Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Today began like total crap. I woke up stressed out about finding a more permanent place to stay since I am only staying at Roy's (a very nice friend of Miriam's who invited me without even meeting me first!) until Wednesday. The first thing I needed to do was find an internet connection and check on the couchsurfing emails I had sent and look more into work trade sites such as or These are sites where, once you pay a fee, like 20 Euros, you can email all sorts of people who are looking for helpers in exchange for room and board. I like this idea because it gives me a place to base out of and hopefully a lot of opportunities to speak Spanish (or Castillo (sp?), as they say here)....unless it is in Cataluña, were they speak Catalan to each other and Castillo to you. Ok, back to the internet search. Everyone here has locked wireless networks. There are dozens and dozens of networks because everyone lives so close together but they are all locked. For example, I am close enough to three networks to have four bars of service but they are locked. Boo. So I set out for a cafe. First, it is way too early. 9am to be exact. Everything is closed. I ask five shops and no one can tell me where to find internet. So now I am setting up on street corners searching for the elusive open networks. Yay! I find one. It is in a plaza. I sit, do a bit of work and then my computer runs out of battery.
I take the computer back to Roy's apartment to charge. I am feeling restless. No one couch surfer has returned my requests. I only have one more night of lodging. I do some sit ups and other exercises while passing the time and my computer charges. I decide that it would be better for me to take a walk rather than stay cooped up in an apartment waiting on electronics. I follow the noise to the government plaza, where my mom and sister saw the parade of huge, life-like historical Spanish figures, and find a protest! I think it was a union protest but the signs were not very visible so I can't be sure. There were maybe eighty adults standing outside of the government building blowing whistles like there is no tomorrow. What a great idea! The people inside were probably irate about the noise, so their cause and presence was definitely well known!
I return to a charged computer and head back out to the plaza where I was stealing internet earlier. Unfortunately, a construction project has begun and half of the plaza has been excavated with a giant backhoe. No biggie, I'll just set up next to the barricade. Nope. This is where big trucks enter and exit. No problem, I'll just go across the street and sit on the sidewalk. Now I am looking up places to work trade and emailing couchsurfers with people stepping over me and my backpack. Grr. I have had enough of that and decide to look for another place to steal internet. I pass a few cafes, all without wi-fi and find myself outside of Miriam's apartment. She is in London otherwise I would have rang but instead I sat outside and stole her internet.
The next crappy moment arises when my debit card is turned down from both worktrade sites that I was reluctantly signing up for. I am reluctant because I know that there are lots of great opportunities all around me, quite literally passing me on the street while I sit with my nose in the computer. Now I have a bank issue. I think the problem is that when my dad moved to Silverton, I changed the mailing address of my account to his new house. When I did this, I accidentally gave them the wrong zip code. I thought I had corrected this, but apparently I have not and because the actual zip code does not match the one the bank has and the wrong one does not match any map, it wouldn't work.
I send a few desperate emails, one to the bank asking them to remedy this asap and the other to Trip to get my routing number so I can just set up a paypal account. Still no word from couchsurfers. No farms contacted.
Fuck it, I'm going to the beach.
For awhile I had forgotten I was just blocks away from the Mediterranean sea. It gets so cold and dark in the small street corners that it is easy to forget the sunshine that lies just beyond the tall apartments. I go back to Roy's, put on my suit, grab my hula hoop and start out for the sunshine. Halfway there, I walk past two hippie kids selling a few trinkets and playing a drum. They see my hoop. We are friends. I sit and talk with them for a bit and then they decide also to fuck it and go to the beach since they weren't selling anything anyway. They are a couple from Germany traveling in a green caravan with a women they met at a psy-trance festival.
The ocean is amazing! There is such an extreme temperature change between the shaded streets of Barcelona and the beach. The water has tiny specks of something that make it look like gold. This dries to your feet when you walk in the sand and it is like gold glitter. We swim out really far and talk a lot about the bad travellers luck we are all experiencing. The girl, Sara, speaks very good English and the boy, Christian, is quite good too.
