Monday, April 23, 2012

Fallas Video!!!

Just a few random moments/memories I wanted to share about Las Fallas:

Almost everyone in the group lost their voices, starting on day one. The second morning of Fallas, Marina, Cristina(not my host mom, but her friend), Maria and Josep slept over at the apartment we stayed at (it was an extra empty apartment owned by Cristina's parents). When I woke up, Marina was on the mattress across the room in her sleeping bag. She whispered loudly in a gruff voice (like I said, she lost her voice), "MELISSA. MELISSA. DO YOU HAVE A KLEENEX?" Maria was laughing because I didn't hear her, and Marina said "Guys, will you please help me over here?" referring to how they needed to gang up and shout to me because Marina couldn't do it alone. Then, about 15 minutes later (we were all still laying down), she said "I'm really hot." Cristina told her to take off her sleeping bag, and Marina replied, "I can't. I am not wearing any pants."

One of the nights over dinner, the conversation turned to the USA and cultural differences. Laura and her husband got married last fall and took their honeymoon on a road trip to the southwestern US. She was telling me about things she encountered, such as:

  • "They had ice machines in hotels! They have these little tubs with lids in your room, specifically for ice! You go to the machine (there is one on every floor), and you fill it up with ice to keep in your room! We had one of our hotel rooms near one of those machines, but we didn't know how noisy it would be in the middle of the night! It was a learning experience!"
  • "They like ice...almost every restaurant gave you ice in your water. I always had to ask for an extra cup because I like my water room temperature, so I always took out the ice."
  • "What are those bags called for extra food from restaurants? Doggy bags? I love that phrase!"
Everyone at the table was as amused as she was by these American wonders. I asked her what the weirdest thing she ate was, and she said Beef Tartar. I have heard of it, but I didn't know what it is. She told me there was raw meat in it, so that is probably why I've never had it.

Then the conversation drifted to my American experience aka: my life, and more specifically, high school. Some of the questions asked:
  • "Did you have cheerleaders at your school!?"
  • "Did you have Prom? Who'd you go with? Did you get one of those wrist flower things? (corsage) Did they have PUNCH to drink at the prom?! Did people really pour alcohol in the punch bowl!?"
  • "Did you have LOCKERS!?"
  • "Do people really get rejection letters from universities when they apply? Is it really that big of a deal?"
They were so amused by these things and the responses. Everything they were referring to, of course, was something they had seen in a movie. So some were accurate, and some were not (like spiking the punch...since our school just had pop cans). 

One of the nights was costume night, and Marina left right after dinner to meet with a friend, then came back for the dance part (after dinner, the casal turned into a private night club--fallas people only!). So she had to take off her costume, which she was wearing over street clothes. However, she decided to "change" right next to the table, so one of her friends made a comment that she was doing a strip tease (again, she was fully clothed underneath) next to us. In response, Marina took off her costume's belt and started swinging it around her head in this jokingly-sexy way, and almost hit three people at the table behind her. It was hilarious.

That night, during costume night, all of the men at one of the tables dressed up as the Village People. Then, later during dance time, the DJ played "YMCA" and "In The Navy." I thought it was great that people gestured the wrong letters during the YMCA, just waving their hands in a general upwards direction if they weren't sure (the letters are obviously said in English, which many don't know). 

Mayte had a fairly new boyfriend, who wasn't in the casal, so she was constantly calling him on her cell, then sneaking off to chat for an hour. One of those times, she came back downstairs where we were eating after being gone for nearly an hour, and our whole table (my host family's friends) start singing the Spanish equivalent of "K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Mayte with the baby carriage..." She was a little embarrassed. 

Anyways, the moment you've all been waiting for: The video for Las Fallas.

