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On friendship

sunset in Munich

The other day marked four years since I moved to Munich. I find this very scary. I had never even been to Germany before and had no idea what to expect. That year turned out to be the best of my life and a completely life-changing experience. There is definitely a pre-Munich and post-Munich me. I got myself out of a depression I didn’t even acknowledge as such and managed to be actually H-A-P-P-Y. As in, “nothing is wrong in my life except for the fact that I’m leaving this place” happy. Obviously there are many factors that contributed to that state. I think it comes down to the combination of how much I liked the educational system there, studying some really fulfilling stuff and feeling like I was actually GOOD, living in a beautiful city where it is pleasant just to walk around and, most importantly, surrounding myself with amazing people.

I learnt a lot about friendship in Munich. I consider myself extremely lucky every time I think about how many of the people who now are my best friends I met there. Life throws us together with several bunches of people that we are more or less forced to welcome into our lives; those we go to school with, people we work with, university friends, camp friends, summer holiday friends, etc. and the sad truth is that most of those relationships die out even if they’re still your friend on Facebook. I find that, in most cases, people are forced upon us by the circumstances and, once these change, friendships tend to break because we realise that they were the only thing keeping the friendship alive. And because maintaining a friendship is hard work and, something people sometimes choose to ignore, reciprocal.

I keep a couple of school friends, a handful of university friends and my best friends I met through music and on a language learning holiday. I consider 7 of my Munich friends some of my best despite living in different countries. Needless to say, I have never been able to forge as many meaningful friendships from one single group. Considering I spent 12 years at school and 6 at university, the fact that I met so many of my best friends during the 11 months I spent in Munich is truly remarkable.

This video summarises what, for me, were some of the best moments of the year. Everybody who matters is in it.



Londres, pastel sin receta

Last night I finished re-reading Lala Isla’s ‘Londres, Pastel sin Receta’, which translates as ‘London, a cake without a recipe’. I bought this book back when I was 18 and studying economics. Clearly my choice of books should have warned the parents that I was doing the wrong degree. Anyway, Lala Isla moved to London as a young woman in the late 70s. There she found her liberal self free from the conventions of Spain’s francoism, or at least that’s what she thought. The book mixes autobiographical references with a comparative sociological study between Franco’s Spain and Thatcher’s England. Lala uses her story as an excuse to explore the differences between the society in which she grew up and the one in which she still lives as an adult and offers the reader some insight into the British character that is not available to those who visit the country as tourists or to find themselves surrounded by hordes of other Spaniards at all times. Married to an English man and mother to an English-born child, Lala’s chronicles of pregnancy, wedding traditions, family matters and bilingual education go back and forth between the hilarious and the tremendously informative. Highly recommended for anglophiles or any Spanish person who plans to make the move or simply visit the UK.

This book has made me think about my first visit to England, soon to be 10 years ago. I was a 15-year-old who went to a Catholic school and had never been away from her mummy for longer than 4 days. I had always refused to go to summer camps or anything like that, not even for a week, but the idea of spending a month in the UK learning English got into my mind and, after much persuading, my parents agreed to it. That month turned out to be one of my life defining moments, if such a thing can take place in Hastings, East Sussex.

Even though Lala Isla moved to London in the 70s and I went to Hastings in 1999, I could still feel some of the same cultural shocks she talks about. It started when I got to my host family’s house and they explained they were vegetarians. I was horrified. I had never met a vegetarian before and couldn’t understand why somebody would want to live without ham. (jamón serrano or cured ham being one of the cultural pillars of Spain). On the first day, when we went to school to take our level tests, we were introduced to our teacher Geeta, a half Indian woman. Again, I had never seen an Indian person. Geeta was awesome, despite being an extremely loud and misbehaving group, she organised a barbecue for us and brought her two lovely children. In a similar manner, I don’t think I ever talked to a black person who wasn’t an illegal immigrant selling bracelets from bar to bar until I lived with a Jamaican woman in London a couple of years after I went to Hastings. My mother claims the first time I saw a black child I said “look mum! There’s a poor little girl!” because I had only seen starving children on TV. The only coloured person I remember in my childhood was a girl who played the violin at the same academy where I played the piano.

discovering the joys of a British summer

Back to 1999. After this placement test our group leader, who was also from Spain, gave us a tour around town. At one moment he stopped in front of a church and said “this is the Catholic church in case any of you want to go to mass”. My reaction was one of shock. You mean other religions have churches too? By that time I had already decided religion wasn’t for me, but had I been religious I would have just stepped into the nearest one. The tought that maybe that wasn’t the right church wouldn’t have crossed my mind. As far as I knew, there were a handful of other religions around, but I had never met anybody who wasn’t a Catholic except for my neighbour, who I used to tease for not having done her First Holy Communion (I know, I know). I had also never seen a church that wasn’t Catholic, so in my mind other religions were some sort of thing that existed in films and books, but not in real life.

Spanish students and a machus ibericus at some museum

One Sunday, we did a treasure hunt around town and one of the questions was to name 5 places where one could eat a kebab. Eat a whaaaaat? We had absolutely no idea what it was even though we had seen them and wondered if anybody actually ate that disgusting thing. At the end, we had to ask a local about it, who gave us an amused look that showed he clearly thought we were joking. We weren’t.

Kebabs aside, that month really opened my eyes. It made me realise that what we see in school is not actually a clear representation of what the real world is like and, even more importantly, that it is okay to be different and, as a matter of fact, most people are. Oh, and it did wonders for my English too.

This is probably the longest and most personal blog post I have ever written.



I feel the need to show that I am not the only great artist I know.

