Thursday, February 26, 2009

Carnaval: The Sacred Festival of Preparation for the Holy Seaon of Lent

...And by that I mean drinking and dancing on the beach, of course.

As all of you know, this past Tuesday was Fat Tuesday, the day to go wild and eat and drink and party before Ash Wednesday and Lent. Some of you may have even gone to Mardi Gras down in New Orleans. Well, that's basically what I did...except in Spain it is known as Carnaval, and the giant celebration spans the entire week, culminating on Tuesday night with a giant parade, fiestas on the streets, and the biggest dance party you've ever seen on the beach. And by that I mean the biggest dance party you've ever seen...which just so happened to occur on the beach. Not just the biggest dance party that you've ever seen occur on a beach. It's very important to note that distinction.

In addition to all of that, Carnaval is basically like Halloween in Spain, so there were people all over the city in masks and crazy costumes. I was also told that the city we were going to, Sitges, is the gay capital of Catalunya, the Spanish province that Barcelona is in. This was confirmed by the parade which seemed to be composed of about 70% drag queens. However, I paid little attention to the parade, which I slightly regret, as we made our way from the train directly to La Playa..the beach.

The city itself was a mess of confetti, glitter, trash, beer/liquor bottles, cops, and drunk kids. I'm trying to think of a good comparison, but unless you've been to Mardi Gras I'm not really sure how else to describe it. I'm sure most people who live in Sitges were partying as well, but I feel bad for anybody in the general area who was not in the mood to party, because their hometown was raging until at least 7 in the morning. And I can't imagine the army of people and the amount of time it would take to clean up the giant fi-mess-ta that was Carnaval in Sitges.

First off, we elected not to take the buses from Barcelona and try our luck on the train. In the end, we saved about $1oE, and the frustration after people's buses back did not show up and they had to take the train anyway. The train on the way was ridiculous. At each door at the major station where people get on, there were 2-3 police officers whose sole purpose was to pack the trains as tightly as possible. As we were waiting in the giant crowd pushing towards the door, I started asking people when the next train was coming, because there was no way we were going to get on this train. But oh, how wrong I was. Well, I actually wasn't that wrong, because I was literally the last person let on the train...rather forced onto the train. As the doors were closing I was pinballed back and forth between the back of the person in front of me and the cops hands pushing me, but I made it. I've never been in a more perfect situation to use the phrase "packed like sardines," but the train ride wasn't so bad considering i had a full flask to accompany me. I had gotten a bit split up from my friends...about one foot...which meant there were like 15 people in between us, but like I said it was fine. It was enjoyable when the whole train erupted into this Spanish drinking song:
In English, they're saying: "Alcohol, alcohol, alcohol! We came here to get drunk and the result doesn't matter at all!" Also, I still have a bit of a blood spot in my eye from the little incident I recounted in my last post, and two Spanish people thought it was some special contact lens to go along with my costume. I had to explain to them the whole story, but we ended up having a nice little conversation.

I probably should have said this earlier, but I was dressed as a pirate. For throwing it together in a day or so I think i looked pretty darrrrrrrrrrrn good. My costume consisted of: white button-down shirt, black vest (my senora's), gray pants rolled up a bit (capri-style apparently), a black scarf i tied around my waist to hold my sword (also senora's...the scarf not the sword), and this cheap pirate hat I bought at this shop around the corner. Now, you may be wondering..."Hey, Joe, what about an eye patch?" Well, I'll tell you. The eye patch was actually the whole reason I decided to be a pirate. I'm not super self-conscious about my eye, but it still looks a little weird with that big blood spot, so I thought having a costume that allows me to cover it up would be a perfect idea. Well, I bought an eye patch, and I brought it with me...but I somehow forgot it in my friend's room before we went out. An Alanis Morisette song comes to mind. Oh, well.

But, back to the action. We got off the train around 11 or 11:30 and I'd say by midnight at the latest we made it to the beach. Right on the boardwalk-type area, there were 2 giant with a DJ and some sound equipment, and the other that was selling drinks. There were also two..I think there were bottle and one can..20 foot tall inflatable Estrellas (one of the two most popular beers in Spain) and a pretty wild dance party going on. But, we didn't bother with those clowns (not necessarily people dressed as clowns, although that's quite possible, but just the way I sometimes refer to a group of people not associated with me) on the boardwalk and hit the beach (la playa). Strangely enough, out of the thousands upon thousands of people we could have run into, we literally walked right into a group of our friends who took the bus and we were set. At this point the amount of people was not overwhelming, but the beach filled up more and more until 2-3 blocks of beach was totally packed with crazy dancing was quite the jungle out there.