Next we lay on the beach. I hoop for a bit, Christian plays the drums. Sara paints a really beautiful design on my face. Having your face be touched by a cool, soft brush is so relaxing. I must do this more. Sara spins a mini-staff and with Christian drumming we make a plan to go out busking after dinner and dumpstering at the market.
I eat dinner with them in their green caravan. They make hippie mush: noodles, carrots, ginger, onion, garlic and lots of very tasty spices. I love it.
Next we go to La Boqueria where the night before I was able to find all kinds of produce. After a shopkeeper sees me picking up a fig he taps my shoulder and points to a table where they have left a pile 14 boxes high of the prepackaged fruit slices they sell. Gold!
We grab a bunch, share with others and set out for a feast! After filling ourselves with fruit we walk to La Rambla to try our luck with the tourists.
Within two minutes of us setting up, with Christian on the drums, Sara on the mini-staff and my on the hoop we have an audience! Within five minutes the police come and tell us we have to go. They say it is too dangerous Now I know why there are only statue performers on the streets. It's alright. We've made 2 Euros in five minutes. We walk to another plaza, on the lookout for police and set up there too. After just a few minutes I spot police coming (they wear bright yellow safety vests, how nice of them) and we bolt. We still made a bit though. We walk to another plaza, the one where mom had bought the icky-its walnuts ever. There is a Rasta guy playing Bob Marley on the guitar, performing for the outdoor restaurant. He invites us to join. Now there is a guitar, drum, mini-staff and hula hoop. We are a circus! And we make 4 Euros-not including the Rasta guy. Now we have attracted a crowd of hippies and punks. We sit down, share the rest of the fruit, trade some with the waiter for a warm, gigantic croissant and meet Norbert and Pedro. They live in a squat just outside of Barcelona. We talk for a bit about travels and they tell us we can go with them tomorrow to the squat to check it out. Horary! Housing problem solved (hopefully, as of writing this, it is only Wednesday morning, but I have faith that it will work out).
The next act in the circus is an old woman who used to be an amazing flamingo dancer. She orders the drum to beat and the guitar to strum and does a five minute show for us. Wow, flamingo is such a precise dance. She is cool and tells us to go to the cathedral to play. We aren't sure why but we follow her anyway. There we run into David, another German, who is spinning poi. Crazy, eh?
David has lots of great travel advice and websites that he offers us. We also make a plan to visit an eco-village on Saturday together. Then we attract jugglers, skateboarders, more poi spinners and a few other stragglers including a 50 year old woman from New York who used to be in the color guard. German, English and Spanish are being spoken, and then translated and then retranslated. It is very amazing.
At around one a.m. Sara, Christian and I start walking home. We are all so excited that our travelers luck has changed. When I leave them to go back to Roy's I feel drunk with happiness, I feeling that I can't recall having before, or at least in the recent past.
And that is where I leave you. At 2 a.m., writing a blog post about the day. Lots of love and hugs.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Road Trip Across Spain

Well, I've never been on a road trip across the USA however this past week and a half I had the "great American experience" Spain. Here is a bit of a story about it. I must warn that I didn't edit it too much (spell check, if you're lucky) and I'm still working on uploading photos.

After returning to the west coast from my grandma’s wedding reception I spent two days and one night with my high school friends Kevin, Adam and Nathan. Kevin and Adam live in an apartment in Oakland near an incessantly busy freeway. The complex was a typical Bay Area place with closely packed units and steep stairs. They had new across-the-deck neighbors. It was a strange transition to live so close to people and not know them, as you do in a coop. It was this idea that was behind my multiple attempts to say hello, introduce myself, or invite them over. We slept that night on the roof of the apartment thanks to Adam and Kevin’s ample experience with super tall painters ladders. I woke to rush hour traffic beginning at sunrise and found the entire Bay cloaked in a fog that soaked our sleeping bags.
