Tuesday, April 8, 2014

London, or That one Time I was Lost for 48 Hours Straight

I have a lot of talents. Not to brag or anything, but I'm pretty much a pro when it comes to sleeping, I can carry a lot of grocery bags at a time and I can even yo-yo (sort of...). But despite all these incredible skills, there is one very important thing that I am completely missing.

I have zero sense of direction. The mastery of left and right continues to allude me, even after 20 years. Though I understand that having a north, south, east and west are completely pointless if you pretend that anything in front of you is north, I do it anyway. I look at a map and it totally makes sense. Until I try to make the crisscrossing lines in to actual roads. It also doesn't help that most of Europe has just decided that street signs are for the weak.

I am weak, and I really need those signs. And this is why I was lost for 2 days. 

I've tried to screen shot the directions, and sometimes it works. Unless the streets are unlabeled. Or I accidentally take a photo of the part I already know and chop of the important stuff (it happens embarrassingly often). Luckily my friends are super on top of these things, so generally I'm alright.

But, for some still unknown crazy reason, I thought I would be alright wandering on my own in London. After all, everything was in English, so it couldn't be that hard, right? 

Wrong, very very wrong.

Beyond the fact that I suddenly lost my ability to cross the street (walking in London is really hard), the tube system is just ridiculous. Plus I kept getting distracted by funny stop names like Cockfoster.

Yet despite the fact that I never knew where I was going and ended up walking around in circles more frequently than I am willing to admit, I loved every minute of it. Though I may never know any city like the back of my hand (which i don't even know that well to begin with), as long as I have friends to come find me when I'm lost on a street corner, I think I'll be alright.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Escalator Don't Fail Me Now

I'll say it, I love escalators (in case you haven't already picked up on that) but lately, they've been letting me down. Over the last weeks, 4 of the 345.495,398 sets of moving stairs I use every day have broken. There is nothing sadder in the world than rounding a corner only to find them roped off, all their mechanically insides torn out and the rubber guards on the railing flopping off.

Okay, there are plenty of things that are worse. And honestly, yeah I can just take the stairs (and I do) but I don't think people understand how many stairs that is. You think lomo is bad? just try coming out of the Guzman El Bueno stop from the 6. It's approximately 48 meters underground, roughly translating to the height of a 14 story buildings. Talk about your morning cardio.

But the escalators aren't the only thing falling apart. Since arriving I have destroyed 2 pairs of shoes, torn a hole in a sweater, jacket and t-shirt and some how managed to tear the handle clear off a bag. By the time May rolls around, I may actually be forced to go barefoot.

Luckily, I am nothing if not resourceful. As of this morning, using only a needle and 4 colors of thread, I managed to salvage everything I had broken accept my boots, which are totally beyond repair (unless I can find some super glue...)

I'd like to think of this as a testament to the spirit of my travels. I have literally walked two pairs of shoes to death, and that's something I'm proud of. Too bad I can't just sew an escalator back together too.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Procrastination...nevermind, I'll write about it later

I've been meaning to write this for at least 2 weeks now. and as ironic as it sounds, I kept putting it off. Need I say more?

Probably not. But I am going to anyway. I'm a born procrastinator (seriously, I was born like a week late) and most of the time it works pretty well for me. My 11th grade 12 page research paper and corresponding 1 hour presentation on the Vietnam War? Yeah, I wrote it the night before. And while that indecent is probably the crown jewel, I have plenty of other anecdotes about procrastination. Sadly I never learn from them. Ever.

Part of it maybe be because the horrible panic induced adrenaline is so helpful when it comes to cranking out papers in under twenty minutes. Maybe it is the thrill of pulling off the impossible. Most likely, it's probably because I've always managed to get through my self create disasters relatively unscathed.

But this time, my hole may already be too deep for me to dig myself out of it.

You see, at the beginning of the semester, I was super psyched because I didn't have any finals, which basically meant the last two weeks would be completely chill. Instead, I just had a handful of minorly major projects. Like most students, I pushed them to the back burner, out of site, out of mind. And it was fantastic. 