Some explanations of on-screen stuff...
0:00-0:31 La Mascleta--The noisy firecracker show they did every day at 2pm March 1st until the end of Las Fallas. Marina, Maria Carmen, Maria, Lucia and Pichon are all there with me.
0:31-0:37 Fallas monuments and lights throughout the
0:38-0:43 Nachete (Maria's nephew), Lucas, and Dani running around the casal when they were bored.
0:43-0:45 Dani, Maria and Lucia staring at our giant falla monument.
0:46-0:56 The DaVinci fall monument. It was huge.
0:57-1:02 Hospital-themed falla (the large falla of the casal that Marina made her falla for)
1:02-1:19 Various fallas monuments from throughout the city, including the AWESOME lights for the France-themed falla.
1:20-1:33 Photos. See my other post for descriptions.
1:34-1:41 Pasacalles with our casal faller.
1:42-1:48 Marina's carousel falla monument that she designed, painted and constructed. You can see the awards it won, also (3rd place in special section, 2nd place for cleverness and humor).
1:49-1:50 More pasacalles of our casal faller, this time in the morning.
1:51-2:00 Lucia, Lucas and Maria throwing firecrackers and poppers.
2:01-2:17 Various fallas monuments
2:18-2:21 Pichon made paella one night, and that's Jose Enrique trying it out.
2:22-2:27 A casal faller heading to the ofrenda in the morning, view from our apartment's balcony. Notice the bobbing dresses dancing to the music...
2:28-2:51 Laura, Maria Carmen, Mayte, Marina, Jose Enrique and Pichon, everyone dancing. Jose Enrique and Pichon reenacted the dance scene from Dirty Dancing when the DJ played "I've Had the Time of My Life." To be honest, they knew more about the dance than I did (I only remembered the jump-into-his-arms part)
2:51-2:58 Some other costumes in the casal on costume night. Yes, that is a man dressed as Snow White.
2:59-3:00 You can see some of the "Village People" dancing in the background...
3:01-3:02 Every night, before dinner, the fallera mayor descended down the stairs as everyone stood up and applauded. Then we all took our seats when she took hers.
3:03-3:14 The kids' costume night: Sherlock Holmes, cute kitty cats, Dani as a fireman, Maria as Minnie Mouse, and Nachete as a pirate. It was really cutely organized: The kids got to the stairs, were asked their name and costume on the microphone, then they walked down the "runway" to the front, where they got a pair of spring-loaded googly eye glasses.
3:15-3:17 Marina getting her prize with the little falleras from the casal that she designed her falla monument for. They go up on a stage in the town square, pose for a picture, and pic up a flag/banner to carry around town in pride.
3:18-3:19 Dani with Lucas's and his school mascots, Peca y Lino. Lucas had them over the weekend to take pictures of to put in Peca and Lino's journal, like the traveling gnome.
3:20-3:25 More pasacalles with our casal faller. Like our very own marching band that followed us.
3:26-3:33 Monday night there was a random Christians and Moors parade.
3:33-3:37 The giant virgin Mary statue, whose dress is made of flowers from the Ofrenda. It is huge, as you can see.
3:38-3:42 More of our pasacalle
3:42-3:49 Skirt fluffing, bandana tying, dancing, flower grabbing, veil arranging...all steps for the big Ofrenda! Marina is the one getting her veil arranged by Cristina's mom. To be honest, her dress was my favorite of the whole group.
3:50-4:02 The Ofrenda.
4:03-4:39 Monica lighting the wick (for the kids to go off and light firecrackers), Lucia's school's falla monument, kids from the casal setting off fire fountains, fireworks from the falla monument burning, our fallera prepping to set our falla monument on fire, Dani looking on in his fireman's costume, our mini falla monument burning all the way to the ground, as the music from our marching band plays on.

The falla from Lucia's school took three minutes to burn. The kids made it, and it was mostly paper and cardboard. The professional falla infantil from our casal took over 15 minutes to burn (it was the same size). The latter was made with styrofoam and wood.

Yes, it smelled bad.
Yes, I probably took 3 years off my life from being in attendance.
Yes, ash flew into my hair.

Yes, it was amazing to watch.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Grease is popular here, too!

First off, I want to say that YES I finished editing the Fallas video and YES it will be on here soon. I am uploading it to my Youtube AS I TYPE THIS.

While you wait for that, I wanted to share this raw clip of a night during Fallas, where the DJ played a remix of Grease songs, and everyone (kinda) knew the words!

PS: We are wearing costumes because it was costume night, and we are dressed up as Peter Pan/Robin Hood. (The men dressed up as sumo wrestlers)

Friday, April 20, 2012

"You're so dumb that..."

At work yesterday, Isis pulled out her phone at lunch to show us a new app.

It is an insult app. All you do is type in a person's name, and it spews out an insult at random. It was this weird robotic female voice that would read the person's name, then direct an insult at them.

It was hard for me, language wise, because of two factors: the robot voice and the slang. The voice, and hearing things through a phone's speakers, makes it quite hard for someone who isn't native in the language. (Those phone speakers are the worst. Seriously. We have touch screens but still have fuzzy phone voices? Priorities, people.) The slang made it equally, if not even more, difficult to understand what the insult was. Isis would play one and the whole table would roar in laughter, and I would laugh along because I really had no clue what was being said, but it seemed to be enjoyed by everyone else!