Some highlights from my time en la playa:

-The various times I danced and pranced around in the Mediterranean. It seemed like a great idea at the time, which it was, but my black leather dress shoes surely paid the price. When I got home they were still pretty soaked and absolutely caked in sand. Whoops.
-Acheiving one of my goals of the night: Getting into a swordfight with another pirate. I told my friends on the way to Sitges that I was going to find another pirate on the beach and have a swordfight, and I did not dissappoint. I'm not even sure how it started, but it was up further on the beach. We were going for about a minute when the other guy..who I later found out was Italian..thought it would be better and more pirate-like AKA badass to sword fight in the ocean. I don't even need to tell you whether or not he was correct. However, I did fail at my other pirate goal, which was to call a girl pirate a wench and see what happened to me. My reasoning was, if they were truly in character then it wouldn't have phased them at all, but if they got pissed and walked away or slapped me or something, then they weren't worth my pirate time.
-Petting a baby goat. This was obviously not a goal or an expectation for the night. I'm actually pretty sure no one in the history of the world has gone out at night with their goal being to pet a baby goat, but that's neither here nor there. Someone told me that this guy was carrying around a baby goat and I had to go see. In case you don't believe, there is photo evidence of me petting it, and photo evidence of the guy whose goat it was looking like a real creeper. Apparently there was also someone with a rooster as well? Crazy.

I finally made it home around 7 am Wednesday morning, and got to sleep until noon or so. I felt great on Wednesday, but hit a bit of a wall today and I'm feeling pretty tired. Next week will be quite a a good way and a bad way. I have to outline a final paper for a class tomorrow, have two midterms and a presentation next week...annnnnd Sean's coming to visit Saturday-Thursday. Woooo! But once I survive that it's time for Dublin and my birthday, so some exciting times are ahead to say the least. I'll be checking back as soon as I can and I'll be sure to give you an update on the Brothers McNelis adventure through Barcelona. Here's hoping at least one of us survives to tell the tale.

Hasta luego! See ya later!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ouch! I Experience Barcelona Nightlife in Ways I Never Expected...

