Archive for June, 2009

Bailemos!

There is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.  ~Edwin Denby

I could not wait to upload this video of a jam session in Madrid. Yesterday I spent most of the day hanging out in Retiro Park, where every Sunday, Madrillenos (locals) descend upon the park to relax, dance, play music, ride boats and mingle. In one section of the park, a bunch of people get together and have impromptu jam sessions. Below is a snippet of some folks dancing to the drums. This video makes me smile. Every time I watch it I laugh hysterically. I have to imagine that these people were having the time of their lives and used this as an outlet. Their dancing also had to have an effect on the many observers who were entertained or wished they had the guts to let loose. So today’s brief message is about dancing. Dancing always makes you  and the people around you feel good. So take a moment to let loose and dance, be it alone or with someone else, and see how it makes you feel.

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Life is nothing more than this moment.

I’ve heard many people make statements like “Born alone. Die alone. Or “It’s Me Against the World.”,  that allude to the desire to be alone in this vast world made up of about six billion people.  These quotes are pretty absurd and quite limiting considering that between birth and death, there is this rich experience called life.

Being alive is about the interactions and connections with people. These include our family, friends, teachers, love, and enemies. These relationships help us learn more about life, the people we interact with and ourselves. These interactions take us through the range of emotions, which allow us to feel…feel alive.

Yesterday was a telling day for amplifying how quickly life can be taken away from us. We all have been personally touched my a loss of a loved one, but nothing is more of a reminder than the death of a unifying public figure. I am saddened by the loss of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and the victims of the Iran Election Fallout this week. Many people say that death comes in three, but it also comes as a theme. In addition to these very public loses, there was one story that recently affected me. The first was a story about my travel companion’s classmate who died after falling a few times skiing. She was in a coma and was not expected to wait up. After a few days, she miraculously woke up and was functioning with no problems. During that time she had a chance to talk to her parents, boyfriend and others. Unfortunately, she had surgery and never woke up from the surgery. I am not doing this story justice, but my point in sharing it with you is to describe its impact on me. Something about this story gave me a pit in the bottom of my stomach. I remember having this feeling only twice before.  I don’t know what it was about this story that made me feel this way, but it made me take notice….take notice of my own life and how I want to live it.

Whatever or whomever’s story it is that you connect with, I encourage you to allow those feelings to drive you in some way. Sit up and take notice of the things that make you happy and do more of them. Take a chance and do the one thing you’ve always wanted to do. Do something right now that will make you smile, because life is nothing more than this moment.

Location: In Madrid about take a road trip to Granada, Spain to see the Alhambra.

Public Display of Affection

“In the present there is always a space as vast as the Steppes waiting to be filled with more love and more of life’s joy”.

One glaring different between Europeans and Americans, is that Europeans are way more affectionate and emotional, specifically the French, Spanish and Italians. Their languages, culture, lifestyle and environment all support romance. Since I’ve been in Madrid, the first thing I noticed when walking down the street is the PDA exhibited by couples. I guess I can understand why with everything that is surrounded by them.  The city is beautiful and scenic with its museums, gardens and plazas. The quaint, narrow streets create a romantic ambiance. The dining experience also caters to couples because of the style of food and the typical dining time.  People usually go to dinner around 11pm and order a bunch of tapas (small plates) to share. All of this combined with the fact that people in general are more comfortable with showing affection than in the US.

One of the most endearing things is that PDA is not limited to young couples. I see just as many older couples in there 70s and 80s walking around holding hands as I do young ones. It’s a beautiful thing to see and be surrounded by. To your left you see an old couple walking down the street holding hands. To your right you see a young couple stop for a long kiss on the sidewalk. In front you see a guy put his arm around his companion’s waist as if not physically touching her is unnatural and uncomfortable. All this is going on without anyone yelling, “Get a room!”. I must admit that I’m sometimes the person to say it, but not here.  I appreciate the love that people show for each other here. This is not to say that Spanish people are more in love than Americans, it’s just to say that it’s nice to see outward expressions of love.

In class, I had a conversation with my teacher about the history of Madrid. He told me the background behind why there is now a huge clear wall on a bridge on Calle Bailen. He said that years ago teenagers in love would go here and jump off the bridge because they thought this was the ultimate expression of love. After a few incidences, the city built a barrier to prevent this from happening again. So maybe the Spanish are more in love than Americans. While I’ve heard about teen suicides and young love, I’ve never heard about American teenagers doing anything like this.

I could be getting sucked into the fantasy of romance, but there is definitely something to it. I want it and so does every other woman I know. I can’t speak for men, but I know many can do without. Perhaps the level of comfort that European men feel with showing emotions and affection is something that American men are not used and it translates into a lack of romance.

