Sunday, February 27, 2011


Dudes, dudes, dudes.  GUESS WHAT I JUST FOUND!!!

Jiff Peanut Butter
Quaker Oats
Chocolate chips
Sour cream
Newman's Spaghetti Sauce
Gushers ..........  ALL IN ONE PLACE!!!!

You're not impressed.  So you went shopping, you say.  Me too.

Yes, your right. It should not be this big of deal.  BUT I don't think you quite understand what "shopping" entails.  Let me explain.

Having just moved into an apartment (long story, hardly worth telling), my shelf in the kitchen was bare, vacant, empty, and I was hungry. I had lived on Cliff Bars for the past two meals. Obviously, it was time go shopping.

But here's the first rule:  Never buy more groceries than you can comfortably carry uphill for four blocks.

So the first trip was limited to milk, bread, cereal, ravioli, and flour for good measure. I already had peanut butter, so this got me through the rest of the day.

On the following day, I went to a supermarket (and by super I mean enormous) and decided that I needed the rest of everything.  In order to bypass the first rule, I would buy plastic reusable bags and then change Metros three times, walking less while carrying more.  Good plan.

It took two hours.  I'm going to go ahead and make a sweeping generalization when I say you take it for granted that flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and vanilla are all in the same aisle in America.  Why would baking soda be in the same aisle as sardines?  It beats me.  Sugar on the bread aisle and flour next to pasta?  Who knows.  And, what's this?  Vanilla only in powder form??  What?  But... I need it to make orange chocolate chip muffins... how can I make muffins without vanilla extract?  I was deeply concerned.  The taste I was craving was at stake.  I knew it existed somewhere, SOMEWHERE.  Somewhere in the past I had seen it (but not bought it... dumb).  (That's the second rule:  if you see it now and you'll need it later, buy it.)

So the next day I went to El Corte Inglés, for as Encarna once commented, if they don't carry it, it doesn't exist.  After an excruciating time spent trying to locate where it should be (and numerous places that it shouldn't), I again found only powdered vanilla.  I was disappointed and was getting desperate.  My muffins were on the line.  Nevertheless, I did locate brown sugar, and that was progress at least.  You see, common products in America may or may not exist here, and if they do, they are probably in a different form (the brown sugar, for example, is much more coarse.  And oatmeal is hit or miss.  Peanut butter here is... well, it's not Jiff).

At home, frustrated and needing my muffins, I Googled vanilla extract in Madrid without much hope.  But lo and behold, what should come up in the top five results, but Taste of America!  What's this?!?  Can it be.... ?  Oh yes, my friends, an entire store devoted to American products and brands.  And where was it?  On the grey line, six stops away from me!  I was on my way in a matter of minutes.

Cans of Quaker Oats greeted me from the window.  Granola bars peeked out from behind them, and chocolate chips lounged at their feet.  It was almost sensory overload... if someone had seen a picture of my face, they might have guessed I was walking through the Sistine Chapel.  It was heavenly.  They even sold measuring cups and spoons.  Fortunately, my wonderful mother had already sent me these, but I did need a muffin pan (also hard to come by).  Did they carry them?  YES!

Now then, just to clarify, I am by no means against Spanish food or products.  I consume both on a regular basis with much gusto.  But when it comes to home-cooking, things get more challenging, and to have everything available in one place... oh, yes, except for vanilla extract.  They were sold out.  It might have been the only time I've resented my fellow Americans here.  Luckily though, I stopped in at a random market on the way back and they just happened to have it, or some imitation of it.  In any case, I decided to risk it, and it worked.

Anyway, once home, cooking was easy in comparison.  I might have heated the oven up while a frying pan was still in there (to save space).  Might have.  It's debatable and unimportant.  The main thing is, I GOT MY MUFFINS!!!!  They were hard-earned and delicious.  Mmmm the things you miss!!!

Lessons from Lisbon

This is Lisbon in a nutshell... if you need a more thorough explanation, read the post before this one.

1.  If you wander around enough, you will eventually end up... somewhere.

2.  If there is a man selling umbrellas and it looks like it might rain, BUY IT.

3.  Arriving at the monastery means that (1) you found it, and (2) you are in the exact opposite direction of where you intended to be.  Take a picture to commemorate the moment anyway.

