AKA Abraham Bacoln

I’m still asleep, actually – the coffee did nothing
July 28, 2007, 1:58 am
Filed under: Spain

Uff, what a day(s).

I got up on Friday morning, feeling a bit ill. I’m sure that was just stress with regards to my test, having to get my luggage ready, knowing I was leaving, etc. Sure enough after the test I felt better. I finished up my classes by 2:30 and actually found myself sad to be leaving the school grounds for the last time.

My last lunch with the family was great, as usual. A soup of lentils and chorizo, a tortilla (did I tell you already that that means something different in Spain? – a potato and egg pancake-piething about an inch thick), a side salad of tomatoes, green peppers, and onions, and dessert was fruit and ice cream. It was SO GOOD.

I spent the afternoon packing my luggage and sleeping, and then went out with Ludi. We ended up at the bar at the beach near the school where all the staff is rude and the prices aren’t that great. However, it’s close and has a great view of the sea and downtown Málaga, so that’s worth something. We got cocktails for once instead of the usual red wine. Mixing it up! Living on THE EDGE!

I needed to be at the airport at 11:00 PM to check in, so I decided to leave the house at 10:00. You know, to be safe. The Málaga taxi service is intensely efficient. Now I don’t know how the phone numbers are laid out in Málaga but it’s entertaining to watch the Sra. call a taxi. She dials 952 33 33 33 (easy enough to remember, right?) and then when someone answers all she says is ’36’, the apartment number. No neighborhood, no street name … just the number. The taxi service is that good. Like magic.

The taxi arrived before she’d even put the phone down and I was on my way. I had just enough money with me to be able to take a taxi to the airport and maybe grab a snack there (because I had neglected to eat dinner). Well, planning to be early worked in my favor, because we got stuck in a miles-long traffic jam almost immediately. We crept along as I watched both the meter and the clock, and finally things cleared up about a half-mile from the airport.

When we finally stopped the meter read 32.84€ and I had only 31€ to my name. He was gracious and accepted the lesser amount, of course. It was a good thing because I would have hated to have to kill a guy my last day in Spain. At least I arrived with 15 minutes to spare before the start of check-in.

Aaaaaand of course once I got through security I went to the food court which was still open at midnight, amazingly, and found that HOORAY their credit card machine was down, which meant NO FOOD FOR ME. I sat around and listened to Mitch Hedberg to improve my mood. Once they finally announced our gate I headed in that direction and found another little store still open at 12:45 at night and they sold me a bacon and onion panini, hot even. I was worried about having that kind of food sitting in my stomach before a flight but NOT TO WORRY, my flight was DELAYED.

Actually this was the first time in history that I haven’t cared about my flight being delayed, because I knew I was looking at a seven-hour layover in London/Gatwick airport. In fact, that’s where I am right now. I slept for a while on a bench downstairs and it made me proud. Finally I’m one of those people.

There should be a law that one should never have to disembark from a plane at 4:00 AM and try to understand an airport’s rules with regards to immigration, customs, and so forth. Long story short since the departure area isn’t open at 4:00 AM I had to officially enter the UK, so it’s now stamped on my passport, and here shortly I’ll depart again. I debated looking for a train or something into downtown London but decided against it on account of A.) it was 4:00 AM and my eyelids were closing whether or not I wanted them to, and B.) I’ll be damned if I’m gonna miss my flight back home. So. I slept on a bench, with my belt functioning as some odd umbilical cord to keep my carryon attached to me and a red bandanna over my eyes making it look like I was waiting for the firing squad instead of my airplane.

And now … well, now I’m here. In Gatwick, not speaking Spanish anymore, listening to some beautiful English accents, and some horrible English accents, and oh man I saw this girl here … she … man. I saw her from the side and she looked like someone I knew in Portland. When she turned to look at the monitor above my head, though, I almost choked on my breakfast. She had thick thick glasses and was slightly walleyed – those combined with the shape of her face made her look uncannily like Brick Top from the movie Snatch. I could hear his voice coming out of her mouth.

To finish: six weeks ago on the way out to Spain I had my watch set to Spanish time. It seemed believable, like a little trick I was going to have to do. Oops, got to lose a few hours! *poof*

Now I keep looking at my watch, at Cookeville time, and this trick looks a whole lot more difficult. I have to make time appear. I don’t know how to do that one. I mean, it’s 7:52 AM here in London and 1:52 AM at home, and … how does that work again? It’s no wonder people get jetlag. I am not equipped either intellectually or physically to deal with this kind of thing.

July 25, 2007, 10:56 am
Filed under: Spain

I have been thinking about this particular comic every day for a week now.

Click for the rest of the strip, please

That’s a Beartato strip by the absolutely malfunctioning Nedroid. I suggest you check out his stuff if you happen to have all afternoon to lose yourself in his creations.

