AKA Abraham Bacoln

July 13, 2007, 10:02 am
Filed under: Spain

Well, I’m about to totally crash. I had my test today, I did well, and I should be moving up to the next class – Advanced I. Also in the next two weeks I have additional conversation classes so instead of the usual 20 hours I’ll be taking 30. I’m excited about this part.

Last night we went back (again) to La Paloma, the Argentinian restaurant on the beach, to celebrate Robert’s departure. Well, celebrate isn’t the right word, but I know you know what I mean. Mourn, maybe. To mourn Robert’s departure. As with every proper Spanish evening meal here we didn’t really start ’till 10:00PM and I ended up at home some time after 2:00AM, having left them there debating what party they were going to attend.

Obviously getting around 5 hours of sleep didn’t really help me on the test, per se, but apparently it didn’t hurt too much.

That’s about all the news I got, really. The past several days haven’t been much more than studying.

Tonight I think we’re going to a pizzaria if you can believe that. I’m not quite sure why. When Ludi and Yuri talk it’s usually in French, so unless I pester them for details I’m left in the dark as to the why of it all. I usually just sigh, ask what time I’m supposed to meet them and where, and get on with it. Sometimes if Robert is around I’ll make him tell me exactly what kind of nefarious plot they’ve hatched but he usually sides with them, I think, because he always relays that it was rather innocuous, really, and not a bit interesting.



Going to sleep.

Tomorrow, depending on when I wake up, Torremolinos.


oh bother
July 10, 2007, 6:09 am
Filed under: Spain

I found out today that my level test is on FRIDAY instead of MONDAY. Yes, Monday is the usual time and that would give me the whole weekend to study but because of a huge influx of students they’re placing the exam on FRIDAY which means I gots no spare time. This level has been far more difficult than the last, and I feel sometimes like I’m not totally getting it, and now I have a test on FRIDAY.


I probably won’t be writing again before then. The good news is that my entire weekend is now free, hooray, and I may actually enjoy it if I’m not spending the entire time worrying that I’ve failed the test. Ugh.

oh man oh man … stop it, Kevin!
July 8, 2007, 10:05 am
Filed under: Spain

I don’t know why but right now I’m practically … wait, no, literally salivating at the thought of sweet junk food like donuts and Little Debbie Cakes and other things with gross processed sugar. It’s horrible! I can’t control it!

I may have to walk to the grocery store. Fortunately the neighborhood grocery store is closed on Sunday which means I have to walk even farther. Maybe I can convince myself not to do it by the time I get there.


Oh yeah I also saw a statue of Hans Christian Andersen
July 7, 2007, 4:23 pm
Filed under: Spain

I looked in the mirror the other day and was pleased to see that I have lost weight, as desired and expected. I was by no means fat but my abs weren’t as well-defined as they used to be. Now I’m a little bit back towards the shape I prefer. Perhaps – just perhaps – walking more than usual and eating less junk food has something to do with it. More on that in a minute!

This place is crawling with scooters and Vespas and little waspy-sounding two-stroke motorcycles, dirt bikes, and even the occasional 4-wheeler. It makes me sad almost every time I see one of them. I want Mark and Matt to be here with their real bikes and their leather jackets. I want to have the best parts of American culture here with me.

I got a haircut yesterday. It was a strange and wonderful experience. I have never had my hair cut in a foreign country. Normally it’s the kind of thing one takes care of before departure – which I did, kind of, but it was too early and I like to keep my hair short. There’s precious little I can do to defend against the uglies, and haircuts are one of them. Without haircuts I’m lost. I scouted out a location … let me interrupt myself here and say that Málaga is just smothered in peluquerías (hair salons) but an honest barbershop is hard to come by. I mean I can’t throw a rock without hitting a salon or a pharmacy but a place where real men can show up and just sit in an empty chair and read the newspaper while other men in white coats with immaculate hair take care of the earlier patrons (all men) with just the right amount of small talk … that’s a rare thing. A rare thing indeed.

It was with great pleasure I spotted this barbershop downtown. I even wrote the address down in my notebook, that’s how sure I was that I’d be back. The time came the other day and I was of course apprehensive – we’ve not been studying words related to haircuts in class, ha ha. Anyway, I sat down and apologized for not speaking perfect Spanish. It was hot in there, no air conditioning, and in the still air I felt like I could smell everything in the room. It didn’t take long to describe what I wanted done. It made me realize that with all the pantomime involved I didn’t even need to try to speak. Because of this when I next get my hair cut in the States I’m going to speak to my stylist only in Spanish and see what kind of cut I get.

The electric clippers on the sides and back of my head were first, of course, and then that’s when things diverged from normal. He picked up a pair of old scissors, ones that went klik-klik-klik and he became a machine. His hand never stopped opening and closing the scissors. Even when he would stop actually cutting my hair to look at what he’d done and make sure it was right the scissors kept going – klik-klik-klik – almost as if he wasn’t able to stop. Then the scissors got switched out for some with a much older, more metallic klik-klik-klik. He asked me if I wanted my sideburns shortened – sure, why not. Klik-klik-klik. The best part, hands-down, was the point in time in which everything else was done except for the trimming of the neck. I hadn’t noticed any very tiny electric clippers sitting on his counter. I realized why after I saw him open up a straight razor (with a disposable blade, but a hand-held single-blade razor nonetheless) and start in on the neck. I don’t think I’ve ever felt the desire to sit more still in my life. It wasn’t even that I was afraid – it just felt like if I moved and got cut it would be disrespectful to this artist of a man. I would have felt completely at fault.