4.  Trolleys are old.  Make sure you hold onto something nailed to the floor.

5.  Portuguese people are even more relaxed than Spaniards, if that is possible.

6.  Minced codfish, potatoes, and cream sauce is authentic Portuguese and quite tasty.

7.  Thirty-six hours is enough time to see most of the sights, but not enough time to fully appreciate the city as a whole.

8.  Alfama is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon, and therefore the most confusing.  Do not count on your map... especially if you are spatially / directionally challenged to begin with.

9.  If you go down a flight of stairs - or two, or three, or six - you will eventually have to come back up (in the rain).

10.  When the hostel owner raises his eyebrows when you say the rain won't bother you, it's probably a good time to reconsider.

11.  Pants dry out in a couple of hours.  Shoes take longer.

12.  Portuguese pastries are famous... "Since 1837" is a good indicator of where to start : )

13.  When you agree to play Five Questions with a random stranger from the hostel, prepare yourself to buy your him another round, and then watch out for distractions.

14.  Red Velvet cupcakes and cucumber water in a charming location with plush furniture can put the perfect end on any day.

15.   Ginja, Lisbon's cherry liqueur, should not be downed as a shot.  Ever.  Regardless, the men standing around watching will laugh.

16. As others' inhibitions diminish, they will probably assume they are the perfect ones to entertain you when they notice you are merely watching people.  Debating the merits of the European Union under such conditions does make for some good entertainment, though perhaps not the kind they had in mind...

17.  If you see the tram stopped at the bus stop and it's raining, that is the appropriate time to run.  Nevermind your umbrella.

18.  You can make hats, purses, and belts out of cork... and then sell it to tourists!

19.  There is a noticeable difference in Spanish and Portuguese porcelain art.

20.  It's breakable.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Exhaustive Lisbon

Okay, so, before you get the minutiae on Lisbon, you need to know two things.  First, Kelly and I did no planning whatsoever.  We had no expectations, no agenda, no prior knowledge as to what Lisbon is about.  Second - and I now admit this without hesitation - we are both spatially challenged.  Can you guess where this is going?  Alright.  Everybody ready?  And GO!

Not long ago, I realized that since I'm only here for six months, I have a limited number of weekends available to me, and that I should make the most of them as soon as possible.  I have two lists:  places I MUST visit before I leave, and place I'd like to see if possible, places that would be good "fillers."  Though I'd always thought it would be cool to visit, Lisbon was on the second list (behind Rome, Paris, Never-Never Land, etc. on the first).  Because Europe is so wonderfully compacted, travel is wonderfully cheap, and when I first looked at fares, flights were 19E.  Unfortunately, when Kelly and I actually decided to go, they'd gone up a bit, but not enough to cancel our trip.

So we got on the plane, buckled in for an hour flight, and began to realize to what extent we were winging it.  Did we speak Portuguese?  Not a word.  Did we know anything about Lisbon? Not a bit.  Kelly had a good guide book (I'd recommend Let's Go over Lonely Planet any day) and we'd both read it without much comprehension.  The only thing that kept seeming to surface was pastry shop after famous pastry shop.  Good!  we decided.  We'll frame our trip around food!  And then we landed.

The airport bus took us to the center of the city (at least, that's where we hoped we were going) and from there we'd take the Metro one stop toward our hostel.  That was the plan, and by sheer luck or Providence or whatever you want to thank, it worked!  On the way, we came to several startling realizations.  First and foremost, one of the initial sights was a yellow TROLLEY connected and sandwiched between two buildings.  What? Random.  Oh no, my friends, not random.  As it turns out, trollies make up a major part of old Lisbon's mass transportation system.

We were delighted.

And then we turned down a street toward our hostel.  It Y-ed off in two directions and had a cajun-looking house in the middle, built upon another layer of houses.  I would try to express how overwhelmed and enchanted we were, but you cannot possibly understand.  It was beautiful, interesting, lovely, cultured, and most of all, unexpected.

Our hostel, Oasis, turned out to be one of the Top 10 Hostels in Europe.  Who knew.  It was wonderful. We were greeted by the owner who stowed our bags until we returned to check in in the evening.  He also invited us to partake of the breakfast upstairs - free.  And then he took out a map and outlined a 2-3 hour walking tour of the east side of old Lisbon.

Well, two to three hours... that's what he said.  I'd say both of us are fairly intelligent and fairly well-traveled, so we listened attentively as he explained how to get places and as he traced the routes we should take, notating on the sides of the maps various points of interest, and off we went.

