Monday, June 30, 2008

another day... what's the number?

Saturday June 28th/ wee hours Sunday the 29th

I stayed in this weekend. Not that the neighborhood isn’t partying all around me…

There are only about 3 residences in this little cluster of houses where I live, but at the next house over there is a rocking party going on. Cars are lining the street. I was tempted to walk down and just join in the fray, but I didn’t. It was good enough for me to sit on the front patio and listen to “Pride/ In the Name of Love” by U2 being sung phonetically by 30 or 40 partygoers followed by a dance mix version of ‘war/ hunh/ good gawd yawl/ what is it good for / absolutely nothing.’ Most everything here is a dance mix. (which usually loses the soul of the original if you ask me.)

For as much as Spain is indifferent toward Americans they really like our music.

There is a huge festival in Benicassim about 30 miles up the coast sometime later this month and it is packed with big U.S. headliners and up-and-comers. Although Leonard Cohen is scheduled to play which I think is very cool but a bit surprising. The festival is called FIB or fiesta in Benicassim. We are hoping to get some kind of free tickets or a day pass or something to see Sigur Ros or My Morning Jacket and the like because one of our local teachers, Veronica, is working as a translator at the festival. On a side note, the other day I was talking to Veronica and she was complaining about her tests in English (for her degree), so I asked to see her material that she was testing over… Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, T.S. Eliot… ha. I was able to give her a few pointers for poetry interpretation… but I can’t imagine a Spaniard truly understanding Robert Frost or Walt Whitman… maybe that’s why she doesn’t like them. She also wanted me to quiz her on the capitals of all fifty states, which for some reason she is supposed to know. I wasn’t a whole lot of use there. I knew more than I thought I did though.

I talked on the “phone”, on the internet, to a girl back home tonight for about an hour and a half, and on the way back home from the Academy on my bike riding through the narrow city streets and reaching the outskirts of town riding past the fields of orange trees on my way to my house it started to sink in again where I am, how far from home, how different a world, how much a dream I am living, the similarities, the differences. I took this trip as a bit of a leap. It’s funny, when I feel as though I’m leaping I usually feel a hell of a lot better about my decisions than I do when I sit a ruminate on a thing to its bitter end. This jump feels good. Perhaps I’m a bit like an adrenaline junkie, but instead of throwing myself off bridges or out of planes, I throw myself into situations. Somehow it works, and it’s never the same. Not that this has not been a thought out thing, I have been looking in one way or another for quite some time. I’m just glad to be in the air and not on the ground still checking my engines.

Haha. Now I’m getting a bit too self absorbed.

i’m sitting here sweltering even though there is a decent breeze and my bedroom is on the ground floor of this villa and the window is open. Perhaps it’s just the night’s dew condensing on my forehead. Definitely no blankets tonight in bed… maybe a sheet to keep the little flies and mosquitoes that make it through the screen off of me. I guess I should go to bed. It is, after all 2:08 am


ps. it's sunday night now and Spain just won the eurocup...

i think tomorrow will be a national holiday probably

viva Espana.


Saturday, June 28, 2008


it seems that i have been here for two and a half weeks.

I must admit, if i were to have to go home today I would feel a bit unfulfilled. Not to say that i have not had a great time thus far and that there have been interesting and different things that i have been a part of and seen, but I'm definitely not fitting in yet. A few people at the grocery store know me, and a waiter down by the beach, and Paco at Paco's... but i want to be more "in" than that. I have no delusions of being treated as a native, none at all, but i hope to be a bit more comfortable moving around here. I'm getting better at it all the time.

My roommate Jeff is gone to London for the weekend which is actually pretty good for me because i have been using him like a crutch for my language shortcomings. Whereas, with him gone, I am more or less forced to get out there and muddle through. Yesterday i went to the Shanghai Bazaar in Burriana which is like the store here where they sell all kinds of thing made in China that are mostly cheap and of questionable if not poor quality... So pretty much they sell the same things as Wal-Mart... without the Sams Choice label. It was pretty interesting trying to speak spanish with a Chinese person who also spoke broken spanish as i was checking out... I bought some things to use on the beach like a towel and one of those little bamboo mats that people sun on and some little goofy things like that.

but now i'm on the phone with somebody back home and i can't focus...

i apologize to all my readers with whom i am not on the phone ...