Snnnch-snnnch-snnnch went the razor all over my neckline, around my ears, and even taking care of what was left of my sideburns. When it was all done I stood up, admired the amazing job he’d done, and paid him his well-earned money. It took no longer than a usual haircut – maybe even a little bit faster than Tommy Trisdale (God rest his soul) used to do. But it was the best haircut of my life. I only wish I were here long enough to do it all over again.

Last night I once again ate dinner with my friends Ludivine and Yuri. The restaurant was a disappointment so I won’t bother with its name. We decided to return to La Paloma for dessert and I managed to get my hands on my panqueque with dulce de leche. It was everything I wanted it to be.

Today was going to be my excursion to Granddad’s house. Once again I woke up and consulted the maps, checked the route (but not schedule, as I have no timetable) for the No. 10 bus out of Málaga towards the airport. I got downtown and walked to the block where there was supposed to be a stop for the 10, and it just didn’t exist. At all. All the other buses that were supposed to stop in that block, or the next, or the next – they all had their stops. The 10 just wasn’t there. I eventually went a block or two over to the buses that number in the 100s, the non-standard buses. There is a bus 110 that goes to a similar area, but no one had a detailed map that could tell me if it’s the same streets or not. I decided I was not about to take a one-hour (more or less) bus ride to a neighborhood that I don’t have a paper map for, on a bus that may not even go to the same area of the neighborhood that I have researched, and try to find my way another kilometer or two off the bus line to Granddad’s house.

Now I’m torn on what to do. I guess I’m just going to have to take the train to Torremolinos and get a taxi. That seems ludicrous as the conversation would have to be something like, “Can you drive me out here so I can take a picture of this one place, but wait for me, because I don’t know where there’s a bus to find my way back?”

And man, I know I’m studying Spanish here, but I can’t find any decent information online about buses and trains. So much of interpreting search results is the ability to scan information, and I simply can’t just scan in Spanish. I have to read every word, and check every link, and there’s the damn good possibility that there’s not even a site for the train from Málaga to Fuengirola, and if there is a site there may not be a detailed map, nothing that’ll show me if there’s a closer stop where I can walk, blah blah blah. It’s all very frustrating considering all I want to do is see the house where he lived. At times I think, “I only met this man a handful of times in my life – why am I obsessing about this? I hardly even remember what he looked like.”

But I’m here. And it’s here. So I think it must be done.

So instead I spent my day walking around downtown. All told from the time I left home to the time I got home was 5.5 hours on my feet which explains why I’m so tired.

I finally went to the Cathedral today. It’s very big and very ornate inside, as is to be expected. It’s unique in that it has only one tower though its floor plan is a two-tower design. During construction they couldn’t raise the funds for the other tower. Later the town took a vote, or so I hear, and they decided they like it the way it is. Its nickname is La Manquita, which translates more or less to one-armed woman. As is to be expected it was built on the site of a mosque. That was a very hip thing to do back then, don’tcha know?. Work started in 1528 and finished in either 1719 or 1782, depending on what online source you want to quote. For 3.50 € I was able to spend as much time as I wanted inside, taking the following photos: (my photos tagged with Málaga Cathedral). I didn’t really want to edit the photos like I usually edit things. I figured I’d rather present them as they were, so (most of) those pictures are rather raw with the exception of straightening and sharpening. I believe, if I’m not mistaken, that I did some color correction on one.

After the cathedral a homeless man mistook me for a Belgian. I don’t really know what that means or how I should feel about it.

I needed something else to do so I walked over to El Corte Inglés which is the only actual department store around here s’far as I know. I strolled through there for an hour and a half mainly because it had air conditioning. I looked for gifts for all of you and found gifts for none of you. I’m so sorry. Also, speaking of sorry, they had a camera section with lenses and everything but it was really heavy on Nikon, and if that ain’t sorry I don’t know what is.

Okay so here’s where we get back to the food and weight and all that from the very opening of this post. Every time I take the No. 11 bus into town it goes past the only McDonald’s I’ve seen here. Every day I’m tempted to be an utter tourist and eat there. Today I gave in.

MIND YOU this was done under the guise of Science, wherein I perform an experiment and compare the taste of the Spanish Big Mac to to the American Big Mac. Consider it quality control for the ghost of Ray Kroc, I dunno.

Short answer: uncanny. Exactly the same. Even the ketchup (delivered in packets) tasted the same, which is odd, because the ketchup in the fridge here sure doesn’t taste like home. Okay, so the Coke was different but I think that’s ’cause all the Coke here is different. I’m assuming they’re still using cane sugar instead of corn syrup, because it’s different in the “sure tastes better” kind of way.

McDonald’s here serves beer too, which almost messed up my experiment. In the end I decided to stay true to the American vision of Mickey D’s and not let the prospect of beer tempt me. ‘Course they serve San Miguel products, so it was a lot easier not to be swayed.