Some were  stupid, like "You are a son of a *****." or just "You're fat."

But then some were pretty clever, but the clever ones were lengthier and required advanced vocab/cultural knowledge.

I was really proud of myself that I understood this joke:

"Eres tan tonta que fumas galletas porque se llaman Maria." 

Translated, it means "You are so dumb that you smoke cookies because they are called 'Maria.'"

See what I mean about cultural clues? You have to understand a couple things to get this joke:
1. Maria cookies are known by their name, like Oreos. They are a graham cracker-like cookie that is so famous that any similar cookie, whether it is of the Maria brand or not, is called a Maria cookie.

2. Maria is slang for marijuana, like Mary-Jane is in English. (Before you worry about how I know this, just know that after walking down Las Ramblas in Barcelona for five minutes you will learn more drug slang than you could ever imagine from the street peddlers.)

So I would like to write this off as an accomplishment, since I understood it, and know how to insult someone in Spain Spanish (Maria cookies are a Spain thing, unfortunately).

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cinco de Mayo, American night!

I told my host mom I wanted to have an "American Night" to cook American food for her and her friends from the Casal Faller.

My host mom finally confirmed a date for American night: Cinco de Mayo (May 5th).

 She told me her friends are planning on wearing costumes. "Typical American things." I immediately imagined a cowboy. She told me "Cheerleaders, hotdogs..." Oh. Those "typical American things."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fallas Photos!

Remember when I said I'd post Fallas pictures? Well, that time has come, finally. 

As with my previous photo post, please click the photos to enlarge them. I made them super small to load faster. 

First, we start a few days before Las Fallas weekend, when Lucas and Lucia each had their own fallas monuments at school. Lucas' school didn't burn them (the kids are too little) but they did put them out on display. Lucas' class's theme was spiders. Each kid made a spider in class, and if they wanted to, they could make one at home. His is the giant one on top (the one he made at home) with the purple Play-Dough eyes...

The other classes' monuments.

You'll notice from now on a lot of these artist-looking shirts. These are typical fallas shirts, and basically what I wore all weekend long (the kids did, too, along with all of Cristina's friends). They have a few buttons on top, then just flow down. Obviously you need to wear a shirt underneath. Sometimes people wear it with a handkerchief around the neck.

Dani and Lucas, playing with the little cars after school in the play area.

Lucia's class's falla monument. The theme was a garden. You may remember she goes to an English school, hence the obvious signage.

Lucia, after the falla burned. It kind of looks like it's her fault.

Our falla monument was just a block away from the casal. On Thursday night we "moved in" to the apartment in the city to be close to all of the activities downtown and with the casal. That is the best night to go out and see the other falla monuments throughout the city, since there are very few tourists. We went out from 1am-4am to check out the monuments. And surprisingly, there were many people doing the same (although not nearly as many as I would imagine on Fri or Sat night).

Some of the makeup setups from the falla. Gothic, warpaint and cubist paintings/makeup.

The main "doll."

See more photos after the page break!


The other day I learned the words for male/female are "macho"/"hembra."

 The words for man and woman are hombre/mujer. The problem with this is that the single letter abbreviations for these words mean the opposite.
If male/female, M is male, H is female.
 If man/woman, H is man, M is woman.

That being said, I am pretty sure I marked myself as a male on the forms back in December when applying for residency...   I just checked my ID card and on the back, next to "sexo," it says M-F.

 Does this mean they think I am both? Or maybe "mujer...femenina."

Or maybe it means "gringa who doesn't know what gender (it) is"

 Hopefully, this will just be dust under the rug and it will never come up again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Anything with the word storm sounds cool.


Everything sounds cool when it is associated with storms.

And that is why our casal faller's theme for the pre-fallas parade was communication in the future...with storms! And satellites! And planets!

This was a giant parade in the first weekend in March, which we began planning for back in February. The theme was communication in the future: the planets communicated with satellites, who fought with storms to send their messages around the universe. 

The parade was kids only. The older girls were the planets, the boys were the storms, the younger girls (early school age) were satellites, and the little tots (ages 3 and 4, therefore no Dani or Lucas) were stars. What the stars' roles were, I don't know. Look cute, I guess, as you will see below.

The parade went all through the city, and it was huge, because almost every casal faller participated. If you still have no idea what a casal faller is, look up my other posts with the "las fallas" tag to learn more.

Here are some photos from the day-long preparations. I made them super small to load quickly, but if you click on each one, they'll expand to full size.