In other news – literally, I guess, I mean I watch the news here every day at lunch and this is ALL they talk about – the Spanish police have finally captured this country’s most notorious criminal: El Solitario (AKA The Loner if you’re not into that whole Spanish thing). I think the thing that amuses me about it is not that everyone’s all excited – which they should be because this guy has been robbing banks and stuff for 13 years now. That’s a long career in the world of bank robbery if you ask me. No, the thing that interests me is how distinctly American this makes me feel. He robbed some banks, he killed two civil guards and one policeman (all allegedly, yes yes) and he uses – *gasp* – guns. The TV showed a shot of the agents going through all the stuff in his house and the gigantic cache of maybe three or four guns and a couple of boxes of ammo and I thought, “Man, I know kids who have received more firepower than that at their baby shower.”

Time is drawing near
July 24, 2007, 4:57 pm
Filed under: Spain

Just so you know, something has happened in the last 24 days. On the 29th of last month I wrote about how I’d purchased a book of Stephen King stories translated into Spanish and how reading it was a complete pain. Well, I picked it up again today. Admittedly I intentionally did not bring my dictionary with me when I went to read it at dinner, so I forced myself to not stop for words I don’t immediately understand, trying to glean from context. Still, it’s impressive. I can actually pretty much read it now. It helps a lot that it’s something I’ve read before, so that’s additional context, but still.

I’m happy. I’m able to read some.

Looks like it’s going to be another rough couple of days. I’ve resolved a lot of the personal problems that were bugging me (regarding plane tickets, class scheduling, etc.) and now I’m just left with … well, with another test this Friday. And the desire to go out to eat a few more times. And more hours of classes each day. And more homework.

So what I’m trying to say here is that I might not – gasp! – I might not write here again until after I return to the US. I know, I know. I’m sorry. I just got a lots of works to do.

There’s this … well, I’d always thought it was a cliche about Spanish women and their hand fans. Turns out, no, it’s still very real. I see them on the news when they take those shots of people in the park sitting very still because it’s too hot to think. I see them in the hands of the professors. I see them on the street, I see them in the stores, I see them everywhere. Women here carry (and use) fans. It’s great.

Not one but two of my professors cursed the big bad words today, one in Spanish the other in English. The best part was that the Spanish one was written on the whiteboard in the middle of a pile of example sentences, plain as day, looking all sweet and innocent. I didn’t even know the word – I’m not fifteen, learning bad words in a foreign language is not my primary goal – and neither did anyone else, apparently. But now I for sure know how to say, “F—! I forgot my keys!” in Spanish (Spain Spanish, not Latin American Spanish). She even translated directly into English to ensure that we understood. I’ll teach you later.

I’m going to grow my beard back. I have decided. I miss it.

I also miss my shower, my Ivory soap, my bed, my cat, and you. All of you.

In closing: I finally saw her today when I was on the train. The young woman. The one I’ve been looking for the entire time I’ve been here. The girl with the tan-but-not-too-tan skin and the jet black hair in an immaculate part and pulled into a perfect ponytail. It looked wavy, probably easily teased into ringlets. Shining hazel eyes, perfectly proportioned face. She was wearing a hip red and black top with black slacks, and had one single silver necklace. She looked classy yet relaxed and fun. She smiled constantly, laughed with her friend. She looked like she would belong on the streets of the business center in a suit, or be equally placed dancing flamenco in traditional costume at 3 AM during the festival. I finally saw the embodiment of what I have in my mind as the appearance, the prototype of the classic Spanish woman.

We shared the same train car for three stops and then she got off. I didn’t talk to her, I didn’t want to talk to her. I had my headphones in, I couldn’t even hear her voice. I was just content, as content as in a museum passing from piece to piece and then seeing that one painting or photo or sculpture that really grabs your attention … but you can’t stand there all day, you have to move on, and you can’t take it with you.

But now I’ve seen it.

Now I’m ready to go.

so there’s that then
July 23, 2007, 5:23 pm
Filed under: Spain

I had a little realization the other day. I like Spain.

Thing is I expected to love Spain, and I don’t. I just … I don’t know. I thought I was supposed to love it here. Granddad lived here. It’s on the Mediterranean. I like the language.

But I just don’t love it here. I like it. But I don’t love it.

Now I realize completely that I’ve only seen a very small part of this entire country. There are other cities I’d probably like more than Málaga and other cities I know I’d like less. There are areas with different weather, culture, food, and everything else. However, I’ve talked with the professors here, and with students that have traveled far more extensively than I, and everyone agrees that while the other parts of Spain are different they’re still Spain. The mindset and function is still Spanish.

And I’m not even trying to say anything bad about this place. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Well, of course there’s something wrong with it, there’s something wrong with everything – nothing, no place, no one can be perfect. But I have no complaints with Spain, nothing directly negative.

I feel I’m not getting my point across. Perhaps having to think and speak a foreign language for weeks has messed up for often brain make with talking and thinking words for use.

My point is that when I got here I contemplated (fantasized, imagined) what it would be like to live here, what it would be like to be here forever, and slowly, finally, I came to the conclusion that it just wouldn’t ever happen. I don’t love this place enough.