Afterwards I felt like an exploded toad, and realized that McDonald’s food may actually be poison or assembled out of styrofoam, take your pic. It sure wasn’t a pleasant kind of full.

To help myself help myself I took a walk through the kilometer-long park that runs by the beach. It’s full of a blue million trees and is spotted with fountains and flowers and people making out. If you walk slowly enough and stare very hard in the opposite direction of the action there’s one of those three things (fountains, flowers, people making out) that you can make uncomfortable.

Finally I ended up at the bus stop beside the bullring. I decided to walk around the ring before catching the bus, just to make sure I couldn’t find entrance. I didn’t, but I did find a lime tree and I picked and cut open a lime just to have something to smell. It was fascinating, wild and intense, halfway like citrus and halfway like black walnut. It made me almost indescribably happy.

Now I’m home. Tired. Ready to sleep.

The only real food of note today was A.) the usual awesome sandwich that the Sra. makes for Saturday lunches and B.) my dinner of a few chunks of Manchego cheese topped with a touch of peach marmalade. Can’t beat that.

See you soon. I think about you all the time, all of you. We should go get a drink sometime.

July 6, 2007, 9:00 am
Filed under: Spain

If you’re hungry the words about food are at the end.

I’ve been here three weeks now. It’s Friday. I’m halfway through and I can’t believe it.

My first two weeks here weren’t rough by any stretch but I just didn’t really feel like myself. I told one of the girls (a fellow American) who was staying at this house that I know it didn’t seem probable to her but back home I talk nonstop and joke constantly and make everyone laugh [with / at] me. She looked at me like I was a space alien because I’d been this rather silent and somewhat dejected-looking lump. I didn’t blame her for thinking I was lying.

But now … now! Now my brain is back in gear. That one housemate girl – who quite honestly I didn’t like – is gone, so I’m more relaxed. I’ve made better friends with the other girl and now feel like I have an annoying younger sister here. I tease her mercilessly and she reciprocates just like my last French little sister Marie (a foreign exchange student lo these many years ago). I passed my test and advanced a class so that makes me feel good. I’m in a new class, in a new room that’s not so damned hot, and there are fewer students so everything’s more intimate. In the last room I sat where I could hardly see the professor(s) and therefore felt a little alienated. Now I sit at one end of the table and they at the other, so there’s always a clear view. My Spanish is better so I know how to make jokes. I’m louder and more confident. I’m more outgoing. I make everyone (professors included) laugh during class at least twice a day. I am known in the room as Señor Fantastico because of a conversation a few days back. This all took place in Spanish, of course.

During a team exercise:
Ludivine: Well I think that a good answer to this question is [ whatever ].
Me: Ludi, that’s a fantastic answer. YOU‘re fantastic.
Professor Leopoldo: Oh, so Ludi is fantastic?
Me: Yes, of course, but … you know. Not as fantastic as me.
-Ludivine shoots me a dirty look-
Professor Leopoldo: Is that so?
Yuri: Yeah, you’re really fantastic.
Me: Every morning I wake up and the first thing I do is say [loud voice], “I AM FANTASTIC.”

Life is back to normal, and life is good.

What else, what else? Oh yes, on Wednesday I went downtown to take pictures and see about getting my hair cut. I arrived too late for the haircut so I just sat on the main pedestrian street and took pictures of people (some of which, but not all, are here). Then some very kindly old – and I mean old – Spanish lady came over and asked me what I was doing, and so I told her I was taking pictures of interesting people. “Why?” she asked. Well, honestly, because my brain is rotten and I won’t remember any of this in two years so I want to preserve the memories, etc. This slowly but surely devolved into her being very angry with me because she thought I had taken pictures of her and her friend, and I tried to show her I hadn’t, but she just thought I was giving her the runaround, so I had to explain how a telephoto lens worked and point out architectural details that were behind where she was sitting and how in the pictures you could only see this one little bit and not any of the bench where she was, because it’s a zoom / telephoto lens, see, and then she went off about how it’s impolite, no, it’s more than impolite, and she doesn’t want her pictures to travel on a plane back to America, and I promised her that if there was even a hair on her head visible in any of the pictures I would delete them, and she told me she should call the police and have me arrested, and that in this country and my country it’s illegal to take pictures of just anyone you want without consent, and I came sooooooo close to debating her on that but then I realized I don’t truly know the laws for public privacy in Spain, only the US, and what’s the point of telling her it’s legal back home because hey, Kevin, you’re NOT BACK HOME. Finally she settled down and I left.

The point of all this is that I couldn’t be bothered to be annoyed or worried about this conversation because halfway through (before she started getting ugly) I realized I was doing it all in Spanish without any glaring major errors or miscommunications and that made me very happy.

So there’s that.

Afterwards I ate dinner downtown at a place called Klick Wines. It’s a restaurant and bar run by a Californian (is that right word? seems wrong) who owns a winery there and a restaurant here. He couldn’t really tell me why other than, “It was something I wanted to do” which I think is the perfect reason. We talked for a while about the wine regions of Spain, the grapes, the growing of said grapes, the food at his restaurant, and so forth. It was a great diversion. By the time I was done there I had almost forgotten about old yelling lady. My full belly and I rode the bus home in the most contented fashion possible.

