paper writing haikus

Writing a paper
Means endless snacking all night.
Sticky sweet keyboard.

Instead of writing
I eschew my paper to
Blog humble haikus.

Haikus seem lazy:
Only partial poetry.
But it’s all I’ve got.

Ironic it is,
My paper about poetry
I leave half finished.

I pray for the morn,
That is, after four p.m.
Freedom shall return.

Dear Mom, this I swear:
I’ll pass, notwithstanding my

Dear brain, love poems please.
Dear posture, you must improve.
Dear screen, why so bright?

Of this I am sure:
I am making poets cry.
I blame Sor Juana.

Oh the apathy.
It’s become antipathy.
I loathe poetry.

Bosque de Oma


To take advantage of the wonderful 80-degree weather today, I joined some friends on an outing to the Bosque de Oma, also known as The Painted Forest, just over an hour bus ride outside of Bilbao. It’s fairly self-explanatory, so I’ll just leave you with pictures and the observations that I am thankful for how easy it is to find blog posts explaining exactly how to get to little places like this and that, to be frank, I found the forest and its puzzle-piece paintings underwhelming. But it was well worth it to be outside walking the gentle slopes in the dappled sunshine. IMG_8207




And when I returned home to Bilbao, it was still just as gorgeous.


“what country are you from?”

I like to at least try to fit in when I’m living in other countries – to outwardly appear as little like the foreigner that I am. I fancy that I passed fairly well as a German when I lived in Germany. But in Spain it’s hopeless. This is my everyday:

My hair swirls around my head in a frizzy, light brown mane as I powerwalk – my natural pace – between and around the sauntering, bronzed Spaniards with their flowing, deep brown locks. For the sake of comfort and relieving stress on my shoulders, my backpack is lashed to my waist with its wide, grey mesh straps, and it bulges with my tennis shoes and other workout paraphernalia, as well as textbooks and a massive umbrella.

I can feel the eyes of the women toting their oversized purses – never a backpack, no matter the load! – fall on me as I pass. Or maybe they’re staring at my blindingly pale arms, which my tank top exposes to the world. It’s 65 degrees and I’m still sweating from exercising; what else am I supposed to wear? Perhaps if I moseyed along at their pace, I wouldn’t be drenched even if I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt, like the rest of the population. I doubt it, though.

My feet are squished into my comfy Toms, which have neither heels nor platforms to make me seem taller. Nevertheless, my strangely broad shoulders stand the chance of knocking some of the Spanish women I pass in the chin. That would be tragic indeed, as I’m uncertain if their wispy frames could withstand a brush with my solid one, especially with their ankles suspended at odd angles several inches off the ground. They might tumble over, their flowy blouses fluttering all the way and their smoker’s lungs wheezing out gasps of surprises. If that happened, I’d grasp their delicate fingers with my meaty paw and lift them to their feet before apologetically speeding away.

They are different stock here, and I’m never going to physically fit in. So I’ll enjoy my sleeveless shirts and throw my fuzzy hair up in a bun on all the humid days, and I won’t be surprised when the first question I’m asked is, “What country are you from?”

misadventures in translation

On my first quiz in translation class a few weeks ago I had to stifle my laughter in the middle of the quiz because of the ridiculous Spanish “words” I was inventing to translate the phrase “four-wheel antilock minivan brakes.”

Today, I didn’t laugh during the quiz but did turn it in with the general sense of unease that comes when you’re nearly certain you royally butchered a key word in the text but you don’t yet know which or how badly.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my version of the short article from today’s quiz, back-translated to English from my painful rendering in Spanish. I chuckled all through lunch.

Please imagine this scene as vividly as possible:

In the results that make obvious that appetite is often a case of “the mental over the material,” a new study says that the memory of a big recent meal can fill you up. But the memory of a stingy portion of food – even an incorrect memory – can make you hungrier and cause you to eat more the next time, said the researchers.

The study published Wednesday in the journal Public Library of Science One, used a naive trick to manipulate the memory of the subject’s lunch: at the bottom of a ferret filled with cream of tomato soup, they installed a hidden pumpa* that they could use to secretly refill or take out its contents while the subjects ate it.

The researchers wondered if the subjects who were tricked by the said manipulation would then remember the sight of the big 500-mg portion of soup they ate or if they would in some manner remember the smaller 300-mg portion they ate. And they wondered if the appetite of the subjects as the hour of dinner arrived would be lead by the lunch they ate or the more satisfying food they thought they ate.

When asked how hungry the subjects were as the hour to eat dinner arrived, the memories of the food the subjects saw – not the the food they ate – had the most influence. Even when their ferrets of soup were being slowly emptied, the subjects who sat in front of a big ferret of soup were less hungry. And they who were presented with a small ferret of soup said they were more hungry – even if the researchers in back of the stage refilled their ferrets.

*I made up a word for pump. It does not exist in Spanish.

Now, the original article:

In a finding that makes clear that appetite is often a case of mind over matter, new research finds that the memory of a hearty recent meal can fill you up. But the memory of a stingy serving of victuals — even an inaccurate memory — can make you hungrier, and prompt heavier eating at the next meal, researchers found.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Public Library of Science One, used an ingenious trick to manipulate research subjects’ memories of a lunchtime meal they had: At the bottom of a soup bowl filled with cream of tomato soup, they installed a hidden pump, which could be used to surreptitiously refill the  bowl while the subject ate or draw down its contents.