Welcome back...back to the time where I'd update more than once every 3-4 weeks. I'm a bit dissappointed in myself that I haven't been updating much lately...just chalk it up to half the time being a bit lazy and the other half being too busy..but either way there's no excuse for the delay. So, I'm sorry. Unless some of you were letting out a sigh of relief that you don't have to suffer through my crazy ramblings just to find out what's going on in Barcelona. So, I guess I'm sorry you folks too...'cuase I'm back.
I hate to come back on an ugly note (literally and figuratively as you'll find out), but I feel like it's necessary to tell everyone this story, because I know there's some people at home who only know some of it or half of it or none of it all. It was quite a horrible occurrence, quite possibly the worst I've experienced, but I made it out alive and I'm far enough removed from it that I can blog about it at this point. For the first few days I was pretty down and out about what had happened, but I turned that frown upside down and try to look positively at the rest of my trip. I didn't want an already awful experience to ruin the rest of my time here in Barcelona.
So, this was Friday night, February 6 I believe. It started out like any normal Friday night for me in Barcelona. I took the Metro to the Residencia Del Mar, where a few of my friends live and many others congregate to do a little pre-gaming and hang out. 1.50E for a litre of beer and 1.09E for a litre of Sangria sure beats going to a bar and paying 3.50-4.50 so it works out nicely...good times and monies saved. But anyway, we hung out there for a bit and then stopped in at our favorite or most regular spot (I don't want to speak for everyone when I say favorite), Travel Bar Port, a mere 10 minutes walk from the Residencia. So we do the norm, hang out, get a few pints, shoot the breeze, all is well. At around 2:30 or 3 in the AM, word is going around that people want to hit up the cloob (Spanish for club, nightclub, discotecque, what have you).
I almost went...bad decision in retrospect...but I decided to do the more responsible thing and head home, because we had a program day trip the next day. I ended up missing this trip, as you will learn, which was basically an all day food fiesta. I missed 5 or 6 courses of legit and delicious Catalunya (the region the Barcelona is in) food and a ton of wine. I've heard its about 50E per person too so you can imagine how much/how awesome the food is. But anyways, I decide to head home because the day was going to be long and start early so I wanted to get some sleep...and boyyyyyyyy did I get some sleep.
So, on Fridays the Metro is only open until 2AM, so I was forced to take the NitBus home to avoid the large cab fare. I almost did take a cab because I was flying solo, but I made the choice (another regretful one) to take a stroll up La Rambla, a long, wide street that is a tourist hotspot by day with shops, restaurants, museums, a market, etc. and apparently a hotbed for shameless criminals at night. Unfortunately, yours truly ran into one of those shameless criminal...except not really because he snuck up on me like a little Sally...and then proceeded to grab me by my coat and slam me down on the pavement. This is really the last thing I remember until two hours or so later, but I can only assume that my forehead/right eye smacked the pavement and I was immediately knocked out. This immediate knock out turned into +/- 2 hours lying unconscious on the sidewalk of La Rambla and I'm pretty sure no one gave a care about me...although I'm sure a few other people rooted through my pockets to find they had already been picked clean by my attacker.
It is a bit scary, but this part doesn't anger me so much. I've been thinking, and I feel like if I was someone face down on the sidewalk of La Rambla I'd mumble something like..."freaking drunk" and keep walking, although I may change my tune after this. So anyway, at some point I must have woken up, although I don't really remember much the actual waking up. The first thing I remember is stumbling (literally) upon Plaza Catalunya, which is more or less the Times Square of Barcelona...except more literally a square. So at this point I was still pretty hazy from the blow to the face, and all I can remember is feeling really overwhelmed by everything, and it seemed like the whole plaza was kinda spinning around me...looking back it kinda reminds me of the Times Square scene from Vanilla Sky, but in a more upsetting way I guess. But either way, I made it there and was still really hazy.
I had no concept of cell phone was gone..but my first instinct was to go to the Metro and try to find a way in..although I had no money..and my MetroCard was long gone with my wallet. I made it down there and was wandering around trying to figure out a way in when a group of kids who seemed a bit older than me happened upon me and I'm sure were a bit horrified by my appearance..I can only assume I was pretty bloody and the right side of my face was quite swollen. Despite my pleadings to just give me a Metro swipe, they thought I should go to a hospital and they took me to the office inside the Metro station. From there I got picked up to go to the hospital, but I passed out almost immediately on the way. What this meant was...I arrived, an American, at the Spanish hospital, unconscious and without any form of ID whatsoever. To make it worse, I ended up being out until about 2pm the next day and I just remember waking up with an IV in my arm. I'm not even sure what they did to/with me, but I assume not much because I didn't get any stitches or anything like that.
They kinda rushed me out of the bed a half hour later, and I began the awful process of trying to contact my senora who was not listed and find a way home without any money for a cab or a MetroCard. Well, let me tell you...if you think hospitals are depressing in general, you do not want to be stranded for 2 hours in a foreign hospital after being attacked/robbed without knowing how you're going to get home. But it was OK, because a magic unicorn showed up...and some butterflies and leprechauns and teddy bears and rainbows..and I rode him home while eating a giant lollipop. Well, not really, but I thought after that awfully depressing hospital description I should try to pick everyone's spirits back up. What actually happened is after a while the nurse got tired of me asking her to look up other numbers and other names for my Senora because I thought maybe I was spelling it wrong..she just gave a single-ride Metro card to get home.
So that is more or less the end of my sad, sad story. When I got home (about 5 PM the next day, Saturday) my senora was a wreck, as you can imagine. She called the program at some point during the day to see if I was on that trip and she just missed me coming in and leaving, but no one there had any idea where I was either. Apparently there was quite a phone chain going on, but no one really knew what had happened, so I caused quite a stir I'm told. Oops.
Well, I've learned that I should never walk alone up La Rambla alone in the middle of the noche. Stupid! I had heard this before, but I think living in the Bronx and coming home myself some nights sort of desensitized me to the reality of theft and violence in big cities. I was also told that mostly in Barcelona there's theft but no violent crime...boy, was my program wrong. Alot of people are saying, though, with the economy the way it is every country is feeling from the bottom-up, and people are getting more and more desperate. Desperate enough to bash someone's face against the pavement (this is not conduct becoming of a police officer...haha old Mock Trial joke just leave it be..I hope at least 1 person gets this though) in order to rob them.
So I ended up losing about 180E or so, with the amount of cash I had and this 3 Month Unlimited MetroCard that cost me a pretty 112E as well as my driver's license, student ID from here, and other assorted things that go in wallets. There's also a good chance I could get some or most of it back with Theft Insurance..apparently that exists.
But all in all, I made out sort of lucky (although the pictures I'm about to post...oh yes I'm forcing you to look at my ugly right eye...may make you think otherwise). For one, I didn't die. I survived, so I can't take that for granted. Also, no damaged/chipped teeth, no concussion, no stitches, just a big ole swollen black eye. I'm also kinda glad he came up from behind me and took me out all in one fell swoop...if I had seen him or had still been conscious after the first hit I probably would have fought back...and most of these dudes carry knives..sooooooooooooo yeah. Well done, me on minimizing the amount of damage.
But I guess the part you've been waiting for or dreading or both is the pictures...I wish I had taken them the day of but the only think I was thinking was...1 not really that straight and 2 give me something to eat god damnit and 3 i want to murder that goddamn (insert bad word here) 4 let me talk to everyone and let them know im alive and sleep forever. But these pics are from the next day I believe. Added bonus...they're sweet MySpace mirror pictures. I am no longer a virgin to this phenomenon. Oh, the things Barcelona does to me.

The next day...the bad bruising began the next can almost see it starting.

This is how I kept the ice pack on my tying a big pillow case around my head like a bandanna. Pretty badass, right? I don't know if any gangs wear orange but if so, I'd definitely be running the ish on that block.

One week later...getting better. The Little Eye-ngine that Could, if you will? Haha..awful.

Well, there you have it. This will hopefully be the only post I'll have to make on a negative note. Wish me luck with the rest of my trip, and I've learned my lesson so I'll stay safe. AKA I'm trying to find a way to register my 9MM in Spain. It's harder than you'd think. Ever since Charlton Heston died, the NRA's foreign influence has really been lacking. Oh well, there are other ways.