Last night I went to an Argentinean restaurant called La Paloma (The Dove) with two of my classmates, the aforementioned Ludivine (Ludi) and Yuri who are from France and Japan, respectively. We met up at 9:30ish or so for dinner and I intentionally didn’t wear my watch because I didn’t want to constantly worry about bedtime, etc. Well, Ludi insisted that we speak only Spanish for the night which was of course a great idea in which I reluctantly participated. We must have been quite a sight (sound?) for the other restaurant patrons, us with our accents and no dictionaries and constantly hunting for the right words in Spanish, French, and English when necessary. After hours of delightful discussion and fantastic food and wine we wrapped it up and checked the time. Suffice to say it was closer to 2:00 AM than 1:00 AM, so we headed home. Now I have officially stayed out way past my bedtime while engaged solely in the act of eating dinner. I feel like I’m doing it right.


And now for the food, which has been separated so that you can ignore it if you so desire, you philistines.

At Klick: pulled pork served on toasted bread (dressed with olive oil) that was covered with a slice of melted brie. The pork had some subtle spices and was seriously some of the most delectable I’ve ever had. It was superbly soft and tasty though not with the somewhat smoky character of barbecued pork. I asked him to describe in brief the method without giving away his culinary secrets and he said it involved a lot of experimentation and a pressure cooker. It was simply fantastic. There was nothing overt, no strange spices or glazes or splashes or sides or anything – just four simple items (pork, brie, bread, oil) that came together for a final dish that far exceeded the sum of its parts.

Dessert was an apple tart that was round with a chewy pastry base. The apples were perfectly soft, no acidity left, and with just the right amount of cinnamon. There was an almost savory flavor somewhere between them and the pastry – I pretended that it was extra butter and that made me happy. The tart itself was surrounded by homemade whipped cream and topped with a tiny bit of a rather standard vanilla ice cream. All of this was given a drizzle of bright yellow lemon syrup, more for appearance than anything as its flavor was immediately drowned out by the whipped cream.

While there I had two glasses of wine – one a rather nakedly un-oaked Rioja Crianza that went well with my pork, and the other from Jumilla was big and exciting in an unfamiliar way. I won’t bore you with the rest of my notes.

Yesterday’s lunch was the first time that I’ve come close to … well, disappointment is far too harsh a word. There have been so many fabulous lunches here at the house that to have a normal or bland one was just unexpected. The salad was as usual, the main lunch was a pile of rice with pimientos del piquillo (rapidly becoming one of my favorite things to eat here – it’s a certain kind of very mild red preserved pepper with a fantastic flavor unlike anything I’ve ever had) and a little bit of fish on the side. Nothing bad by any stretch, just a touch dull. Dessert: fruit. You knew that.

At La Paloma last night I got an empenada (little folded and fried pastry) of cheese and onion, a tasty tiny filet mignon (appropriately rare inside, hooray), some fries on the side which were not shabby at all but hey, they’re still french fries. The best fries I’ve ever had were at Lulu’s in the Garden (district) in New Orleans and those were fried in duck fat and delicious beyond imagination. Compared to those, all other fries are simply a side item to be consumed without much thought.

Desert was GOING to be a panqueque de dulce de leche con nueces. Now I understand dulce de leche as a caramel-like flavor, I know that nueces are nuts (probably hazelnuts) and that a panqueque is most likely – bear with me here – a pancake. I know. It’s a long road, linguistically, from one to the other. Try not to get lost. ANYWAY the kitchen was apparently out of panqueques so I ended up with a brownie and ice cream which was a split-second decision that I later regretted. It was fine, sure, but nothing I couldn’t have had at home. Still, the ladies really liked their brownies so I lived vicariously through them, ha ha.

We’re returning there tonight to meet up before going out, so I’m going to get my panqueque for sure. If not, I’ll do something horrible, mark my words.

Today’s lunch was ajo blanco (literally: white garlic) which is a soup made from ground almonds, breadcrumbs, a little bit of garlic, cream, water, oil, etc. It was tasty yet I couldn’t finish the entire bowl – a bit intense. Main meal was the potato and egg torta (tortilla? for some reason I can’t remember how it’s called) and the skillet-seared green peppers and a few slices of raw tomato dusted dried oregano or basil, couldn’t tell which. I’m a failure. Dessert was fruit splashed with white wine and a little bit of tiramisu ice cream on top.

And now I sleep. Mmm. Sleep.

July 4, 2007, 4:11 pm
Filed under: Spain

I love the city bus here – it’s agressive, it starts and stops and throws people about and fights the traffic because unlike most cities back home there apparently is no law here about giving right of way to the city bus. The driver is constantly muscling aside all these ridiculously tiny cars and a wasp’s nest worth of scooters while breezing past people practically standing in the street. It’s like no bus I’ve ever ridden. It’s a thrill. I swear, I kid you negative, I saw the bus driver use a rolled-up newspaper to hit a scooter kid on the head today. I am not lying one bit.

There was something terribly fantastically incongruous about riding the 34 tonight while listening to the album ‘Nothing’s Shocking’ by Jane’s Addiction. For me that album belongs in such a specific place and time and it’s not on a bus in Spain where the driver is daydreaming about being the next world-famous toreador and dodging oncoming traffic like a constant stream of angry bulls.

