Link love: Things to do in Barcelona


Ready to soak up some culture in Barcelona? ;)

I’ve got a whole bunch of half-written blog posts on places I’d recommend to take visitors, but since those aren’t quite ready yet, I’ll share a few resources I’ve found helpful over the last few months:

+ Le Cool: A mix of art, culture & shopping.

+ BarcelonaYellow: All sorts of info, from nightlife to apartment rentals to transportation.

+ The Spain Scoop: Travel advice & tips, especially helpful for folks making a long-term move.

+ BCN Week: A weekly newsletter on events, culture & politics.

+ Barcelona Life: Even more info on nightlife, restaurants, entertainment & more.

What am I missing? Tell me your favorite Barcelona sites & ‘zines.


podcasts, books & recommendations

I’ve been listening to more podcasts than reading lately, but finding good stuff in both places. On my current podcast playlist:

  • On Being
  • DoubleX Gabfest by Slate
  • Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin
  • Notes in Spanish
  • Coffee Break Spanish

Recently read:

  • Just After Sunset by Steven King
  • Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott

Books in progress:

  • A General Theory of Love by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini & Richard Lannon (re-reading it)
  • This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
  • Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti (been slowly reading a chapter here & there for months now)

Books recommended by friends that I’ve added to my list:

  • Scent of God by Beryl Singleton Bissell
  • Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
  • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Goal update: I’ve read 39 books in 2012.

What are you reading right now? Any recommendations?

Crappy excuses I tell myself when I don’t want to run

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. I’m still feeling plowed by events in America, and though I know a run usually helps my state of mind, it took every bit of will power to get my butt out the door.

It got me thinking about all of the crappy excuses I tell myself when I don’t want to run – and all of the things the devil’s advocate in me says back. (Do the rest of you have ongoing inner dialogues when it comes to exercise and responsibilities and to-do lists?)

Here’s a rundown (har har) of my most common running excuses …

Excuse: I’d rather stay snuggled up in bed with a book.
Counterargument: Vitamin D and fresh air will be invigorating!

I try to remind myself that this is the first winter in five years that I’ve been exposed to so many days of sunshine! Since I’m skipping Portland’s winter (and subsequent gray skies), I should take advantage of beautiful (mostly rain-free) winter runs in Barcelona.

run view

It was 59 degrees and sunny when I ran stairs today. This was my view.

Excuse: I feel too fat to run.
Counterargument: You’re not fat; you’re lazy. Also, discomfort is good for you.

I don’t own a scale so I don’t know what I’ve gained in Barcelona, but my body has changed a bit. I’ve indulged in more bread and wine than normal, and I’ve gotten a little soft. I don’t really mind all that much (we’ll see how I feel when summer rolls around), except I do mind when I’m running because I feel slower and out of shape. Of course, I’ll only improve the situation by getting in shape so I’m better off shutting up and getting moving.


Look! Last summer, I actually had, like, sculpted arms. No such reality now.

Excuse: I’d rather go to a café and eat pan con tomate.
Counterargument: You can eat bread after you run.

It’s probably not the best idea to bribe myself with bread (see aforementioned bread-indulgence-softness issue), but I totally do it. And it totally works.

where the bread goes

At the risk of embarrassing myself … There is actually a perk to over-indulging in bread: more junk in the trunk! I may be getting softer all over, but at least I’m also getting something of a butt.* (I give you license to make fun of me for saying that.)

Excuse: I don’t have enough time.
Counterargument: Are you fucking kidding me?

This is a really rich excuse because I only work 16 hours per week here, though that doesn’t factor in travel time to work and private classes (and lesson planning). In any case, I certainly have time to fit in a 40-minute run. It simply involves spending a little less time on Twitter, lingering over coffee for a bit less time, and, you know, setting an alarm so I actually wake up at a reasonable hour in the morning.

Excuse: My IT band feels tight.
Counterargument: Well, that’s unfortunate. But that’s not a reason not to run; that’s a reason to stretch more.

I’ve gotten really good at putting off runs when my legs feel wonky. But my legs feel wonky because I’m not doing any strength training or stretching. It might also be time to replace my New Balance Minimus shoes; though they don’t have a ton of mileage on them, they break down more quickly than cushioned shoes. But, really, I don’t think this is a shoe issue. I think my IT band is tight because I’m not taking time to stretch or protect my quads and glutes. New Year’s resolution #1: make time for lunges, squats and planks.

Excuse: Running is boring.
Counterargument: So, turn around and come back when you get bored.

I actually don’t think running is boring (unless we’re talking about really long runs); it’s just getting out the door that’s the most difficult for me. Once I’m moving and listening to music, I get in a groove. So when this excuse crops up, I promise myself that I can turn around and come back whenever I’d like, and this effectively gets me to run for at least 30 minutes, if not more.