I’ll be glad to visit again but never for this long, I don’t think.


Boring words start here:

I have a farmer’s tan. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I just don’t go to the beach enough, I suppose. I put on my sunscreen but apparently there’s only so much it can do against the sun, every day, and I don’t walk around town shirtless to even things out.

Here’s the Create Your Own Joke section. I suggest one about me blinding everyone with my pale white skin. That’s bound to get big laughs at the Giggle Hut. New! Fresh!

Lunch today was a salad, a plate full of entirely too much fettuccine with chorizo and zucchini, and fresh honeydew for dessert with a slice of carrot bread (think banana bread with carrots instead) on the side. I consider today’s meal a scientific endeavor. Every day at lunch I am fed too much. Most days I have to push myself to eat it all, but I try real hard. The two (or three) times that pasta has been served I have had no problems. Therefore pasta == dangerous in that I will eat whatever’s put in front of me, regardless of quantity.

You could probably kill me with pasta is what I’m saying.

But please don’t.

I just checked my notebook for things to write about and I think I’m going to have to skip writing about how I had beside me an old worn and scuffed drinking glass filled with room temperature water – I picked it up and as I lifted it I smelled, and it smelled so intense … no, that’s wrong. The scent itself was minute, miniscule, but the emotion underneath was forceful. It didn’t smell exactly like but instead simply reminded me of the smell of fresh clean skin, out of the shower, warm and now dry, and subtle. No lingering residue of soap, no perfumes, just the fragrance of another human being, close, so ephemeral that you really have to put your nose to their skin to even notice.

I have to skip writing about that. I don’t think I can get the point across correctly.

Ronda with no H
July 22, 2007, 6:53 pm
Filed under: Spain

Stop me if you’ve heard this one – I really should be going to bed, or doing homework, or anything other than writing on my site. However, because of my extreme dedication to the cause of Bringing You Pointless Information I’m doing exactly what I shouldn’t.

I’ve been having a lot of fun here in Málaga but I don’t go much of anywhere. I mean, I can’t go anywhere during the week, I have classes. I spent my first weekend here jetlagged all to hell. I spent a couple weekends trying to get out to Granddad’s house. I went to Nerja one weekend. But really, for the most part, I stay here in Málaga. There’s always something to do here.

Well, I realized my final weekend was coming up and I needed to choose between going to Ronda or going to Granada. I know that technically I could have done both since there are two days in a weekend, but Yuri left on Saturday which meant that we had to celebrate on Friday, and while I didn’t do anything that would have left me with a hangover I did stay out WAY too late, and therefore getting up at the crack of dawn would have been a bad idea if not simply impossible.

So … Granada versus Ronda. The Alhambra versus a quaint city. I was really not sure until various people with whom I spoke said that A.) there ain’t much else in Granada other than the Alhambra, and B.) I’d probably have to buy tickets in advance ’cause this is tourist seasons, blah blah blah. The thought of a bunch of arrogant Brits wandering around and getting into all my shots annoyed me, so I chose Ronda.

The bus ride out there was expensive and I couldn’t even buy a round trip ticket. Aside: I love the Spanish for round trip: ida y vuelta, or going and coming. So on the way out there we traveled west/south across the Costa del Sol until we hit Marbella. I now really understand why they’ve taken to calling it the Costa del Concrete. It was almost impossible to tell when we crossed from Torremolinos to Benalmádena to Marbella – it’s all nothing but gigantic apartment and hotel buildings and a bunch of golf courses. I know that Spain needs the money, or thinks it does, and that golf is an attraction. I just wonder if anyone remembers that A.) there’s a water shortage here and B.) the coast is pretty much a DESERT. If you add the two of those up then … yeah. You get it.

So after we left the vibrant party town (or so I hear) of Marbella we headed north up into the mountains. At this point I was falling asleep but fortunately the bus kept me from achieving my goal. You know how it is when you’re falling asleep in the car and your neck starts to relax? The bus had my head whipping from side-to-side faster than … oh, hell, I don’t know, insert some sort of political or au pair joke here. I’m gonna let you write that one.

After an hour or so of roads that eventually got a little bit sketchy in the sense of fast bus, tight curves, and big dropoffs we arrived at Ronda. Thus began my comedy of stupid! Or errors. No, stupid. Comedy of stupid!

There were two things I really wanted to do in Ronda. Wait, no, three. One, I wanted to see the Puente Nuevo – “the new bridge”. It’s a stone bridge finished in 1793, therefore “new”, ha ha. Secondly, I wanted to see the plaza de toros as it’s the oldest bullring still in use in all of Spain, plus there’s a good museum. Finally, I wanted to be able to get home.

I checked a map inside the bus stop. Looked pretty easy to find the plaza de toros. Just head south ’till I reach the church, a few blocks east to the plaza, and that’s it. A few blocks further east and I’d be at the bridge, and man! That was easy.