But like I said before, expect more posts to come, I promise to stay up on it. I want to. Although these aren't all stories I should tell my grandkids, I might want to have them around when the 'ole memory starts know, to remember the glory days. When I was getting accosted by prostitutes and violently robbed..those kinda days. I think that's what Bruce was really singing about.

Ah, to be young.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mi Casa Es Su Casa...

Well, not really. Nor is mi casa really my casa. But I'm sure if you were here my madre would make sure you felt that way. And feed you a ton of food, and get almost mad if you didn't eat alot and not let you help with cleaning up or the dishes. Just to warn you, this post does not involve anything crazy like the last few, so if you're not that interested in my living situation during my time in Barcelona, then feel free to click the little X on the top right. And then I hope something quite heavy falls on top of you. But, for those of you who read this and don't have FaceBook, AKA my family, I thought it would be nice to show you my digs. (Translation: home) That's some Ebonics for you didn't know I was tri-lingual.

Here is the view from the foyer. You can see straight into the living room, and then there's a storage closet, my bedroom, and then the bathroom on the left. To the right is a shelf with a ton of movies and all these crazy trinkets on top that's in the hallway. She has about the same amount of Disney movies in Spanish as I do at my house, and we have a ton. She has such classic titles as "El Rey Leon," "La Bella y la Bestia," and "Aladino," to name a few.

Here is the view of my bedroom from the hallway. I put a nice Fordham hat up on the shelf there, right next to Flounder. I think her 4 year old grandson uses this room when he stays with her, so she had a bunch of stuffed animals on there when I first came in, and I let her take all of em away except for Flounder. He's a cool dude in my book. To the right is my closet. Sorry I didn't make my bed. I do every day, Mom! (Actualmente, nunca hago la cama.)

This is the other side of my room. There's my desk and my computer with the ghetto looking outlet rigging i have going on. This is where I do all of my blogging and a majority of my communication with people from home, so it's prolly one of the most important places for me in Barcelona. As you can see, I'm repping my FC Barcelona jersey, which is sweet (gracias, Sarah). Still need to get to a game...that will be happening soon fo sho.

This is the view of my bed from the opposite side of the room. You can see my little nightstand and my nice bulletin board with pictures of people from home. The Fam, Ava, Sarah, some Fordham peeps, some of the boys. Oh, and that little shelf is about 1 foot from my face when I'm sleeping. The first 2 nights I slammed my head on it when I woke up, but since then I've only had 1 mishap. Let's hope it doesn't keep happening or else I'm gonna have to make myself some kind of padding. Or sleep with a helmet. (Sleepilepsy? I don't know) We'll have to see.

"Southern Comfort: The Grand Old Drink of the South." This is one of my favorite things about the whole apartment. I feel bad because I couldnt ask for a better and nicer madre while I'm here, but one of the first things I thought was that I should steal it and put it in my apartment next year. If anyone knows what the horse clock is, I'd say it gives that a run for its money. That's not really a necessary part of the tour, I just really like it. And it's my tour so I make the rules.

This is the living room. It's where I eat all my meals with my senora. It's also where I hang out in the evening and struggle to understand Spanish television programming. I'm enjoying the game shows alot, and I might try to watch the Season Finale of "Gran Hermano" (Big Brother) with my Senora this week. Today, she set up a nice lunch for the two of us and we had a few glasses of champagne. The brindis (toast) was to our new President, Barack Obama. Everyone here seems to love him, except for this one guy I met/who ran into me at a bar. It was the night of the inauguration and people were talking about it. He must have overheard and wanted to come diagree with us being excited about Obama. I sort of intercepted him from getting to the huge group of Americans clearly happy about Obama and asked him what was up. He said he thought it was mierda (BS) that he was elected and he was being racist and what not. So I sort of diffused the situation by saying that I agree and I can't believe the majority of my country wants to be ruled by him and blah blah blah. He told if I felt that way I should move here to Spain because something like that would never happen, and that we should sit down and have lunch sometime to talk more about it. He asked for my cell phone number and I gave it to him...after changing a few of the digits, and he said he'd call me in a few days. I've been waiting for his call, but folks, I think I've been stood up. Time to moooove on I guess. Sigh. But anyway, seemed very excited for me and for the US in general. I like him alot (pretty much everything I said to that angry, racist Spanish dude was a lie I just didn't want there to be some kind of altercation) but all I'm gonna say is: Sir, Mr. Obama, you are talking a big game. I hope you deliver. We need it.

These are 3 seperate pictures, for the record. This is all the random artwork hanging up throughout the living room. They don't really go together, but I like it alot. It gives the room a nice feel. And I'm pretty sure alot of them were drawn/painted by my Senora's daughter so she is clearly quite the artista. Before I leave I'll have to make a nice artistic creation to add to the wall...there's a nice spot I have picked out, just need an idea. Or I could put a nice JMcNelis creation in the spot left empty after I steal that sweet Southern Comfort mirror. I'll give you an update in a later post.

