24 March 2009

Cough, cough

I guess March is just... not my blogging month. I've been under the weather over the last week or so, battling laryngitis that was initially caused by a cold, then made worse by my insistence on singing in a concert last week, and accompanied by a persistent cough, the kind that feels like it's out to strangle you to death. I was virtually voiceless over the weekend, and it is only today that I actually can speak somewhat normally again.

Ironically, the day I fell sick was the day I had my first blood test in the Spanish health care system. Brandishing my brand new health card, I had asked for an appointment for a checkup the week before, and two days later I met with my new doctor, after practically no wait. He kind of insinuated that as a healthy thirty-year-old, I didn't need a "revisió general," but he asked me a few questions about my overall health, took my blood pressure, and sent me on my way to schedule a blood test. I was a bit put off by his summary appraisal, but I discovered later that it's true that the yearly checkup may not be necessary. Most medical sources I looked at suggested a checkup every three to five years, so I guess I'm on the mark for that.

Still, I'll be curious to see how medical care stacks up in the nationalized health care system. So far, I've been favorably impressed, by the friendliness of doctors and nurses, the ease of making appointments (and lack of waiting time), the organization of medical care (you're assigned to the nearest "ambulatori" which for us is only about a seven-minute walk away), and of course by the fact that there's no exchange of money whatsoever. It's all entirely free. Of course, I have yet to (and hope not to!) require any serious care for serious issues, so it remains to be seen how things go when the going gets tough. (Or if the tough, say, get pregnant.)

Tomorrow I will go in to pick up my blood test results. Do blood tests show that you have a cold? If so, under the microscope the medical technicians will probably see little blood cell guys duking it out for the chance to strangle me with coughing fits. (I know, my grasp of medicine and physiology is astounding, right?)

16 March 2009

Stairs of song

Spring has well and truly come to Barcelona. The sun is steady and bright, the breeze is gentle and pleasant, and buds are bursting out everywhere. We had guests this weekend and they probably stumbled upon the most ideal weekend of the year to see the city. Lucky for me, showing them around involved long strolls by the waterfront; a stop at that welter of sensory overload, the Boqueria market; midnight tours of the gothic quarter; a sunny afternoon at the park; and lots of truly delicious food.

Our internet is mysteriously not functioning today (this will be posted via a tenuous neighbor wifi signal), which I think is the perfect excuse to scoop a couple of books into my arms, grab my sunglasses, and find a park bench or a café table and soak up this pleasant spring sun.

Other of the weekend's activities were musical. My choir debuted a jazz cantata set to Salvador Espriu poems. These works are beautiful in their simultaneous expression of despair and hope, in their expression of love for a place, for a people, for a language. I did a quick translation so our guests could follow along, and here is one of the more hopeful poems, set to a rollicking, exuberant swing.

(If the Catalan title looks a little funny, it's because it's in medieval Catalan, which Espriu took from an 11th century troubadour poet.)

"Levem nos bon mayti e no'ns adurmam plus"
We Awake in the Morning and Sleep No More

by Salvador Espriu

If you want to listen,
open your windows.
Truths climb quickly
on the stairs of song.

In the very heart of night
a new canticle begins
and will accompany your step
at the threshold of hope.

We must burn every memory
of a yesterday full of sorrow
in the bonfires of tomorrow
that today it is time to light.

Look always ahead,
leave your tears behind.
The young sun turns red
rising from the depths of the sea.

Awoken by my nightmare
cry, the eager, slow radiance
of every furrow
walked the wide earth.

It rests on the sand,
white sails burnished.
Riding on the wind’s back,
the keel crossed the mountains.

Within the order of light
we saw the house resplendant
that we wanted to watch over
when thieves misruled.

The air carried the good smell
of new wheat, of goldenrod.
The poppy is saved
from the danger of dying.

Now you hear how the song
broke holes in the chain,
the villainy of fear
that tied up our tongue.

One voice, two hands,
strong hands stretched out.
Wake up, laborers,
for now it is time for work.
Wake up, people of the land,
for now it is time for the harvest.

03 March 2009

Card, credit

Yesterday I finally got my Spanish residency card. It's colorful and iridescent and conveniently fits in my wallet. Hooray! Now I can legally... get started on yet another pile of paperwork that was awaiting my official identification number. Still, it's nice to be official.

Speaking of paperwork, I got a scary loan default letter yesterday, threatening all kinds of dire bad credit issues if I don't cough up the money.

But wait! I have paid off all my college loans! Why am I being bugged for money?

It is because of the folly of youth: in college, I co-signed a loan for a friend. I have not spoken with this person since college, so evidently it was not the kind of friendship that outlasts working together in the resident assistant program. But since she is not paying her loan, I am being hounded (my parents get all kinds of calls as well).

I have tried to find a way to contact this woman, but all I have at the moment is her street address. I guess I'll have to write an old-fashioned letter and ask her indignantly politely to pay her stupid $8.10.

Yes, all of this is over an unpaid eight bucks. Still, it really kind of stinks to be facing bad credit over not a lot of money, and I worry that she will continue to not pay off her loan, especially given the economy, and that this could get a whole lot worse.