Little song, little dance, Batman’s head on a lance.
July 4, 2007, 9:24 am
Filed under: Spain

I honestly was starting to feel bad about talking so much about food and so little about my other experiences, but I’ve had several people tell me how much they like reading about what I eat (this is what we call culinario-vicarious living) and so I’m gonna keep it up. So there.

Yesterday I went to the beach again. I like to go at nearly 6:00 PM – the sun’s still pretty high at that time, but a little bit weaker so I don’t burn if I’m out there for an hour and I forget my sunscreen. In fact, I almost never wear it to the beach. Maybe a little on my face but nowhere else. Now if I were to go at noon, say, I’d be so covered in that stuff you couldn’t see my body. I’d look like a pupating moth. Mmm. But combine the late hour with the amount of time I spend at the beach (none, really) and I don’t come anywhere near even turning pink. So. That’s good.

Lots of vitamin D for me.

Last night I finished my homework and decided to take a good long walk since it had been two days or so since I’d gone out for exercise. Also it had been two days since I went looking for photo opportunities so I took care of that as well.

And then! Then I went to an ice cream stand and immediately negated all of my exercise with a little cup of cream-flavored ice cream. I swear. I’m going to whomp the owner of one of these joints over the head with a club and take them back to the US and make them open a stand here and I will reap the profits as everyone crowds around to enjoy my superb and superior ice cream.

Or maybe I’m just infatuated with the idea of liking the ice cream here. Both are equally possible, I suppose.

I started a discussion today in class (during the discussion period, of course) about how the tap water here is totally safe to drink. Apparently EVERYONE (who is not a Spaniard) thinks that it is not. This isn’t Mexico, people! I mean … um … no offense, Mexico. Apparently the rationale is that we’re within, oh, shouting distance from Africa. Ridiculous. It’s a municipal water supply! Treated with CHEMICALS! As we all know, chemicals make everything better!

Having mentioned Africa I must bring up and correct a previous bit of information that I have passed on to you. There are seasonal hot and dry winds here called ‘terral’ but those come from the interior of the country – the ‘tierra’ if you will (hence the name terral, get it, see how smart we all feel now?). The winds we’re currently experiencing are from Africa, yes, but aren’t technically the terral. So there’s that. I didn’t want you to show up here thinking one thing and it not being true and having to curse me for lying to you and making you the biggest fool in Málaga.

Um … um … other news. Oh yes, with regards to photography. My 50mm portrait lens has become my absolute lens of choice. If I have to take it off to shoot something I will put it back on when I’m done as opposed to waiting ’till later to switch out. I’m getting a bit obsessive. I still use my 20mm wide-angle with frequency but it’s just not the same. The 80-200 is reserved for very special occasions. NO VOYEUR JOKES ALLOWED.

I bet that made sense to all two of you photo jerks that read this blog.

Okay, wrapping up, here are Words About Food!

Tuesday: starter of a full plate of large white beans and two types of Catalan sausages that you can’t buy here but the Sr. has family there and so they bring back this stuff. One was white, one was black. Chances are the darker one was a blood sausage – in fact I’m certain it was – but by not asking I was able to avoid thinking and instead enjoy the hell out of it. The main meal was a ratatouille with a fried egg on top and a third kind of sausage (pink!) on the side. Mmmmmm. Dessert: yeah. You know.

Today: soup of spinach, pumpkin, carrot, onion, and a bit of soy. Well, she said there was soya in it but I couldn’t find or taste it. Maybe it’s a … um … I dunno. Soy powder. Main meal was a penne pasta with nothing but fresh tomatoes smashed into sauce – not heated, not with oil, just tomatoes – and a bit of chorizo and topped with some shredded cheese of the kind of ‘swiss’ variety. The plate side was boiled green beans and spinach. Des-

I don’t even have to type that part.

Okay! I … oh hey I forgot to mention that there’s a neighbor lady here who is trying to learn English so I went by yesterday for an hour to help her out and am supposed to return today in 45 minutes or so. After that I’m going downtown and if it’s still open I’mo hit up that barber shop and get me a harrrcut.

And then maybe just end up walking aimlessly as usual for an hour or more until I feel properly exercised and then I’ll go home – USING MY BUS CARD GO KEVIN which makes it a whole lot cheaper.

Until next time! Stay classy! I miss you all!

So … hot …
July 2, 2007, 4:24 pm
Filed under: Spain

So much time has passed! So much has happened!

Wait, nothing has happened!

Honestly, I’m glad that I decided from the very beginning to record the meals that the Sra. makes here – that pretty much prompts me to write every day like nothing else would. I’m sorry if you’re sick of hearing about them but man, in a few years when I’ve forgotten everything that happened on this trip (as I will, because my memory is pretty much nonexistent) I’ll be glad to have the list.

So what do we have here? I’ll just go ahead and get all the food out of the way. Maybe I’ll do it in one big sentence so it’s easier for you to ignore.

