Wednesday, December 28, 2005

photos to come soon!

I'm back from Israel!! A follow-up chapter with photos will arrive soon, stay tuned!! :)

Happy holidays to everybody, may your new year be filled with wishes coming true and renewed energies!

Love, H.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Ah! Barcelona ~

A new NIKE store

a regular NIT BUS (night bus)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Christmas Market near the Cathedral

These little guys are called 'Tiós´, much like the piñatas in Mexico, which the children hit with a stick, the Catalan children hit their ´tiós´ with a stick and immediately go hide. The point is to get the ´tiós´ to SHIT sweets... (side note, the Catalans often associate themselves with the act of excretion and Christmas together. There is another dude who sits by the nativity scene and does his business, topped with the popular red hat old Catalan men wear). Once they return, the ´tiós´ have been covered under a blanket, and if the children have been good during the year, all sorts of Christmas sweets will have been ´shitted´ by the tió and can be found under the blanket, such as turróns and polvoróns, if they have been naughty, instead of sweets, they will find coal under the blanket....coal?? after all that big talk about sh*ting?

Every year, the Christmas market around the Cathedral draws tourists and locals alike to the center to celebrate the month-long chaos before the holidays. Today, we joined the crowd and fought our way around on a cold, but sunny afternoon. As dreadful as the crying babies in strollers, pickpocket experts at their busiest season, and the kitchy ornaments may be, as soon as we enter the vicinity, the smell of the Christmas pines and that special crisp in the sunny afternoon air so characteristic of the winter always cheer me up.

It seems like the stalls sell the same crap year after year and the same 'hot' spots get hit by different herds of tourists day after day. As we strolled around the old town today, a renewed sense of wonderment came over me. Yes, it has been the same old cathedral for a few centuries already, but its 'face-lift' project has led to the façade to be covered with plastic, contrasting the pointed roofs in the back which still implied its old grandeur and splendor. And this afternoon´s sun had casted a special light over the entire entrance, along with the bustling market. Although probably not what we had imagined to be ´picture perfect´ to have the great cathedral covered in pastic, it is nevertheless, a process which calls for embracing, like a bump in the road which we call life. While Nabí was too shy and embarrassed to be taking any pictures, for the fear that he may be misconstrued as a tourist, I was clicking away left and right. By doing so and ´feeling´ like a tourist, I, once again, rediscovered a city which has now grown familiar and tiresome to me.

Then it dawned on me, what I´ve been searching for all along: the delicate equilibrium between keeping traditions and discovering a renewed sense of awe in familiarity. The traditions don´t change, we do. Isn´t it the foundation which to keep us grounded since invariably, we change year after year? Our experiences bring a new sense to the tradition. The Christmas carols stay the same, at first, we sing them as children, years later, we sing them TO our children, then to our grandchildren. The same melody, but a whole different story behind every year and every generation. The beauty of it is, that we don´t even have to strive to change, it happens whether we like it or not, our constant change is the only constancy in life.

A fruitful and meditative walk, indeed. I thank the noisy children and the pushy parents, the innocent tourists and the haughty towners, for contributing to a virtual mosaic in my memory, not much unlike the stainglass window on the Cathedral.

Capella de Santa Àgata, where I hope to play a solo concert next Spring

advertisement of an exhibition by Santa Àgata

sunny street

grouchy Nabí outside the bakery

´the scene´ at Plaça St. Jaume

bustling Plaça St. Jaume

piano waiting for confession

2 cutties outside the store with products by local nuns neary Sta. Maria del Pi

farmer´s market at Plaça del Pi

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Dinner at Andrea's

Someday, I am going to get Andrea to teach me how to make pasta from scratch and the perfect pizza crust, but for now, I have had the immense pleasure of trying his 'stuffed' sardines and the divine pasta sauce with the local shellfish and cherry tomatoes.

It's true, I should have thought about taking some pictures BEFORE we ate all the food, but obviously, when surrounded by the intoxicating mixture of garlic, parsley and parmessano cheese, my mind (and body) was inclined to keep vigilence near the food rather than risking losing my food to the guys.