perhaps i'll talk to you soon


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

ultima dia de un festival en Alquerias

here's Jeff looking like he might have just soiled himself... sitting at paco's on the square

the rest of these pictures are of "la traca" which is a string of fireworks that is strung above the streets circling the town... it starts with three cannon blasts in the square and circles the town and then ends up in the square with three more blasts... a police car leads a parade of kids and adults on bikes and motorbikes trying to outrun the fireworks around the town, of course not everyone can. so the fireworks are booming al around the heads of the runners and riders and everyone is getting burned a bit and it is all wild and crazy and smoke filled and bright and sparkly. nearly the entire town turned out for this one too... here in Alquerias. it was a great time... and i just watched. no running for me. All of the people were standing around showing their scars off after the ordeal, both young and old... most of them with mullets of course and capri pants.

i'm going to pacos to get a bocadilla and watch Germany-Turkey


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

thirteen; a quick one

When I say the Spanish take their partying seriously, I mean it

Not like at home where “party” means an excuse to be intoxicated or silly.
Here it is more like a good time had by all for the simple fact they enjoy the company.

I went to a the fiesta del San Juan this evening at the beach in Burriana. We pulled up in Katie’s camper van

and randomly happened to spot her friend Jenn from Canada and her husband Nanny (that’s really his name) from Argentina who are street theater artists. They were at the beach for the festival with some friends of a friend and we just jumped right in. I practiced my Spanish and they their English and it was a heck of a good time. The beach was filled with families and friends eating and awaiting the fireworks show which is akin to new years. The festival is an “ out with the old in with the new” kind of ordeal where everyone goes to the beach, lights things that represent the old year on fire and readies themselves for the new season. People jump over the numerous bonfires for good luck and they jump over the crashing Mediterranean waves ( you must jump seven or so just after midnight) for the same reason. I jumped over a fire or two, but I chose not to get wet. When I say everyone… I mean everyone, thousands of small gatherings spread down the beach. People come from miles around to join in the festivities and cook out and have fun with friends within view of the ocean

. Then there is a massive fireworks display much like a New Years day celebration. It is a Spanish incarnation of the Midsummers Eve celebration. The ushering in of a new summer; The end of the cool and wet weather on the longest day of the year. Viva Espana.

I met a fellow named Ernan who spoke pretty good English and he was my unofficial tour guide for the festivities. I wish seriously that I could load up my pictures from my camera…

It’s such a crazy and interesting time here for me.

I miss some things about home, but at the same time I am loving it here…


Monday, June 23, 2008



Day 12 … I believe.

I am sitting on my bed writing… a bit late tonight. 1:11 am to be exact.
I won’t be posting until tomorrow, but I figure that might be ok.
It is a bit warm in the house this evening and somebody upstairs keeps blowing their nose loudly. We all have our windows open and the sound from the upstairs rooms echoes off the adjacent house and right into my room. The heat and the annoyance and the fact that I went to bed at about dawn this morning all play a role in my wakefulness.

My roommate Katie’s parents have been here for the weekend. Christopher Pritchard and his wife Robin stopped in from northern Queensland Australia to say hello for a few days in between visiting a few clients of theirs who live in this area of the world. Robin, Katie’s 69-year-old mother has a business selling some kind of suit that protects a swimmer against jellyfish stings, which in Australia is evidently quite a problem. They used to have a business in the Seventies and Eighties printing all of the sheet music in Australia for what is now Warner music… but the bottom fell out of the sheet music market somewhere in the late Eighties and they sold out. They now have a very nice beach house in Queensland and travel quite frequently. They are also a heck of a lot of fun. Chris, who is 80, generally wears the light khaki Australian bush shirt and shorts to match. He is quite talkative and eloquent and animated and fired up about telling you pretty much anything you’d like to know about anything. They are originally from Sydney, but Chris, I believe, was born in England. They seem very British to me since they down have the deep down-under accent and they are in the habit of taking either tea or coffee or possibly a glass of port pretty much all day long, and definitely after every meal which is always quite a formal affair. In fact, Rob and Chris (as they call each other) took about 20 minutes to prepare plates and glasses and bowls and spices to have a simple mid-afternoon snack. Whereas, if it were me, I would grab a tomato and a jar of olives and a block of cheese out of the fridge and stand at the counter cutting them up and munching as I went… I might just like their way better. Each meal or tea is an even if you’re just putting it on for yourself. Definitely more about leisure and less about speed.

I went to the beach on Saturday. Jeff had a class down there at a private residence about 10:30 so I tagged along. Turns out the student cancelled so we went to the beach about 11 and stayed til’ about 3. Mmm. I’m not a big ocean swimmer, but I must say the Mediterranean is nice. I swam or played in the water for about an hour and a half while Jeff sat on the shore and tried to make eye contact with every semi-attractive female who walked by. Then I sat on my towel and proceeded to get a bit of sun. I had on sunblock… spf 6 to be exact… and my skin never felt hot or like it was burning… but 4 hours or so in the Mediterranean sun on the beach, well, it got to me. So I have some raccoon eyes from my sunglasses and a bit too much sun in a couple of places which is probably another reason I am a little too warm to sleep.