Last, but ce-her-taintly (if you watch Scrubs, imagine Dr. Cox saying that. if not, imagining me saying it like it's written) not least, es la cocina, the kitchen. This is where my Senora is at her best...she's such a good cook. She's introduced me to alot of new foods - most I've liked, some I have not. But either way, the food has been a great part of coming here. As some of you know I'm rather close-minded (mouthed?) and picky when it comes to eating, and I've decided to just let loose and try whatever is on my plate while I'm here. I'm happy to report that it's gone quite well. By the end of my trip, however, I'm planning on making my Senora a few American style meals. First of which will be a CheeseSteak...partly because I'm from Philly and I should show her how real Philadelphians eat and partly because I've been craving one really badly. I think after I'm done this post I'm gonna Google "cheesesteak in barcelona" and hope I get lucky.
Well, ladies and gentlemen...we have come to the end of the tour. If you have any last questions please let me know. I hope you have enjoyed your stay at
Hondures, 39 bis
Esc. B, Entl. 4
Barcelona, 08027
(That's my address.) Some day I will also put up a pic of my Senora, Neus Aldrobe. She's a very cute little old woman, and I hope to show you Bernard, her grandson, who is a really cute boy. He can count up to 7 in English and is on his way to learning more, so we help each other out. I've been getting some travel plans together so in the coming weeks expect some craaaaaazy stories from countries other than Spain. Get excited people.
Until we meet's to Obama fixing the world. And finding a place to put the 200 or so prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. My advice: just throw them in. What's the worst that could happen?
Welp, see ya later!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Que Pena! This is What I Get for Trying to Watch the NFL in Spain...

So it's pretty safe to say that today has been mt worst day in Barcelona. By far. Which is good and bad. It's bad because "worst" means by definition that every other day has been better than today. But it's good because my worst day in Barcelona did not involve getting mugged or robbed or elbowed in the side of the head or anything like that. In fact, it involved getting a free burger and 2 free Budweisers. Whaaaaaaa? Oh yes, there's much, much more. I just thought I'd briefly trouble you with that paradox.

OK so first. I quickly mentioned last post this bar I went to with a friend and we played trivia (and came in 2nd). Well, while we were there, they gave us this student discount card that offers a free meal there every day at 8pm. We were gonna go there to watch the Eagles game anyway so we figure ah wat the heck we'll go at 8 for some free dinner and then wait til 9 and watch the game. There's very few places that showed the game here I'm sure, so it seemed like a win-win-win. That last win was me assuming the Eagles were going to show up and beat the Cardinals. But, as we all know (and if you don't, sorry for the spoiler. But you should really know by now; and you probably heard my sobs) they did not in fact show up. Or win.

Well we arrive at Travel Bar Port only to find out that the free meal is being given out at their other bar which is about a 10-15 min walk away. I figure...I've already taken the Metro 30 minutes and walked another 10 for this free meal..what's 15 more minutes. But boy I wish I wasn't so god damn cheap sometimes. We decide to go assuming they will also be showing the Eagles game. We walk into a the bar which is packed with the kind of 20 year olds you would expect to see waiting for a daily free meal. Speaking of that free meal...only one of us got it. And that one of us was not named Joseph Andrew Christopher McNelis III -

-I'm sorry we just gave away the last plate. But if you want to go back to our other bar, the Travel Bar Port. Do you know of it?

-Umm..yeah. I just came from there about 15 minutes ago.

-Oh, ok good. So you know how to get there.

-Yep...I know how to get there.

-Well they're doing a deal there tonight...because it's the SuperBowl...a hamburger and a beer for 4E. You guys should stop by there.

Well, I fell for his little SuperBowl bit and went back to the Travel Bar Port. So we walk back 10-15 minutes, get our seats, our burgers, our beers and start to watch the game. Phew, I thought. But, calamity struck again ladies and gentlemen. About 7 mins into the game, the middle of the first Eagles drive, the lights start to flicker and im like ooook wats going on now. About a minute later, all of the sudden the tv goes fuzzy and all the lights in the bar go out.

Blackout: "Its ok its ok, folks. Just 2 mins. Blew a fuse I'm sure gotta run down and fix it"

5 mins later: "Ooook guys...just 5 min the electrician is on his way we'll have the game back on soon."

5 mins later, about the time the electrician should be showing up, a guy in an apron walks up to our table and says very non-chalantly: "Hey we're gonna have to have you guys put on your jackets and go outside for a few minutes."

As I'm leaving I look to the back of the bar, and all this smoke starts coming out from God knows where. Next thing I see are 2 dudes running back with fire extinguishers shooting all over. So I guess the Travel Bar Port experienced an electrical fire. Whoops. One upside to the bar you're at clearing out because of an electrical fire? They become kind of involved in not having their bar burn to the ground and they forget to charge you 4E for your burger. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

As you can guess, we began Trek #3 between Travel Bar and Travel Bar Port. Luckily we found a table and within 5 minutes we got our "sorry we almost made you die in a fire and temporarily ruined your NFL Playoff watching experience" free beer. Now that I'm settled, I look up at the TV and I do not see the Eagles winning. Nor do I see them losing. Nor do I see any kind of football. I'll give you one guess as to what was on. 5...4...3...2...1.......................................

