I’ve been out of the loop, but I decided to make a guest appearance (on my own blog) to tide you over with a few photos. It’s all the rage, the Seven Super Shots:

1. A photo that takes your breath away…

Alright, so my photo may not be breathtaking, but the Grand Canyon sure is.

2. A photo that makes you laugh…

Sometimes (okay, most of the times) I like to do stupid things for the camera.

3. A photo that makes you dream…

... of frolicking in a field of flowers.

 4. A photo that makes you think…

... about this guy and if he ever gets tired of just standing there all day long

 5. A photo that makes your mouth water…

I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. It works on so many levels.

6. A photo that tells a story…

... about those people over there on that rock.

7. Your National Geographic Photo…

I assume working for National Geographic means having binoculars on hand at all times.

Alright, there you have it. Now back to your regularly scheduled non-programming.

Foto Friday: Carnaval

It’s that time of year again: when men dress up as women, when the sounds of chirigotas fill the streets… and when urine does, too. You guessed it, carnaval in Spain.

After four years I’ve racked up quite the expediente carnavalera: I’ve battaled the mogollones [crowds] in Cádiz twice, I’ve sung Aquellos Duros Antiguos with a group of high school teachers in Olvera, and I’ve seen them light a giant paper-mache mollete on fire in Antequera. So in honor of Spain’s “Halloween/Mardi Gras,” I present to you a foto Friday homenaje [tribute] to one of my favourite Spanish traditions.

at La Gaviota

Los bichitos.

Gitanas de Rumania.

Two pirates, a gypsy and a Mexican walk into a bar...

What are some of your favourite carnaval memories?

Book ’em Danno

A while back I talked about T.V. and how awesome it can be to soak up all the juicy high school drama while at the same time improving your Spanish in part one of the poorly titled series: Ways to Improve Your Spanish Despite That Spanish Guy You Live With Who’s Incapable of Speaking in His Own GD Language. Well you’ll all be pleased to know that I’ve finally got my act together to provide you with the riveting sequel: Turn off the T.V. you uncultured boob and pick up a GD book (or magazine or newspaper). Can you tell I have an affinity for ridiculously long titles?

As far as tips for improving your language skills goes reading is hardly a new or innovative suggestion, and let’s be honest, it’s pretty vague. You can read anything from One Hundred Years of Solitude to the menu at Taquería Mexico, so which should you choose?

My Spanish Library – an entire shelf (balda) dedicated to books in or about Spanish.

To answer this question I’m gonna get all fancy with my book learnin’ here and talk about the ZPD, which stands for Zone of Proximal Development. Vygotsky’s theory argues that language learning is most productive in the ZPD, the difference between what you already know, let’s say about 90%, and what you’ve never encountered before, around 10%. This ties in great with reading because you really shouldn’t try out Don Quixote if you still can’t flip through a Glamour magazine. Reading in Spanish has everything to do with a fair assessment of your current level. So let’s take a stroll down memory lane and I’ll make some book suggestions along the way.

When I first arrived in Spain back in the fall of 2007 my Spanish was terrible. I didn’t major in Spanish, or minor, and it had been more than a year since my last college class. For the first few months the most I could muster reading wise were snippets of the local newspaper and signs at the local grocery store. Then finally around April of 2008 I embarked on my first real reading challenge.

Charlie y la fábrica de chocolate
Author: Roald Dahl
Pages: 199
Why I read it: Having never read the children’s classic in English but with the help of two movies under my belt, I knew I could follow the plot. The Oompa-Loompa poems admittedly threw me for a loop with all of their made up nonsense, but other than that it was smooth sailing.

In the summer of 2008 I made the leap from children’s literature to adult fiction… told from the perspective of a child (so maybe more of a skip than a jump?).

El niño con el pijama de rayas
Author: John Boyne
Pages: 217
Why I read it: The book is written from the viewpoint of a nine-year-old boy and at the time my Spanish was right on par. Rather than lots of long frilly words the narrator uses the vocabulary he has to explain complicated concepts – perfect.

2009 was the year of Sabrina, in which I made the all-important switch from English-to-Spanish translations to books by Spanish authors. And before you go and get impressed, I should admit that these books are pure Chick Lit.

Side-note, my method for choosing books in Spanish goes: open any book about halfway through and read a full page. If I can understand about 90% of the text then it’s a contender. For me, reading the Sabrina books was like watching an episode of Fisica o Química on paper.

Sabrina contra el imperio del zapping and Sabrina: 1 El Mundo: 0
Author: Rebeca Rus
Pages: 449 and 525
Why I read it: The books are about a twenty-something who works for an ad agency in Madrid. While the plot is completely predictable, the dialogue between young adults living in the Spanish capital and talking about life in Spain is priceless.

After about a thousand pages of Chick Lit I was ready to tackle something a bit more intellectual. At the time Anna Gavalda, a French author, was hugely popular in Spain, so I gave her a try. I remember reading this book on a bus tour through Turkey during Semana Santa 2009.

Quisiera que alguien me esperara en algún lugar
Author: Anna Gavalda
Pages: 192
Why I read it: The book is made up of relatos cortos or short stories, which is a handy way to avoid boredom and increase the probability of encountering new vocab and verb tenses as the subject matter is constantly changing. Plus, Gavalda is a beautiful writer.

By 2010 I had reached a point where I could read not everything, but certainly a lot. That’s also about the time I instated my one-in-Spanish, one-in-English reading rule. So, I could sit here and list all the books I’ve read since then, but frankly I think we’re both losing interest. How about I just round it out with the book I’m currently on y me faltan 20 páginas para terminarlo (and I’ve only got 20 pages to go).