So I went up to the ticket counter and took care of the last thing first – got myself a return ticket. Then I asked the guy, “Which way is north?” Because, you know, that’s important to know when you’re trying to navigate by a map. He showed me and off I went. I walked south for several blocks and didn’t see the church. I just figured that maybe the map on the wall in the bus station didn’t list the smaller streets, so that’s why I thought it was three blocks but instead it was more like six. And did I mention the map was fixed on the wall? I couldn’t really take it with me, so I was working by memory.

But I found the church! No problem! Now just a few more blocks east, maybe another six or eight since the map said four, and one or two blocks south, and I’d be at the plaza. Or so I thought. I coudn’t find that damn thing to save my life. I was starting to get frustrated when I realized suddenly that I wasn’t wearing my bracelet.

I flashed back to when I was riding the bus and took it off to look at the tan line it has left on my wrist. I must have fallen asleep immediately afterwards and dropped the bracelet. CRAP. I turned around and went back to the bus station where I managed to remember, correctly and in the right order, the words for hello, bracelet, bus, forgot, please, search, found it, there, here, thank you, good bye. That was satisfying. Bracelet found!

While I had been out walking around I realized two things: one is that I was starving hungry, and the other is that this town, Ronda, takes its siesta very seriously. Most places close up the usual shops but coffee shops and restaurants and bars stay open. Not in Ronda. While I’d been searching for the bullring I’d been surrounded by the sound of protective barriers sliding down and keys in locks. By the time I made it back to the bus station and recovered my bracelet I was rather literally alone on the streets.

I did manage to find a cafe next to the bus stop which was open and that was a bad sign because you know anyone that caters to the bus traffic crowd isn’t concerned with awesome cuisine. Still, I didn’t feel I had a choice so I ate there and didn’t die, and that’s something.

After my food, while the very air itself left the streets of Ronda and I was the only thing in existence out walking around, I went back over to the bus station to check the map. As luck would have it there was an even BIGGER map outside. It must have been missing the same small streets because it as well told me that the church was only three blocks away. Undaunted I headed in that direction.

Church – check. Plaza de toros – nope. Well hell. It must be a secret. I decided to head towards the bridge instead and just find the bullring on my way back.

I walked and walked and walked some more, and eventually looked around to find myself at the edge of town in a rather flat place, not the kind of area in which I’d expect to find a dramatic gorge and ancient bridge. Measuring now it appears I walked a good mile and a half. Obviously I was in the wrong place. On the way back to a known-good starting point (the area around the bus station) I took a different path, looking again for the plaza. It was not to be found. Nor was anyone else to be found, anyone that could help me.

Finally I went all the way back to the bus station, to the map, with a list of recently-crossed streets in mind to figure out just what the hell was going on.

I’ll tell you what was going on.

That bastard had pointed west.

The city isn’t perfectly north-south oriented and the sun was almost directly overhead so I never could tell by the shadows if I was walking north or west. I had been walking in all sorts of wrong directions.

After a long silent scream I turned and walked in about one minute to a DIFFERENT church, and then immediately found the plaza de toros, and the bridge, and all that I wanted. By then of course my time was a bit shorter, and I was hot, and frustrated, but still, I came away with all the pictures and experience I’d desired.

But still.

I could have killed that man.

Oh, and once I got home I realized I could kill the mapmakers as well, because both the map inside and the map outside were oriented the same way – with northwest directly upwards. You know, exactly unlike every other map where north == up? To give my horrible man some credit – if you want to be exact he pointed pretty much NW, which wasn’t too far off from true west the way the maps were turned, but not too far off from real life either. REGARDLESS, it was still wrong.

It gets better, by the way. I got back to the bus station and with ticket in hand I stood in front of the bus parked where my last bus had been parked. The bus run by the same company as the last bus I took. The bus that was the same model as the last bus. The bus that sad Málaga (my desired destination) on the front.

I was the next-to-last one to board, as I don’t like shoving my way through a crowd of smoking Spaniards, and the guy looks at my ticket and says, “Wrong bus.” “The hell do you mean, wrong bus?!” I didn’t say, instead asking politely. He says, “You want seven.” So I walk over to seven where there’s a bus from the same company, same model, with the word Málaga on the front … I’m glad they made it obvious. The instant he tore my ticket he put it in reverse and we got out of there. I am glad I wasn’t 10 seconds later.

Ooops, forgot to mention the wonderful British lady that I saw in the bus terminal. Like I said, I got off the bus, found a map, figured out where I needed to go, and then went to buy my return ticket and ask for cardinal direction, ha ha. When I got to the ticket counter there was this … man, I can’t figure out a nice way to describe her. We’ll just say repulsive. There was this loud repulsive lady at the counter. She said, very clearly, “Can you tell me where the bridge is?” meaning the Puente Nuevo, of course. I couldn’t hear what the man said, but she said, “The bridge. The famous bridge. Where is the bridge?” This of course continued, with volume increasing, because as we all know if someone doesn’t speak your language you can solve it by being louder.