I know that romance is just one element of love and that there is much more to maintaining a strong relationship, but romance is usually the first to go.  Romance is what distinguishes a romantic relationship from other relationships (familial, platonic, business, etc.) so why is its long-term value often discounted?  Today I am making my plea for Americans to become more affectionate and romantic. Do something a little different today for the special person in your life to intensify your connection. Hold their hand. Stop them on the street to kiss them. Look into their eyes.  You’ll be surprised at their response and, more importantly, how you feel inside.

Updated with one of my favorite sequence of photos taken on this trip.

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Happy Father’s Day!

“It’s only when you grow up, and step back from him, or leave him for your own career and your own home—it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it. Pride reinforces love.”                                 Margaret Truman

Today is Father’s Day and I have to get give my father special recognition for being such and amazing man.  You don’t realize how special your parents are and how much they’ve sacrificed for your until you are an adult taking care of yourself or your own children. I am blessed to have two great parents and half of that pair represents the highest standard of being a man and a father. When I was growing up my father worked seven days a week switching from second and third shift at a manufacturing plant to take care of our family. Despite all his hard work and long days, I never remember him complaining once. He worked hard, took care of his family and was always there when my sister and I needed him. I know that he worked long hours, but I always remembering him being at the endless converts, recitals, plays, sports events, birthday parties, and graduations…just to name a few.  I didn’t fully understand and appreciate everything he did for us until I became an adult. For example, he just got his first new car about two years ago.  Until then he would always give my mother the new car and drive the older car. When we were younger, he drove around in an old Pontiac T-1000, which was too hot and too small for him, but he never complained. So I take this time to say thank you and remind you that you’re appreciated for everything you do. Mother’s may get all the glory, but fathers are the foundation for a healthy household. A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty and that’s exactly what my sister and I.

(Special shout out to T-Fly)

Daddy, I love you. I’m proud of you and am blessed to have you as a father.

Happy Father’s Day to all the great fathers including my father, brother-in-law, grandfather, uncles and cousins.

Mac vs. PC Man

Getting laid off has afforded me the opportunity to experience so many new things.  It’s true that when God closes one door, an infinite number of new doors open. One of my new experiences was purchasing a Mac computer. I have never purchased a computer in my entire career because I was fortunate to always have a laptop for work. My company even let me keep my laptop when I was away at business school. Well, getting laid off ended that and I was faced with the difficult decision of what type of laptop to buy. I knew Macs were the sexiest machines out there, but they came with a significantly higher price tag than PCs. So my goal was to figure out if in the end if it was worth it. I did a bunch of research, store tests and interviews and still wasn’t sure what the answer was. I stepped out blindly and ended up getting a MacBook. It took a while for me to adjust to it and a month into using it I was indifferent.  I felt like I could have stayed with a PC and because the Mac was too much to adjust to. Things changed slowly as I got more and more acquainted with it and four months later, I made the famous declaration of “I’m never going back to a PC again”!.

So here I am enjoying my love affair with my Mac and I started thinking about the Mac-PC debate in relation to men. I now pose this question for men…Which is better, the Mac man or the PC man? Here’s a description of each in relation to its computer counterpart.

The Mac man is sexy, smart and sophisticated and knows it. He has swagger for days and the confidence to back it up. He enjoys making you happy because his mother taught him how to treat a woman. Although, generally refined, he can be edgy and quirky at times, which keeps you interested. You never know what new feature you’ll learn about him that day.

While the Mac man is ahead of his time, he can only vibe with special individuals and often alienates himself from other people. He can be arrogant and a bit snobby because he knows he is a rare breed and has the tricks to prove it. Girlfriends of Mac men recognize each other immediately because they know they’re the only ones who can handle such a powerful man. He wins the girl because he listens to her needs and goes the extra mile to fulfill her desires. The downfall is you never know what a Mac man is thinking. He could want to settle down one minute or move to Paris the next. Mac men can be hard to find and once hurt; it’s hard for them to recover. They become closed and will not allow you to help them.  You’re limited knowledge of their emotions, forces you to set them free.  They usually find themselves returning to a safe haven to spend time with the people who can help rebuild their ego. The next version of this man is even more impressive than the last.

The PC man loves love being him because he is very well known and recognizable by the masses. Most people don’t know anything about the Mac man and therefore he has the competitive advantage.  He prides himself on being the average guy.  He started from humble beginnings, but found a way to create success for himself and those around him.   He is not a man of extremes, but even keeled and predictable. Sometimes he doesn’t recognize his flaws initially, but is always willing to work on them when pointed out although this is usually a slow process.