*deep breath*

On Sunday I had a salad for lunch which as usual was dressed only with vinegar and olive oil and which contained corn kernels which I think is a bit odd but whatever they taste great and then the main dish was the ‘fake’ paella again this time with chicken and green beans (?) and it was of course amazing and for this lunch on Sunday the Sr. brought out a bottle of Rioja Crianza 2003 from a very very small vineyard and MAN was that wine ever tops like amazing good I can’t believe it so then it even went well with the fruit for dessert and I found myself wishing the next day, Monday, that’s today, that I had more of it when she served the soup which had pumpkin and carrot and zucchini and little tiny pasta pieces that looked like grits more than anything and man was that good and then lunch was a mashed potato dish with herbs and cheese and a bunch of sauteed mushrooms on the side and fresh tomato and then of course fruit for dessert and today we drank a rosé wine instead of the usual red wine because it has gotten hot again which is in part why my dinner tonight consisted of a whole cucumber, a tiny bit of cheese, and a Fuji apple ’cause those are good things to eat when it’s hot THE END

There. That wasn’t so bad.

It’s sweaty today because we’re in the middle of another terral. This was explained to me as a hot and very dry wind that comes from Africa and makes life miserable for four or five days. I looked it up and its true (non-regional) name is Föhn wind. Fascinating stuff, really.

Oh, I took my test at school (the one for which I spent too little time studying in my opinion) and passed, which means I’m now in Nivel Intermedio 3, the last intermediate level before the advanced classes. Hooray, I accomplished! Something! My time here has not yet been wasted.

Which means, of course, I don’t go to the beach nearly enough. I went again today, this would be the third time I’ve gone during the day wearing my swimsuit. I have to make that distinction – I have gone to the beach many times at night to people-watch and take pictures and exercise-walk. I did of course get in today and I swear it felt like my mammalian diving reflex was kicking in. It’s still damn cold in the Mediterranean. The advantage is that you can stand to be in the hot sun for ten or twenty minutes afterwards because your body is still recovering from the shock. My typical beach trip (so far) involves showing up, beachcombing for a second, getting wet, thinking I’m going to die from the cold, and then beachcombing for an additional hour. Then I go home. I haven’t the patience to simply lie around and suntan, and haven’t the desire either. I found some wonderful things today. They’re all classified Top Secret, though. Sorry ’bout that.

Did I mention yet that I passed my test and that now I get to study four different conjugations in the subjunctive? Fantastic! I’m totally stoked about this! And being sarcastic!

I leave you with this final horrible thought, because I am some sort of monster:

The other day I found myself on a rather unused terrace at the school while looking for a place in which to study undisturbed. At the very back of this terrace is an old bar, and the bar is covered by an overhang which in turn is absolutely ensconsed in ivy. It’s very pretty but a tad dark back there. Anyway, as I finished studying I got up and walked around behind the bar, just to see.

When I got back there I could smell something dead. Now I really do want you to think for a second about that smell. Stephen King is fond of describing it as sickly-sweet. It’s rather unmistakable, maybe even hardwired into our genetic memory – oops, something dead, don’t touch that or we’ll all die from disease, avoid things that smell like that. But right now, can you smell it? In your mind, or your mind’s nose, or however one describes that sensation? The dead bird under the bush on your way to the mailbox? Something a little bit bigger that you won’t go looking for and you hope stops smelling so bad and soon? All rotty and attention-getting and yes, a little sweet, and sour, and on the whole rather unpleasant …?

So yeah, I smelled that smell. And for the first time, while the scent was still inside my nostrils, I thought (and very clearly, mind you), “I wonder if this is what zombies smell like all the time.”

Sweet dreams!

A day in which nothing was truly accomplished
June 30, 2007, 5:46 pm
Filed under: Spain

Today felt long even though it wasn’t, or hasn’t yet been, but who knows when I’m going to go to sleep? Not me, that’s for sure! I’m a party animal!

And by party I mean studying.

There’s a test here at the school every two weeks to determine if you are fit to move up to the next level. Of course I consider myself fit to move up, I’m just as good as anyone else in the class, but it’s still troubling. It’s a test! It’s like the semester final, basically, with regards to how many credits I’ll get if I do it right. So yeah I’m a bit apprehensive and for this I didn’t go out tonight (and am not going out tomorrow night) but hey, I don’t usually go out anyway! I’m too old! Just like an old man!

I look forward to buying my first cane. I’m gonna get a good lightweight one so I can shake it effectively.


So anyway, today I woke up thinking I was going to go to Torremolinos and also to the house where Granddad lived which is between here and Torremolinos (near the airport if I have my directions right). Once I ate breakfast and started really looking at the maps I realized I had a problem. There isn’t an easy way to do the both of those things at once. There’s either a bus from Málaga to Torremolinos, or a bus from Málaga to Granddad’s old place and back, or a bus from Torremolinos to Granddad’s old place and back, but no easy way to do all three. They don’t make a good straight line.

Therefore I had to decide which trip I was going to take – to Torremolinos (to check out the area and look for the bar where Granddad used to hang out) or to his house. I ended up opting for the trip to the city – man I’m tired of typing Torremolinos already – because it looked like the bus ride from Málaga to his old house would be long, confusing, boring, and have nothing at the end except for me to walk quite a distance from the bus stop, take a picture, wonder whether or not the neighbors are the same, end up not knocking on any doors, and then walk back to the bus stop and go home.