She finally turned to me and said, “Do you know where the bridge is?” Now technically I knew that it was a certain direction. I did not yet however know which way was north, so I couldn’t really tell her. While I pondered this for about half a second with a confused look on my face she said, “OH nevermind you don’t speak English either” and I felt the strangest wave of relief. Yes, that’s right! I’m not like you! I don’t understand the words that are coming out of your mouth! She then bellered to her husband, “THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT I’M ASKING” and wandered off to the snack bar.

That’s right, lady, in a foreign country you’d damn well better expect everyone to understand your language!

Anyway, enough of my grousing. My experience in Ronda wasn’t tainted by that she-hag, I was merely amused. Glad to see that stereotypes about us English speakers are worth hanging on to.

Oh so here’s the best part of my day! I am going to complain about this. When I returned home to Málaga I knew I’d have to walk about 3/4 mile to reach the nearest stop for my bus. When I got there I found the police barricading off the street and I didn’t know why. “Fine, fine,” I said to myself, “I will keep walking the bus route until I get past all of this and find a stop where a bus is likely to appear.”

I think you know where this story is going already. After having wandered the streets of Ronda for hours in the hot miserable sun I was set off on another walking adventure. I realized I was in trouble when I got a few blocks further in and there was a procession of some Catholic kind. Now I’m not Catholic, so I had no idea what anything I was seeing signified. Also, they don’t even have signs in Spanish for what’s going on, much less signs in English that say, “Okay, silly foreigner, this guy in the front is blah blah blah.” I debated asking someone, but I was too tired and grumpy for conversation, and most likely they’d say, “It’s the Festival of Saint Something … DUH” and I needed that like I needed a hole in my head.


I walked my bus route. And I walked my bus route. All the traffic inbound was at a standstill. There were no cars in the outbound lanes – in the lanes where I needed a bus to magically appear. I made a wager with myself, and I won – the first bus I would see would be at the stop where I would normally get off.

Sure enough, 3.5 miles later I saw the first bus of the afternoon. It passed me about 100 yards from the stop where I get off. It was a nice walk, though. Kind of.

Best part of the walk: a bright shiny little red car drove by filled with raven-haired ladies who whistled at me. That was nice.

So now I’m home. And tired. But I had a great day, and got tons of exercise, walking-wise, and now I’m gonna go sleep like a rock. Final note: I am too lazy today to go link the appropriate pictures to the appropriate parts of the post here, so you can just go find all my pictures of Ronda and dig through them however you want.

Get ready
July 19, 2007, 9:39 am
Filed under: Spain

’cause I think I may actually come home one of these days. It’s looking more and more likely.

I can’t believe that I’ve been here nearly five weeks already. Does it seem that long to you? Yes? It does? Oh, well, that’s strange. Doesn’t feel that long to me.

There’s been a lot happening lately which is why I haven’t written much in a while. Most of it wouldn’t be interesting to you (“but Kevin,” I hear you cry, “nothing you write is interesting!” – enough out of you, I don’t have to take that kind of abuse) so I’ve not been bothering to write it down. Then there’s the fact that I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t felt I’ve had time to write. That’s an utter lie, of course, because I have plenty of time to nap and go out with friends, but you know what I mean. Sometimes life takes pri – no no, hear me out – sometimes life takes priority over writing blog posts. I know that’s hard for you to hear. It’s hard for me to say. The truth hurts.

So yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time with my new friends, one of whom is leaving very shortly, on Saturday to be exact. That means my last week here will be a sad one. How will I survive with only one of my antagonists? I need at least two to keep me on edge and properly flustered and annoyed at all times.

It has been handy having them around. They are quick to tell me when girls are hitting on me, and whether or not those girls are worthy of my attention. I don’t pay no nevermind to what they say, but it’s nice to know that they’re looking out for me. Or maybe just teasing me. That’s why I can’t pay attention. If I start to believe their lies then what next? Whose lies are next on the list? The Republicans?

Ha ha ha, don’t worry, I’m not a Democrat.

I’m a Libertarian.

are you still there?


aaaaaaaaaaanyway we went to La Paloma again last night where all that I could find interesting to photograph was this wine bottle ’cause really, I don’t want my Flickr to become The Ludi and Yuri Gallery. Though would that be so bad? I mean, what else am I going to take pictures of here? Myself? Hah! As if! I mean, as if I could be bothered to do that more than I already do.

I’m rather sleepy so if this is a bit disjointed then so be it. Last night I had the steak again and was beginning to wonder just why the food at La Paloma is so good, and I figured it must be because it’s an Argentinian restaurant and run by Argentinians so they must know what they’re doing. They’re all about the beef, you know. Last night I asked the waiter if he was from Argentina and he said yes, the beef is from Argentina. And yes, that means apparently I’m so miserable at Spanish that I can’t even ask, “Are you from Argentina?” without the person on the other end thinking I’m inquiring about my meal.

