Archive for August, 2012

Speaking Franspagnole and Festa Major de Gracia

Carrer Joan Blanques, Barcelona, Festa Major de Gracia 2012

Carrer Joan Blanques, Barcelona, Festa Major de Gracia 2012

So I’m speaking Franspagnole.

That’s a mix of French and Spanish.

My brain can’t handle this transitional period. I actually forgot the verb “to be” in French. To be, y’all!

Festa Major de Gracia, Barcelona

Who am I?

This may be an eternal question, but in this case, I just wanted to remember how to say it. No answer required. The verbs ser and estar kept getting in the way and usurped je suis for nearly 3 days!

Other examples:

When trying to make an appointment for Wednesday, I could not conjure the word mercredi. (Miercoles, miercoles!)

The check came for a couple drinks and I gave the server a billet of diez, not dix.

I went to Castorama to pick up a new bookshelf (more room for books!) and didn’t even realize half my sentence was in Spanish and the other in French. (Hay une etagere en blanc?) I wondered why everyone was giving me strange smiles.

Last night I finally managed to string a few whole sentences together (and was told I sounded Brazilian!).

So, I think I’m getting back on the right track.

Before my Barcelona bliss and buzz fades completely, however, I wanted to document the week-long party that happened right before I left. (It was all for me, right, Barca? I love you, too!)

Dancing at the Festa Major de Gracia, Barcelona

I’m very excited to have a new post over on the hip web magazine, Untapped Cities, about the Festa Major de Gracia. It’s pronounced differently in Catalan, but it is a major good time.

Hop on over to read the post…plus see a TON of photos.

Fiesta, fiesta! (I mean, fete, fete!)


End of Summer Mantra (and the Return to Paris)

A decorated street during Festa Major de Gracia

Paris has welcomed me back with sunshine. It’s warm and glorious and everything it wasn’t when I left. This makes my reluctant return after nearly 2 months in Spain easier.

I offer this idyllic image first because my journey home last night looked like this:

Continue reading ‘End of Summer Mantra (and the Return to Paris)’

Why I’m Still in Spain (Photo Edition)

Beach at Calella, Spain


“When are you back?” my roommate texted, aptly noting that my teaching duties had come to an end, and yet I wasn’t exactly clamoring to return to Paris.

I wrote back to explain that I wasn’t really sure when I’d be back. I was having a great time. And I was offered a free place to stay the whole month of August if I wanted.

“OMG!” My phone lit up again a few minutes later. “You met somebody!”

Continue reading ‘Why I’m Still in Spain (Photo Edition)’

Creative Writing Class Wrap-Up

Remember the last time you were really angry with someone. Now write about the incident from his or her point of view.

Parc Cervantes

Imagine you’re driving along an unfamiliar road. You hear the engine running, feel the strap of the seatbelt holding you in. Is it light or dark outside? The car stops. You step out. What do you see?

Write a poem of questions. No answers. Just questions.

Write about one of your scars.

Our bohemian writers’ day in 4 Gats Cafe

These are some of the prompts I used this summer in my creative writing class.

We usually began the day in this way, the first 20 minutes of our daily 3-hour class spent freewriting.

I’ve always loved what appears on the page during these exercises, seeing the material our subconscious alights upon when we turn off the internal censor. It was a privilege to hear what my students came up with. No matter what I threw at them – pick 3 words from this hat and use them in a scene! Look at this random object; now put it in your writing! “Translate” this Zapotec poem even though you don’t know the language! – they set right to writing and astounded with their imagination.

Writing in the garden: University of Barcelona

So it’s kind of ironic that after a month spent urging others to write (write! write for your life!) I am having trouble myself.

I keep feeling like I need to tell you all about my summer in Spain, all these new experiences, all of this stuff…but I don’t know where to begin. I don’t yet know what it actually means.

So I’ll start with what I know so far. In some ways I did a better job this summer than I thought I would. In other ways, I just scraped by by the skin of my teeth. That pretty much sums up what a first teaching experience would be like, right?

The great thing about the program is that it emphasized “experiential learning.” As in, these students didn’t fly across the ocean to sit inside every day. Each teacher was charged with getting them out and about, to use the city as the classroom.

For a subject like creative writing that’s both straightforward and something of a stretch. We can write anywhere! Everything is material!

Of course, on certain days the link wasn’t always so obvious. Why did we go to that garden to talk about story structure? What does this museum have to do with plot?

Continue reading ‘Creative Writing Class Wrap-Up’

Guest Post and GIVEAWAY: Time Traveler Tours: A Phoenix Rises

Phew! This past month teaching creative writing in Barcelona has been intense. The program wrapped up yesterday, the end of an exhilarating, exhausting, and amazing ride. I was inspired by imaginative students, learned my way around a vibrant city, made new friends, reignited my love of Spanish language, doubted myself then grew in confidence: Wow. I am really doing this!

I hope to share more soon, but there’s a lot to process. In the meantime, I’m happy to have a special guest on the blog today. I’ve known Sarah Towle mainly online the past couple of years and “watched” as she developed a new app designed to bring French history to life for young people. I got the chance to catch up with her in person at the Paris Writers’ Workshop, where I was a presenter right before I left for Spain. (Did I tell y’all about that? So many exciting things this summer!)

Sarah is here to tell us more about her journey and to offer FREE DOWNLOADS of her app to three lucky winners. Thanks, Sarah!

Time Traveler Tours: A Phoenix Rises

Sarah Towle of Time Traveler Tours

Mine was an (im)perfect beginning in every sense of the word. On the one hand, it was Paris. With its iconic sites, belle vie and bonne cuisine, not to mention limitless opportunities to access history and culture, what was not to like? On the other hand, the French authorities made themselves perfectly clear: As the trailing spouse, I would be forbidden to seek work in my profession. In fact, I would not be allowed to work at all.

My reaction? They’ve got to be kidding!

I refused to believe they were serious. This was the globalized 21st century. I had 25 years experience, much of it international. I had impressive degrees, having studied and worked at major universities around the world, and great recommendations. And I’d been brought up to believe that with a positive outlook, some good old-fashioned ingenuity, and as much perspiration as necessary, anything was possible. I was certain that, given time, I’d be able to make the right connections and find my way around, under, over, or through their laws.

But I was wrong. French bureaucracy is a truly formidable foe. In the end, it wore me down. It turned me prematurely gray. I gave up, threw in the towel, raised a white flag, but I would not surrender in defeat.

If I was going to work, I would just have to start over.

It never occurred to me to blog. Instead, I took the more traditional route. I decided to write a book. I would combine all my experience, passions, knowledge, and skill as a language teacher, expat, mother, historian, and world traveler to write a new generation of travel guide for the next generation of traveler.

It would be a mash up of the Horrible Histories and The Lonely Planet, a kind of American Girl Series, but for historic destinations and targeted to a slightly older crowd.

Called Time Traveler Tours, each chapter would be a voyage to a different era – starting with the history of Paris – in the company of a narrator/tour guide whose actions helped shape their time. In addition to a cool story, readers/users would be compelled forward on a custom itinerary thanks to treasure hunts, games, and puzzles related to the sites visited along the way.

Continue reading ‘Guest Post and GIVEAWAY: Time Traveler Tours: A Phoenix Rises’

paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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