I fell down the rabbit's hole

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 12:31 PM

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I jumped off the blogging boat for a while, what with exams, papers, packing, and goodbyes, i couldn't find the heart to publish about it all.

And now I find myself in a new home, a new context, and really, a new world.

I left Oviedo (my midnight journey to the bus station accompanied by 6 friends) to spend one whirlwind week running around North Carolina, only to land in The Elsewhere Collaborative in Greensboro.

Initial culture shock felt more like culture daze as I tried to figure out what was going on. But I think I'm cheating. I'm immersing myself in another world far different from the norm.

Elsewhere is like no other place I've ever been. It's one of the only remaining alternative museum and art spaces in the states. It's a world in and of itself. And I'm living here, in an environment of constant curation. Every part of the museum is a part of the collection and can be rearranged in a way to make it something new. All that, plus a room sized wardrobe full of vintage clothing I can wear whenever I want.

So for now, in my new home, inside a thrift-store converted museum, I'll be finding new sorts of things to write about.

History Lesson: Part 3

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 8:41 AM

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Sitting in Malayerba reading through the 50 pages of class notes that I have serendipitously acquired and I come across:

"todos los productos estaban racionados, no se daba más de 200 gramos de pan al día por persona, no más de un litro de aceite al mes."

referring to the rationing of food during Franco's dictatorship.

And I think about how little a liter of oil a month is, especially considering the cooking style I've come to know as Spanish.

Considering Spanish cooking, I start to file through my mental photo album of the kitchens in which I have cooked while in Spain. One image repeats itself: that of a slightly dirty frying pan with remaining oil resting in the bottom. The pan is placed either inside the turned off oven or atop the stove. It appears in nearly every Spanish kitchen.

People are always saving their oil. Even the little bit that remains after cooking is left in the pan and used tomorrow.

One liter of oil a month, that isn't much.

And then I realized...

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 10:57 AM

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that for all the rain here, it rarely smells like rain.

And with that, I felt ready to go back to North Carolina.

Parece que las tácticas nunca cambian

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 9:56 AM

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-Quisiera ser amigo tuyo. Eres una 'peque' muy original. Si me prometes que algún día me llamaras por teléfono para salir conmigo, te dejo aquí. A mi también me gustan mucho las calles viejas y se todos los rincones pintorescos de la ciudad. Conque, prometido?

--Nada, Carmen LaForet

History Lesson: Part 1

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 3:09 PM

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My flat is filled with old things.

A family used to live here, then the children moved out and it was just the couple, and finally just the mother-now-grandmother was left. From the random kitchenware to the bits of newspaper clippings to the out-dated tapestries, you can tell she held onto things.

Then I discovered the buttons. In two tins tucked away in a closet, there is a wealth of buttons: round, rectangular, shiny, spotted, bumpy. I started putting them on strings and hanging them in my room, imagining the grandmother loving the fact that I was admiring all the buttons.

Some friends came over and we were sorting through them in the living room, showing each other when we found a favorite. Then Laura sees a lapel pin. She is shocked.

She holds it up for us to see. "Do you know what this is?"

We all shake our heads.

"This is the sign of the Republic. That means that the people living in this flat were Republican."

I act in awe with everyone else, but I don't really understand.

Later I find out that, during the Civil War, all of Asturias was Republican. Except for Oviedo. Oviedo was Fascist. I start to contemplate the repercussions of being a Republican in a Fascist city. And suddenly, my flat has a whole new history.

History Lesson: Part 2

Posted by Lori | Posted in , | Posted on 2:51 PM

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We're sitting in my room, Laura on my bed, and I on the computer correcting her recent attempt at a letter of intent to study abroad at Chapel Hill. She is reading "La etapa social de Blas de Otero en la trilogia que trata de Espana" that she found there.

I look over and laugh. "Te interesa?"

"Si, mucho."

"Quieres hacer el trabajo para mi?"

Laughter.