No, really, it’s rather loud at La Paloma sometimes. I swear. I’m not that bad. Please believe me.

The point is that they’re importing their beef, and that would probably have something to do with the excellent taste and quality – either that, or he was completely lying, but he appeared to be dead serious, which is a rarity.

Um um um um um what else oh yes I have somehow broken my headphones. They still make noise, but one earbud is cracked and falling apart all exposed wires and the magic is leaking out, and I’m very sad. I will have to make it a point to shop for a replacement during the coming week. I can’t take a whole transatlantic flight without music. I might have to read.

Okay, yeah, so speaking of buying things – you in my place, what would you buy for your friends back home? There are so many touristy options but I want to shy away from those, and everything else (read: luscious bottles of olive oil / wine) either weighs a ton or comes in fragile packaging. I’m thinking about just bringing handfuls of dirt and sand. “I didn’t bring you anything from Spain, I brought you Spain itself.” That’ll work, right?

What else? Lunch today was salmorejo, a soup much like gazpacho but less water and more bread, making it thicker and heartier. The main meal was potatoes and onions with smoked pepper powder (similar to chipotle), a sausage not entirely unlike a hot dog, some sort of green pumpkinsquash that tasted fantastic, and thin-sliced eggplant, fried and kissed with a hint of … well, normally it’s made with a drizzle of ‘miel de caña’ which means ‘honey of the sugarcane plant’ (read: molasses) but today it was made with Roddenbery’s Cane Patch Syrup because I sure brought a bottle here to give to my host family because I am awesome. Did you know that? Dessert was tiramisu ice cream over sliced fresh pears.

And that’s why I’m so tired and full and yeah. Tonight I’m going (with my girls, of course) to see if I can find an alleged wine bar in the city center. Wish me luck. I’ll try to remember to take photos.


alright, sorry I scared everyone off with the Libertarian thing. I won’t bring it up again.

versus, again
July 17, 2007, 3:39 pm
Filed under: Spain

Things I am going to take care of as soon as I’m home:
– Eating at El Tapatio. I miss Texican food really bad today.
– Eating at Royal House, maybe the same day.
– Buying some fresh bread somewhere and eating it with butter. For some reason the Sra. thinks butter is terrible so there’s margarine in the fridge here. This is an abomination but I don’t feel it’s my place to burn the refrigerator down.
– Making something awesome with the ton of basil that has grown while I was away. Awesome may include but not be limited to spring rolls and pesto. I gots the right kind of basil for both.
– Going to my usual Monday dinner at Mark and Matt’s house and seeing all my lovely friends.
– Seeing my parents.
– Eating a Butterfinger candy bar.
– Riding my bicycle.

Things I’m going to miss about Spain:
– Being able to walk to the grocery store and the bread store and back home within 15 minutes. I will never be able to beat that.
– Having good wine in every bar, and having it not be expensive, or it having been open for three weeks already.
– Olive oil on everything
– Real cheese in the grocery store

I know there’s more, but brain == tired.

Trust me, it was not one twentieth as scary as the Putnam Co. Fair
July 16, 2007, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Spain

Okay, so, without going into details today was pretty much a rotten day all around. I haven’t had any truly bad days since I got here so I suppose it was time for one to come up but still, I wasn’t prepared, and it knocked me sideways.

Anyway, ignoring that, the good news is that I have progressed again, and am in my final class – Advanced I. Hooray for actually being able to learn and retain something! I worry about this class, though – six girls and only one Kevin. It’s going to be hard for me to pay attention to all of them equally. Rrrowr.

Ha ha ha man that’s so out of character it’s making me laugh.

Also this is my third and final class, and again I’m the only American in there. I’m hoping to help change people’s opinions of America one person at a time! Trust me, there’s a guy here who’s working just as hard in the opposite direction.

Lunch was good, but I’m tired and am going to spare you the details. There was a homemade spring roll (rollito primavera if you can dig it) involved so you know it was good.

Anyway I was invited by my girls to go to the celebration of Our Lady the Virgin of Carmen or something along those lines, there weren’t flyers or anything so I kind of missed out on the exact name. Basically most of the neighborhoods around here have their own versions so we chose El Palo since that was the closest to where Yuri lives. We saw the procession of men carrying the … um … whatchacallit. The thing they carry. It’s like a parade float, but smaller, and with a whole lot more goldy shiny, and a figure of the Virgin on top, all carried on human shoulders. Anyway, we saw the procession of the Virgin and then we went and looked at all the kiddie rides because just down the strip it turned into a street fair. They didn’t have any big kid rides other than that boat that goes back and forth which the twins insisted on riding. I had just finished my carnival food – you can’t go to a street fair and not eat street food! – so I was in no shape to ride. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any chili dogs or corn dogs or real hamburgers or funnel cakes. My carnival food was a baked potato. Out of a huge selection of toppings I ordered the ‘patata normal’ which came with cubed ham, tomato puree, olives, mayonnaise (in place of sour cream), corn kernels, and cheese. I’m sure some of you think that odd, but those are the toppings for everything around here, apparently, so I’m used to it by now. I wish they’d had one that was just cheese, olive oil, and some nice Iberico ham but that’s … well, that’s quite literally wishful thinking, innit?