This is the detective work I did while helping (investigating) Andrea prepare for the feast:

Pasta with Local Shellfish (Galeras) and cherry tomatoes:
Sauce: cut shellfish into 2-inch segments, fry with heated olive oil and crushed garlic. While waiting for the tails to turn into a deep shade of dark pink, half the cherry tomatoes and throw them into the mixture. 'Help' the tomatoes by gently pushing them against the side of the pan until pulpy. Ready in 5 to 8 minutes, add chopped parley and salt before turning off the stove.

'Stuffed' Sardines:
I keep on using quotation marks for the 'stuffed' part because somehow, I feel something that is 'stuffed' has to be 3 dimensional. Andrea's delicious sardines were thoughtfully filleted sardines (done by the maestro himself), and 'topped' with the stuffing, so the end result looks like a thin stack of heaven. After laying the dried and filleted sardines on a covered baking sheet, he smoothed the stuffing on top of each fillet.

The stuffing:
grated parmessano, moist old bread, chopped parsley with half a clove of minced garlic, mix all the ingredients together to a mass of 'dough', divide and spread on top of the fillet.

Since I was overly concerned with the arrival of the actual EATING part, I failed as a journalist as well as a sou-chef to note the important details, such as the amount of time and the degree of the oven. So I will take an educated guess that it should go in around 190 to 200 Celcius for about 10 minutes, or until the topping/stuffing turns golden.

Our friend José, brought over the most wonderful array of desserts to share. I plan to visit this amazing bakery with desserts from 3 Michelin stars restaurants at my earliest opportunity. I believe the bakery is called Dolsos, and is located on Carrer València, for those of you who live in town. There were three types of cakes for all of us (imagine a big smile on my face): tiramisu (but I mean, TIRAMISU, not just some wet, soggy sponge cake that most restaurants call tiramisu), a close version of Sacher, with rasberry filling, and a divine (I should really stop using that word so frequently with food) triple-textured chocolate cake with crystallized hazelnut cream. Thank you, God, and thank you, José!

The happy quintet after three bottles of cava, white AND red wine (and fancy sparkly water for me :)

Andrea, discussing the fine art of brining freshly picked olives from Cadaques

Alfred :) looking and acting much like Mr. Bean

Consequently, Andrea is a double bass player from Nabí´s orchestra, so here is his sleeping beauty, resting peacefully.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

One of the drags about living abroad is that one might have to work on certain holidays, but of course, by default, you get all the benefit of the new adopted festivals and day-offs as well :)

While I was rehearsing with a student today, I happened to look out the window, and saw someone walking on TOP of the National Theatre (Teatre Nacional), but not hooked or attached to anything, and I blinked once to make sure I saw things clearly, and there were two of them. Needless to say, the rehearsal had to be halted for me to whip out my camera and take a shot at these two crazy people...

You can see the 'La Polla' building behind if you scroll down to October 31st blog, and get a true meaning of the height of this roof!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Paul Badura-Skoda

The battle of the old and the new: today I sat in on Badura-Skoda's masterclass, he taught both modern and forte-pianists. After hearing one player from each instrument, and Badura-Skoda's comments on the fortepinaist, I thought to myself, what a wonderful and opportune postition he (B-S) is in, having equal respect from both modern and early musicians, and thus can diplomatize between the two. There was an overwhelming amount of modern pianists present, both teachers and students, not too many people showed up from my own department, the 'earlier' side. Clearly, those who went had one 'team' in mind, and it didn't occur to me while I was listening to his class, that he felt necessary to address the co-existence between the two instruments, and the common repertoire they share. What a rare opportunity, and what a waste of opportunity to bring understanding between the two. After all, what is the point of having these two instruments side by side, playing pretty much the same repertoire back to back, ignoring the parallel yet controversial relationship between the two?