She reads me a fragment of one of the poems in the article about the post-Civil War Spanish poet. She gets excited. "Siempre con el doble sentido! Es tan buena."

I tell her that I have a hard time picking up on the double meanings in the Spanish language. She launches into an explanation of the poem she was reading. But then she gets really excited. She asks me of my understanding of the historical situation in which Blas de Otero was writing.

I shake my head, "muy poco."

One hour later, several poems, and a few webpages later and I not only have an understanding of Blas de Otero's situation, but I'm discovering more pieces of the Spanish Civil War and the oppression that followed.

A quote from Dolores Ibarruri. "Prefiero morir de pie que vivir de rodillas." (I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees.)

Pictures of the Republican and Fascist soldiers.

And then start the stories.

Laura tells me that Asturias was completely Republican during the Civil War, with Oviedo as the only Fascist city.

"Do you know what they did to kill Asturias? They hired troops from Morocco and told them to come, kill, rape, and steal. Do whatever they want.

They came to my pueblo.

My great-grandmother was raped and then killed. She had eight children. My grandmother was the oldest one, and she ran with the rest and hid in the caves. There were a lot of people hiding in the caves."

"Ostia," is all I can manage. And I feel once again like I'm discovering this past I had no idea existed.

from a port-side bench in gijon

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 5:07 AM

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seagull's flying shadow
projected on the old light brown building
and I almost cry
for the beauty of it.
"do it again," I whispered
and the shadow flew once more
and then
away.

Scenes from Barcelona

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 10:53 AM

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It's 7:55 and I need a snack. My window is open. It's rainy and gray and and I feel like it should be making me miss sunny Barcelona but I'm finding myself quite content in my little nook of a room.

I got back to the flat I was staying at last night at around 3:30 AM and decided to skip out on sleep for the night, since I had to catch the first metro at 5. So today is feeling like a non-day, since I got home at around 10 and then slept until 4 and it is strange to be back home anyways. Strange, but good.

I really like my home here.

But, Barcelona, Barcelona could be a future home. I decided this on my last day there as I was wandering around the streets in the old part of town and kept on finding hidden cafes and bars each different from the other and I said to myself, "Yes, I could live here."

It's a combination of the movida in the street, the international hodgepodge of people, the artistic and theater life, and the ocean, that confirmed my prior suspicion that I would love Barcelona.

_________________

3/28
Slacklining for five or so hours in Parc de la Ciutadella and people and beauty and life. Twirly things and percussion circles and music and capoiera and tree yoga and jugglers.
And then later, the hidden - well, I guess not so hidden, but I would never have known it existed - bar. We were late and the fusion flamenco had already ended.
But the jam session was just starting.
And I managed to make my way through the narrow crowded bar and ended up on the floor right in front of the musicians. It was music and movement. And then the Spanish women in their normal clothes who got up and danced flamenco and pulled at the tops of their jeans as if they were flamenco dresses.

_________________

3/30
Being alone in a big city is more acceptable than being alone in a small city and this feels like a general rule and it makes me like big(ger) cities.
Placa de Sant Vincen de Sarria I am in. And the wind is blowing these little golden feathery seeds all around. And the dogs are out to play.
And making friends with the security guard at the embassy. I can do that joking with a stranger thing in Spanish now.

_________________

3/31
So as not to forget. The best little apple tart I've ever had followed by searching for the MACBA followed by finding the MACBA with Guillem's help.
Interesting exposition "I am making art" and the canvas with it's own story and the one that had purged everything but art...the kiss/panic..and some.
Then lunch in a secret-society courtyard that you get into with a fingerprint reader...and delicious food and sun and then the old library upstairs with the frescos.
Then Sergi's antique store and hidden treasures and the gold of the bottom room.
Then in moto up to Parc Guell.
And my first turn diriving a moto and now I want a mint green one with a white helmet.
Then to watch the Barca game at a friend's flat and I pulled the tradition's card (what respect they have for tradition!) and got to run away to the grocery store...the game and they flipped over a mediocre bean dip and que va pues nada ya esta y estamos en casa bien cansados y joder que dia.