That's when we realized we were both spatially challenged.  Now then, in my previous adventures, I mixed my map-reading prowess (I say that ironically) with intuition, a basic sense of direction, and a bit of luck, and I magically arrived where I needed to.  In fact, this had become a point of pride for me, and if you were to hand me a map and say, here, find your way to Atlantis, I probably would have grinned and started off without a second thought.

Something happened in Lisbon.

All those qualities disappeared.

Oh, did I mention that Lisbon consists of pure circles in their roads?  Hmmm I'm looking at a map right now, and that doesn't seem to be the case as I'm sitting here safe in Madrid, but I'm telling you, one traveller to another, those roads CHANGE!  Like the staircases at Hogwarts, not even joking.  Streets that should have been there weren't, or they magically ended up on the opposite side of where they should have been.  Cathedrals and monasteries swapped places like a giant game of musical chairs.  The map in our hands twirled about as we tried to locate ourselves, and it refused to point North. The only things that were reliable were the trolly tracks.  They roughly followed the path we were supposed to take, so we followed them and arrived at the real Cathedral a couple hours later.  Keep in mind that we are still only about 1/4 of the way through our walk.  How long was this supposed to take?  No, that's okay, I don't remember either.

So the cathedral.  Neither of us were sure why it was so important (we Wikipedia'd it later), but we decided to stop by anyway.  It was pretty, but sadly, most cathedrals begin to look the same after a while.  There was an extra cloister tour, though, for only 2 euros, so we decided to try it out, not knowing what to expect.

It was a surprise, then, to walk outside and see major excavation endeavors underway.  Apparently, there is a whole Roman town submerged in the area.  Silly Romans, I thought, always building under cathedrals.  Sheesh.  It was fascinating to see, though.  A diagram explained which parts were stores and houses, which were wells and streets, and an old, perfectly round stone wheel leaned against a wall.  Again, unexpected delights.

By this time, we were hungry.  From the cloister, we'd noticed a restaurant on a corner street, so we decided to check it out.  It was a bit expensive so we kept looking and stumbled upon what might be the coolest place I have ever eaten.  It was a nondescript door slightly open, with the menu posted inside.  Inside... it was cavernous and airy.  Couches and coffee tables crowded the floor, as well as larger tables and high bar tables.  Books lined both walls, as well as board games and interesting knickknacks.  It was the perfect environment to eat lunch, study, enjoy a pastry, or prepare a global assault.  And the food was delicious... hake with cheddar and potatoes... mmm.

From there, we just happened to stumble upon one of the famous pastry shops Let's Go had mentioned.  Of course we stopped.  Coffee and custard pastries... it was good but not quite what we'd wanted.  Lisbon is famous for pure custard pastries and these had some sort of gelatin fruit fillings we weren't wild about.  Fortified, we forged on.

Lucky for us, the next part of the map was through the commercial district, which had been wiped out by an earthquake a while ago.  For that reason, they rebuilt it on a grid system.  We didn't get lost once.  Many of the stores we saw were also hosted in Spain, so we didn't stop, though all of the shoe stores were having tremendous sales and it was hard to pass up.

The hostel guy, foreseeing that we might be tired at this point, had told us that Portugal has a signature drink, ginga, a cherry liqueur, and that there were several ginja joints around this part of town, and that it would liven us back up.

Boy, was he right.  So we find one such bar and don't even have to fumble our way through Portuguese pronunciation.  We just held up our fingers like a shot glass and the bartender guessed what we wanted.  He poured us two shots and watched.  Wait, we said, do we drink it all at once, like a shot?  No, he said with a smile, drink it slowly.  Oh, did I mention the place was full, FULL of men?

It burned.  Burrrrrrned.  Not to mention it was rather tart.  The men erupted when they saw our faces.  It wasn't bad, though, so we downed them dutifully and departed.  It was an experience, we agreed... another unexpected moment.

After that, we followed our map some more and got lost several times. Really, we followed it to a T.  I have no idea how we kept ending up in the wrong place.  Sneaky staircases!  (There were a lot of stairs, in fact.  Lisbon seems to be built on a mountain.)  We weren't far from the hostel and, after finding a fabulous, quaint cupcake place and sharing a red velvet cupcake, we headed back.


