expat

I AM NOT A NOMAD.

There is a place that I will always call home. It’s where my family lives and where the friendships I have are ones that have survived such insurmountable things as adolescence, separation, depression, and my Phantom of the Opera phase. The sheer amount of life we have experienced both together and apart is impossible to re-create. Still, I leave those people year after year after year to come to Spain. Sometimes I know why I do this. Other times, especially in the days and weeks after I return, I don’t.

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You will likely feel a lot of things when you move and you will feel these things in part because you are too romantic for reality and because you are impatient, but mostly because that’s how humans react to change (unless you’re one of those cool nomads who just needs a couple of succulents to feel at home, I guess).

First, you might feel disappointed. I envisioned myself returning to my Spanish apartment and waltzing around in slippers and lingerie with a martini in hand, transitioning easily back into a glamorous life that I’ve never actually had. Let the record show that the only martini I’ve ever consumed is the Italian-brand vermouth. Let the record also show that my evenings have never looked like (I imagine) Rihanna’s do. Here’s what really happened: As I scrubbed my kitchen counters in a t-shirt and dusty jeans two sizes too big for me, my neighbor came to the window and asked if I was the cleaning lady and, if so, what was my rate? I, broker than I’ve been in many years, thought about saying yes.

Another thing you may also feel is loneliness. In spite of how you feel about this sort of self-help, you’ll watch a Ted Talk called “The Simple Cure for Loneliness.”  Baya Voce, the speaker, will say that the secret is to create rituals like putting on leggings and poppin’ open a bottle of rosé with your best friends! or taking a trip to Paris with your girlies! This video, although you’re sure that Baya is a lovely person, will nevertheless make you feel like eating all of your leggings and then your own hands.

You will probably feel both hopeful and hopeless, sometimes in the span of five minutes. Maybe you should chill the eff out, read this article, binge watch Cardi B’s Instagram rants, and then go on a run or pretend your empty living room is actually just a home dance studio.

En fin, I don’t always know why I do what I do, but I keep doing it. When I’m not busy questioning all of my life decisions, I try to laugh.

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The Doorman in My Bewbz

I spent my last full week in Madrid wearing yoga pants and singing Santana’s “María María” as I cared for a teenager of the same name.  I was having a blast but feeling pretty suburban so to welcome the weekend I wore an outfit that made me feel like a prostitute on her way to a high-school orchestra concert. It’s difficult to say whether wearing a push-up bra makes me feel sexy or if it’s just that I enjoy the feeling I get from tricking weird men into whooping at what are really just two well-sculpted pillows. Jose María, the doorman, had rung me before I went out to tell me he had a package waiting for me and that I’d better come get it since it was his last day.

Now, I’m five foot ten or eleven in heels and Jose María is five foot on a good day. He ushered me into his office where I explained that the package contained a tablecloth made by my great-grandmother. The top of his head ended right at my big fake cleavage and I tried really hard not to laugh as he told me about his retirement plans. I wished that someone were painting us. They could title it:

Jose María and an Awkward Glamazon or
Tiny Doorman Passes Parcel to Possible Prosti or
Could Franco Have Foreseen This?

No one painted us, as far as I know. I crouched down to give him the customary dos besos and then walked out, me and that century old tablecloth both marveling at where we’d ended up.

How To Pack in 24 Self-Reflective Steps

I’ve done a lot of market research on lifestyle blogs/listicles and I’ve noticed that a lot of people seek help when it comes to putting their things in bags and then traveling with them, so I thought I’d share my own method. I’ve been packing this way for years and its always worked for me.

  1. Take your suitcase out of the closet. Open it.
  2. Walk away from the suitcase.
  3. Put a wig on.
  4. Take a casual selfie:IMG_20170702_233124_817
  5. Think: I am lookin’ like a drowned, harassed rat (then wonder who wrote that line in “Let’s Have a Kiki” and envy them).
  6. Start playing one or two songs on repeat. This year I’m listening to Rihanna’s “Love on The Brain” and “Higher.” The best lines are “What do I gotta do to get in yo’ mothafuckin’ heart?” and “I just really need your ass with me,” respectively.
  7. Receive a message from a friend with a link to Tina Turner’s  1982 performance of “Proud Mary” and then spend between ten and thirty minutes freaking out about how amazing Tina Turner and her legs are.
  8. Clean out the pockets of your winter coats and wonder why it is always in the pockets of said coats that the most bittersweet of memories live.
  9. Read your old journals and feel mildly embarrassed. Destroy between twelve and fifteen pages after you deem them too dramatic and/or dirty for public consumption in the event that you suffer an untimely death and someone has to go through your things.
  10. Take the wig off and feel a little bit sad about it.
  11. Have a brief panic attack when you think you’re a year older than you actually are.
  12. Have lunch.
  13. Have a coffee.
  14. Have a tiny mental breakdown as you compare your life today to your life at this same moment last year. Entertain the possibility that you are making all of the wrong decisions, all of the time. Realize that you feel this same way when you compare your life two weeks ago to your life today and resolve to be more carpe diem because, seriously, who cares?
  15. Think for a good bit about the absurdity of being afraid.
  16. Repeat Step # 4.
  17. Start folding and stacking clothing. Find a slim journal among a pile of t-shirts, start reading it, and begin to suspect that your past self planted emotional bombs all over your room in some kind of sick plan to thwart your departure.
  18. Start taking your books off the shelf, smelling the pages, and remembering where and why you read each of them.
  19. Wish someone would bring you a snack and a proper iced coffee.
  20. Throw all of your clothing on top of your suitcase, reasoning that, while this does not qualify as packing, at least it has gotten closer to its final destination.
  21. Repeat Step # 6.
  22. Make and eat dinner.
  23. Call your sister to inquire about how many formal dresses you’ve left in the closet at home. Although you have no plans to attend any black tie events during your visit, this feels urgent. Chat for an hour with multiple family members about eyebrows, taxes, and “Ice Cream Jerks.”
  24.  Write a stupid list about everything you just did and promise yourself that you’ll make more progress tomorrow (cuz you’re responsible as eff and started this three days early).