Here is the group of kids practicing. The building for our casal is a bit small, so we finally got to go outside and practice the formations in a large plaza.

That's me and one of the planets. I volunteered to do makeup since I love it so much. It was a lot of fun getting creative with the girls' faces. I also helped with the satellites' makeup, as well as chasing down the boys to put on their silver lipstick. 

I feel like these girls look ready to attend a KISS concert. Especially Maria, on the left, who has her hair sprayed with water and seems extra goth. The girls were in the group of satellites. After getting their makeup done (I did Lucia's!), they got their hair done.

One of the older girls dressed as a "Fallera of the future." She stood on an elevated platform on wheels which was pushed from the inside by an adult. She had her hair sprayed gold, with a super tan and "futuristic" makeup look. Her sleeves featured gold foil doilies, and she also had satellites all over her skirt.

I just had to capture her frozen look of terror. She was quite nervous, and it showed. I wouldn't wanna stand on a rickety moving stage 20 feet off the ground, either.

Lucia, Dani and Maria. Dani brought a Spiderman costume because his parents knew he'd feel left out when he saw everyone else get to dress up and not him. So he dressed up. And the mask he wore meant he was constantly bumping into people, chairs, and walls.  

This is "Earth" with a moon headband.  The dresses had these huge metal hoops in them that were very Lady Gaga-ish.

The storms. Very super hero-y. I don't know if you can see any of them, but they are wearing these boot sleeves to look like they have giant cartoon shoes. It's great.

In case you missed this adorable little munchkin in the corner of the previous photo...I snapped a close up for you.

I just love these little satellite hats they have. Like a cross between a Baptist church attendee from the south and a 1960s flight attendant.

All the satellites, ready for the parade. We arrived on site an hour early. The kids began like this, but were pretty antsy 45 minutes later.


This is Mercury, the girl I did makeup for in the previous photo of me with a paintbrush. 

The poster says "Communication in the future," the theme of our group. The "sun" is in the front. That girl also starred as Mary in the living nativity back in December. The "planets" held their skirts high while walking to the square, but I am sure by the end of the city-long parade, these skirts got quite dirty. 

And I have tons of footage from the parade. I am "editing" it. And when I put that in quotes, I mean it is on my to-do list and nowhere near started. Like my Fallas video. Sorry. But at least you got pictures here! From early March!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lorax: En búsqueda de la Trúfula Perdida

During my long Easter weekend, the host family and I had the chance to go to see The Lorax, or as it is known here, Lorax: En búsqueda de la Trúfula Perdida. If you aren't sure what this is, it's an animated movie about the Dr. Seuss book (which is a story about wastefulness and nature and caring about the environment, in an easy-to-swallow, chewable kids vitamin format).

 Much like my time going to the Spanish soccer game, this was my first time ever going to a Spanish movie theater. Why hasn't it happened before this weekend? For two reasons: One, I don't go to movies very much in the US either (the most recent movie I saw in theaters, prior to this, was Tron: 3D in January 2011, and before that...I can't even remember). Two, I really dislike Spanish dubbing (no subtitles here!) because the voices are annoying and it's hard to follow an actor when their lips mouth English and a dub speaks Spanish. Movie trailers are hard to follow because I don't know if I am listening to a voice dub of an onscreen actor or a trailer narration. But in Spain, it's a huge industry for dubbing, so every show/movie imported here is dubbed. Period.

"Taylor Swift, Zac Efron, Betty White: all voices you WON'T hear in this movie!"

So here are some observations I made during my very first Spanish movie theater experience...

 1. The theatre was huge; it felt like I was in an airport. You could even buy tickets at the window or at a machine, like when you check in for a flight. The analogies are endless with the airport situation. More on that later... This is an actual photo from the website of the Kinepolis theater in Valencia.

 2. There were opening previews for movies like Ice Age: 4 (yes, really), Despicable Me: 2, and commercials for Kinepolis itself. Kinepolis is the name of the theater/entertainment complex that contains the theater. This complex includes bowling, various restaurants, a huge play area (with giant buttons that play cartoon SFX), arcade, etc. Now let me tell you about the announcement itself: It was not appropriate for children. The beginning was like "Kinepolis is not only great for a Sunday morning..." followed by shots of happy parents and kids playing at the arcade, seeing movies, eating lunch, bowling, etc, "but it's great for a Sunday afternoon." followed by a shot of the two exhausted children sleeping on a couch, while sounds of mattress springs and the parents' screams of ecstasy play in the background. Yes, this ad infers "take your kids to Kinepolis in the AM, wear them out, then while they take their afternoon nap, you parents can get busy in the bedroom without interruption." Interesting for a theater whose audience was about 90% children under the age of ten. Then again, on mid-day TV, Coming to America was on, and the bathing scene at the beginning featured topless servant women giving Eddie Murphy a bath. Not topless women with blurs. Just topless women. Being naked.