There was a scary clown. Of course.

Anyway, all night we ran around and acted goofy and then I came home, sorted the pics, uploaded, am now in the act of writing, and now I need to go to bed!

So there!

Also during the composition of this post I misspelled virgin (as the Spanish word virgen) no less than three times. Brain broken, may I have another?

this is the hardest part, the title
July 15, 2007, 5:03 pm
Filed under: Spain

So yeah, we went to Nerja today. The 11 bus didn’t go all the way downtown so we had to walk the last dozen blocks or so, and like any city it was very very different early on a Sunday morning. The bus station was exactly as I expected – full of grumpy old men and women, yammering students, weary backpackers, and one old slick-haired man standing at the coffee counter at 9:00 AM chain smoking and drinking straight J&B whisky. In the “cafe” (I use quotes to denote derision) I had both the worst pastry and worst coffee I’ve had since I arrived. It was fitting.

The bus ride wasn’t too bad, just long, clocking in at 1.5 hours. I don’t know how to measure that in metric, sorry. I was left sitting by myself at the beginning because Ludi and Yuri sat together, of course. My seatmate(s) ended up being a tiny British woman and her toddler son. She read aloud to him the whole way, I think. I dunno. I kind of dozed off there for a bit.

Nerja was fantastic, albeit a bit boring in a way. It was even more pretty and pristine than Torremolinos, and felt older, looked older, looked more … I dunno, more Mediterranean. It was nice.

AND BORING. I mean, it was Sunday, and we were there from just before siesta to just after, and therefore there wasn’t much going on. We did have a great meal in a beach restaurant. I got the ‘patatas de las pobres’ which is ridiculous ’cause man if this is how the poor eat then I see no need to be rich. Fried potato slices topped with fried egg and accompanied by two different kinds of sausage on the sides. Greasy as hell but I’ve been eating fairly well so I can take it! I’m tuff!

The beach was pretty, but someone (not me) forgot their bathing suit so we didn’t go in the water. S’alright, I didn’t want to feel saltwater sticky the rest of the day anyway. We walked, and shopped, and talked, and ate ice cream, and goofed off, and saw a bunch of white buildings with red tile roofs and signs in English. Did I mention that a lot of the Costa del Sol is just Britvasion territory? There’s a lot of English going on there, and a lot of vaguely disgruntled waitstaff, so we of course being students at a language school spoke Spanish at all costs.

Maaaaaaaaaan I’m so tired right now. Abbreviated ending starting now!

Then we came home, the bus ride was much faster on the way back, we slept a lot, I barely woke up in time to catch our stop in El Palo. Then! Then Yuri walked home, Ludi and I took a taxi, and we all met up at the beach later with everyone properly equipped. Then I came home, ate dinner, uploaded pictures (as seen here) and now I’ve written this and my eyes are closing even though I don’t want them to.

To heck with proofreading, I’m going to bed!

Tomorrow I find out if I passed my exam and made it into the Avanced I class. I bet I did. We’ll find out on the next installment of Life of Kevin.

Well that’s that then
July 14, 2007, 3:03 pm
Filed under: Spain

Last night I went out with Yuri and Ludi again. I’m going to have to make up a name for the pair of them. The i-twins or something, I dunno. Anyway, at Yuri’s suggestion we went to get pizza. Ludi asked for a bit more (olive) oil to put on hers. Now, let me just say that I really do try very hard not to be a stereotypical American. We frequently have conversations about how things are different in [ France / Japan / the US ] but that’s not to say that they’re right, just different. You know! Being respectful of others, tolerant and kind. But man, olive oil on pizza? I … I just couldn’t fathom the concept. I told them that it was probably close to an abomination, though I didn’t have a copy of the Constitution with me so I couldn’t be 100% positive. Anyway, the waitress was snotty and responded to Ludi’s request with, “We have hot [spicy, not temperature] oil.” Ludi specified that she was just looking for plain olive oil and the waitress said, “There’s already been oil used in the preparation. Why do you want more?” Fine, fine, no oil. Yuri requested the spicy oil, though, and when it arrived I broke down and tried it and of course it was good, I mean the pizza wasn’t very American anyway, it was all European (*nose in air*) so mixing it up a little with spicy oil instead of red pepper flakes made sense.

If there isn’t an Amendment yet about the whole oil thing I’m going to have to write to my elected officials.

We stayed out late, way too late, doing absolutely nothing because someone (I won’t mention who but it wasn’t me) was being all poor and didn’t want to pay for a bus ride downtown and drinks at a club, which was fine with me, that’s not my scene, man, unless they’ve developed a club where all you do is fiddle with your camera while drinking red wine and playing blackjack and listening to music at a reasonable volume while talking to your friends.