Instead I took the bus downtown and looked around until I found the train station. I tell you what – they don’t want you to know it’s a train station. In Málaga the stop is underground, so it’s more like a subway station. I mean, sure, once you know what you’re looking for it’s obvious – the stairway with the big red sign! The big red sign that doesn’t actually have the word ‘train’ or ‘station’ or ‘stop’ or anything other than the words ‘Málaga – Fuengirola’! That’s perfectly obvious!

Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit harsh. All I knew from the map was that it was on a certain block. No one bothered to tell me it was underground or that the other end of the line was Fuengirola. AAANWAY the point is that I found it. I found it, I went down, bought a ticket from the automagic ticket machine, and boarded the train, all without misstep or misunderstanding or mistranslation. Therefore I was pleased.

While waiting for the train I ate the bocadillo that the Sra. had packed for my lunch (since she knew ahead of time that I wouldn’t be home to eat). A bocadillo is a type of sandwich, I guess, kind of like an understuffed po-boy. The mayonnaise was homemade though so that totally makes up for the one slice of ham on there, ha ha. Stupid American! I expect a TON OF MEAT and NO VEGETABLES!

I did not have fruit for dessert. I had already eaten all of the fruit she packed while I was walking to the train station. Instead for dessert I ate a small pack of chocolate-chip-and-hazelnut cookies that I bought yesterday at the grocery store. They weren’t anything to write home about – yet here I am writing home about them.

The train station was just like every underground train station I’ve ever used whether in Paris or Portland – you can feel the air shift before you can hear the train coming. It’s a fantastic feeling. I love it. It’s like some sort of physical precognition.

The whole train ride out something was bugging me about the landscape. I finally figured out that it was because there are so many run-down buildings out there, and so much graffiti, and the natural flora here is rather scrubby desert stuff, and overall parts of the view gave off a post-apocalyptic vibe. It was very strange. Apparently no one cleans up after building projects in this area because every empty lot was filled with construction trash. I should mention at this point that this was only in the unpopulated areas between Málaga and Torremolinos, not every inch of the trip. Regardless, it felt like … I dunno. Like the desert version of 28 Days Later. I found myself tensing up, waiting to see a rush of zombies running towards the Food Train.

I’m going to make this bit about Torremolinos short, and I’m not typing out the name of the city again for a while, thanks very much. It’s a super-touristy town and I arrived just as every shop shut down for siesta, so I ended up there with nothing but time on my hands and a bunch of closed-down stores. Okay, so not everything closed down, no, I got to visit some discount clothing stores while looking for sunglasses (two weeks now! two weeks I have not had sunglasses! I am entirely too picky) and then I walked through that … what do you call that area where people’s cremains are stored? Anyway, I walked through there. It was beautiful, and I’m not being sarcastic or creepy or something. Everyone (especially Isabel) seemed so loved. And sunny. And peaceful.

I looked over the beach, though I did not go all the way down, because I had no reason to. I wasn’t there to swim! I was there on a MISSION. The mission was to force myself to start conversations with strangers under the pretense of looking for the bar where Granddad used to hang out. This was made more complicated by (what I understand to have been) the name of the bar – Dad’s Bar. You know Spanish doesn’t work like that, right, no apostrophes to show possession? So first off we have the name of the place being a word in English, then we have an unfamiliar grammatical construction … this is not an easy thing to pass along without simply writing it down, which is what I ended up doing. The universal response went like this, “You realize this is Torremolinos, right? And that there are about 10 bars within arm’s reach of where we’re standing, right? And that the bars change name and ownership all the time, right?” meaning “What the heck do you think you’re trying to accomplish? This a fool’s errand.”

So I went and sat and ate dulce de leche-flavored ice cream (so good) while I waited for the used bookstore to open back up. They claim to be the largest selection of used books in all of Andalucía. If that’s true, then this place is in bad shape. It was pretty small, to be polite. Still, the lady working there was amazingly helpful and I ended up finding two books in English that I wanted to read, and so that’s good.

Today’s purchases: 3 euro of tourist-priced ice-cream (expensive!) and 5 euro of used books (not as expensive!)

Oh, and 2 euro 70 worth of train ticket.

So that’s it, basically. I left that city thinking that while my day hadn’t been a complete waste of time I certainly wasn’t going to find this place by asking around, especially since it’s been what, 16 years since Granddad was alive and I don’t even know what neighborhood the bar was in.

So I came back home and uploaded some pictures and wrote a bunch of emails and ate my supper (one cucumber, one Fuji apple, and a little hunk of cheese) and then dessert (a lazo, another wonderful pastry) …

… did I write about pastries? The one I got the other day was an ensaimada which looks not entirely unlike a cinnamon roll but it’s a light puffy pastry kind of like a croissant. It is topped with powdered sugar. It is wonderful. Today’s pastry was a lazo, which means ‘link’ if you will, and has the shape of a pretzel. It as well is a multi-layer pastry which in parts had a very very very thin layer of a cream or cream cheese-like substance, and was topped with coconut shavings. I can’t find a good picture of a lazo online and something happened to mine before I could photograph it.


Now I want more pastries.

And to sleep! I want to sleep! So goodnight!

June 29, 2007, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Spain

Holey moley, I can’t believe it’s been two weeks already. I also can’t believe it’s so late here. I should have been in bed an hour ago at least. But hey, what’s a few hours’ sleep on the weekend? Nothing, that’s what.

All spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors in this post are now declared null and void and not available to be commented on.

Sometimes I have a hard time thinking in English, especially after class. And speaking of class, sometimes I exit the classroom after four consecutive hours and think I’ve really got a handle on things. Sometimes I leave the room and wonder why I’m even here in Spain. Today was the latter.

But, things picked up during the day some, and I remind myself that I now understand my host family a whole lot better than I used to. I also watch the news every day at lunch, and that’s helping. I still can’t understand a quarter of what’s said – newscasters here don’t bother to put spaces between the words – but that’s better than nothing.

I also realized the other day that one of the reasons I am (usually) able to write and speak well in English is because I enjoy reading. With that in mind I went looking for a Spanish version of an English book I already have read so that I could beat my brain into submission by sheer force of will + dictionary. I found a Stephen King book or part of it anyway – apparently it was too expensive to translate all the short stories so they only did the big one (The Mist) plus two others.

I tell you what – trying to flat-out read Spanish at my current level is a real bear. I’m pleased, though, because it’s not the grammar that’s confusing any more, just the vocabulary. That’s a good start.

TWO WEEKS. Did I mention that? I’ve been here two weeks so far. It feels like no time at all. I have my first test on Monday to ensure that I am indeed capable of moving up to the next class. I’m sure I’ll pass with flying something.

Re: things to have mentioned – did I mention the floor here in my host family’s house is little marble slabs? It’s ever so delightfully cool to walk on in the mornings, and even in the heat of the day it’s nice. Who needs carpet?

bluuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh it’s late
time to review the notebook

– Mullets (the haircut, not the fish) are here and in a big way. It appears to my untrained eye to be the equivalent of a redneck haircut here, but I think I may have seen one or two being worn in some sort of euro-ironic fashion. Also favored: mullethawks and rattails. I kid you negative.

– On the 27th I wrote in my notebook: “Today I walked past a tree that smelled of Tennessee fall and dried hay.” I have walked past that tree at least four times since and not smelled it again. I wonder why that moment was chosen as the moment to remind me of home?

– I kind of like showing up to a restaurant at 9:00 PM and wondering if it’s still yet too early to eat dinner since there’s no one else there and the waitstaff and cooks are standing around idle. Did I make a mistake? Is this place even open yet?

– Also what in the hell do these people do for a living? How can people twice my age stay out ’till 1:00 AM eating dinner and drinking wine and still make it to work on time the next day? Does their job involve sleeping at a desk? That’s what it’d take for me to be able to live this lifestyle properly.

– The back of a wine bottle (wherein the winemaker typically describes the product) makes sense to me in Spanish or in English. That’s a comforting feeling.

– I know the tourist part of downtown rather well now. I found an alley yesterday that I had not yet traveled and felt a tiny bit elated. Also apprehensive, since it was very long and ran through an area of all delapidated buildings and there were no businesses and it (the alley) was full of stray cats (which have differently-shaped heads than US cats, by the way, apropos of nothing thank you very much) and man was it ever movie. Just seemed like a great place for a bad thing to happen. Fortunately nothing did. Later I saw families and teenagers using that same alley so my fears were all for naught, it would appear.

– But anyway, I know the historic center of downtown very well now. Also, I find myself wanting to use the other verb for ‘to know’ but we apparently only have one in English. Brain no for to be language able to make switch effective fast, yes? Anyway, I know downtown well enough I am confident that if I were dropped off in the middle I could find my way back to the bus without too many steps in the wrong direction. Go pull up a map of Málaga and look at downtown and you’ll understand why this pleases me.

– Thomas from Switzerland looked at the Nalgene bottle which I have in class every day and asked me, with a hint of incredulity, “Do you drink the water here?”

of COURSE I drink the water here. How else am I supposed to get super powers?

– I remember years ago when I was in grade school my grandfather (who lived here in Málaga for many years) sent me a birthday card. It was, to my eyes, a really strange and cheap-looking birthday card, with some out-of-date pop culture reference if I’m not mistaken. His note inside explained that it was hard to find cards in English there (here) and it was the best he’d found. Now that I’m here, going on what, 20 years later? I can’t believe he could have found that card at ALL. So what I’m saying is, “Sorry for thinking the card itself was strange or slightly cruddy, Granddad. I had no idea.”

– Tomorrow I intend to take a bus trip to the neighborhood where Granddad used to live so I can try and find his old house. No reason. Not like I ever visited there or I expect to see a sign proclaiming, “Former house of Tom O’Mara!” above the door. Just ’cause. ‘Cause I’m here and it’s here.

– Wow. I actually came to the end of my list. Thank goodness – I’m about to pass out. DANG IT I STILL HAVEN’T TALKED ABOUT LUNCH. Okay, real quick – soup was gazpacho (everyone all together now: mmmmmm), the main meal was croquetes (sp?): bits of chicken and flour rolled into little balls, coated with egg and bread batter, and lightly fried. Side items were strips of canned red pepper as well as fried potato strips. Dessert was sorbet over cherries.

– That’s it. I ain’t got no more. Also, for you, a present. Normally I spell-check and review before posting, but not tonight! Tonight you get this blog post raw. I hope it doesn’t give you an upset stomach.