_________________

4/1
And then I look to my left and there's a naked man some 50 meters away. Tomando el sol. Completely naked. He doesn't hide his dark body hair or spilling over stomach. It's just out there for the ocean and sand and birds.
Good morning, Beach. Good morning, Barcelona.
The two little Asian women selling massages have found a customer. A 60-something man with a beret and a tattoo on his right shoulder. He could easily be a sailor. I can smell their massage oil more than I can smell the ocean.
(For that matter, I don't smell the ocean much. And I'm not sure why. I don't smell salt; I don't smell sea. But if I close my eyes and breathe slowly, I can smell it. Just a hint, but it's there.)
So I bury my feet in the sand. Just a few more moments.
And then I realize, I think I could live in Spain.

"Entonces, tu eres una rompe corazones."
"No! Pues, no intento de ser una."
"Entonces es natural. Mejor, mejor."
And all laughter.

_________________

4/2
Hidden little cafe with mismatched vintage chairs, art on the walls, and at least one item each color and shade therein. And I"m especially proud of my losing it, wandering, and then finding it again. I take this as a Good Sign, as is the little red teapot and the friendly attractive bartender and all in all I'd say I could live here. I want to learn Catalan and move here.
I want one of these teapots. I wonder if I can discreetly take a picture. Flor de desierto. That's good tea.
My particular chair is a faded yellow green with a worn floral seat cushion. It used to be - well still is - a soft velor like fabric, but on the arms there are threads showing.
Pretty sure almost everyone here is Catalan (language so surprising!) and I like it.
I wonder if they're hiring.

Look, Mom, I've done some cool things!

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 9:18 AM

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There's a point where you stop doing things just to make your resume impressive. Then there's another point where you realize the things you have been doing because you have wanted to do them make your resume impressive.

As I'm updating my resume, I'm continually taking things off that I had done previously just to look better and replacing it with the things I have done without any thought of how it would make me a more appealing candidate when applying for a job. The irony: these things that I've done that I actually care about are, in my opinion, more impressive.

C'est la vie.

Miracle. Delivered.

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 6:23 AM

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I was having one of those Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days. They seem to happen more often while living in what is still a foreign country. Emotions are all over the place. Always.

There are the frustrations: My inability to express myself perfectly, follow things in class, and the fact that I find myself spending too much money money on things that I would have before deemed a ridiculous sum (such as a 5 euro calling card that only gives me 55 minutes).

Couple that with some stresses: an increasingly busy schedule, still trying to settle into a new flat, and forgetting to plan English lessons and having to do them minutes before class.

And then throw in the fears: the fact that I accidentally underloaded last semester I might not have it count or, worse, I might be suspended from my program, or the fear of flying to London only to have them decide to deport me home because I no longer have a visa (since it was stolen in Portugal).

Let's just say I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.

The rain and the cold were getting to me and I was jealous of sunny North Carolina.

So as I was walking from class to my English class, I asked for a miracle.

A few hours later I was sitting in a cafe where I was stealing internet from someone and eating a hasty lunch. I finish and the waiter brings me a piece of chocolate mocha cream deliciousness that I hadn't ordered.

I give him a look that goes from "wait what?" to "you don't have to do that."

He counters with his own look of "Relax. Take it and enjoy."

And mine shifts to "Thank you. Thank you."

Miracle delivered.

Now I just wish I knew how to say, "you made my day" in Spanish.

P is the only thing that fits

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 3:20 PM

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“Hoping to go see this next month in London: The prayers of Peter Brook | Stage | The Guardian,” the Facebook status read. Emil Kang had popped up on my news feed by chance.

"Peter Brook? Like The Empty Space Peter Brook? Like the acclaimed genius artist and director Peter Brook? The one who changed experimental theatre? Peter Brook!?" My mind ran fast, my fingers faster.

“Really? Because I just might join you there…” I wrote in response.