The researchers wondered whether subjects tricked by such a manipulation would later remember the sight of the hefty 500-mg serving of soup they were asked to eat, or whether they would somehow register the punier 300-mg serving they actually ate. And they wondered whether, as dinnertime approached, the subjects’ appetite would be driven by the actual lunch they had eaten or the more satisfying meal they thought they ate.

When asked how hungry they were as dinnertime approached, subjects’ memories of the meal they saw — not the one they ate — seemed to be most influential. Even when their soup bowls were steadily drained, those who were seated in front of a large bowl of soup were less hungry. And those who were presented with a small bowl of soup pronounced themselves more hungry — even if researchers behind the scenes were steadily refilling their bowls.

How I came up with the word turón for bowl, I’ll never be sure. I was aware I didn’t consciously know the word, so when turón popped into my mind, I just went for it. My only guess is that it reminds me of the word tureen in English, which is indeed a bowl. And the word turrón (two Rs make all the difference) is a food and also a word I’ve been seeing a lot recently, since it’s a nut-filled Christmas nougat that appeared in grocery stores last week. I guess I combined the two in my subconscious to come up with the unfortunate turón, which literally means polecat – a ferret. It even has the same accent pattern as the actual word for bowl: tazón. Tazón tazón tazón. Heaven help.

alive and hiking Pagasarri


Despite the brooding tone of my last post and my subsequent silence implying that I died from the cold from which I was suffering more than a month ago, I am still alive and well. Indeed, I’m thriving, as much as I believe is possible for me to do during these brief months in Bilbao. The reason for my absence, for anyone who hasn’t heard from my parents or grandparents, is not that I’ve been so terribly busy with schoolwork – though sometimes I have been – nor that I have been having all kinds of grand adventures – though I’ve enjoyed several day trips – and most certainly not because I have a Spanish boyfriend – though it has been suggested numerous times as the best way for improving my language skills. No, I stopped blogging simply because we had no internet in my apartment for more than a month. Our contract with one internet provider ended and with it the wifi in our house. Borja, the seemingly most responsible housemate of the six of us, dutifully contracted a new and cheaper provider, who informed us that it would take some days for the technician to come install a modem/router/whatever was necessary, but it wouldn’t be too long – certainly no more than 20 days at the very very maximum. Oh what lies! The 20 days flew by and so did the next 20, and I spent my precious daylight hours hiking back and forth from the library to do translation homework and my weekend evenings bundled up against the chill and huddled in the corner of an outdoor courtyard, using the school wifi to skype my parents in the bright beam of the nighttime floodlights of my deserted university. I became an expert at typing up a few sentences about my day with my thumbs and keeping my family and best friend more-or-less updated on my life via instant messages on my phone with its precious few megabites of data. And between all that and the rest of life, I had no time to be spending sitting at school typing up blog posts.

As I’m wont to do, I’m making the whole situation sound much more dramatic than it actually was. After I got used to it, I quite enjoyed my increased homework productivity and the fact that I spent entire weekends reading or exploring. Millennial that I am, the computer has an undeniable draw for me, so it was freeing to escape its addictive grasp for a while. Nevertheless, I was thrilled when, after several strangely unsuccessful visits and a number of phone calls, the Movistar man finally descended from his cyber-throne and deigned to provide us with internet on Wednesday evening. “O frabjous day! Callooh Callay!” (I do so adore that strange Carroll poem, just as much as I’m disturbed by his prose.)

I suppose I’ll have to do a bit of back-posting to summarize a few of the notable little trips I’ve taken, but for now let’s just stick with today.


Three friends and I hiked up a small mountain outside of town at the recommendation of one of our professors. We essentially followed some instructions we found on the internet on the way up and then took our own way down, while still making use of the dozens of helpful sign posts along the way.


The hike up Pagasarri from the center of town took us about 2 hours and 45 minutes, including lots of breaks and a few long-cuts. They aren’t kidding when they say “shortcuts lead to long delays.”



At the top of the hill was what’s termed a “refuge” in Spanish but essentially amounts to miniature restaurant, and we couldn’t have been happier to hand over our euros for some large omelette-on-bread pintxos (the Basque name for tapas, essentially), which we enjoyed in the glorious sunshine on the hillside.


When we parted ways after returning to Bilbao, I made a bee-line for a pastery and candy shop I’d spied a few weeks ago, which boasted filled versions (mine had dulce de leche, a caramel-like substance) of my favorite pastry here: the palmera. Though the one I tried was only fair, I intend to dedicate a whole post to my study of the buttery wonder of palmeras in general.

palmera dulce de leche

Now I’m off to spend the evening playing card games with more friends (all Americans, mind you – that’s a longer story) for the evening. We’re even meeting in a bar. Talk about a contrast from my last post. Ha!

Friday night partying


Closed down the library at the insane hour of 9:30pm with a wild translation party. Theme: auto repair. Intoxicating substance of choice: weak lemon cough drops. Decorations: used kleenex. Attendees: a couple hundred empty study desks and me. Result: continued hoarseness, a sorer throat, and general malaise. Time for bed.

canned seafood country


There’s an entire aisle dedicated to canned seafood in the grocery store where I shop. I usually stick to the store-brand canned tuna, both packed in tomato sauce and in olive oil. Sometimes I spring for sardines when I’m in a splurging mood. I have every intention of branching out into clams, squid, octopus, white fishes of all kinds, and anything of interest I can find. But first I need to finish trying all the Spanish pastries. That won’t take much longer, as I’ve nearly exhausted the limited offerings at the pastelerías and grocery bakery sections I’ve come across so far.