Dec 31, 2009

Just Jump

photo taken by my brother of me jumping on Mojacar Playa on xmas eve 2009. post production by me.

“Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to 'jump at the sun.' We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.” ~Zora Neale Hurston~

It's the last day of 2009 and I can't help but look back over the past year and marvel at all the changes I've weathered and all the adventures I've enjoyed. It's been a big year for reversals, upheavals and goodbyes. I suppose my strategy has been to meditate more so I remain calm while jumping into my new life. When my relationship of 5 1/2 years ended, I jumped into being single and taking care of myself despite my stinging eyes. When my circle of friends dissolved and scattered back to their countries, I jumped into new circles and had new adventures. When my landlord unexpectedly moved back and booted me out of my room this summer, I jumped and jumped and kept on jumping at every potential piso in the barrio until I finally found what I was looking for. When I lost 5 teaching hours earlier this month I jumped right into action and managed to recoup some hours from other sources by the next day. This year I've also tried to jump at every opportunity to travel and see as many places as I could and so in 2009 I've been to Paris, Donostia-San Sebastian, Bilbao, Atazar, Chinchón, "Hoces del Río Duratón" Nature Reserve, Sepúlveda, Pedraza, Sierra de Madrid, Quintanar de la Sierra, the Pyrenees, Mojacar, Vera playa and Garrucha, and I saw my first bullfight.

As I stand on the cusp of a new decade I plan to do a lot more jumping. Jumping into action. Jumping into my creative projects. Jumping for joy. Jumping at opportunities. Jumping at the blue moon. Jumping into 2010.

I'm going to end my blog posts for 2009 with these last words from Mel Brooks:

“Look, I really don't want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you're alive, you got to flap your arms and legs, you got to jump around a lot, you got to make a lot of noise, because life is the very opposite of death. And therefore, as I see it, if you're quiet, you're not living. You've got to be noisy, or at least your thoughts should be noisy and colorful and lively.”

Happy New Year everyone!! xox

Dec 21, 2009

Happy Holidays

snow king and queen
photo by me.

It's snowing again in Madrid... but I'm off to spend a week with my brother in a white village perched on a mountainside that overlooks the Mediterranean in the south of Spain. It'll probably be rainy and windy yet beautiful. You can be sure that I'll be back with photo essays!

Ho ho ho Happy Holidays everyone!!

Dec 17, 2009

Gossamer Threads

You are going to be late for class. The crowd on the platform at Metro Plaza España grows thicker. 10 minutes pass by and still no metro which is unusual for this time of day. 4.45 pm. tick tick tick. You spit out a text to your student just as the subway finally screeches into the underground station. It is stuffed with people. It isn't until you squeeze yourself inside that you realize who the metro is crammed full of. Brits. Football, flag waving, beer can swigging, singing, chanting fans all the way from buttfuck Britain to Madrid to cheer their team onto victory and they literally rock the metal can metro with their jumping and swaying revelry. Large thick anglo saxons with muscled pipes from pumping pints down at the pub. Thin Indo-Brits with thick hair and long scarves wrapped around their necks. All bouncing and chanting victory cheers. A mist of beer fills the air. Crushed against the doors, you look around and notice that the Spanish men in suits, bless their hearts, are smiling to themselves in amusement quite unconcerned with the mosh pit. Three stops hurl by. The doors open and close. Some bodies wrestle out, others squeeze in. One of the smaller Brits takes notice of your precarious position behind one of his brutish friends and immediately positions himself to protect you. "Are you alright?" he blurts out in English without a second thought to the need for translation. "Yeah, I'm fine," you reply and all the years of being stressed out over the tiniest interaction you deal with daily as a terrible Spanish speaker living in Spain melt away. Next stop is yours. As you get off, he calls out a goodbye but you hesitate, unable to reciprocate as you are carried out by a sea of bodies. He haunts you the rest of the day. During your class. Your ride home. Dinner with your boyfriend. Under the covers. His eyes haunt you. You can't understand why such a small act of kindness from a stranger should so cling to you but it does. It lingers, it swirls, and it wraps you up like a gossamer cloak for days.

Dec 16, 2009

Another birthday... no more tears!