I was half-way serious.

A few days later I get a reply. Emil informs me that if I’m serious about going to see the show he might be able to get me a ticket.

I become completely serious.

Well, not completely serious. I might have let out a school-girl style squeal.

Several series of e-mails later, travel plans are made and I find myself with a plane ticket to London.

*******

Then, the other day I finally got the chance to Skype with Emil. It was the follow up to an e-mail I had sent back in November following an artistic crisis-near-breakdown. I was frustrated because all of my searches for collaborating artists had been proven futile. I couldn’t find an outlet anywhere. This lack had made me realize just how important art and performance were to me and all of this culminated in one long e-mail to Emil (who I hadn’t really seen or spoken to since my Freshman seminar with him, a couple years ago.)

Fast forward a few months to now and our conversation found me in a lot better state [artistically]. I told Emil of how his response to my e-mail, the personal development I was experiencing, along with my experiences in London and Portugal all led me to create the theatre collective here. I think he was more proud of me than I was of myself.

We talked future possibilities, current musings, and parental concerns. Emil told me the story of how his parents threw a wine bottle at his head when he told them he didn’t want to be a doctor, instead pursuing a career in the arts.

We agreed that there would be more time to discuss these things in London. And then he gave me a few things to consider in the mean time:

Get feedback on my work. “It’s not very good to get to 50 and find out you stink.”

Keep searching for more ways to do what I’m doing but further it. Look to do it in different ways. The same idea, but in different ways.

Push myself to work with my weaknesses as well as my strengths.

*******

Today I drudged up some of the essays I wrote for the performance class in which I had Emil as a professor. Some of them were pretty terrible. And they certainly made me surprised that Emil remembered me in a positive light.

Always growing, always moving. My perspective on performance has certainly altered since that communication performance course in which I first came into contact with Peter Brook. I remember feeling confused reading "The Empty Space" and thought it was interesting, but maybe just a bit weird.

At the end of the semester, we had to get into groups and write a performance piece. I didn't really understand the whole idea of performance as something other than traditional theater and wrote this really terrible mini-play. (Trust me, I just reread it. It's awful.)

Our professors stretched us and helped us change it into something that, if I remember correctly, was half presentable. But I do remember feeling frustrated during the process and complaining with my group that the professor didn't make any sense.

But then, when it came time for all the groups to perform, I remember clearly this one performance. I can't remember what it was about or what exactly they did, but I remember this red piece of cloth that they used throughout the piece. And I thought it was one of the most beautiful things in the world. And it was beautiful because I couldn't figure out why it was so beautiful. It just was. And I didn't have to make sense of it.

*******

Now, this week, the collective is going to the street. To start to make beautiful things that will probably make little sense. Or will make the sense that people decide to place on them. Or perhaps we'll come up with a sense of our own.

In a few weeks I’ll be heading to London. To watch beautiful things crafted by a man who at first made no sense to me.

And now I finish with a sentence that will try and be a summary of all these things in my head. But this sentence isn't coming, so I'll just throw out a few words.

Pursuit and passion and perform and play and pushing and prayers and peter

and I think I somehow got stuck on p's.

Swords Mean Disgusta

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 3:09 AM

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I just had my fortune read by Abuela. She took the Spanish playing card deck and passed them out on the table.

Apparently I'm going to:
Have change that I won't like.
Fight with a girl over money.
Get invited out to drinks by a married man who I'm going to like.
Do very well in the University.
Receive a really nice present.
Have a special someone who is going to ask me to live with him. Apparently he's a really good one. But I'm not sure about him.
Go to a wedding and meet a man there who is going to make me think.
Have a phone call about love.
Fight with my parents about something.
Go on a trip that I won't like.

My madre had hers read. She recieved something she didn't like. "Mentiras," she said.

"Mentiras," Abuela says to me. "Mentiras ella dice. Pero vas a ver que va a pasar."