Last night was a big fiesta in Vila Real (one town over). They had fireworks and people walking around on stilts in gaudy costumes and about a thousand people either dancing or thinking about it. The music was some sort of house beat stuff that they evidently love… and there was some singer who sung Eighties songs in English over a crazy techno beat with lasers keeping time to the music and girls with feathers on and guys with tight white pants and no shirts backing up the singer on stage and dancing… yes indeed. We didn’t even go to the fiesta ‘til midnight and we didn’t go in ‘til 2. We were racing the sun to the house this morning.
We won… but just barely.
I put my room on lockdown when we got in. Shut those shutters tight. And slept ‘til noon.

Today was nice and lazy.

I just got back from town actually about 12:30… today was the first day of the final week of the Fiesta del Segregacio in Alquerias and they postponed the festivities because of soccer. Spain was playing Italy in the Eurocup. There was a truck with a loud-speaker on it driving around town today playing a message that the festivities would be postponed until after the soccer game which made everyone happy. They were all planning on watching the game and were not going to the finale of the fiesta unless it was postponed. The finale was actually pretty cool… some street theater trapeze artists doing acrobatics and aerial stunts. And Spain won. Ole…Ole,Ole,Ole… the score was 0-0 after 90 minutes, 0-0 after 120 minutes, and 0-0 at the end. Since it was an elimination game they went to penalty kicks and Spain won 4-2. I don’t know why I just wrote all that out… you could just watch sportscenter and get that info… I think I’m getting tired now. So, I will say good night.

Good night.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008


The coca-cola here tastes different…

I normally don’t drink Coke at home, but I tried some from a bottle here, and it tastes like coke tasted when I was a kid. I like it.

I will not be working at all until July… I talked to my boss yesterday and there is really nothing for me to do right now. The majority of the contracts are ending with the school year and that ends this Friday. Therefore, I will be at the house quite a bit and tooling around on my bike that I just bought. (It is purple and orange and the brakes squeal horribly). I should be out and about fumbling around with my Spanish so that I might improve before I start teaching. I actually taught a couple of classes yesterday… or I guess I should say I helped. It is really very difficult to understand five-year-olds in another language. So they colored pictures with English captions and I drew pictures for them. Then I sat around in a room with another teacher and some junior high students for a bit, but since they had no homework to do there was really nothing to help them with. So we sat around and they showed all of us the various features on their “moviles” (cell phones.)

My roommate Katie from Australia and her boyfriend Mickey(Miguel) returned yesterday from a weekend of riding around the countryside. They went all over in Katie’s old Mercedes “caravan” looking at mountains and villages and beaches and visiting Mickey’s friends around the state. Someone broke into their van in Valencia on their last night out and stole their very nice bikes and Katie’s camera and a wallet containing about 40 Euros. Mickey planted the wallet in the glove box so in the case of a break in the thieves wouldn’t look for the real money, and luckily they didn’t. Mickey is from Sevilla. His business is importing silver and silks from India. It’s funny to me for some reason… very Marco Polo. He and Katie met in India actually. She is only here to be closer to Mickey, but she is considering going to London at the end of the month so that she might return with a valid entry permit. As foreigners, we are only allowed to be in Spain (,or anywhere in Europe for that matter) for 3 months on a tourist visa. Anything longer requires a special work permit or a student visa.
I would not mind finding a place to inexpensively study language here… a place where I felt ok fumbling around with prepositions and the proper way to say “I’m thinking about riding my bike down to the beach for a couple of hours and watch the sun set.” But honestly for now I am doing ok being a spectator as it were… I greet people as I pass on the street and exchange pleasantries with the grocery store clerk… and I eavesdrop on conversations and try to pick out the idiosyncrasies.
Crap…I just missed my ride to Burriana. I was in the middle of writing here in the inner patio and I heard something and then the shutting of the front door and the sound of a diesel engine starting. Meaning Katie just left for her classes at the wealthy beachfront condos this afternoon. Ah well… C’est la vie, or Esta bien, or whatever.
I have come to a realization about the attitude of the older generation here. I am not sure if I am spot on or not, but it seems to make sense. Civil War. The older generation here has lived through the reign of a dictatorship and a civil war. The blank eyes that look at unknown passers-by with nothing implied, the lack of response to a greeting in the street, the tranquility of an old man content to ride his bike two miles into town for groceries… all seem to imply a decision to let sleeping dogs lie. Keep your head down and nobody will notice that you live and love and sleep well every night… and tomorrow you will do it again… but as I write this, I am sure that I am not right, at least not completely. I do not fathom the depths of the history of this country. The oldest recorded history in the U.S. is at most 400 years old. The recorded history of this land goes back much further. Perhaps I am feeling the age of life itself in this place. A different take on existence that is content to be; knowing that this too, for good or ill, shall pass.