Spill: What excuses do you tell yourself? And how do you convince yourself to get out the door (or to the gym)?


* I mean, I’ve still got a ways to go until I’ve got this kind of junk in the trunk, but I’m workin’ on it. (Don’t mistake my meaning here! I’m saying junk in the trunk is a *good* thing. Most of us ladies want some shape!)

There is no way to make sense of the tragedy – or to understand conservative Republicans in America

22 Dec. | Update: Please understand that I wrote this under the influence of confusion and anger, that my blog sometimes functions as a place for me to work out my feelings, and that I am far (far!) from an expert on any of the below topics. I stand by my views, but for better, wiser, stronger posts, please see these:


Warning: Full-blown, semi-coherent RANT ahead. I am mad, and I’m not being polite or perky or appropriate today.

It’s a beautiful day in Barcelona. Sunny, in the low 60s. The city is full of holiday spirit: Christmas craft stalls, flower stands, marching bands.

But I feel thousands of miles away.

My mind keeps wandering to the shootings at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. I can’t make sense of it, and so I read all the news stories I can find, bewildered and sickened and so sad.

Why am I gaping at story after story with the same horrific details? To try to find something that’ll settle my thoughts? To see if there are any words to express what the families are going through and how they’ll ever move forward?

I’m looking in the faces of the children in Barcelona more than ever. They are so innocent, so fresh-eyed and so, so sweet. I cannot fathom how anyone could shoot a child.

Since I heard the story on Friday night, I’ve wanted to pretend it doesn’t exist. Just days before, there was a shooting in a mall in Portland. And, a day after Connecticut, 50 shots fired at a mall in Los Angeles.

In 2011 alone, there were more than 30,000 deaths by gun violence in the United States. (source)

That means some 85 people are killed everyday in firearm-related incidents (including suicides). (source)

And let’s talk homicide. In 2009, there were nearly 11,500 homicides caused by guns in the U.S. (source) By comparison, there were 2 homicides caused by guns in Japan in 2006, and 11 in 2008. In the UK, there were 18 homicides by guns in 2009. (source)

And I know it’s not just about the guns. It’s about the people; it’s about the culture. But we come from a culture of gun violence. It’s all intertwined.

I’m so angry.

I’m so ashamed of America right now.

I hate that some people ostensibly use the constitution (freedom to fucking bear arms) as an excuse to kill. I hate that we are a nation of people who don’t support gun control. (Yes, many of us do – strongly – but my Facebook feed is rife with bullshit like, Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Okay, but if those people couldn’t get ahold of their guns so easily, could they do so much damage so swiftly? And if those people could cry for help in other ways, could get access to mental health care cheaply and easily, would it come to this? And if our criminal justice system was one of rehabilitation, would we be able to help people actually heal?)

I want every conservative Republican who’s still not in favor of tighter gun control after Connecticut to be forced to sit in a room with the parents of the dead children and the families of the dead teachers. See the looks in those people’s eyes and then try to tell me that guns don’t kill people.

It is proven that more guns means more murder. (source)

Last I checked, there are 4 states in America where it’s legal to bring a firearm into a bar. And it’s legal to carry a gun into restaurants that serve alcohol in some 15 or more states. You will never convince me that there’s a rational reason for that.

You can tell me until the cows come home that you come from a family of hunters and that your parents taught you all about gun safety. That’s fantastic, but I don’t give shit. That’s not bringing any of these people back to life.

You can tell me that you have a right to “protect” yourself. To which I will say: What the hell are you protecting yourself against if not another fear-crazed person like you WHO ALSO HAS A GUN?! (And, as a caveat, may I also rant for a moment about the fucked up culture of fear in America? People are using senseless acts like Connecticut to start arguing in the opposite direction that we need more guns, that teachers should be armed. You have got to be kidding me. Why are we propagating a culture of fear? How about we work together to improve education and economic equality and cultural tolerance, instead of being god-damned scared shitless all of the time and saying we need guns to keep us “safe?”)

I want to be able to channel my anger toward something more productive, but I can’t bring myself to it right now.

When I first heard the news of Connecticut and saw all of the political posts on Facebook, I posted that we should give space to compassion first.

I’m lacking compassion right now.

I want to try to be compassionate toward the killer’s family, particularly his mother (whom he shot), but I’m not there yet. She didn’t deserve death, but what was happening in his life that she didn’t intervene (or did she try)? Why was he able to get his hands on so many of her weapons? Why did she flaunt her weapons to neighbors like badges of honor?

I want to try to be compassionate toward people with political views different than my own, to respect their right to their beliefs, even if I don’t understand them. But I can’t right now.

I want change in America. I want a future for our country that I can believe in. Now is the time for Obama to step in and change gun laws. We cannot continue to lose so many lives.

My heart goes out to the families of Sandy Hook School and their community. I’m so deeply sorry for your losses.


12/12/12: I love numbers!