Until out of no where, it's nearly April! How on earth did I manage to lose nearly 3 months? At first it didn't even seem like that big of a deal. After all I have all of April right?


Though there is an awesome 10 day holiday in the middle of the month, I know myself better than to think I'll get anything done. Besides the fact that it's pretty much a crime to do homework over an extended break, I'm also going to be on buses and trains crisscrossing Spain and Portugal. Not to mention the week before, which has been eaten by London.

Granted, all this is totally my fault. And traveling for three weeks is hardly something to complain about.

Nevertheless, it still leaves me in a bind. Basically I have one week to start and finish a full company analysis, complete with investment suggestions, a 20 minute presentation on the psychological effects of the age of the internet, plus time for researching, an ethics paper (which really isn't that big of a deal, I just really don't feel like writing it), a museum visit with very short, peculiar hours, and accompanying paper. Plus my Spanish vocab, which very well may be the most stressful part. I am really bad at Spanish (still).

But I still have 168 hours to get it done, so really, I don't even need to start yet. Right?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Kiss me I'm (1/4) Irish!

A week ago I went to Dublin. And it was great. Yes I know, that's unbelievably descriptive. It's almost like you were there with me right? But that isn't the point, not really.

Perhaps it was just the dizzying excitement of really understanding everyone for the first time in months, or the surprising lack of rain, but for some reason or other, I was completely taken with the city, nay, the entire country within minutes of landing.

I've never much understood ethnic pride. I think it's great to be proud of where you come from, don't get me wrong, but I must confess I didn't get it. Part of this probably comes from the fact that my background is so muddled and thoroughly mixed that individual cultures have been rendered into an unidentifiable mix of weird foods and phrases that have stubbornly held on through the assimilation of six or so generations.

And yet, being in this country that my father's mother's parents lived in somewhere (I think...), I felt oddly connected. It was as if I had found 6 million acquaintances whom, really I didn't share anything with, but liked anyway. 

After mistakenly crashing a tour and learning about the exploding statues (blown up on principal) and bloody rebellions, I gained new insight into historical pride. Obviously hugely violent, and deadly rebellions aren't exactly something to brag about. But the stubborn refusal to accept orders? I can relate to that. Throw in their self depreciating humor and you've cover at least 90% of my personality.

I think that is where the pride comes from. I mean, we can't very well take credit for things that happened generations before we were born. But seeing a bit of yourself in where you come from, even hundreds of years later, well that's pretty cool. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Dinosaur walks into an Ethics class

If boredom could be measured by the number of dinosaurs I draw per class, Ethics would earn an unprecedented 7 T-Rexes. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for ethical behavior. i think most people would agree that not being a douche bag generally makes the world a nicer place to be. I'm even willing to admit that sadly, people have to be taught how to not be douche bags.
Sad dinosaur, sad because ethics is the WORST
But my ethics class? I would rather stab myself repeatedly with my mechanical pencil than sit through another 50 minute lecture.

"50 minutes, how bad can it be?" 

It's Robot Attack bad
You see, this isn't an applied ethics course. Nope, it's all about theories- theories most people agree are wrong....

So, we end up with absolutely absurd situations THAT WOULD NEVER HAPPEN. Example-

P: You are waiting at a bus stop with a legless, paraplegic pregnant women. There is only one seat, but no one will ever know if you don't give her the seat. Should you do it?
Me: if she has no legs, wouldn't she have a wheelchair and not need the seat?
P: she needs the seat anyway, I can't explain why, it would take to long.
Me: fine, she can have the seat
P: but no one would ever know if you sat instead.
Me: but I don't want the seat, and how would no body know? She would know, everyone one
on the bus would see it too.
P: No, she's in a coma and all the people on the bus are blind

and repeat.

It is physically painful for me. I enjoy a good debate just as much (arguably more) anyone else. But one with constantly shifting illogical and pointless rules?

