Archive for October, 2009

This post dedicated to my friend Andy, for whom sailing is leaps and bounds above any “rowing-type” nautical sport.

Someone up there in the heavens, manifested in the form of the ESADE “Sea and Wind Club*”  granted my wish of learning how to sail. Better still, it was a regatta race, not just your average day out on the high seas. It’s been on the Nina To-Do list for about 6 years now, and due to feasibility problems–have you ever tried to convince someone in NYC to take you out on his 40 footer?– taken a bit of time to realize.

The sensation of being propelled forward via manipulating the wind through mechanical engineering made me feel damn proud to be a human being. Working the jib (smaller sail in front of the mainsail) on a few of our tacks (turning the boat to have the wind hit the sail from the other side) was super cool. It’s a hell of a workout turning that crank, which explains Popeye’s large forearms.

Our Competition

Four sloops, each 40 feet in length, accommodated our group of about 30. In our boat we had nine people, four of whom had previous sailing experience. I chatted up a woman who learned to sail by answering a New York online sailing forum query. She went on to join a sailing team in City Island (Bronx), and thus got herself involved with a crew of insanely competitive lawyers, and their boat, for four years. For the first few hours we practiced sailing up and down Barcelona’s coast, tacking, and just took in the views. The wind finally picked up, and we had our first regatta race. An imaginary line between a black and yellow buoy and a boat inside the port provided the starting line and we set off, parallel to the coast, towards the finish, about two kilometers in the distance. The team blamed our loss on the false start of one of the boats, but we made up for it by winning the second regatta, hands down. I happily trimmed the jib, and took orders. Sometimes its kind of nice to be in an atmosphere of hierarchy, where only experience can earn you rank. Chefs in their restaurant kitchens come to mind. To round out the day, we cruised into one of the city’s ports to scope out the visiting Russian luxury yachts. I spotted a speedboat with two guys, one of whom was wearing a wetsuit. Surprised that there was diving in the area, I was corrected in my thoughts by being told that these were the boat divers, responsible for scraping the barnacles, which cause friction, off the bottoms of the sailboats.  A boat with lots of seafood on its underbelly is known as having a ‘dirty bottom.’ Hehe.

Fun sailing terminology:

  • Starboard: right side of boat, looking forwards
  • Stern: left side of boat
  • Bow: front of boat
  • Aft: back of boat
  • Boom: horizontal spar (pole) to which the foot of the sail is attached.
  • Tell-tales: little strings tied to the sails or masts that help tell which way the wind is blowing. Pretty low tech, but still common.
  • Trimming the sails: adjusting the angle of the sail, by loosening/tightening or letting it out/taking it in

Lessons Learned:

  • Seamen use a daunting amount of jargon
  • There is more than one sail and one rope to operate
  • 80% of the time nothing happens/there is no wind, the other 20% you scurry to change the sails and try to keep your head from getting whacked
  • You don’t “grow out” of sea sickness
  • Drinking and driving? Ok

* I’m not joking, they really have one of those. Business school. Typical

Chilling in the Aft


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Today I got lost in a labyrinth. I stood, puzzled, at fork after fork, as children scampered underfoot, some cheating by contorting their nimble bodies between the hedges.

Finally making it to the center,  where 10 more paths were now visible, Dani, our “guide” for the day and Yi-Hsiu (‘Isho’),  his bud and Dim’s classmate waved to us from a bridge in the distance, content that they had already finished. I squealed with delight, setting out to finish the maze.

The Labyrinth

The Labyrinth

Dani and Yi-Hsiu at Parc del Laberint dHorta

Dani and Yi-Hsiu at Parc del Laberint d'Horta

Other things that have made me happy as of late:
1. Got to see the Thermals at BeCool club this Saturday, a great alternative band from Portland, and whom I  missed when they came on tour to NY.

2. Improving my tortilla skillz. Had some peeps over on Friday for dinner. This time the tortilla only slightly cracked at the critical moment of flippage, which was easily covered up by herbs. Thank god for herbs. And copious amounts of wine brought by very generous guests.

3. Dim on bike. Thought I’d never see the day. He joined the city’s bike-share program, called Bicing, and finally got to try it out today.