Our hostel, Oasis, had been highly recommended to us by Will, my co-worker.  Kelly's guidebook mentioned it as well and said it turned into a bar in the evenings.  So true. I hardly recognized the place from the quite breakfast we'd had that morning.  It was hopping.  We'd been given two free drink passes upon check-in, and the bartender eagerly introduced us to Portuguese sangria (with cinnamon, interestingly... better than Spanish!) as well as a Portuguese almond/mint drink.  Meh.  Experiences, experiences, I still got tired them after half a glass. (This amazes Will, by the way - that I never finish drinks.  He does it for me. However, as he wasn't with us, the bartender seemed mildly insulted I didn't drink it all.  Oh well...).  The crowd was a lively mix of fellow travelers and locals who drop in to mix with the backpacker crowd.  

As it was a Friday night, most were drinking.  Dinner fit in there somewhere about an hour later than originally specified - authentic Portuguese, it was delicious and worth the wait.  Everyone around us (mostly Germans oddly, and one memorable Canadian) provided interesting conversation, albeit at varying levels of inebriation.  I'm still not sure how to explain the magnetic appeal standing around and people-watching seems to have.  I say this without pride but a small sense of amusement.  I had a constant stream of conversations that ranged from trying to explain what 'graduate' means in English to why many Oklahomans aren't keen on gun control.  Oh yes, it was an interesting night indeed.  By some miracle, Kelly and I managed to make an exit by 1am, a long day when you woke up at 5:45.  The party was right below us, but we slept fitfully.

It was raining.  Pouring, actually.  Within five steps out the door, we were soaked, even with an umbrella.

Thanks for the picture, Kelly!
We had decided to go to the northwest side of Lisbon, to Belem.  It had the most famous pastry shop (the one that's been around since 1837) and was the place all the Portuguese explorers set out from.

It was raining.

We took a tram there, but the distance from the bus stop to the shop drenched us again and we entered, dripping.  (Correction, I was dripping.  Kelly had rain boots and was just damp.)  Their custard pastries, Pasche de Belem, made life happy again.

It was still raining.

For lack of better plans, we decided to go to Centro Cultural a free museum, not knowing what to expect.  It turned out to be an amazing modern art museum.  The first exhibit we stumbled onto was on cartography.  We weren't expecting much, but it was fascinating.  More on that in a different post though.  The second was a collection of other art pieces, a few of which I'd seen before in textbooks and such.  Again, an unexpectedly good time!  By the time we were finished, I was almost dry... except for my shoes and socks.

Lunch at a Pao Pao Queijo Queijo rounded off a pleasant morning, and we headed back to check out and go to the airport.  As it turns out, our flight was delayed an hour.  Tired zombies, we sat down to wait.  While waiting, we started counting up trip costs, positive that we were going to be out quite a bit given the amount of fun we'd had.  But, holy moly, including lodging but not the plane ticket, we had spent less than 80 Euros the whole time!  We had spent more on souvenirs!  Unbelievable.  It was tragic to be leaving. We were hopeful that a volcano had hit Spain and the flight would just be cancelled.  That's okay, though, we'll be back... our Canadian friend owes us a drink ;)

Adventures in Ávila

Well... it would seem I have some catching up to do, so just a quick blurb about Ávila, for the town is interesting enough that it deserves some mention at least.

Because I was originally trying to coordinate this trip to travel with Will, my co-worker, I actually did a little more planning than previous outings.  For example, I asked how long it would take to get there, from which station should I leave, how much sight seeing would be required, and what should I eat.  This last point is particularly important to me for obvious reasons.  I love tasty sustenance.  But more than that, most Spanish towns have a specialty or two that is unique to their city or region.  Taking a few minutes to eat a meal rather than, say, a CLIF Bar is a great time to reflect and absorb the atmosphere.  Food, thoughts, feel... a few of my favorite things.  So I felt prepared for this one.  Just to be safe, I also took the time to unceremoniously tear out the two pages on Avila from Lonely Planet.  Really, who wants to carry a mediocre guide book around when you can get the same information from a couple of pages?  (Even so, it was of no use whatsoever.)

However, once again, I neglected to watch the weather the day before (I blame this on the fact that Will couldn't come, as he had a prior invitation to watch rugby with some old British guys).  So, while it wasn't snowing, 9 am in the mountains is a little nippy.   I needed socks... and what do you know, there was a sock store! Problem solved.  From there, after asking a few people directions I eventually found my way to the medieval quarter.  Train schedule, woolen socks, part of a guidebook... I was feeling invincible.