The PC man can be versatile and is attracted to a broad range of women. His dress varies depending on the occasion. Some days he finds himself in a suit, other days in jeans and tennis shoes.  His love is universal and is not as discerning at the Mac man. The PC man is stable and wants to maintain his position as the key person in your life. He will hold down a job, stay at home with the kids, and make you happy 80% of the time. It’s the remaining 20% that drives you crazy.  His predictability can be stifling when fun and creativity takes a backseat to everyday tasks. When the relationship with a PC man crashes and burns and you enter a new relationship with another PC man, you may find yourself back in the same situation again.

I wrote this on my layover at JFK. I was sitting in a bar on my laptop when I noticed three other people sitting near me with a Mac. I found myself checking them out and making a judgement about the types of people they were. I was thinking, “Oh they must be cool, interesting people if they have a Mac”. So will my current love affair with my MacBook last forever, or does it suit my needs for this period in my life? Having had both types of computers and dated both types of men, I find myself wondering which is better? And is it situational depending on the time in your life? 

Class #2: There is hope!

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” -George Bernard Shaw

Today was the second day of class and it was 100 times better than yesterday when I felt like walking out of class. Today I actually understood 75% of what my teachers were saying and attempted to speak a little, although I have a long way to go. The school, Don Quixote, focuses on class sizes of 8 or less. Luckily, my class is very small. There are only two of us and it’s close to getting one-on-one instruction. Muy Bien!   I now have faith that I will now be able to learn a bit of the language after all of this. I guess I’ll start viewing my mistakes as progress instead of set backs. My goal is to write my last journal entry in Spanish.

I said that I would withhold judgment about Madrid and classes until the end of the week, but I must say that Madrid is a beautiful city! The city is clean, the architecture is beautiful and the people are fairly friendly. I rode the metro today and it was so efficient and clean. It’s definitely better than the el train in Chicago. I’ve only been to a few restaurants, but had the some of the best tapas. European food is fresher, lighter and more flavorful than American food. I’ve yet to have paella and sangria….it’s long overdue.

Location: At Don Quixote on break between classes                              Mood: Optimistic

Thumbs up

  • To me for sticking it out and rushing to get the Spanish-English dictionary
  • To Corte Ingles for having American toiletries
  • To the Madrid metro for being one of the best public transportation systems I’ve seen

Thumbs down

  • British Airways for still having my bag

Class #1: The Spanish Beatdown

“The only way of finding the limits of the possible is by going beyond them into the impossible.” Arthur C. Clarke

Today was the first day of Spanish class and I feel like someone just slapped me in the face. I haven’t felt like a complete idiot in a long time.  It’s never fun feeling dumb and it’s even more frustrating when you feel like you’re not going to be able to learn the information you need.

First, all of the teachers only speak Spanish and force you to as well. I know this is probably the best way to learn, but it’s frustrating as hell when you can speak 0% and can only understand about 25%. I mean EVERYTHING is in Spanish. Even my workbook in todo espanol! There are no English translations for anything and the instructors teach all lessons in Spanish. I guess I used to the way foreign language is taught in the US, with a combination of English and Spanish. Perhaps this is why most people who have taken language classes for years still can’t speak it.

After class I felt a little better when everyone I talked to said their class was hard. My friend said she only understood 20% of what her teacher was saying and her Spanish is pretty advanced. She was lucky enough to be able to drop down to a lower class. Unfortunately, I am at the lowest level, translation = remedial and cannot go down any lower. WTF?

After class there was a welcome dinner for all the new students where we were all supposed to practice our Spanish. I was so worn out by that point, that I had no interest in speaking Spanish to anyone. Most people ended up speaking English, which everyone knew regardless of where they were from., but there were a few who were so happy to practice Spanish they didn’t know what to do.  This overly excited French woman started talking to me for about five minutes in Spanish with no pause. When she finally stopped, I looked at her with an exasperated version of “the look” and responded with a slow, “No entiendo”.  The people are all very diverse and from all over the world. They range from college students to Baby Boomers. The dinner was good idea in theory, but I was not in the mood. So I went home, did my homework and went to sleep. I’m still jet lagged so I couldn’t wait to get bed. Recap: I woke up  7:00 am, took a Spanish test, walked about 7 miles throughout the city in the morning only to catch a beat down in four hours of  class, sat through an extra hour of a woman speaking (in Spanish) about women in Spain, 2 hours of dinner, then homework and to bed about 1:00 am. Espanol-1, Tanisha-0.

Mood: Exasperated and tired.