He produced an amazing range of timbres on the fortepiano which was very captivating, but has a tendency to be a 'piano teacher', and likes to sit at the piano and talk and play to himself endlessly. His Spanish was surprisingly fluent and commanding, and I was happy to see a great number of people at this event.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Salvia Discolor

after a relentless day of rain yesterday, I snuck out to take a few photos during the ´dry spell´ today...

this is one of my most treasured babies from three years ago, my friend Gerard took me to a ´Sage Exhibition´ near Maastricht, and here it is today!! I wish I had taken a picture of its baby stage (mere a few inches tall) and the mature babe it is today :)

The foliage is textured and a bit furry, with a mild, pineapple scent. The stems are strong and sticky. The shade of the flowers is a dark metallic indigo, which borders black. It is plain beautiful, one of my all time favorite plants in the garden.

It is not as easy to propogate as the ordinary kitchen sage, out of 10 attempts, perhaps 3 will take root if lucky. If anyone is interested in some, please let me know, I will try to raise some more :)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

It's Not All Roses and Candies

I think I may have been disillusioning my friends and families from afar in how 'rosy' life may be here in Spain, or in fact, Europe in general. I took this photo today on my way out to the grocery store, this is directly outside our front door. It doesn't matter how many times the city sends its trucks, there are always people looking into the bins and taking things out, AND NOT PUTTING THEM BACK!!! Clearly there are poor people hoping to find gold in the garbage containers, but I have seen normal looking citizens poking their heads in the bins on a regular basis. If you can just let your imagination run a little, imagine the Mediterranean heat in the summer and the explosion of city waste from these bins...

The following photo was taken a few months ago, this is one of the SIDES of our house.

This mysterious sight of a torched car stayed on our street half a block away from our house for more than a month, and was reported to the police over and over again, but the city never came to pick it up.

Visca Catalunya!

Here is one of the reasons which makes living in Spain such a joy...
This morning (noon), I woke up to the beautiful music of Haydn´s cello concerto, played by one of Nabí´s students in the living room. Her family used to be in the fishing business, and still have easy and cheap access to whatever comes through the tide. Ocassionally they think of us when it happens :) oh how I love my husband who teaches Marta, that has a father who brings us fresh catches from the sea :) Life IS good.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Shanghai - a Kaleidoscopic Illusion

After the Barcelona Barroc went on its Scandanavian tour, I took two weeks in September to go to Shanghai, partially to reconnect with my college roommate Michele, who would meet me there to explore the city together, partially to visit my mother, but also to observe the rapid and astounding changes taken place in this fascinating place.

What strikes me most each time I am in Shanghai is the amount of people, but more importantly, the amount of westerners. Every time I go, I see more non-Chinese, and they speak better Mandarin than I do. What's REALLY weird is that, in a crowded market, I would pick them out, and feel a strange and irrational comfort with the westerners because this is the version of people which has surrounded me most of my life, and probably contributed to some of the subconscious distortion of how I 'see' myself, but also I too, find a crowd of billions of Chinese faces daunting and unfamiliar. But then, as most people who are travelling in a country where they tend to stand out, the western tourists would look straight through me as a part of the mass crowd BECAUSE of how I look, and that look of indifference and distance usually sobers up whatever disillusion I might have about myself, as an Asian American.

I find these observations fascinating, because the western influences contribute an incomparable color of the multi faceted growth in Shanghai: the foreign investment, the foreign tourism, the foreign studies. All aspects of the 'new west', when mixed in with a city which is advancing so quickly, but at the same time, holding on to its own strong and rich history and culture, create a distinct, illusive and unidentifiable flavor. One smells it in the air, and it's in the mirage of skyscrapers and the temples hidden between them.

Everywhere you turn, there is a sense of mixture. An innocent cab ride at a stop light, you see from the midst of a grey Gothem city, an old bicycle carrying an entire dead pig on the back. In fact, I seriously contemplated doing a portrait book on what people carry on their bicycles in China. It would be my futile attempt to snap a shot of a momentary glance, to slow down the whirling traffic of the exploding 'progress', and the same quickness with which it disappears. The snapshot could also be an old lady crouched down on the side of the curbs, selling jasmine flowers outside of Starbucks. Or it could be one of those heartbreaking stories about the countless young women losing all their senses of the self to the rush of money making, or a foreign business man's family break up because of a love affair with a young Chinese woman who might not even speak a word of English. It is literally there, everywhere you turn, you hear or read about a transient story of an unimaginable emotional magnitude, but quickly forgotten by the world the very next day. There are simply too many people, too many stories, and too much money to be made to linger on one thing, and one thing only.