My mom, sister and I spent the next few days in transit to Barcelona. Due to a delayed departure from San Francisco airport we missed our connecting flight to Barcelona. We opted for a night at the HoJo in Newark, New Jersey. We ordered Chinese food, they forgot the spring rolls and opted not to stick around to give us change and took a $7 tip. I tried out my traveling hula hoop in the hotel lobby. I’m working on shoulder hoop move that, according to the Youtube tutorial, should make people want to marry me. I’m not very good at it yet.
We made it on the Saturday September 12th evening flight to Barcelona. Mom and Kasey were placed next to each other while I sat the next row up, opposite side. I missed what I feel is the critical moment to make connections with my seat mates Ya know, when you’ve sat next to someone in silence for so long that it becomes awkward to say “hi” as if you just met them. Oh well, it was an overnight flight and they fell asleep. I on the other hand, was feeling something similar to when I left for college. I didn’t want to sleep because I didn’t want to wake up and be there. Plus there was free tv and videos and didn’t want to miss some of my last opportunities to fully immerse myself in American popular culture. I stayed up all night watching Gone With the Wind and the Simpsons. Observing daybreak from it’s daily beginning was amazing and made the sleepless night worth it.
Barcelona is a great city. We stayed mostly on La Rambla and in tourist areas nearby. Instead of getting a hotel or a hostel (can you imagine mom in a hostel??) I found an apartment on the website It was the apartment of Miriam Turner, a young British women getting her MBA in Barcelona. I don’t know much about her since she was away for holiday when we were there but I have strong suspicions that is the European version of a Burner. Here is my case: she is not one, but two metallic hula hoops in her living room, her bathroom counter has a corner dedicated to large, colored, slightly irrational plastic jewelry and sunglasses, finally, she was away on holiday with friends on the island of Isbiza Spain! If this last fact doesn’t shock you, it is probably because you don’t know that the rave was invented in Ibiza by European holiday’ers.
My favorite part of Barcelona was the Parc Gaull. The park was designed by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. I know this place is older than recreational LSD, so it begs the question: what was he on?!? It is a real live Who-Ville. The park winds around for hours, unfortaunaly, a storm blew us out of the park and into a café. Fortunately, the café serves chocolate con churros. The chocolate is warm and brought to you in a cup but it is far from the liquid hot chocolate you might imagine. It is as thick and rich as pudding. Served piping hot with freshly fried and sugared churros this is heaven on a plate.
We left Barcelona for Valencia, another large metropolitan town about three hours south. The toll roads and rapidly apparent evil travel duo (night and storm) put us all into bad moods. I soaked myself running between the car and the hotel asking for vacancies, getting credit cards and arranging parking for our rental car. Lakes two inches deep and 15 feet wide were created between us and the elevator from the underground parking garage and water seeped into the hotel lobby from the patio.
By the next morning the clouds were gone and we packed up for a stressful navigation across town to another hotel. The roundabouts in Valencia proved too smart for our American orienteering skills. We hopped onto a double Decker tour bus to see the main sights of Valencia. The tour narration is done via uncomfortable ear buds that you set to your language of choice. We saw sculptures, the BioParc, main plazas and the old walls of the city. My mom and sis were not very impressed with this town but I liked it a lot. It wasn’t as full of tourists as Barcelona, slightly smaller and more easily navigable, and there is an amazing park that runs the length of the city. I also found a more obvious counter culture in this town. I saw a squatters sign, political prisoner wheat pastes and interesting graffiti, We also had the best dinner yet in this town. We found a tasty Italian resturant and I had stuffed perogies in a mushroom cream sauce.
We left Valencia after two days for Granada. The famous Arab palace, the Alhambra is located on a hill overseeing Granada. After the Arabs were forced out, King Ferdinand and Queen Isobel resided in this ornate place. The Alhambra day was probably the best yet. In the morning we fund an amazing bakery to make us sandwiches that are actually full of vegetables (what passes for filling here is pathetic), spinach breakfast croissants and sweet bread. The Alhambra visit took us six hours and was well worth every minute. If you don’t believe me, look at a few of the one million pictures I took while in the palace.