Dear Man on the Street: Sometimes There's a Reason for Skipping

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 1:40 PM

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That was awesome. So awesome that I danced and hummed my way home. Well half-danced. Okay. It was just a little skip here and there and I let my arms swing.

Pardon my holding off on writing about Portugal so that I can write about tonight.

First, a bit of background.

When I came to Oviedo, I was determined to find a theatre group I could be a part of. That was going to be my way to grow roots here. In fact, I remember setting a Facebook status that went like this, "Just sent messages to 17 theatre groups in Oviedo asking if there was anything I could participate in. Determined."

Well, for all my well-intentioned determination, I ended up with a few "no thanks" e-mails and a lot of no responses.

Then I thought my chance came when I found out that there was a University Theatre group that had a casting. A friend of mine told me that he had negative experiences with the group, but I went anyways. The casting was fun, and I was just thrilled to get to be on a stage again. Afterward, I talked with some of the members and felt even more hopeful. One, two, three months later I get my first response from them: an invitation to participate in a theatre course. The cost: 280 euros. So much for that.

I was frustrated. But an inkling of a thought wandered into my head. "If you see a need...do something about it." But what could I do? I didn't have the resources, didn't even know of anyone else who wanted to do theatre...I had a lot of good excuses. I started entertaining the idea of taking the bus to a random city and doing solo performances just as a creative outlet.

Then I went to London.

And something about being in London gave me a little bit of perspective and even more determination. By the time I got to Portugal, I was decided. I was going to make my own group. Even if it was just me, practicing in a space once a week, I was going to do it. I had to.

A few days after I got back from Portugal, I was sitting in a cafe writing about collective versus individual identity, a topic which was broached in a bar in Portugal as I debated with a 60-something year old man. And I began to think about the beauty within a collaborative, and how you can make something that couldn't have been there before. My foot started tapping on the ground in impatience. I needed a performance collective. Here.

But where would I find the space? Who would do it with me? Could I really just start my own?

The next day I was having lunch with my friend Sergio, who started and runs Partycipa, an activist organization focused on combining creativity and play with social action. They work a lot with kids.

And somehow the subject of performance and street action comes up and I become a bit animated and launch into my idea for an experimental performance group.

He offers me a space. I just have to pick a date.

And now, a week later, I am sitting in my kitchen having just hurriedly eaten some chicken* and I still have a bit of a post-performance afterglow.

Well, to be fair, I didn't perform tonight. But we got started.

There were seven of us tonight. Only two had ever done anything remotely related to theatre.

In a rough combination of English and Spanish, I led us through some warm-ups (samurai, lion/lemon face, shake down), some games (museum, instant protest), some exercises (sound circle, partner mirror, partner and group curve/angle) and then a body relax/energy focus cool down.** I wanted to start on Viewpoints/Flow today, but ran out of time. And that might have been a bit ambitious.

And it was beautiful. Already people were making beautiful moments together. Realizing the potential that they had to create.

It was energizing. It was perfect in its imperfection. It was a start.

And we also have next week.

So I 1/3 skipped, 1/3 walked, and 1/3 danced my way home.

______
*With garlic, lemon, and a balsamic syrup. Good times.
**To Sigur Ros, of course.

London Makes Things Happen

Posted by Lori | Posted in | Posted on 4:18 PM

1

As I settle in to write, I am eating the last of my Christmas tree Little Debbie cakes. Don't worry, I have a box of the Valentine ones awaiting me.*

The truth is, I've procrastinated on writing this. Mostly because the thought of condensing my London and Portugal experiences in an entertaining written form felt daunting. And so I just didn't.

But, with a little bit of late night/early morning energy, my arms and back sore from my first day back to climbing for weeks, and that over-sugared-kinda-sick feeling I always get after I eat a Little Debbie cake, I will just tell a few stories, and for tonight, just about London.