Old Avila is a walled city that follows the usual line of Spanish history (Visigoths - Romans - Arabs - Christians) so it's an interesting mix of ancient influences.  It is most notable for its cathedral and its walls.
There is all sorts of interesting history behind it, but the most fascinating part for me is that it combines religion and warfare, as illustrated by the cathedral.  Avila is a "deeply religious town" (Lonely Planet) and takes great pride in its cathedral, as well as their patron saint, Teresa de Avila.  The cathedral is beautiful, and, already feeling reckless after ripping Lonely Planet apart, I blissfully ignored all signs prohibiting cameras.  (Let's be honest... if there aren't guards walking around to enforce those flimsy signs, it's hard to resist.  Besides, how could I possibly pass up an opportunity to archive sights that my students will probably never see?)

So, religious beauty.  Then comes the militaristic fortification part.  Not only was it built as a fortress, but there are also slots for archers concealed among the turrets and eves.  Moreover, as I was wandering around inside wishing I knew more about gothic architecture, I just happened to glance at a sign and skimmed it well enough to realize that it was explaining a recent discovery (a lucky stroke, considering it was in Spanish and I am usually too lazy to read well.).  As it turns out, last year (that would be 2010... 1,000 years after construction began) researches discovered a secret passageway in one of the chapels.  Now, to the best of my knowledge, most cathedrals feel their chapels are sacred and don't want any sort of secular influence to taint their holy stones (refer to photography prohibitions).  This passageway, however, led to two separate parts of the city, both of which were political hubcaps (and are now the post office and a restaurant).  Crazy!  And I thought my church was exciting because it had "catacombs"!

Defense and religion - the archer slots can be seen above the circular window.
Anyway, combined with the yemas (egg yoke pastries) and judías blancas (a white bean dish eagerly recommended by a souvenir shop owner), it was a pleasant experience.  And I had done just enough planning to make it back to the train with two minutes to spare.  I suppose you sacrifice some spontaneity when you plan, but it is nice not to have to wait around another hour for the next train.  So, in all, Avila is not a vacation destination, but it's definitely worth the trip... especially the food : )

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Valentine's Day

Patrick sent me flowers.  

In Spain.  


My host family couldn't believe it.

Neither could I : )

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Calling Cards

Dear 7-Hour Time Difference,

I have been waiting patiently waiting for ten hours to talk to the people I love most, and the fact that I have another hour to wait so that they can arrive home from church might be grounds for a chronographic coup. I know where your precious Prime Meridian lives, and I am not above puncturing its vacuum capsule and pushing the world an hour closer to its ultimate demise.

While I realize that your differentiations are necessary for commerce, REM cycles, and Santa Claus, I personally have no use for you.  You separate families, divide cultures, and allow New York to have all the fun on New Year's Eve while the rest of us can only watch helplessly as the ball drops.  This must not be tolerated.

We have equalized genders, standardized tests, and paused movies.  You, Time, cannot escape.  If China can fit into one timezone, why do you think you can terrorize the rest of us with your -0600 derivations?  Tyranny is not very popular these days, you know...  Time, Tunisia; Epoch, Egypt... same difference.  We will topple you.

Now, on a personal note - and yes, this is a shameless appeal to pathos - I am homesick, cynical, angry, irritated, frustrated, and overall,  grouchy, and I hate blogging in such conditions.  Nothing productive can come from it, and the world is a worse place for it, I'm sure.  So please, I need it to be later NOW.  Surely you can do this little thing for so pathetic a creature as me.  I realize there could be global repercussions to this, but really, look, that's what they said about Y2K and here we are, none the worse.  As I am the most important person in the universe next to, of course, Coronel Sanders (bless his fried chicken and gravy.  Comfort food... oh how I wish I had some right now!) I am sure you will comply, and we'll settle accounts later.

Thank you for your concern,
A very dis/trans/posed Natalie

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Time Travel and Other Curiosities

I love the train.

For whatever reason, this mode of passive transit appeals to me much more than the Metro or the bus.  (I HATE buses.)  Perhaps it is because I am always on my way to somewhere interesting when I'm riding one, rather than the routine Madrid stops on the Metro, or maybe it is the promise of a peaceful, trouble-free trip after the hustle of managing to get on the correct train (this might tell you a fair amount about my travel prowess...).  You get on, wander the cars to find a suitable seat, and huddle up for a relaxing trip across the Spanish countryside, reading or thinking or merely watching the shrubs slip by, oblivious that we're in the 21st century.