Well, it’s actually already 12/13 around here (or 13/12, as the Spanish would write it, forever causing me unwarranted confusion), but who’s counting?

I did a little bit of a blog refresh today and changed my header image to reflect what’s happening these days: less running (and no races), more traveling, the same amount of (daily) chocolate.

And while I updated the blog’s look, I re-read a few posts. It startles me that I wrote this one just over a month ago. Things were a little shaky that day, no?

Reading something like that initially stirs up embarrassment. I don’t really like airing dirty laundry on the internet (even if I do try my best to skirt specific details). (P.S. See how I just used “dirty laundry” and “skirt” in one sentence? That’s a writing no-no because it’s just so devastatingly punchy, but I’m going to leave it in because I’m too lazy to self-edit at the moment.)

But, more than embarrassment, it makes me feel freakin’ proud and resilient. A lot has changed in 5-ish short weeks. To wit:

  • I moved to a new apartment, and I fell in love with the neighborhood. I like its vibe. I feel at home here.
  • I got hired to do some freelance writing, and it’s putting food on the table! (Yay, income.)
  • I made a few new friends and navigated a potentially super stressful housing situation (I’m moving again next month, but sticking to the same neighborhood) without freaking the fuck out.
  • I slowed way down emotionally and did some reading & journaling & reflecting (all that stuff I’d been putting off), and I came out on the other side feeling calmer and lighter.
  • I went to Istanbul and had my mind blown!

Forging this international path feels good. Finding my way toward contentment feels even better. I hate admitting that I was a wound-up stress case at the beginning of 2012, but I was. And that stress monster haunted me a little bit when I first arrived in Spain.

Now I’m feeling more like me (or the me I’ve wanted to be but couldn’t quite find), and that’s, well, it’s rad.

Bring it on, universe. I’m game.

Fuzzy brain, fumbling words

My friend Jessica wrote a post about making language mistakes & feeling embarrassed that is speaking to me in so many ways today. To be sure, Jess’ Spanish is leaps and bounds beyond mine, but it shows that we all hit a wall of frustration at certain points, no matter how advanced our language skills. We’re not native speakers, and we can’t change that.

I went to Istanbul for the weekend (I loved Istanbul and will write about it soon), and upon returning, it’s as if I’ve completely forgotten how to string together a sentence in Spanish.

This morning, I ran into the yoga instructor that teaches at the little studio next door to my apartment (the studio where I paid for a month of classes). I’ve decided not to renew for December because I’ll be traveling and having a visitor from the states and moving to a new apartment (yet again, more on that later). (And I didn’t really enjoy the style of yoga, but that’s beside the point.)

The instructor said she’d been wondering where I’ve been and asked if I’d be returning to take classes. I meant to say that I’ve been busy and out of town, but might consider it in January.

Instead, I completely fumbled.

I couldn’t get a sentence out. I couldn’t conjugate a verb. I basically spouted a few disconnected words, and she tried to fill in the rest, and I just nodded at what she was guessing, even though it had no bearing on the truth.

By the end of the conversation (if we can even call it that), it’d been determined that I’m leaving Barcelona next week because of money and I’m going back to my home in the states and ending my visit here.

Um, yeah. None of that is true.

I was just so flustered and frustrated that I couldn’t even attempt to get the conversation back on track.

She gave me dos besos and wished me a wonderful Christmas in the states and a good life!


Inevitably, I’m going to run into her next week – or next month (though I’m moving to a new apartment, it’s just around the corner) – and she’ll be perplexed why the stupid American girl who can’t speak a lick of Spanish is still wandering around the streets and not headed home.


A little preview of my 3-day trip to Istanbul …

spice market

blue mosque


Spanish word(s) I love: copa

As I study Spanish, I come across words that have usage and/or subtle meanings that I love, so I’ve decided to start a semi-regular post series on the blog called Spanish word(s) I love. I promise I’ll make mistakes in usage so don’t go quoting me on anything, but perhaps you’ll be as entertained as I’ve been by the Spanish language.

Today’s word: copa

copa de vino

¿Quieres tomar una copa?

Copa means cup or glass, as in copa de vino (glass of wine). It’s used in other drinking-related phrases, such as:

  • tomar una copa = have a drink
  • ir de copas = go out drinking
  • beber una copa de más = have one too many drinks

It’s also used for:

  • Copa Mundial = World Cup
  • copa de sombrero = crown of a hat
  • copas (de baraja) = one of the four suits in a Spanish deck of cards

And my favorite: como la copa de un pino, which literally translates to “like the crown of a pine (tree)” and is used in the following idioms:

  • Él dijo una mentira como la copa de un pino = He told a whopper of a lie.
  • Es una idiotez como la copa de un pino = That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.

What do you think? ¿Qué bueno, no? Stay tuned for more nerdy, idiom-filled fun …