26 May 2009


I shouldn't be blogging. I should be:

1. packing

2. writing any of a gazmillion emails I have to write

3. attending to details for renting for the downtown apartment (new renters move in soon! but too many pesky things to do/fix/print/sign/move)

4. finding housing for a semester

5. finding housing for several of the five cities of my summer peregrinations

6. buying plane tickets and changing old ones

7. sorting through rafts and reams of papers and books to figure out which ones to take with me, with is basically:

8. packing

I really would like to bury my head in a hole, ostrich-style. (Do ostriches really do that? Or is that a myth?)

Oh! I would also like to write about Hungary, and how cool Budapest was, but that's not what I should be doing.

I should be packing.

19 May 2009

May days

I realized the last post is a little too "woe is me!" so I should add that despite it all, it's May, and May in my opinion is The Best Month. When I was in high school, my birthday was just a week before a good friend's birthday, and in calculus class we declared those five days--by writing the words across the empty squares in my calendar--a week of AWESOMENESS. So in my mind, when May rolls around, the awesomeness begins.

This weekend we celebrated my birthday and my sister-in-law's birthday and my father-in-law's saint day in an omnibus outdoor dinner, and I got to choose new clothes from my mother-in-law's store, always a fun prospect. Meanwhile, back in New England, celebrations for my nephew's birthday and my mother's birthday (today!!!) and mother's day and some April birthdays thrown into the mix were also underway. It's a transatlantic party for both sides of our family!

The weather is perfect, the kind of weather I wish it could be year-round, sun and breezes and cool evenings. Our plants are going gangbusters, the balcony doors are permanently thrown open, and even though I don't like the haircut I got yesterday, my husband tells me I'm pretty.

Like I said: awesomeness.

Happy birthday, mom!


One would think that we've got enough on our plates, what with moving a truck of stuff out of one apartment in order to trip over it in another apartment, and with cleaning and fixing up yet another apartment so we can (finally!) get renters moved in. Oh, and there's the question of preparing for our trip to the US next week, which for me may turn into a seven-month stretch rather than a two-month vacation if I decide to just change my return ticket instead of buying new ones. Because it seems that I am going to be back at my university stomping grounds in order to teach for the fall semester. Which also means finding yet another apartment to live in (will we never tire of not living in one place?), and also implies the terrifying prospect of packing a suitcase that will suffice for seven months.

But no! That's not enough, evidently, because we're leaving for Budapest on Thursday. Thursday, as in the day after tomorrow. The trip--the Mister will be speaking at a conference and I'll be a plus one--is actually a compromise, because he was initially planning to be in Budapest and then Bucharest until next Wednesday night (we leave for Philadelphia on Thursday morning). I said I didn't that would be a good idea, except I said it in a slightly more forceful manner. But after we ruled out Bucharest, compared to returning the day before our flight to the US, returning four days before from a shorter trip seemed totally doable, and I was tempted by the glittering idea of a weekend escapade in a country and a city I've never visited. So I said I'd go along, and that's how I find myself about to go to Budapest.

Maybe Budapest will be a good break, though, because all of the other stuff is, to say the least, stressful. I'm nearly paralyzed by the magnitude of "to-do" and the spiral of "what-if" and the sadness of "don't-want-to-leave." The not wanting to leave Barcelona part is not just about spending Fall Semester in the great wide midwest; it's also about the Mister being a candidate for a (really really fantastic and prestigious) job in.... Brussels. Yes, the place that sapped our energies over several years with its uncannily gray skies, and the place that we just turned our backs on in a diesel-puff of exhaust smoke.

Which is why I'm counting on Budapest, one B-city that at least has no emotional connotations in my life, to be a clean slate of a weekend getaway.

14 May 2009


In my last post, I referred to the van as a beast, and I after four solid days of driving it, I did not waver from this opinion. We encountered a bit of everything: mountains and rain tempests and hailstorms and border-crossing traffic, and I freaked out regularly (am I doing this right? is the engine supposed to sound like that? what gear am I supposed to be in? should I wait for him to move or try to squeeze into that spot? how will I get out of this space? what if something is behind me and I can't see it?). We learned that big huge vans, especially ones loaded with books and furniture, go pretty slowly, and that it takes sixteen instead of twelve hours to travel from Barcelona to Brussels or vice versa. But there were long stretches of smooth sailing, I learned to trust my sideview mirrors and find the clutch's sweet spot, and we had really good luck across the board.

First of all, the city driving went very well on both ends. And secondly, we were buoyed by the kindness of strangers and friends: the passer-by who parallel-parked the van for me in a tight spot (in front of our house!) in Brussels, the neighbor who carried furniture down the stairs with the Mister, the car rental agent who gave us a 35% discount, the neighbors who took other items off our hands for us, the Sicilians at our favorite neighborhood pizza place, the friend who cooked us dinner when we had no kitchen, the friend who gave us a ride when we didn't want to move the perfectly parked van, family who arranged for help when we arrived in Barcelona, and so on.

We sure did need help; those four days of driving were interposed with one and a half days of frantic packing and paperwork and carting of heavy objects up and down many flights of stairs. The good news is that the van is gone and the stuff is now in our apartment, even the sofa (we planned to sell it, but the buyer backed out and the van was so big that we could take it for its first road trip to Barcelona).

The bad news is that the stuff is now in our apartment.

As in, we now have two households worth of things crammed into our already-small space. This morning we did some major rearranging to accommodate piles of boxes and suitcases and furniture, none of which we have room for. I'm quite disheartened by the impossibility of it all, and the major projects we will have to tackle just to incorporate and/or sell or give away the stuff we didn't have time to deal with in Brussels. On our drive back, we solemnly vowed never to buy anything ever again.

