This is just the kind of thing he would know about. I was ready to chuck the whole thing in the trash when I remembered my best friend, google. “how to open can with foreign can opener” led me to a Wikipedia section on military can openers. The small size and primitiveness of this little sucker convinced me that I had something similar. Back to google, “how to use military can opener” which led me to youtube. I had to watch a video on how to open a can but I got it open. The meatballs sucked and I cut my finger but I now know how to use the can opener.

Monday, October 17, 2011

monday night musings

Here in Oviedo, they have trash pickup daily. The garbage guys come around seven or eight o'clock at night and set out empty trash cans all over the place along with a colored bin for recycles. So on certain days there's a green bin or a yellow or blue depending on if they're collecting paper, glass, or plastic and cans. Then they come back around midnight or one and pick it up. Since it's everyday, a lot of people just use the plastic bags you get from the grocery store for their trash. That's what I've been doing too. I'm only one person, I don't have that much trash. But, I'm on the fourth floor.  I don't want to walk down four flights for this little bag of trash. I have seriously contemplated trying to throw it from my window. Mostly it's the recycles though. I've let them pile up and always say I'll get them on the next day. So tonight I had to take out the trash. I had to throw out the old food in my fridge and tonight is cans and plastic night so I got myself together, grabbed my keys, and headed downstairs. As I'm opening the door, I see a tied up bag land towards the trash. The cans are full and there's a few of those grocery bags, stuffed and knotted, against the bins. But there's no one around. And then it hits me. Not literally, but it could have. Someone dropped that from their window upstairs! I am so going to think about this further. I may need one of you to stand downstairs and see how close I can get to the bin.

Friday, October 14, 2011

tour groups

During the summer, M and I visited Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. It’s about an hour ferry ride and after the ride back to La Ceiba, there were tons of people milling around the ferry terminal. There was a big tour group that all had on the same yellow shirt. I was trying to decide if we should take a cab or be adventurous and try and figure out public transportation when I noticed M lingering over to the side by the ferry sign.

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

Full Circle

There was a time when all I wanted was adventure and excitement and new experiences. I hated my boring life in Maryland and spent countless nights dreaming of living abroad, working abroad, traveling abroad. So when M and I made the decision to take the immigration leap, I tried to look at it as an opportunity to be abroad and experience all those adventures I had been dreaming of. WELL GUESS WHAT!! All I want is to GO HOME. Have I written this before? I can't remember. I can get all the adventure I need on a couple of annual vacations. Annual trip abroad? No problem. Weekend at a Delaware beach? Sounds good to me. Maybe I'm just in a bad place right now and being separated from everyone you know and love could make anyone feel sad and lonely, right? This whole process is just really hard and I hate being in transition.

Grocery Shopping

I shop like an American. Actually, I'm not sure how other people shop but I try to get most of the things I need in one trip and if I need one ingredient or some fresh produce later in the week I try to go for just that. My friend lives in NY and she only buys as much as she can carry home. My first day here I went to the grocery store and was conscious of the fact that I had to carry everything home by myself and I still bought like six bags of stuff. Some of it staples and supplies, like sugar, salt, and plastic wrap. The food I bought the first day lasted about a week and so back to the store I went, only this time I came prepared with a cart! You know the kind, the ones you see little grannies carting their groceries around in. I was so excited about having the cart and being able to load it up with heavy stuff, I shopped like I would normally shop at home in Maryland. Like someone with a car. And 4 kids. My shopping cart was filled with meat and chicken and vegetables and 2 liter sodas, yogurt, and a 5lb sack of potatoes. I'm not exaggerating when I say people were staring at my shopping cart. The lady behind me in line with only two items was so relieved when I told her to go ahead of me. Food seems pretty cheap here. Not if you convert it to dollars but imagine if the dollar was at par with the euro. I spent €75 and I have enough food for probably 3 weeks for two people even. I even got things that normally I would already have in my pantry like spices.

The cashier asked me something and I had no idea what she was saying. I think she was asking me if I was carrying my food with me, honestly still not sure what she was asking but I was like, yes I'm taking it with me. And then I hauled my cart full of bags over to the little locker section where my brand new granny cart was chained up and waiting to estrenar, or make her big debut. I loaded up my cart with all the heavy stuff and a baguette sticking out of the top, and still had bags left over. I loaded those up on my arm and started the walk home. This is when I start having thoughts like, what the hell is wrong with me? This cart is heavy, these bags are heavy, GRRRRRR. I finally get to my building, have I mentioned I live in a 4th Floor walkup? The lady told me over email the piso was on the third floor. Silly me, in Spain the first floor, or "planta baja" is considered 0. In elevators the ground floor is marked as 0 too. So I had to make two trips, one with the bags, then back down again to get the cart. Imagine me dragging the cart backwards up the stairs with two hands on the handle. There was no way I was taking stuff out and making three trips, by this time I was exhausted and ready to leave the groceries in the stairwell.

What's funny is while in the store I'm thinking of all the things I'm going to cook and when I get home I have no desire. I'm not used to living alone and it really sucks. But I'm determined to live off this monthly stipend and that means cooking and eating what I cook. Not that I'm never going to eat out but I'll be broke if I eat out more than once or twice a week. So I made a list of all the things I'm going to make with what I've bought so that when I look in the fridge and declare there's nothing to eat, I can refer to the list. Tonight I made picadillo with rice and luckily it turned out good because clearly I'm going to be eating it for the next 3 days.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bank Madness

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

Oh Oviedo...

I really want to like you, I really do. With your meticulously clean streets and daily trash pickup, what's not to like? Well everything closing for siesta and everything closed on Sundays but beyond that. It's unexplainable. You can't help who you love and I have this thing for El Salvador. Oviedo, I think you're just a rebound, I'll be getting back together with El Salvador soon enough.