In the past, I used to cry every birthday for one reason or another like some cursed sad sack. This year I had a party and I didn't cry. In fact, I was surrounded by friends and wine and laughter. I successfully cooked my first tortilla de patata and it made me feel confident in my ability to do new things. I don't know where life is taking me but I know I can both relax into the flow and navigate, exploring the many tributaries that branch off the main river of life. Age gives you this: a knowledge and confidence in your beautiful self that during the frenzied blindness of your youth, you failed to see. So cheers to getting older and hopefully wiser.

Dec 8, 2009


Getting beyond the boxes. Out of chaos and uncertainty emerges the face of a clearer self.

Photography by me. Another experiment in textures, tone and meaning.

Dec 5, 2009


All good things come to those who wait with patience, right? Deep breath. In. Out.

Dec 4, 2009

Photo Essay: Granada pt.3, a stairway of stunning beauty

This isn't an attraction you'll read about in a guide book nor will you see it in a gallery nor a museum in Granada and yet it was one of the coolest, most phenomenal things we saw during our visit. We happened upon this gem quite unexpectedly while wandering the streets on foot. The staircase to Mirador San Cristobol, a lookout that peers over the citadel of Albaícin, the Sierra Nevada and the Alhambra, is a stunning gallery of local urban street art, a canvas of fluid collaborative images, and a mashup made all the more exquisite because of the ephemeral nature of urban murals.
Granada, staircase to Mirador S. Cristobol
Granada, staircase to Mirador S. Cristobol
Granada, staircase to Mirador S. Cristobol, it's all good
Granada, staircase to Mirador S. Cristobol, ready for birth
Granada, staircase to Mirador S. Cristobol
Granada, staircase to Mirador S. Cristobol, coming down the stairs
Granada, staircase to Mirador S. Cristobol
Granada, staircase to Mirador S. Cristobol, attitude
All photos taken by me at Christmas time 2007

Above: the view from the Mirador San Cristobol.

This concludes my three part photo essay series on Granada.

Happy Friday!

Nov 29, 2009

Photo Essay: Granada pt.2, a day wandering around Sacromonte

She beckons us, her old wrinkled face mournful yet grinning, her floral dress fluttering in the breeze. Like a picture of a grandma from storybooks on gypsies, she gives me and M a sprig of fresh rosemary each for luck before quickly taking my hand and telling me my fortune in rambling incoherent Spanish. Without pause she grabs M's hand and tells him he has a beautiful girlfriend and makes the usual prediction that our relationship will be enduring. We are charmed but know her open palm will soon demand payment for her performance. We figure this "magical experience" is worth 2 Euros. [an aside: that I now, a mere two years later, stand in the cold ashes of this "enduring" relationship, I think, is a testimony to the veracity of Gypsy fortune-telling in general and this fortuneteller in particular.]

Granada is a vibrant young university town with free tapas, plenty of nightlife and it bustles with tourists hoping to conjure history and romance. This is a place where gypsies can and do take full advantage of their well-known mystique, which clearly glitters in the eyes of tourists, and quickly part them from their euros in return for palm readings and a sprig of rosemary. In the narrow labyrinth streets on Christmas night we also saw a witch in a filthy dress and matted hair cursing and spitting on an upside down framed picture of Christ on the cross. Such are the passions and mysteries of this city which enflame the imagination.

With its the old Arab quarter of Albaicín and Gypsy caves, Sacromonte (Holy Mountain) is an enchanting place to spend the day wandering and getting lost.

Wandering up the hill:
Granada, gypsy home, alhambra and sierra
A gypsy cave house on Sacromonte.

On Summer nights this area comes alive with castanets, strumming guitars and strutting dancers. This tourist trap is called a Zambra. Fortunately, since we were here in winter, it was quiet and no gypsies emerged to sell us their wares.
Granada, gypsy cave
A gypsy cave with two chimneys near the old wall.
Granada, home sweet home
A gypsy cave, campfire, and assortment of furniture.

Granada, sacromonte vista
A spectacular view of the Alhambra and mountains from the top of sacromonte.

Granada, no dogs allowed
At the gate to the Museo de Sacromonte... a dog skull with a gypsy cave in the background.

Granada, Sacromonte
Along Camino del Sacromonte.

Wandering around Albaicín:
Staircase leading to a school in Albaicín
Granada, home garden
A garden in Albaicín with a collection of charming ceramic plates typical of the area.
Near the Mirador de San Nicolás in Albaicín.