I usually read or let my thoughts wander; trains are wonderfully conducive to pondering.  Perfect for amalgamating thoughts and theories.  It was on my most recent train ride that I realized that trains also serve as a perfect metaphor for the Spanish conception of time.  I'm still testing this theory out, but bear with me.

In America, we're pretty independent.  No shit, Sherlock! you say.  Get on with it!  Yes, yes.  Hold your horses, that's exactly what I mean.  We have everything on our own terms, most notably time.   Because we have our own cars, we can arrange dates and meetings and outings and meanderings to perfectly suit our schedules.  At home, I know for a fact I can make it from my house to my work in 40 minutes going fast enough to get off with a warning, if necessary.  Leaving a party early -- or late?  No problem, your car is parked out in front.  Come and go as you please!

Not so here.  Everything is much more communal.  Everyone is in the same boat... or bus.  Let's take a look at going to school, for example.

Step 1: Catch the bus.  They come every 7-12 minutes from 8-7, fewer before and after that time, and they stop at 11:25pm (another lesson learned the hard way).  Right.  Think about driving through Edmond.  Catching two stop lights wrong can add five or six minutes to your trip.  Here, missing a bus can add twice that.  Even waiting for one can double it.  We -- the other commuters huddled in the -3 degree wind and I -- are at the mercy of that schedule.  It builds camaraderie and pity, that's for sure; no one is exempt.

Step 2:  Disembark from bus, descend a minimum of two long escalators (usually closer to four), and catch the Metro, which comes every 4-6 minutes.  (Again, refer to Edmond stoplight analogy.)  By catch, I mean open the door and hurl yourself into the mass that is the morning commute, cramped but mostly compassionate. If you're lucky, as I am, Line 9 at Plaza de Castilla is far enough away from everything that the cars are relatively uncrowded.  There is some advantage to living in the boonies, after all.

Ride metro 30 minutes to final destination.  Again, if you're lucky, you only have to catch one metro.  Changing lines will cost you at least 6 minutes, usually more, as you have to transverse the station, board more escalators, and wait for another metro.

Step 3:  Exit Metro station - hopefully from a convenient entrance - and get your bearings.  Then walk six more minutes to school, arriving either 15 minutes ahead of schedule or one minute late (or, worst case scenario, 20 minutes late).  Reverse process and repeat for return trip.

Now then, now that you're intimately acquainted with my day, you may be asking yourself why and what this has to do with trains.  Pfft. Stop being so American.  We'll get to it when we get to it.

Oh wait! That, there!  That was it - did you catch it?  We'll get to it when we get to it.  That is, in essence, Spanish time.  (How devilishly tricky of me, I know - using the time you took to read all this as an object lesson!)  Being the efficient American that I am, this mode of thinking at first seemed lazy, then extravagant, then negligent to me.  Now it is merely inconvenient, and even this feeling probably won't last, now that I'm dissecting it.

You see, like a train, time is purveyor.  It glides by, neither fast nor slow and requires little thought once you're on your course.  It catches you up passively... it's your choice where it takes you, but whether you go or not is of little consequence; the main thing is that it runs.  The train system is surprisingly reliable, and yet, meeting times are negotiable.  Ending times are non-existent.  Time runs by whether you're with amigos or not, whether you're in a hurry or not, so why worry about it?  It's not like you can do anything about it anyway; you're a passenger.  So, obviously, the best thing to do is enjoy what you have and make do.  Dinner at 10:00?  Of course!  The day is only so long... why hurry to bed and end it so soon?  The night is young.  Churros con chocolate at 5am after a long night of discotecas?  The perfect start to a new day!  Enjoy the scenery!  Thus time delivers you to your next destination, more or less on schedule and richer for the ride.

And that is Spanish time.  When they told me that an hour's one-way commute wasn't too long, the go-getter, take-life-by-the-horns-and-then-give-it-plastic-surgery part of me stared in disbelief (give me an hour in Oklahoma and I can be two counties away, not just in the center of the city), but I guess from this perspective, it makes a little more sense.  I'm still not sure what I think of it, and most days I feel like I'm suspended over the best (or worst...) of both our cultures as a peace offering to the gods, but it might be worth surrendering to.  To slow down, to cease hurrying.  To defy the time = productivity equation.  Perhaps, perhaps.  Siesta, anyone?