Luv and pride,

Seo

Mysteries of the Mind, Part 2

Last week I saw In The Same Boat, a documentary about how technology and job automation have led to monstrous wealth inequality and how one might confront the problem moving forward. It was followed by an open forum debate with Rudy Gnutti (the director), Yayo Herrero (premier eco-feminist), Jorge Moruno (Podemos representative and “lover of gnocchi”), and Iñigo Errejón (Podemos’ poster-baby and serial gesticulator). I was interested in the subject matter, but it would be dishonest of me to say that my facetious goal of dancing a chotis with Errejón didn’t have just a little bit to do with my decision to buy tickets. At the time of writing that goal remains unrealized, but I can tell you that in person Errejón looks younger than most of my middle-school students. I can also tell you that, after telling said students about the documentary, a few of them informed me that if I was a Podemista, I should leave class. Others warned me that my “pants were turning purple” and one incredulous girl asked “so, what, you think everyone should have jobs?” More on this later. Or never.

Getting ready for bed I thought mostly about how I should study economy and take a public speaking class. I also thought about the Amazon executive from the documentary, whose interview included a really amusing line in which he talked about how truly awful he really felt about getting on his private jet after seeing poverty in the streets! Finally, head on my pillow, eyes closed, my thoughts drifted not to neo-liberalism nor to Spain’s new political party, but to… Nino friggin’ Bravo, Spanish crooner and eyebrow idol.

Musical insomnia, again.

What was the song this time? “Un Beso y Una Flor.”

And the lines that wouldn’t leave my mind?

De día viviré pensando en tus sonrisas
De noche las estrellas me acompañarán

A beautiful, romantic goodbye song.

Why? And for what?

Y’all didn’t think I was about to analyze economics, did you?

Gazing at Navels and Cherry Blossoms

In October I grew a thousand hands, danced like a coke-head, couldn’t stop shaking my feet, and forgot to eat.

I walked too far, too fast, met too many people and heard too many stories, almost none of which answered the questions I was interested in: what are you afraid of? Do you ever feel embarrassed for entire days  and for no good reason? When do you feel most alone, most loved? What is love? Why? Can we talk about the things that are right? Can we not talk at all?

I felt half-convinced that I wanted to be an ad-woman or an engineer or the sort of person who cared about keeping up with the Jones. Acknowledging this, embracing it, later hating it, I recognized that it was time to, as they say, “move on.”

So I “made time” to spend time alone. I walked just as much or more, with ears out and eyes up.

Conviction is important, of course it is, but we’re all so full of it that sometimes I forget who I am and I most certainly forget “what matters.” My conviction is that we are all gross and lonely, sometimes assholes (by choice and by accident), and often confused. I have other convictions, warmer ones about love and the little things, but I’m bad at writing about them.

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In November I felt like a visitor, avoided all questions, climbed Embajadores and five flights with a bag of butter and broth. Half  of my world was name-dropping Wagner and the other half had been born without maps. Somewhere across the Atlantic there were rest-stops in the middle of Pennsylvania and trash-pickers in Fishtown that no one I knew had ever seen.

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In December, in Albacete, in an Audi, my driver informed me “this is a chick’s car” and then, saving himself, “but I’ve had 15 or 20 BMWs.”  I said almost nothing. He turned up Birdy’s cover of “Skinny Love” and declared: “esto si que es un temazo.” Because the car was comfortable and because he had a voice like a radio host, I didn’t mind the music (all covers and Calvin Harris). When I arrived in Murcia  I was thinking about becoming a business-man. I was also wondering if he made love to techno and, if so, what it would be like to be that sort of person?

I taught the sons and daughters of executives and diplomats in their museum homes. I bought a lottery ticket (my first) and for twenty-six hours I believed I’d pay off my student loans on December 22nd.

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In January, I ran. I re-read A Room of One’s Own while drinking a can of San Miguel. A man I love prepared me huevos rotos con jamon. Virginia might have called it “a man’s meal.” I imagined she’d be happy for me. On a Tuesday afternoon I got off my metro five stops too early. The resident accordionist was playing–what else?–the Amelie soundtrackAs people say these days, I just couldn’t.

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In February, I began measuring my life out in Sundays. A Sunday suicide pact. A 7AM Sunday under a rain that might have been romantic were it not for the fact that I felt like falling down. A Sunday run after an all-night Saturday, burritos and Coronita and laughs and an evening walk that felt like spring. A burnt toast Sunday morning, old skull afternoon, a vibrant Retiro, a guitar or three I couldn’t see. A Sunday electric with what if and what the fuck and two porras at five am.

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So here we are, March. I’m feeling my feelings religiously and irresponsibly and in between bites of Swiss cheese. I’m feeling them on the metro and under spring skies on Tuesday afternoons. What is this blog? What is this life? I don’t know, but it sure is pretty.

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