I believe that I need to do a bit more studying before I start theorizing…

My mother asked me what I was eating over here that was different than at home… I go to the grocery about once every two days… and buy only what fits in my pack for a ride home from town. Not much is different… except for the excellent bread and croissants from the local bakery that are still warm when you get them, the unbelievable olives (which they grow very near here), excellent local fresh tomatoes, oranges picked from the orchard behind the house, ``11… what else… very gamey cheeses, and lots of rice. Actually that is about what I eat. That and bacon and eggs for breakfast about every day, I’m not sure that is very Espanish, but we all make compromises.

No crazy stories today…

But I think you should know,

From where I sit I can see out the window to the fenced front courtyard and I can smell the freshly bloomed jasmine and roses filtering in through the screen; and families are walking by, strolling around the orchards outside of town as the sun begins to sink and the temperature begins to fall.

The weather gets pretty near perfect in the evening, here in this desert by the sea.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

euromullet fiesta

sunday 10:54am

IS it really the 5th day? I feel like it has been either weeks or one night. It’s somewhat like the perception of waking from a dream and knowing you have only been asleep for an evening but the events that transpired encompassed a week, month, year or lifetime.

Today is Sunday the 15th, The weekend has been interesting so far. Friday night was when the weekend started. My roommate Jeff had his only Saturday class cancelled so we decided to do something Friday night. Another of our roommates, Alex,(female) had invited us to go along with her to Castellon de la Plana which is about two cities over. She speaks no English so I knew it would be interesting. We did not leave the house until nearly 11pm. Although since it gets dark about 10 or 10:15 it really doesn’t seem that late. On the way I learned from Alex that her friends were rock-and-roll-ers and we were going to “rock bar.” I had no idea what to expect. We walked in to a smoke filled bar all the way to the back where her friends had a big table. If you will, picture a tough looking bunch of 80s metal rockers with fanny packs. Long black hair, or euro-mullets, tight jeans, boots or cut off t-shirts and jean shorts… I must admit I was a bit intimidated… but I am learning something about Spain; the judgments I so readily pass are not always valid here. Had I been thrown into the midst of a group of metal rocker punks back home wearing a t-shirt and jeans and my funny hat I would have planned on being at the best tolerated and ignored whereas these guys were an introduction away from considering me a friend. Of course I introduced myself as Craig. I even wore my belt buckle with my name on it so I would not have to spell it for them. But something about the Spanish pronunciation does not like Craig… so they called me Paco, and introduced me to their friends as Paco. In the Castellon 80s metal scene, I am now Paco. I guess I’ll need a different belt buckle.

We made our way around the city (on foot, of course) to different little venues and places for most of the evening. The most memorable being a Metal bar that looked like a cave. The seats were imitation hewn stone benches attached to the wall around the edge of the room. The tables were stumps with iron cup holders bolted to them. The roof was arched like that of a cave. The pillars were made of stone. It was dimly lit… and there was a foosball table in the back with a bright light hanging over it. Watching super hard-core looking rockers playing foosball to Judas Priest and Iron Maiden is pretty interesting.

The last stop on our agenda was a very nice loft apartment belonging to one of the guys. We sat around on the floor and in some chairs while conversation swirled around me.

I tried out my Spanish a bit and tried to explain what Arkansas was all about. They tried out their English and talked to me about Harleys and Elvis. A fellow was playing a bit of classical guitar. He started playing “More than words” by Extreme, and naturally I sang the first words to the song… since they only knew the song phonetically, I was nominated to lead the group in a very interesting rendition of the song. Then somebody thankfully put in a Beatles cover album by some reggae band. Thus ended Friday night. With a long walk back to Alex’s car and a half hour ride home during which I fell asleep.