After two months I can say that I know what psychological and ethical egoism are, I understand Bentham and Mill's Utilitarianism, Subjectivism, Conventionalism, Relativism and Objectivism. 

But you know what, just because a Utilitarian would have no problem taking chocolate from a blind kid with no taste buds, I still wouldn't do it. And this class is still dumb.

Have I mentioned that I hate it yet?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dollar Coins Yáll

As a little kid I was fascinated coins- shiny little round pieces of metal stamped with leaves and faces, whats not to love?

Plus my grandma was a casual coin collector, and after she bought me my first quarter map at the impressionable young age of 6, I was hooked. At least for the next 8 years or so. And then I, like most people, discovered that loose change was kind of worthless. 

Coins kept popping up, as they always do ( 7,070,000,000 pennies alone were minted last year). Instead of finding them on the sidewalk or under couch cushions like normal people, nickles and dimes would show up in my shoes, along with hotwheels cars and the occasional mint, compliments of my adorable little siblings. I'd shake them out of my shoes and move on, completely unrepentant about the $0.17 I had passed up on.

In college I rediscovered the value of a quarter, coincidentally appearing along with my hatred of coin fed washing machines. When I come home now, the little kids give me all their change, equally as appalled as I am at having to pay for laundry. And while I can't really use anything other than the quarters, I sentimentally hold on to the pennies and nickles. After all, what kind of monster rejects a penny gifted by a four year old?

But in Madrid I have come to love coins again. Never before have I been able to buy lunch with a handful of change, and I love it! Do you know how exciting it is to realize that your jangling pocket is worth a whole 12€? That's a good chunk of change!

It's not like there aren't $1 and $2 coins in the U.S, but no one uses them there. Waiters don't get peeved when you leave a pile of coins with the check and increments of 2 are insanely helpful. And even though 1 centido is just as worthless as a penny, they are so much cuter that I don't even care that it would take a wheelbarrow full of them to buy anything.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Crosswalk Daredevil

If you were to say I unobservant you would be wrong. I notice lots of things, like oddly shaped clouds, burnt out light bulbs and just about every instance of anyone tripping, dropping food on themselves or any embarrassing  happenstance (just ask my friends, I'm pretty sure they hate me for it). But if you were to say that I don't notice the practical things, well you'd be pretty spot on, especially when it comes to traffic.

Perhaps it goes back to growing up in a particularly pedestrian friendly city (the always beautiful Boise, Idaho). More likely it is all my dad's fault.

About 4 years, I was walking down the street with him to the Capitol Building of all places, though I can't actually remember why. As we came to the crosswalk, I stopped, obeying the little red hand like the dutiful citizen that I was. My dad, in contrast kept walking across the empty street. As I stood there, un-moving, he called back to me, "Mary, why aren't you crossing? It's just a light, it doesn't mean anything" (or something to that affect, I don't remember, it was a long time ago).

At any rate, that really made me think. He was right. Sure, I had been taught not to walk when the red light light came on, but the light didn't know anything. Why should I be stopping when there was clearly no reason to?

And so I have industriously been ignoring crosswalk signals ever since. And unsurprisingly this has led to problems. Friends would literally grab my hand and walk me across the street in Brazil, mortally concerned about my safety, while stern faced police officers gave me warnings about jay walking back in San Francisco.

But in Madrid, I have found my people. Never have I bee in a city where there are so regularly throngs of people in the streets at all hours  (including from 2-6 am). More than that, they don't pay the slightest attention to the cars. They actually give zero shits about traffic. Narrow streets clogged with people lazily drift out of the way for oncoming traffic, pouring back into the road seconds later. Sidewalks are for chumps.

I regularly cross the street, vaguely mindful of cars and motorcycles, only to find myself alone, all my friends still on the other side looking at me like I am a crazy person. And maybe I am, but I haven't been hit yet!

Fun fact, the term "jay walking" comes from old slang. "Jay" meaning someone who was stupid, making jay walkers half witted street crossers (http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2012/07/origin-of-the-term-jaywalking/)