Wandering west of Albaicín:

The bazaar near calle Elvira

Strolling along the Darro river:
Granada, Carrera del Darro at sunset

Carrera del Darro, known as the most romantic street in Granada, at sunset.

Back to the hostel:

A view of the cathedral from our hostel's rooftop at sunset.

All photos by me, taken around Christmas time 2007.

For the next post in this series on Granada, I'm posting a photo essay on the amazing urban art that covers the stairway to Mirador S. Cristobol. So stay tuned.

Nov 27, 2009

Photo Essay: Granada pt.1, splendor of the Alhambra

Granada, a former stronghold of Moorish Spain, is a city steeped in romance and folklore. About 2,200 ft above sea level in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Granada spills over two hills, the Alhambra and the Sacromonte. Past glories of this fabled city were popularized in the English speaking world through Washington Irving's Tales of the Alhambra. Granada is also the hometown of the celebrated poet and dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca who shot by soldiers in 1936 during the early days of the civil war.

Today I begin a three-part photo essay series on Granada, starting with the Alhambra, which is the hilltop fortress palace of the last Muslim rulers of Spain, the Nasrid Kings, and one of Europe's greatest attractions. To avoid the famed queues, I bought our tickets in advance online and this made for smooth sailing into this stunning complex of palaces on Christmas Eve. The clouds and rain stayed away and it was a magical experience that didn't fail to impress. The Alhambra is a dazzling treatise on the beauty of symmetry.

Reflections in the pool in the Palace of the Nasrid, the most impressive of all the palaces we saw at the Alhambra.
Granada, Alhambra
Granada, Alhambra
Intricately carved, lace-like walls and ceramic tile designs in the Palace of the Nasrid.
Granada, Alhambra

Granada, Alhambra
Granada, Alhambra
Torre de las Damas (ladies tower), all that remains of the oldest palace, Palacio del Partal, at the Alhambra.
Granada, Alhambra
A view of Albaicín and Sacromonte from the fortress tower, Alcazaba.

Overlooking the Alhambra, is Generalife, which was built in the 13th century as a summer retreat. It is famed for its lush gardens but since we were there at Christmas the gardens weren't blooming but that still didn't take away from the splendor and lavish beauty of the palace.

An enclosed oriental garden called Patio de la Acequia.
Granada, Generalife, Patio de la Acequia
A view of the Alhambra from the arched portico in Generalife.
Granada, Generalife
Two Generalife views at Sunset.
Granada, Generalife
Granada, Generalife
All photos by Shehani Kay. Taken Christmas Eve 2007.

Next in this series on Granada will be a photo essay of Sacromonte and the Gypsy caves nestled in the hill. So stay tuned!

Happy Friday!

Nov 25, 2009

Photo Essay: A brief tour of Cementiri del Sud-Oest on Montjuïc

Extending down the south side of Montjuïc hill in Barcelona lies one of Europe's most beautiful and haunting cities of the dead. Opened since 1883, Cementiri del Sud-Oest Montjuïc is a quiet treasure trove for poignant sculptures with hauntingly realistic expressions of sorrow and grief.

I have always loved visiting cemeteries because these places often reveal the soul of a people - their fear of death and the mythologies they construction to ease these fears and console themselves over the loss of their loved ones. This cemetery, in particular, has some of the most beautiful, moving and lovingly carved sculptures I've seen anywhere.
Cementiri del Sud-Oest Montjuïc
Cementiri del Sud-Oest Montjuïc
Cementiri del Sud-Oest Montjuïc
Cementiri del Sud-Oest Montjuïc
Cementiri del Sud-Oest Montjuïc
Cementiri del Sud-Oest Montjuïc
Cementiri del Sud-Oest Montjuïc
Cementiri del Sud-Oest Montjuïc
Cementiri del Sud-Oest Montjuïc
Cementiri del Sud-Oest Montjuïc
All photos by me.

This cemetery is best known for the many famous Catalan artists and politicians who are buried here, like the artist Joan Miró, dancer Carmen Amaya and poet/priest Jacint Verdaguer and Generalitat presidents Lluis Companys and Francesc Macià. There are also many victims of the Spanish Civil War who are buried in unmarked graves here and a memorial park that commemorates them.
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