But it feels really good to have one less household. For the first time all of our wedding gifts are in one place! My summer clothes and my winter clothes are in the same city! The two Murakami books that were in Brussels can sit on the shelf next to the two that were in Barcelona! All of our financial records can be merged! And so forth and so on. All thanks to the beast.

09 May 2009

First gear

Of the rental car companies that I consulted, only one had vans available that we could take out of the country. But they were out of minivans, so we had to go with a cargo van, the size-of a nine-passenger dealio. But then they didn't have any of those actually in the lot, so we were upgraded to an even bigger size, the kind with the roof pushed up like a bouffant hairdo.

The idea of me driving this beast through the French countryside is simultaneously amusing and terrifying. We have reservations at a little bed and breakfast for tonight, but I have visions of getting the van wedged into a tiny village lane, so I might just end up parking on the shoulder of the highway and hiking in from there (kidding, I think).

I've hardly driven in Barcelona, and never in Brussels, so I'm also nervous about negotiating my way in and out of the cities, neither of which is known for its pleasant and patient drivers. I guess there's something to be said for learning as you go, but: gulp!

If you need me, you'll find me in the slow lane.

08 May 2009

Birthdays are the best

Over our fancy-schmancy lunch, I was reminiscing with the Mister about birthdays of my past. They range from the bad (during college there were always exams on my birthday or my friends had already skipped town) to horrible (sleeping in a dingy train station before arriving at a new place where I knew no one) and the fantastic (surprise parties on two occasions, once in high school and once in Salzburg) to the ideal--days like today.

I have had a smile on my face from the moment I woke up--well, not entirely true, since I almost never have a smile on my face when I wake up--and even though we have been cleaning the house like crazy, it's been a perfect day. The Mister made me breakfast, with presents on the side, and took me out to the aforementioned fancy-schmancy lunch, with presents on the side.

This year also marks the first time I'm in Barcelona for my birthday, and I'm quite irrationally happy about it. In a few hours many of our beloved friends will arrive to celebrate with us, and I've been able to talk to my mom and my sister and my nephews over the internet (to everyone else: I'm online, give me a ring!). The best part, though, is simply being with the Mister and loving our life together.

I'm thinking thirty-one is going to be a great year.

06 May 2009

The game

During the historic Barça-Madrid soccer (football) game on Saturday, the Mister and I were sitting on a little spit of land near the lighthouse in the Costa Brava town where his family has an apartment, and where we had gone to spend the sunny long weekend.

We had intended to watch the game, of course--this being the one game of the year that even non-sports people like us really should watch. But we were going to watch it at a bar with our sister- and brother-in-law and our nieces (games like this are available only on cable), but then they got invited to a friend of a friend's house, and we didn't really feel like being the fifth-wheel relatives of the friends of friends. Besides, we had a lot to talk about (see previous post) and the sun was setting so prettily over the Mediterranean.

So we found ourselves strolling out onto that spit of land, with a perfect view of the round curve of the harbor, and had been happily ensconced for some time, when all around us came a roar, as if we were smack in the middle of a stadium field while the crowd was doing The Wave. Followed by air horns and firecrackers, so we knew: Barça had scored.

And in that way we kept track of the game, which basically consisted of continual Barça scoring. Back at the apartment later, we watched replays of the (six!) goals and the delirious crowds at the Canaletes water fountain on the Ramblas, the traditional place for fans (culers) to gather and celebrate.

I am reminded of this tonight because right now as I type, the town is going wild: horns are honking madly all over the city, firecrackers are going off every few seconds, every sleeping dog is now barking, and people are screaming their heads off. I can pick out a voice yelling "Baaaarçaaaa!" over and over. I reach the only possible conclusion: Barça just beat Chelsea for the Champions league semifinal. (Or not: a bit of googling reveals they actually tied, but it's as good as a win because their goal gives them enough accumulated points to advance to the final.)

If I hadn't known earlier that a game was going on, I would have thought that a large group of men were having a nasty, curse-laden fight in one of the apartments below, because they just kept yelling and swearing. All the building windows are open due to the weather, and one can hear any of the neighbor's louder activities.

And on nights when Barça is playing at home, we can even hear the roar of the crowds from the stadium, just a few blocks away. With this kind of excitement, who needs cable?

04 May 2009

Next move

It's May. Our plans for the future change every day. They now may involve any or all of the following: teaching in Indiana for a semester, moving back to Brussels, staying in Barcelona. For the first time in a long time, I can't concentrate on what I'm reading and have trouble falling asleep because I'm worried about big abstract puzzles, like The Future, and What I Am Going to Do in It, and How We Are Going to Get There.

There are also short term complications. For instance, given that the Mister only needs to travel to Brussels a few more times over the next few months, it made sense to move out of the apartment there. We did manage to find someone to take over the lease so as to avoid paying a two-months'-rent penalty, but now that means, um, actually moving out of the apartment. By May 15.

The Mister looked into moving companies, and the cost of moving our furniture is more than the sum total of the worth of that furniture. So our new plan is to sell what furniture we can, and abandon or give away the rest of it. But there still remains a goodly pile of clothing, bedding, books, kitchen items, paintings, decorative objects etc. etc. that we want to bring to Barcelona.

So, if all goes well, next weekend you will find me driving a minivan or a small truck over the midsection of Europe with the Mister, in a marathon session of highway miles and heavy lifting of boxes up and down flights of stairs (remind me why don't we ever live in apartments with elevators?).

It's not how I envisioned my first large-scale European road trip, and it's not how I envisioned spending my birthday weekend. But a road trip it is, and in that sense it should be fun, I hope.

We're still stuck on what to do with the piano, though. Yes, the piano that cost more to hoist up to the second floor than it did to purchase. Any ideas?