Thursday, December 06, 2018

Bathroom, Part 10

Here we are, nearly a year after beginning the bathroom project. Another Thanksgiving come and gone, turkey and plumbing inexorably intertwined. And while the room is not done, we have made great progress.

There are walls and a door that opens completely. I can use the lights and the outlets and the bathtub. Yet to come: the shower, one more ceiling light, and the additional HVAC. That last one is a doozy, and I don't even like to think about it because I fear it will cost far more money than I have spent thus far on the entire bathroom. And to distract myself, I will take many long hot baths in my new tub.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


While I was traveling, my pets stayed with friends, each with a different family. This works out well for everyone, because one family likes cats, one family likes dogs, and the cat and dog don't really like each other. (Although Ada is perfectly trained to hide this fact, of course.)

Coincidentally, each family mentioned upon my return how much that pet had aged since their last visit. It's hard to see those changes when you interact with someone every day. Molly the cat is deaf and can't jump on laps anymore. She is not completely reliable about using her litter box, and sometimes she wobbles a bit when she walks. Until recently I thought she was twelve years old, which is probably upper-middle age for a cat, but a conversation with my mother reminded me that Molly is sixteen, which is definitely on the elderly side. If I had to guess, I'd say that Molly won't be around much longer.

Ada the dog is most likely about nine years old. She's a mixed breed, aka a mutt, so it's harder to predict the length of her life, but it could be anywhere from ten to sixteen years. She is also nearly deaf, and now she cannot sniff or see quite as well as she used to. She has never been one for playing, but her frisky days occur less and less often.

Both pets appreciate a warm, cozy bed even more than they used to, and I'm trying to spend even more time appreciating them, for as long as I can.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


This weekend in Amsterdam was the great meeting of the blogs. My cousin, AinA writes a private blog for friends and family, so we primarily keep in touch by commenting on each other's blogs. She visited me with her family this summer, and now I returned the favor.

Her girls fell in love with my pets during their previous visit, so we played plenty of "Ada and Molly." We also took a trip to the Hague, ostensibly to see a museum that turned out to be sold out, but really so I could indulge my love of train trips.

They made me feel very welcome, even finding an excellent vegan restaurant for us. Other than that, though, the meals were primarily bread-based, as that appears to be a requirement in the Netherlands.

After that, I was a good little tourist. In one day, I did a walking tour, visited five churches, listened to an opera concert, and ate frites, falafel, and Gl├╝hwein. 

The next part will be from home!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Spain: Last thoughts

Friday was my last day in Madrid. It was a city holiday commemorating the re-discovery of an icon of Mary, so we didn't have classes. I celebrated by sleeping in and watching the procession the icon and celebration of Mass on television. 

I wanted to record, for myself, my last thoughts about this trip.
  1. I really like Madrid. It has a nice mix of art and history, and its population is made of people from all over Spain. They speak a dialect that was relatively easy to understand, and the inner city is very walkable.
  2. I made two decision regarding travel that I want to repeat. This was the first trip following my new minimalist wardrobe, where every piece of clothing matches every other one. This, plus the availability of a washer on my apartment, made it easy to get by with just four outfits. Also, my jetlag-minimization technique of rising at 4am during the week preceding my departure worked brilliantly. I was able to get up at 6:30 a.m. for school every day without trouble.
  3. Whenever I travel, strangers constantly ask me for directions. I speculate that this is a combination of appearing non-threatening and looking like I know where I'm going. Alas, my knowledge of Madrid geography was such that I could not actually give directions.
  4. I would like to attend a language school on a future trip. It strengthened my confidence in the language I know, and gave me the right amount of people interaction each day. When I travel alone, I often end up talking to no one for days.
  5. I adjusted pretty easily to the Spanish schedule of lunches at 2pm and dinner at 10pm. What I couldn't adjust to was parties or meetings that started at 10 p.m. or later. Siestas just aren't enough to cope with that if you have to wake up before dawn.

Friday, November 09, 2018


I took 32 pictures on my vacation in Spain, if you count the six taken by other people and shared with me. I'm sure my photo-loving relatives are disappointed in me. Still, here are the best six.

Every day, I walked about 45 minutes (3km/2.5 miles) to my school. A good chunk of the trip was through the Retiro Park, which are a royal park now opened to the public. It's sort of like Central Park, but filled with statues and formal gardens.

I passed my exam! This means that I have completed Level A1, the first of six official levels in Spanish. My eventual goal is to complete four.

 Last Thursday was a national holiday, so I did some sightseeing and lunching with friends. It was delightful, but was yet another data point in support of my rule to never eat at a restaurant in Europe with English language menus.
 The Cervantes monument, where Cervantes overlooks Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. If I keep studying Spanish, I'm told I must read this book, but the teachers gave us permission to read a student version because the language is so antiquated.
Another pretty building. My school offered quite a few walking tours, which let me meet people and gave me more exercise, dyo I could keep eating pastries and drinking wine.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018


Although I've been to Spain before, I was visiting with lots of other people, and the focus was history. Now that I'm alone and now immersed, I have more time to notice things. Here are the surprises so far. Most, but not all, are for the good.

- El Ratoncito Pérez. In the US and UK, the tooth fairy comes to visit. Here, the little rat Perez leaves a present in exchange for baby teeth. This is from a children's story with for a prince, and I have visited the tiny monument where the little rat is supposed to have lived, in a bakery in a cookie box.

- Doorknobs on the center of the door. These just annoy me. The principles of physics dictate that you use the minimum of force at the farthest point from the pivot. And in fact, since physics is the same here, these doors are harder to open.

-Safety. Pickpocketing is rampant here, and I actually had a companion scare off one in the act. In spite of this, I feel safer than almost anywhere I've ever been. I looked up the statistics - Spain has one half of the homicides in Germany and the UK and one tenth of the homicides in the US. After being assured by a  local woman, I walked through a park at night on my own, something I never would have done at home.

-Spanish. I speak worse than I thought, but I understand more then I expected. I have a lot more studying to do. However, I forgot how much I love learning a language when I'm in a country, and I have been inspired to continue.

Monday, November 05, 2018


Blogger has been eating my drafts with photos, so I'll have to rely on words alone. I'm having a terrific time on this vacation, but I had no idea that I would be so busy. School takes six or seven hours each day and that leaves time either for sightseeing or for meeting people but often not both.

On this trip, I've had the opportunity to meet people through the school and through sites like Couchsurfing that identify locals who want to hang out with travelers. I go sightseeing with the people from school, and save all my important questions for the locals. For example, how do you separate the trash? (A: It's complicated.) Is it okay to pay with a credit card? (A: Not really.) How do people from Basque feel about people from Madrid? (A: Words can't convey their unhappiness.)

I used to be someone who traveled the world, but I haven't been part of that group for years. All of my friends and family are at home are pretty settled. It has been simply delightful to reconnect with people who try out different countries like other people try out different apartments.

I'd wax poetic a bit more, but I need to get back to studying for my exam tomorrow...