Well I regret to inform you that whatever you guessed was wrong...because we were watching Snooker. You see what had happened was, the bar we were at currently (Travel Bar) did not have the cable package to get nfl games, but the cable box at Travel Bar Port did. So, as if I hadn't waited long enough to just sit down and watch the damn Eagles game, we had to wait for someone to unhook the cable at Travel Bar Port and walk it over to Travel Bar and hook it up. That was probably another 20 minutes or so. By this time I was disgusted in general, and was expecting the picture to focus and the score to be in the Eagles' favor. Oh how wrong I was 14-6 Cardinals I think? And they were driving...and they scored. And then they scored again. Christ. I was about a split second away from converting the Travel Bar into the "Joe's Beer Traveling Across the Room at High Velocity...Bar". Unfortunately, I kept me cool and nothing exciting happened.

So I went home after the 1st half to hopefully watch the Eags stage an improbable comeback in the comfort of my own bedroom. But, as was the theme of my day, that did not really pan out for me. And let me tell you...the worst way to watch your team lose the 2nd most important game in pro football by 1 score in the final minutes is by yourself in an empty casa, a long, long, way away from anyone who cares that you just watched your team lose the 2nd most important game in pro football by 1 score in the final minutes.

A few hours and a few more profanities have passed, and I think I'm OK now. Once again the Eagles have tugged on our heart strings, stretched them out as far as they could go, and subsequently tore them to only showing up for 1 quarter of a game that requires that you show up for all 4. Even if they had played decently for 2 of the quarters they would have squeaked out a comeback, but it was not to be. I'm not going to comment on the future of Reid or McNabb, because frankly I have no idea. And because I probably give them more credit than alotta people in Philly. It's too early for that anyway. In the end, I have to thank them for the amazing up and down ride that was this season. Hey, we made it to the playoffs when no one else thought we could, and I don't think any other football fans have felt as good as Philadelphia Eagles fans have since Thanksgiving, so I'll toast to that. And seriously folks, after a 25 year drought, did you REALLY think we were gonna do it twice in one year? Come on now. I think we've learned it's better to spread them out, lest we once again become the laughing stock of cities with 4 major sports teams. Oy.

OK, so all in all that wasn't an awful day. But I had to get your attention from the beginning, and if you're still reading now then I have done my job.

I hope everyone is happy and healthy in the US.

Until next time.........GO SIXERS!?!?!

Ha. Good one, jose.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Call Me a Linguist But.......

One of my main goals when coming to Spain was to learn the Spanish language. It's one of my majors and I thought studying abroad would be the best/only way to immerse myself in the culture and get close to the point where I'd be fluent. However, over the last 1-2 weeks I've been here, I'm finding that the encounters I've had in English generally have a better result than my encounters in Spanish or with Spanish speakers. I'll give you a few examples and you decide for yourselves.

First the bad news..AKA Spanish encounters..I might be already biasing your opinion before you read but oh well. And plus, if you're from the US you've had a bias for the past (subtract the year you were born from 2009) years that we (America) are the greatest and best country in the world. Not to mention the first civilized nation to organize a governing body and a set of laws and what not. Right?

-So this one may have come as a result of some friends who do not know the Subway/Metro escalator rules, but still unwarranted. The rule I'm referring to is: If you are riding the escalator up from the station, the right side is for lazy/old people who don't take the stairs and the left side is for extra ambitious/sort of lazy/opportunistic people who take advantage of the fact that you can take the escalator AND walk up the steps, getting to your destination faster than everyone else. So my friends thought that the left side of the escalator was for standing still and waiting to get to the top and talking to me. To their benefit, they asked the guy (who will come into play soon) if he wanted to pass by in Spanish and he just shook his head. However, he was clearly pissed and when he got to the top he "accidentally elbowed me in the side of the head" while putting on his jacket. In other words, the little piece of crap Spaniard cheap shotted me. Now what I probably should have done is thrown him back down the escalator. However, the only thing running through my head was the warning from my program during one of the orientation sessions: "Don't be a hero...they probably are carrying a knife," which was in reference to negative encounters with Spanish teens. The warning they failed to leave me with, but which I found out on my own read, "Don't be an idiot. If a 5'6'', 150 pound Spanish kid punches you in the side of the head, he's probably with his 3 friends who are much larger and stronger than you." Which he was. My best defense was the insults I know in Spanish. So, I told him, in no particular order: maricon, menino, jodate, dejame. If you have time, look em up (if you're a relative and more than 20 years my senior, don't). Thanks.