Granada, even more than Valencia has a very public counter culture. Anarchy signs, squatter symbols and stencils are everywhere. The most decorated building I found was a Dunkin Doughnuts in a church plaza. Take that globalization. A city such as Granada, has not and never will know peace. In the past, due it its fertile soil, protective mountains, and the creation of the Alhambra fortress and now to it’s young culture and liberal university, social and political unrest is so fervent you can identify it with all of your senses.
The plan was to leave Granada on the 19th and start our way back north, stopping for a few days on the Costa Blanca. A late night decision changed that plan and the next morning we were traveling still further southeast to Morocco. We took the ferry from Tarifa to Tangier and stayed one night on the African continent. You can rest assured that everything you hear about being a tourist in Morocco is true. We were approached by a “guide service” on the boat and by the time we reached Moroccan shores had a hotel, guide, itinerary and car all waiting for us. It was the end of Rammadon and everyone was grumpy after their daily fasting, not even water. The Arabic language plus the shark like vendors

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Update from the States

Well hello there! If you're reading this, it is probably because I told you I was leaving and offered a URL to track me as I travel. I'll update this blog as frequently as blog-worthy experiences and wi-fi connections allow.
Trip and I have packed away 99.9% of our room at the Lorax. Most of it went to the dark attic storage unit or the front yard free pile. Both of these locations had their own casualties: my camping pot was packed away, most likely below the five to six feet of bags and boxes and my "wabam!" jeans (Trip's words, not mine :) that I scored from a neighbors free pile were sucked back in to the free pile vortex of our house never to be seen again; easy come easy go, I suppose.
I packed my life into my trusty $14 REI Scratch and Dent backpack and said goodbye (not before having a great going away party..see below). My life consists of: a sleeping bag, pad, soon-to-arrive one person tent (thanks girlfriend sponsorship!), two pants, two dresses, one tank top, one shirt, two jackets of different weights and long underwear. Also in my possession is a swim suit and sarong (after seeing Isa, Ian and Yoko with theirs in Baja, I can't imagine traveling without!), five pairs of underwear, three bras (2 sport, one regular), a hat, first aid kit which includes, but is not limited to: Tums, toothpaste (hippie kind), toothbrush and replacement head, meds: malaria prophylactics, yeast infection pills, Cypro for my weak stomach and Plan B! For entertainment I have a book given to me by Isobel, The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende, The Art of War zine, a tiny computer given to me by my dad and the most exciting of all: a blue collapsible hula hoop!
Trip and I had a proper Lorax sendoff last Thursday night. We rearranged the furniture to create the famous "Outdoor-tex" circular couch arraignments in the front yard. Friends starting coming at 7:30pm, and the delicious, one-of-a-kind Nikasi keg was tapped at 8. For the potluck, Isa and Ian made cowzones with homemade sauce, Tim and Mer made the most delicious tofu choco pudding, we provided fresh garden corn on the cob, salsa and chips and Teresa saved the day with not one, but two bottles of Champagne. The night included live art a la Amy Fox and my right arm, a bumpin kitchen dance party, fire spinning (yes, we were probably too drunk for this one) and a melodic water drinking circle to wrap things up.
We spent Sept 5-9th in Geneva, Indiana celebrating my grandma's wedding! Actually, she and her new husband eloped in July and this was the Stucky reception. I got to catch up with all my cousins and spend time with my step-grandpa Jerry. It was nice to be in very very very sleepy Geneva for my last few days with Trip. We went running around the lake, Amish watched, slept in, enjoyed poor cell reception and no wi-fi.
In the Indiana airport, as I boarded for California and he Oregon, we were the typical lovers airport spectacle: hugs, kisses, long gazes into each other's eyes and soft touches to the cheeks, completing the last bit of mental and physical memorization. I was in such a daze when I crossed security that I went to the wrong gate and waited in line for at least 4 minutes before I realized my mistake.
That leads me to now. I'm sitting in the airport in Phoenix, waiting for my flight to Oakland. Trip is en route to Oregon. I'll spent two days in the bay area finishing the final tasks (buy a lighter, mail student loan papers), then leave for awhile to be in Spain and a few other unknowns locations.