Hold on, I gotta go make a note about a business venture when I return to the states.

As a result of this intense and excessive non-partying I thought I was going to sleep in today, but no, I got up nice and early. Wellllll okay so it wasn’t early, but it sure wasn’t eight hours later. I decided for the seventeenth Saturday in a row that I was going to go out and find Granddad’s house. Hey, side note! I don’t think of him as Granddad, I think of him as Tom, but if I tell you I went to look for Tom’s house I’m sure it would bring up some strange questions. Anyway, I also needed to go to the airport because my return flight is still messed up, and my travel agent said that everything should be good but he can’t reissue the ticket from the States so I needed to go have them do it here in Yerp. Well, the British Airways office said that they’re pretty sure everything’s kosher but the US Airways office in London was closed so they couldn’t call them to confirm the US Airways leg of the trip, so now I have to go BACK to the airport on a non-weekend day.

They call those ‘weekdays’ don’t they? I suppose that’s a bit less cumbersome than non-weekend days.

But this ain’t no big deal, there’s a train straight to the airport, and it’s not like my time is in high demand. Nobody’s calling me every day saying, “OH CRAP KEVIN I JUST REALIZED WE HAVEN’T HUNG OUT TODAY MAN GET OVER HERE WE GOT SOME SERIOUS PARTYING TO DO” which, if you were not aware, is how I spend every single day in Cookeville. I’m very popular.

Granddad’s old place is just past the airport so I was once again trying to figure out the best way to get there. While playing with Google Maps I got to a zoom level that didn’t show as many streets but did show neighborhood names, and right there just south of his house was Los Alamos, which I recognize as a train stop. So hooray! I could get off of the train there, in that little no-horse town, and just walk to his place. In the hot sun. And it’s only … well, I didn’t measure the distance because I didn’t want to get depressed. It was hot today. That’s all I’m saying.

I asked the Sra. if this one particular road on the map would be walkable, as it was rather large and had a number instead of a name. She assured me that while it was a big street it would have stop lights and whatnot, and would probably be okay to walk on.

Well, kind of, not really, no, not at all. Traffic was moving fast and there sure wasn’t a sidewalk, but I gave it a valiant effort. After walking for a ways I realized I was going to have to dodge traffic in two directions and jump a concrete barrier in the middle, so I turned around, walked back to Los Alamos, and got a damn taxi.

On the way to his house, via the aforementioned taxi, I saw how the return trip wouldn’t be quite so bad since I’d be on the other side of this highway and could use this one street to – you know, it’s not worth describing, you’re not able to see it. The point is that I could walk back to the train. When we pulled up to the house I paid him, got out, and he sat there. It was touching. I guess he wanted to make sure my key would work in the lock or that I was able to get the gate open or something. I didn’t feel like explaining my Creepy American Stalker story so I just stood there for a few seconds until he finally drove off.

And stood there I did, for a while, just looking. It’s partly obscured by a wall, so I couldn’t see much of the house itself. I could see the neighborhood, the abandoned and dilapidated house across the street, could get a general sense of the whole area. It felt interesting, but it didn’t feel strong. A vague curiosity at most.

Two girls a little younger than me walked up as I was standing on the other side of the street staring at the house – their house, as it turned out. I explained my situation, they told me they just started renting there a few months ago. The owners (who apparently live there as well, I’m not sure) bought the place four years ago, so there’s no direct connection between the owners and Granddad. They implied that the owners weren’t home, and I felt that a big strange American shouldn’t ask two younger female renters if he could just “have a look around the place” so I contented myself with the few minutes of conversation and then wandered off.

So then I just stomped all over the place near the house, saw a fantastic run-down building which was being guarded by two hot and obviously worn-out horses, saw a bunch of other houses, saw a ton of snails beating the heat by crawing underneath brick overhangs, saw and smelled a bunch of jasmine, and then braved the highway to walk back to Los Alamos. It wasn’t pleasant but I did survive without getting hit by anything other than a WALL OF PURE HEAT emanating from the asphalt. On the way back to the train I saw lime after lime after lime. They’re everywhere. It’s like a lime conspiracy.

Finally I reached the station, worn out and ugly, having been beaten down by travel, bureaucracy, heat, walking, limespotting, lack of sleep, and everything else. After the train ride I debated doing some shopping (for presents for you, you lovely things) and said to hell with that. My eyes were closing. There’s one bus that runs straight up the horrible hill to my apartment here (as opposed to all the others that stop at the very bottom) and I was fortunate enough to catch it.

I stumbled into the kitchen, sliced up my Fuji apple that was waiting for me in the fridge, and I tell you, it was a miracle. The cold sweet flesh of that beautiful fruit revitalized and energized me to the point that I was able to write to you. And now? Now? Now it’s time to not be awake any more. I’m going to Nerja tomorrow with the i-twins so I have to be up early.

Goodnight, SIR.