-Next, I go to a cell phone store where a group of people in my program had bought cell phones the day before. Now, their phones cost them 29euro which is a pretty good deal so I wanted the same. I went up to the counter and asked, in Spanish, for the phone my friends bought yesterday that costs 29euro. The lady gave me a weird look and answered, "No we don't have anything like that. The cheapest phone is 69euro." Right away I knew she was lying, and I had a small fear that people might try to rip us off because they know we're American students. So in Spanish I tell her, "Well, no it's not becasue my friends just bought a 30E phone here yesterday." So she looks a little undecided, goes to the back of the store for about 30 seconds, comes back to the counter, reaches directly below her and pulls out a box. What's in the box? I know the suspense is killing you...but was a cell phone that costs 25E. After that she was quite nice and activated my phone for me and was very pleasant. But, had my amigos not been there the day before, I would have spent an extra 45E or so. Thanks alot, you dumb chica.

-Lastly, I'm walking home from a bar at about 1's a pretty well lit street and I'm totally coherent/sober to start it off. So these 2 dudes walk by me and one asks if i have "fuego," fire or a lighter so he can light his cigarette. I say No, I'm sorry, I don't smoke. So either the way I spoke Spanish or more likely the fact that I said I didn't smoke tipped him off that I wasn't from around here (EVERYONE smokes here it's nuts). So one of them asks me a few things about where I'm from and what not and then we got to talking about the FC Barcelona game that night and how they won and we were both happy about it (he was quite excited that I was an American and still a Barca fan). So I'm going to say bye and he goes to shake my hand...but he did this really weird move where used my hand to like propel himself past the right side of my body...and so as he's walking back past me he (completely indiscreetly) goes to stick his hand in my pocket to go for my wallet. I just hit his hand away and told him to get the hell away. He complied, luckily, and we both just walked away. I got played, yo. Here I am thinking this guy wants to have a nice conversation and he's really just priming me to steal my wallet...EXCEPT HE'S THE WORST PICKPOCKET IN THE WORLD. Like, seriously, that was the poorest attempt I've ever witnessed. I mean, I've lived in Philly, NYC, and seen 3 or 4 different renditions of Oliver Twist, so I've seen pickpocketing on all levels...and this guy was just embarassing himself..I prolly should have just given him 5E out of pity.

So I'm realizing how long this post would be if I wrote allll about my good experiences with English speaking people because they're not all that interesting. I did come in 2nd place in this bar's weekly trivia contest with my friend Austin though. 2nd place gets you a free liter of Estrella Damm, the cheap beer in Spain, and makes you think it's a good idea to do Trivia every Wednesday because you might be able to win 125E. I also had a good conversation in English with a cab driver...and for some reason unbeknownst to me...he really likes the Eagles and he hates the Pittsburgh Penguins. I told him he's living in the wrong city and he should come back to Philly with me in April. He's currently considering it...I'll fill you in on the final decision.

Now I know it makes sense that I would have better experiences with Enslih-speaking people and some Spanish people are probably just pissed because I'm just using their city for 4 months and then peacing back to the US, but I thought I'd have gotten a better reception. And I cannot go on without mentioning my Senora and her family who all speak Spanish but are super nice. She feeds me very well and is always trying to make me eat "mas, mas, Jose." More, more. Also, the amount of new food I've tried is crazy. For my family members who read this, I'm going to compile a list of things I've eaten since I've been here and then you are going to read it and fall out of your chair. I'm becoming a very cultured eater...a far cry from my "chicken buckets" days. I'll explain later for all of you who are confused. OK well I think we can both agree this is becoming a bit tedious. I hope all is well in the States and I can't wait to watch the Cardinals get slaughtered tomorrow. I found a place, aptly named "Sports Bar" where I will be watching it.

Everyone take care and Adios. I'll be back pronto.

Friday, January 9, 2009

La Lengua Espanola: Making Me Look Like a Freak Since 2009

There's a few problems you encounter when you live in a place where they speak a different language. One of them is that, sometimes, the two people talikng don't totally understand eachother because one is talking too fast (the spanish speakers) and the other doesn't know how to say/pronounce correctly everything he needs to say (me). So I've been here about 5 days and I can feel myself getting better, but I obviously have a long way to go. That being said, I would like to humor with a few horribly embarassing yet hilarious "lost in translation" moments.

The One Where I'm a Child Molester...

This one is good, especially since it happened during the first meal I ate with my senora about an hour after I met her for the first time. We were sitting eating almondigas con guisantes y sauza de tomate (meatballs and peas with tomato sauce) and she was asking me about my life, my family, etc. So Sarah came up and I was talking about her a little bit and then my senora asked me "Cuantos anos tiene." Now this was a tricky one because it literally means "how many years have you had or do you have " but it's really a way to ask how old someone is. At this point I was more getting the main idea of what my senora had been saying and not understanding every word so I heard "tiene" (to have) and assumed she meant something to the effect of how long have you had her aka how long have you been dating. So I quickly answered "tres anos," three years., but that was not the right answer at all. So what did I actually tell my senora less than one hour into the 4 months I would be sleeping under her roof, eating her food and having her do my laundry? Yep, you guessed it. I told her I had been dating a 3 year old. And as you can imagine, hilarity ensued as I tried to explain that one.