Dim rollin on Bici

Dim rollin' on Bici

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In Memoriam

I just found out that Diego Calvo, my Spanish teacher from Buenos Aires, died this Thursday from lung  failure. I kept putting off an email telling him that I miss him. That my current teacher sucks. And all written in Spanish, so he could see the product of his teaching efforts. Well, I waited too long, and he never got my email, because I never sent it.

Diego with mate in class

Diego with mate in class

This summer at Spanish language school in Buenos Aires, I weaseled my way into a higher level class. And so I met Diego, my teacher. He was such an odd lot– only 31, but divorced with two small kids. He shared stories of squatting for some time with gypsies in BA, of working for a newspaper in Madrid, of ghostwriting three novels.  Although us students begged him to bring him some of his work, he slyly rebuffed us, saying they were too ‘nightmarish.’  He claimed to be an anarchist, but for all that that implies, hated to travel and was content living in the neighborhood where he grew up. One day he came in wearing high top Doc Martins and a Gogol Bordello shirt on his small frame and I realized he was, by far, the coolest teacher I’ve ever had. He made us yerba matte  in class, and brought in pastries Friday mornings just because, even though I knew his finances were strained. He got super excited when you asked him questions about grammar, and had some other choice words for the likes of his ex-wife. He was hysterical and sad and chain smoked Camel Lights on the patio during breaks.

Here is the last correspondence I received from Diego after emailing him the photo, above.

    Qué lindas fotos Nina!
    Lástima la cara de culo del profesor.
    Cómo que el subjuntivo no te lame??? Qué escandaloso!
    Extraño esa clase, fue muy divertida.
    Besos a todos!


See? I told you he was funny. RIP Diego. I’m really going to miss you.

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About two weeks ago Barcelona celebrated La Mercè, which is the largest, most important holiday for the city. I meant to write about it then, but it took me some time to recover.  Also, Katy and Paul were here for a special birthday visit from Holland  and we were somewhat busy eating tapas.

Some notable events of the festival we saw included: the correfoc, a pyromusical, and a Go Team! concert.  What is a correfoc, you ask? I was initially under the impression that its a parade with fireworks, but that’s sort of like saying that methamphetamine is like a cup of coffee. From Wikipedia:

    Correfocs are amongst the most striking of Catalonia’s festive events: “devils” play with fire and with the people. These devils are not the incarnation of evil; they are sprightly and festive, dancing to the sound of the drums and the traditional gralla, while they set off their fireworks.

Turns out it’s the day the devil comes out and scares the crap our of Nina. Imagine about 40 troupes of people, 20 per troupe, all dressed in costumes that involve devil horns, pushing 20 foot tall paper mache dragons, who spit 20 or so rounds of roman candles on the hoards of surrounding spectators. For about 5 hours. I’m hazy on the origins, but the most notable aspect of the correfoc– running under the firework sparks, started after the Franco regime was over. That year the local children decided to run into the firework sparks, instead of away from them, and so the tradition began. All the locals, who were clearly more prepared than us, came wearing hoodies, bandanas, and long sleeved clothing. Dmitry, Katy, Paul and I cowered and screamed like little girls each time a dragon approached. I’m pretty sure I singed a few hairs on my arms, and the audio sensation was what I image residents of a city under siege feel–the earth shaking, the sky lit up in a thousand places, eardrums popping, running and yelling, endorphins flowing through your body ripping your heart to pieces.

Fire breathing dragon

Fire breathing dragon

Running for my life

Running for my life

Little Damian

Little Damian

Between the madness, we made it out to the beach a few times. Turns out even the quiet bay in Barcelona gets some gnarley waves, and the surfers come out of the woodworks.

Katy & Paul vs. the wave

Katy & Paul vs. the wave

The city spared no expense at the finale fireworks ceremony. This “pyromusical” was exactly that. Music started to play– lots of American doo wop for some weird reason, and to its beat explosions of colors and stardust sprayed across the sky, illuminating the palacial looking Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in the distance. The fountain in Placa Espanya was in on the game, and the water jumped and changed colors to the rhythm as well.

My favorite part was towards the end, when after an announcement, sparklers magically materialzed in the hands of the thousands of spectators (save us four) and everyone waved along. So beautiful!

I hate to pit my fave cities against one another, but I think Mercè wins over the NY Halloween parade.

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