La Reina del Sur
Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Pages: 522
Why I’m reading it: It’s about a female Mexican drug lord, how could you not want to read it?! Plus, most of the novel is set in Andalucía and there’s no greater feeling than recognizing the streets, beaches and towns you’ve visited in the book you’re reading. And as if those weren’t reasons enough, they’ve turned the book into a series on Antena3. As soon as I’m all caught up on Aguila Roja I’m watching it.

Shew, that right there might be my longest post ever. If you’ve made it to the end, thanks for hanging in there with me. Now let’s add to the list. What are some of your must reads in Spanish? And how have your reading abilities progressed as a learner?

you know it’s winter in Andalucía when…

1. You can leave your fruits and vegetables sitting on the kitchen counter rather than in the refrigerator.
2. You feel like the kid from The Sixth Sense every time you leave your heated living room.
3. You sleep under five to six blankets at night.
4.  The trackpad on your laptop doesn’t seem to be working because, you guessed it, your fingers are too cold.
5. You open your windows in the middle of winter to let the heat in!

Who knew living in Spain was so cool.

The Iberian Peninsula was recently hit by an ola de frio, literally cold wave, all the way from Siberia. And while actual temperatures might seem laughable, lows in the -2°C and highs around 8°C in Antequera (that’s 28°F to 46°F for all my metrically challenged readers) come spend the night at my casa and then we’ll see who gets the last laugh.

You see houses in the South of Spain aren’t built to handle the cold. In fact, they’re designed with the exact opposite goal in mind: to keep houses nice and fresquita in the sweltering summer months. And all of those keep cool measures like painting houses white and tile floors have a rather unpleasant effect in the winter months. Check out the read on my handy clock/calendar/thermometer from this morning.

Ah, a cozy 10°C (50°F) in my kitchen. This would explain why I sometimes wear a scarf and coat to breakfast.

Other Andaluces, what are some tell-tale signs it’s winter at your house? And for the rest of Spain, how are you all handling the cold?

Michel Teló, or how the accordion got its groove back

If you’ve been living under the same rock I have for the last month then you probably haven’t heard this song. However, if you have any social life whatsoever on this side of the Atlantic or south of the border, you’ve likely heard it so many times you’re about ready to beat the next DJ who dares press play on this insta-hit.

Full disclosure: this is not a Spanish song. It’s Brazilian!

Ai Se Eu Te Pego

That up there’s the title; but being that it’s in Portuguese I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce it (why so many vowels?) or what it means. Wait, that’s a lie. I know exactly what it means because the song comes with an addicting little dance.

  • Step One: Fan yourself like it’s hot.
  • Step Two: Extend right, then left hand.
  • Step Three: Clap.
  • Step Four: Arm row with pelvic thrust.
  • And repeat.

Brazilian singer Michel Teló sure hit the jackpot with this one. Though the song has actually been around since 2008, Teló’s version and dance moves have caught Europe by storm. It’s like the Macarena reincarnate. Plus, how can you not love a song that’s so blatantly sexual set to an accordion?

Footballers Cristiano Ronaldo along with Brazilian teammate Marcelo have jumped on the bandwagon, too – dancing it after scored goals or successful plays. As a result the 2012 version of the video game Pro Evolution Soccer has a life-like Ronaldo tiptoe dancing and pelvic thrusting on the pitch.

Check out this terribly edited video for proof.

Ronaldo shamelessly shaking his booty.

Alright, you’ve waited long enough. Are you ready for the official video with Brazilian babes swooning over Teló despite the fact that he looks like a dorky prepubescent? Of course you are…

Talk to me dirty

A few days ago my house was dirty. Wait, no, it was durrdy (a la Cristina Aguilera). And despite loathing cleaning even more than Spanish bureaucracy, I cleaned [or I may have avidly organized while the Hubster cleaned].

Our dopey European vacuum.

Why do I hate cleaning in Spain so much? Well, mostly because my absolute favorite chore come cleaning day is vacuuming and in Spain there’s a serious lack of carpet (read none). Which isn’t to say we don’t have a vacuum (aspiradora), but it’s a funky European one we got for free and frankly it sucks, and not in the good way.

But on to why you’re reading this post: dirty talk, or perhaps more appropriately clean talk (tricked you!): a crash course in Spanish cleaning vocabulary.

The floors:
In our house we use a patented three-part system to get our faux-marble floors to sparkle.

What do Spaniards and Meth addicts have in common? Come on, you know...

Step 1: sweep (barrer). You’ll need a broom (escoba) and a dustpan (recogedor).

Step 2: the anti-swiffer (la mopa). We take two fake Swiffer sheets, literally trap dust in Spanish (atrapa polvo), and throw them onto the bottom of a mopa and then go to town.

Step 3: mop (fregar). You’ll need a mop (fregona) and bucket (cubo). Side note – did you know the Spanish invented the modern mop? Yeah, they’ve been holding onto that one for the last 50 years.

Step 4: Beer break!

Keep your floors extra clean by repeating step 4 daily.

Some handy cleaning products:

  • Fairy dishsoap (detergente) for washing the dishes (lavar los platos)
  • Estrella multipurpose cleaner for everything from your kitchen countertops (la encimera) to toilets (el váter)!
  • Windex, i.e. window cleaner (limpiacristales) for windows (ventanas) and mirrors (espejos).
  • Stovetops cleaner (limpiadora vitrocerámica) and the fun blade doo-hickey (???) for scraping off burnt bits of food crud.
  • Sponges (esponjas) and washcloths (trapos) for scrubbing.


Well you’ve made it this far so you probably deserve a really terrible bilingual joke.
Teacher: ¿Sabes como decir nariz en inglés?
Student: No sé
Teacher: NOSE, muy bien!

I immediately regret sharing that with you all.

So what are your cleaning traditions and go to products? Do you hate cleaning in Spain as much as I do?