 3. I was confused at times, having this be my second language and all. That's a given. However, being Dr. Seuss, there were a lot of made-up words. For me, they just sound like Spanish. I asked Cristina what a "trufula" was, and she didn´t know and said she thought it was probably made up. Then I realized it is the equivalent of asking her what a "thneed," a "Once-ler" or a "lorax" was. They are not real things, in case you couldn't figure it out. I also had no idea, the entire duration of the movie, what "A no ser" meant, etched on what looked like a gravestone.


 4. The arm rests at this theater were DOUBLE WIDTH! Two arms fit on one armrest. The US needs to get on that, asap.

 5. We had assigned seats. Maybe it was because we bought the tickets early, to ensure seats. But the theatre was like, less than 10% full for our movie, which I thought made it funnier that the host family was checking each ticket "are you seat 16 or 18? 18? Okay, I go here and Lucia goes in 17." I was thinking to myself "you do realize we have THE ENTIRE ROW to ourselves, right? And the row in front of us? And the row in front of that? And the next row? There are about 6 empty rows between us and the other fifteen people in this theatre." I wonder if they were like "THAT´S NOT YOUR ASSIGNED SEAT!" when I got up and moved a few rows down because Lucia was literally jumping in her seat halfway through the movie (Lucia gonna be Lucia) and therefore being quite distracting.

 6.My host family was also very against the idea of bringing snacks with you. "THEY DON´T ALLOW OUTSIDE SNACKS." Really? No one ever checked. It´s not like we were at an airport. Or maybe they thought we were because of the design. But having Pichón be a Lays Chip distributor, we happened to have a giant box of chips, cheese doodles and what-have-you in the kitchen that day that made me wanna stash some for the movie. "NO OUTSIDE SNACKS!" my host family said. I thought "Wow, for a country of people who park wherever they please (yellow striped areas, medians, the entire lane closest to the parallel parking that is a DRIVING lane), smoke weed in public (my dad and I smelled the wofting odor of marijuana in some plaza in Barcelona), and burn giant foam and wood sculptures ten feet away from inhabited buildings, they sure are afraid of what might happen if you bring outside snacks to a movie theatre. The movie theatres seem to have induced more fear over outside snacks than the law enforcement over enforcing actual laws. For all I know, bringing in outside snacks could induce the worst punishment of all. Now I am thinking what that could possibly be, but really, I think a parking ticket would make me more fearful.

 7. No Taylor Swift. No Zac Efron. No Taylor Swift and Zac Efron song over closing credits. I just found out there was no Zac Efron and Taylor Swift duet. But how am I supposed to know when it is all DUBBED!? If I haven't mentioned it before, Spain has a huge business for dubbing, and there are actors hired to be voices of specific English-speaking actors. There is a "George Clooney voice" and "Julia Roberts voice" and "Hugh Jackman voice." There is a person for that voice, so when you hear it in a commercial, you can be like "Hey that's (fake) George Clooney talking to me!"


No Danny Devito as The Lorax. OH WAIT, yes he was. Yes, that's right, Danny Devito voiced himself in Spanish. And apparently also Latin-American Spanish, Italian, German, and Russian. My host mom said she recognized the voice as being foreign, but she said it was hard to figure out where he was from. I heard the Danny Devito trivia fact after seeing the movie, so I didn´t fully enjoy his accent during the movie. Oh well. The producers of the film were glad he wanted to do the foreign voices because other actors can´t portray the role like the chosen actor does. TELL ME ABOUT IT. All of the breathy, ditzy-sounding voices used for every female American actress on TV here is quite grating. It´s like the Spanish equivalent of Marilyn Monroe is voicing every character from House's Olivia Wilde to Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester to Gilmore Girls' Alexis Bledel. Although, I was really happy about the voice they used for Taylor Swift´s movie character. For once it didn't sound like a sex-kitten voice. Or the voice of an adult imitating a child´s voice (which happens in basically any adult-oriented show that features children. So, any show except ones that would normally air in the US on Cartoon Network, Disney Channel or Nickelodeon). It was just a run-of-the-mill, normal girl's voice.