And that, that is how I always feel when I'm in Shanghai, washed along by the incredible pace of life, overwhelmed by the racing steps of the pedestrians, drowning in the undecipherable Shanghainese dialect. Like all big cosmopolitan cities, even the 'trends' go in and out at an incomprehensible speed, every year I go to visit my mother, she has the 'newest' and the best restaurants to show me, what happened to the best ones from last year? "oh...that one went out of business...". Everything is included: fashion, food, real estate, even the medical trends, traditional and/or western. There is just so little time to stop and look, to think, to live. It's as if the city is on a new mission to go somewhere, a pre-fixed destination that someone has appointed, but nobody knows where. It is terribly exciting, one cannot help but join in the race, the lights, the luxuries, the possibilities.

In a place like this, nobody's story matters except the successful ones.

Michele, Mom and Me

I am attaching a list of books on China for those of you who might be interested in going and visit someday...(the following was taken from an email to my college roommate), or just to keep track of a nation which is going under such rapid changes that before you know it, will become completely unidentifiable.

Here is a list of books which might interest you to read about China...I
hope you can find some, and enjoy reading them


Stuff to read to 'get in the mood':
I read a disturbing but intriguing book by a young Chinese author called
Shanghai Baby, it's a bit like Henry Miller meets Anais Nin...but in a younger Shanghainese version. Entertaining, very good writing at times, and one can get a good taste of how the city 'culture' is in the coming generations. The author's name is Wei Hui.

Another interesting book I read not too long ago was an autobiogrphical book by Ken Cuthbertson, titled Nobody Said Not to Go about the life of Emily Hahn, a woman journalist for the New Yorker in the turn of last century. Her life story is absolutely amazing, she was a strong young woman, who, at one time, became a Chinese poet's concubine in Shanghai. I like this book because it takes place during the 'golden times' in Shanghai, in between the end of imperialism and the opium times.

Now for some excellent writings, very updated and insightful writing and reading, these are more jornalistic books, but my favorite and very, very informative about China in general:

The Good Women in China by Xinran, heart breaking real stories about the unknown women and unknown parts of China, written by a prolific and soulful writer, I know my 'review' sounds cheesy, but I truly truly believe in this author and found the book powerful and disturbing.

The River at the Center of the World by Simon Winchester, I read this a while ago, and remember loving it, can't remember much else about it now.

Soul Mountain by Gao Xingjian, I'm guessing the last name in this case, is Gao. Excellent meditative writing incorporating observations about China. NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE...!!

China Wakes by Nicholas D. Kristof, and Sheryl Wudunn, a couple who are reporters for the New York Times, this book won them the NOBEL PRIZE FOR JORNALISM...!!! I read this even LONGER time ago, and re-read it again a few years ago, still love it.

photo requests

some of you who have not seen me for a while have requested some 'visuals', so here I am... :)

photos by: Herms

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Happy Birthday

sending love out to

Abby (Massachusettes)
Baruch (Arizona)
Aberto (Italy)

Have a wonderful birthday!!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

Today I saw my new favorite movie in Icaria "Secret Life of the Words" by a Catalan director, Isabel Coixet. Beautiful, beautiful film.

So, on the way back, I took some photo of the new city landscape building, 'AGBAR' (Aguas de Barcelona)...a Spanish water company, which is also known to Nabí´s 87 year-old aunt as the ´suppository´, or as the rest of the city calls it, ´la Polla´...:)

dinner party with Alfred and José

dinner menu:

pumpkin and sweet potato soup with coconut milk
broccoli and tofu in creamy garlic peanut sauce
Thai fish cake with cod, cilantro, lime, green chili and red curry
chocolate cheesecake

Thai fish cakes

guests of honor:
Alfred and José

photo by: Nabí