The One Where Inquire About the Forms of Entertainment Barcelona has to Offer

So as part of my program there are a number of small groups put together and each one has a "Guardian Angel," a Spanish student who is our fearless leader - a guide to the city, the culture, being a student, know, all the important things we need to survive. One day we took a pretty long walk around certain sections of Barcelona, and one of our stops was going to be a store to buy cell phones. Now, the Spanish word for cell phone is "movil," like mobile phone, and pronounced (MOH-veel). I wanted to make sure I had enough money to get a phone and some minutes, so I decided to ask my Guardian Angel (Carlotta is her name) in Spanish. So I marched up to her proudly (at this point most of my group had been speaking English to her and I wanted to impress her with my superior spanish knowledge). So I said to her, "Carlotta, cuanto cuesta un movil?" Well, I either didn't say it loud enough for her to hear it perfectly or I didn't say it correctly (yeah, I'd put my money on B too), but she gave me a very odd look. And it was no kind of look you would expect when you ask someone how much a cell phone costs. Soo what had happened was, she thought I asked her, "cuanto cuesta un novio?" Now for those of you who don't know, and for those of you who do as well, novio means boyfriend/girlfriend, but it can also be a nice way to say prostitute. After we all came to the realization that I was in fact talking about a cell phone, I was able to make light of the situation...I quickly smiled and told her, "Pues, no tengo que pagar para eso."

Translation - "Ohhh, I don't have to pay to get that."

The One Where I Get My Wish or The One Where No Still Means No

This one doesn't really have to do with the theme of the post, but it would be a crime not to tell everyone about it (and, as you'll learn, a crime in itself). So I get off the Metro (subway) and have about 10-15 minutes to kill before my amigos were going to arrive. Since I'm new to Barcelona I like to walk around and get familiar with different areas of the city as much as possible and thought this was a perfect opportunity. So I'm walking along this pretty wide pathway with streets lined with bars and restaurants on either side (I believe it was called La Rambla Catalunya) and as I'm walking across the street a 23-26 year old African woman approaches me. She was wearing jeans and a plain tank-top type shirt, rather conservatively for Saturday at midnight. She locks my arm with hers and asks me if I want to go get a drink somewhere.

Thought 1: Man, I do look pretty good tonight I guess Spano-Africans are not shy people.

Thought 2: Woah am I getting jungle fever?

Thought 3: Maybe she's a club promoter trying to get me to come to her bar/disco?

Thought 4: Wow there's three other girls that look pretty similar to her hanging out on that corner in half shirts and............ohhhhhhhh she's a prostitute...sweet.

I stopped in my tracks and tried to tell her "No" every way I English AND Spanish. She told me she really liked me, wanted to show me this really fun place, and a few other things that I would probably write if I didn't send my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents the link to this blog 10 minutes ago. I eventually was able to shake her off by telling her I wouldn't go anywhere with her unless she gave me $1000 Euros. Needless to say, I will never forget our night of passion.

I hope you all enjoyed laughing at my expense. I've only been here for a week so I'm sure 4 months will bring bigger and better things. It's only a matter of time before my lack of spanish knowledge and my trust in people/stupidity at not knowing this lady was a prostitute strikes again.


Adios amigos...


Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Welcome to my (Joseph A. McNelis III's) Barcelona, Spain Study Abroad blog!
I've never written a blog but I thought it'd be a good way to get down my thoughts/events/feelings about this awesome experience I'm about to have. I've never travled out of the country either, (I don't think the Canadian side of Niagara Falls REALLY counts...if you want to argue, be my guest) so I'm pretty much diving head first into this whole traveling thing. So I guess I'm doing something new to describe the process of doing something cute.
So to begin, my trip went very well, especially the 8 hours I spent in first class, engaging in such activites as eating Seared Red Snapper with Pecans over Rice and Steamed Spinach, watching a private screening of Edward Norton in "The Incredible Hulk" and playing with the remote that could adjust pretty much every section of my seat (thanks Uncle John!). The city of Barcelona is quite large and a bit intimidating, but I'm forever grateful to NYC for preparing me for a place like this. It's B-E-A-utiful as you can see from the picture, and I'll be putting up more of my pictures on SnapFish periodically.
I've met some awesome people already and I'm sure there will be more amigos in the future. It may take a while for all of us to get to know the city, but I figure if we go out every night until the wee hours of the morning and explore all the bars and discotecas (dance clubs) we can, we'll have it down in no time. (Breathe, Mom, it's just a joke) [sort of!]
Classes start tomorrow and while that's something I'm not looking forward to it'll give me a chance to meet some more people and get back into the groove of speaking Spanish - two of my main goals while I'm here. It's a little unnerving to live in a huge city where you don't know your way around and don't always understand the people on the streets, but I'm excited to jump right into the culture and do as much as I can while I'm here.
Well, that's all for now. Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to leave me love/comments/questions/requests/ALONE!
You stay classy, Estados Unidos...