As I walked into the house I was staying in**, I was immediately greeted by a lovely smile and a, "Would you like some tea? Go upstairs and you can put your things down and I'll put the tea on." Hours later, watching English sitcoms and eating snacks and chatting, I felt like part of the family. I was laughing. A lot. Plus, I found out that I was now only two degrees of separation away from the queen.

The tea became a habit.*** We passed a few evenings with the fireplace, cozy sofa, late night TV, and Bilbo, the dog, comfortably sitting on my lap. And with the cold and the snow outside, I couldn't really be bothered to move.

Not to say we didn't venture outside in the cold. We were in London. We had to.

We did the typical tourist things. Actually, I'd say we did all the tourist things. You know, the palace, the big clock tower, this other tower, museums, etc. Which, to be honest, never really does much for me. It feels like I'm just checking things off a list. Not to say these things aren't beautiful or interesting or that I wouldn't want to see them, it's just not what makes a trip for me.

So when we went to see the Globe Theatre, I decided to do something different, and put up my slackline for a few, very cold, minutes.

Now, the highlights reel:****

+Climbing inside a castle.

+Diversity! Different types of people! Lots of different languages! And people don't look at you strange if you're not from there!

+Food on the street. Bagels! Fish and chips. Wild mushroom risotto.

+Brick Lane Vintage Market.

+Snow patterns with feet. And playing in that snow with Heather.

+The room in the Tate Modern on the fluxus art movement. It was this tiny little room and most people just walked right through it but a quote on the wall caught my eye and then I spent the next 32 minutes in there reading everything. Completely beautiful.

+Christmas party at Victoria Wood's house where I talked about classical music with high school boys and sang Christmas carols with Andy Serkis.*****

+Johnny's swing/jazz/blues/funk band. And when we [accidentally] went to his show at a Christmas party at a home for mentally handicapped people. We danced anyways.

+Theatre. Lots of theatre. Pantomime, murder-mystery "Rope", The Comedy Store Improv, and "Hairspray." And, I have to mention that for three of these, I have Mr. Edis to thank for getting us in/getting us cheap tickets. Man's got connections.

+Exclaiming, "You gave me a stocking too!" when I found the thing hanging on my door after breakfast and then promptly ran downstairs and gave Mrs. Edis a hug.

+A nordic cafe where I tried gloog. New favorite hot beverage.

...and that was London. More or less, at least.

Sitting in Stansted Airport with about 6 hours to kill, I had a little time to think. I had felt like a part of a family for the last 10 days and it was lovely. I also was able to communicate fully, and even have my personality come across in conversation (!) something I had really missed the months prior.

But London also inspired me.

After the improv show at the Comedy Store, we went out for drinks with some of the players. And I got into a conversation with one of their wives. She asked me about what I wanted to do after university, and I, for the first time in a conversation like this, told her that I was thinking about pursuing the arts in some form.

"Oh you should!" she replied.

"I hope so," I laughed. "I'm just not sure how..."

"Well, have you thought about going to a school of the arts?"

I hadn't.

"There's a lot of one-year programs you can do, and can get a grant for. In fact a friend of mine..."

She went on to tell me of this friend who started out in visual art, then progressed to installations, then performance...all within this one program.

I was intrigued. That conversation, combined with being surrounded by art in so many forms, and the exhibits at the Tate...it has all made me start to think. About new possibilities. And about acting on them. Now.



______
*Thanks, Mom. And Lydia. And Lisa. But I think mostly Lydia. I heard you had to sacrifice these for me. After flaunting your own over Skype, I guess it's the least you could do.
**I was staying with the Edis family. How did I end up there? Heather Johnson made me come to London for Christmas. She met Chris Edis while studying abroad in Italy. Chris lives in London. His family decided they would love to host a random stranger in their home for Christmas. I was the lucky random stranger.
***I never realized that the stereotype of the English always drinking tea was actually true. But I don't think I've ever had so much tea in one week. And I loved it.
****I seriously hate having to do this. But it's the only way to say all I want to say and not be overwhelmed.
*****You know, Gollum in LOTR? He also had an appearance in 13 going on 30...