Amanda decided that maybe I could be like Judy Garland but without the drugs and the gay icon status. Funny thing is my mother bought me The Wizard of Oz.

Erica pictured me holding a poo-shaped cake. I was hoping she’d show up at my party with one, but she didn’t. Maybe when we have a cheese party we’ll make a poo-shaped cheesecake.

Remember the shy kid in my class who looks like Alison from The Breakfast Club? She made this (it’s in English! I clearly win at teaching). When I went to pick them up at the dining room she came running to me and gave me this. The rest of the kids didn’t even remember it was my birthday. It made me feel very accomplished.

This is absolutely hilarious. The day before my birthday I had made a presentation comparing Gloria Grahame with Marilyn Monroe, so Rebeca gave me this together with a “Grahame kit” complete with red lipstick and cocktail glasses.

I love every single one of these. They have made me very very happy and I chuckle every time I see them. Danke my dears.


It’s like the army.

Here’s how Nick Hornby managed to give me the wisest advice about teaching I have ever received. In only 10 seconds!


Me: Nick, I have to ask you one thing. Did you like being a teacher?
Nick: Let’s say I prefer my life now.
Me: I study the same as you, and after spending 5 years saying I’m not going to be a teacher I am already one and I haven’t even finished my degree.
Nick: The thing with teaching is that it’s a bit like the army; before you notice you’re already there, but it’s only for a couple of years. It’s only a temporary solution, and I was very happy to get out.

I spent a long time wondering if I should wait for him to get out so I could have my book signed or not. He is one of my favourite writers, so I was scared of being disappointed. In a couple of years this story will have turned into a whole story where we went out for beers and exchanged myspace websites.


On going to concerts

andrea: I’m on a compulsory concert break. I go to whatever, but im usually not very excited about it. I go just because. And i enjoy it but, you know, not in a crazy teenage “omg i saw kris roe” way.
Clemens: Haha. Maybe thats better.
andrea: NO! I wanna be like that again.
Clemens: Is there any band that would make you go like that now?
andrea: Yes, but they’ve broken up.
Clemens: Concert-mid-life-crisis

This conversation was motivated by the order in which I decided to stick concert tickets on the walls.


Conversations with my mum

Me: I just finished reading Henry V.
Mum: Oh, really? Who wrote that? (sounding very interested)
Me: Shakespeare.
Mum: Oh, ok. (embarrassing silence) So, what are you going to read next?
Me: The Tempest.
Mum: That’s by Joyce, yeah?


How not to spend the day before an exam

  • Stay in bed until 2pm despite the alarm clock going off about 300 times.
  • Spend a couple of hours compulsively checking the internet.
  • Spend 30mins at the post office after work waiting to send something.
  • Get home and watch TV while drinking some coffee.
  • Update blog.
  • Check myspace.
  • Decide it’s a good moment to watch Friends’ final season despite the fact that you downloaded it years ago and didn’t feel the urge to watch it.
  • Have an argument with every single person who lives with you.
  • Read an essay you should have read ages ago.
  • Talk on the phone for an hour.
  • Spend 15minutes planning how many hours of sleep you will need.
  • Do some work while being on msn and listening to your new records.
  • Check facebook.
  • Interrupt work every few minutes to look at pictures that you know will make you feel nostalgic.
  • Stop to watch friends.
  • Check myspace again.
  • Wonder if you have any other accounts to check.
  • Think about the books you’re going to read once exams are over.
  • Look for new blogs to read.
  • Work some more.
  • Check how fast your downloads are going. Wonder what that movie’s rating is on imdb. Check if you understand any German words.
  • Panic for a minute.
  • Think about watching Friends.
  • Flick through the last pages of your notes without registering any of the words.
  • Watch Friends.
  • Update blog again.

A new found love for apples

I like fruit. I don’t eat enough of it, but when I do I love it. Now, if you asked me what my favourite fruit is I’d answer bananas. A few seconds after this I would start to hesitate and think that maybe I love cherries, grapes or kiwis more. In winter I would probably answer clementines and in summertime melon is a must. Now let’s play spot the similarities between all those fruits. Shape and colour aside, I think you will notice that none of them need to be peeled. Yes, I really cannot peel a piece of fruit without:

a) Wasting most of my afternoon

b) Chopping my finger on the process (this may or may not be true).

c) Ending up with a tiny peach because most of the fruit ended up in the rubbish, obviously still attached to the peel. This is especially frustrating, since I adore peaches.

The worst problem is the first one, though. I am a very impatient person. When I paint, I can never wait for the paint to dry; I check my mailbox compulsively when I know something has to arrive soon; I don’t preheat the oven or wait for water to boil; I always have to go into the kitchen before the floor is completely dry and I get angry at the people in the photo shop when informed that my rolls will take more than an hour to be developed unless I pay a small fee. You can imagine then, my anger at the stupid piece of fruit for having its skin so tightly attached to it. This is the reason why I have never bought pears.

Now I am proud to inform the internet that my inability to peel fruit has been overcome. I am now a proud apple lover who can peel fruit on one go. I informed my mum last night with the following e-mail:

Dear mum,

I write you to inform you of an event that will unquestionably change your perception of me. Because I believe I am now in the middle of a key stage of my development as an adult. Today, April 9th, 2007 at 02:20am I peeled an apple.

I hope you recover from the shock.


your daughter

Earlier today she congratulated me on my success and tried to convince me to like an apartment she wanted to book for our holiday with the following line:

But it has a garden, you could peel apples in the garden!

Obviously, I told her to go for it.

I am going to listen to The Apples in Stereo now.


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