Thursday, May 28, 2009

No cheese today

Seems that Virginia has caught on to what the Spanish have known for years - no smiling in the official ID pictures. I first came across this phenomenon 5 years ago when Nacho and I went to get his picture taken for is green card application. I had to yell at him to get him to smile.

"They aren't going to want to give you a green card if you look mad!"

But it turns out that in Spain the norm is not trying to look cute, but rather trying to look as bored as possible. Just what Virginia is looking for, too, it turns out. However, as best I can tell smiling for the ID pictures is not yet prohibited here. I, for one, am smiling on my national ID card.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Something's in the Air

Back when Nacho and I were living in Florida we’d frequently take the non-stop Miami-Madrid flights over for a short visit with family and friends. We’d arrive around 8am after 9 hours of coach-class flying and immediately jump into 5ish days of eating, drinking, talking, walking, shopping, dancing, laughing… People would always ask how we did it – where we managed to find the energy for our whirlwind trips. And I’d tell them that I wasn’t sure what it was, but that something about Madrid energizes you and makes you want to get out and enjoy the city.

Turns out scientists have found out what that “something” is…

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Story of Giving

Today as I chatted with a coworker of mine who was recently expatriated to Algeria for a long-term construction project, she told me about one of her latest experiences. Truth be told she’s been there barely a week and already has a plethora of stories to tell – everything from the prohibition of bikinis on the public beaches to the military escort that accompanies them each day. This time, however, she told me of a simple exchange between her and the construction office’s cleaning woman. My coworker casually commented to the cleaning woman that she looked pretty with henna painted on her feet; the very next day the woman arrived with a gift of all the necessary tools and paints for my friend to decorate her own feet. This coming from a woman who perhaps earns in a month what my friend earns in a day.* Who works 18 hour days cleaning floors and quite possible lives, at least by our standards, in poverty. And yet she still manages to give a gift to an almost complete stranger. The lesson in giving and friendships and respect is an important one.

*My friend filled me in on the financial data, too…Due to the special circumstances surrounding living and working in Northern Africa, expat employees receive approximately 2,5 times their gross salary (think in the range of 5-8,000€/month). The skilled construction workers on the site earn roughly 100€ a month and the local engineers pull in about 400€. Imagine what the cleaning staff must make...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stamp Collector

After work tonight I am heading to the post office to send in my application for a new passport. Mine expires in barely more than a month and I have clearly left this task until the last possible moment. I am actually quite sad about it. I have become incredibly attached to this stupid little blue book. It has been my constant companion over the past 8 years and rarely have more than a couple of months passed without my needing to pull it out of the drawer. But, its time has come. Not only is it on the verge of expiring, but it is also completely full. I counted this morning. 58 stamps and a big-ass visa sticker cover the 7 available pages.

Years ago (8 years ago, actually, when I was in the UK after graduating college and right before moving to Spain) I made a “Life’s To-Do List.” #46 was “Fill a passport with stamps.” Check.