Saturday was a very low key day around the house. Jeff and I had the house to ourselves because Miguel (he likes to be called Mickey) and Katie had left for Alicante for the weekend and Alex was working. We mostly just sat around on the patio or in the small inner courtyard area depending on the location of the sun. I am having a tough time getting used to the whole siesta thing. I mean I love the idea, but I just forget. We walked to town about 2o’clock in the afternoon to get some groceries for the day and for Sunday, and everything but the Consum (grocery store) was closed and the streets were empty… ah yes, 2 to 5. Vale. We did notice that they were setting up for a fiesta in Alquerias (del Nino Perdido…that is the full name of the town that I live near). So we decided to head back to town around 9. Fireworks were going off all day long, and not little piddly ones, more like quarter sticks of dynamite which they do allow as fireworks here. And I must pause for a minute.

Edit* Sunday, 4:24

I had to stop for a bit and ride down to the beach. Jeff was ready to go and since I had not been there yet, I wanted to ride with someone who knew the way. It’s a bit more than the 20 minute ride that I thought it would be, more like 30 but still. Only about 5 miles to the Mediterranean… who’s complaining? We went down and sat on towels for a bit and then it got cloudy and looked like rain, so we went back into Burriana a short way and ate paella valenciana at a sidewalk café, had a coffee, and rode home….

Where was I? ah yes. Yesterday… Fireworks like gunshots in the streets. I live a short way from the town. About a mile or so. And I heard the fireworks all day long. It was like they didn’t care about the look, just the sound. Anyway, we put on some slightly nicer clothes than usual and walked into town about 9 assuming the festivities would start about dark. We got a table at a small café on the square that had a view of the town hall and the stage and what not, but we were about the only ones out… there was a marching band parading around the streets starting about 10, I figure they were letting people know it was time to come to the square or something. Soon after the band marched out of sight people began to filter into the square in small groups. The older ones in summer dresses and slacks. The younger generation in white jeans and euro-mullets. The café filled up quickly as did the chairs set up in front of the stage erected for the ensuing pageantry. We had accidentally gotten a great seat for the festivities. As I said, we figured that things would start around dark…10:30 or so… but that came and went and 11, and 11:30… about 12 some speakers took the stage and began to speak.
My Spanish is pretty weak, but my Valenciano is nonexistent. Since this was a local celebration of the city’s independence, everything was in Valenciano which is similar to Catalan which is similar to French, Italian and Spanish all mixed up. So I didn’t really hear anything I just watched. Pretty much there was a lot of talking and then the “Queen” and her court were crowned. They were younger females probably in their late teens or twenties. They were all decked out in their traditional finery like wildly embroidered hoop skirts and intricate lace shawls and traditional hairdos with a bun on each side over the ears. They sat on the stage while the announcers talked about the festival and then members of the audience were announced and brought up gifts of flower arrangements and similar things one at a time. Former queens and court members came on stage and congratulated the girls one a time with kisses and bows. It was very fairy-tale-esque. The palm trees swaying in the square, a fountain lit from inside, the archaic town hall, the old men on benches and the kids playing soccer with a can. A outdoor café packed with people of all ages. And mullets. Lots of mullets.

We sat for quite some time watching and listening but about 1:30 the festival showed no signs of letting up and there was some really large fellow who was talking about the merits of each member of the “Court” and they would go up and give him traditional cheek kisses afterwards. Everyone was still attentive when we decided to wander back toward the house. When we got half a mile or so away from town the band kicked up and I assume it was finished… I have never seen a party or gathering in the states in a public square that started about midnight and went ‘til 2 with the entire town in attendance from babies to the very old. Nobody yawning, nobody drunk, everyone just sitting around for the company, lots of people smoking, and did I mention mullets?

More from me soon.

And pictures… if I can find my freaking camera cord.


Friday, June 13, 2008

dia uno

Dia Uno:

Today is the first day in Spain.

I arrived in Madrid at around 745 am and had a short layover. The wireless internet, for one reason or another, was not working with my computer in the airport, so no one yet knows that I am here safely, but here I am.

I had good flights all the way to Valencia, and on each flight , by chance , I found myself next to an attractive female.
Dana, from Chicago to Philly , a junior theater major from northwestern in Chicago on her way to be a counselor at a farm/camp for kids in upstate New York.
Thania, from Philly to Madrid, a graduate student from L.A. who is studying Latin American literature on her way to a literature fair in Madrid as a project for a Blog for which she writes
And another from Madrid to Valencia, whose name I can’t remember who is a student at florida state and who was on her way to Valencia one day ahead of her friends and spoke no Spanish whotsoever.

And me , a rambling, soon to be private lessons teacher headed to alquerias to teach English to just who, iam not sure .

I was standing outside the airport after sidling through customs without a sideways glance from anyone after having my passport stamped by an official who seemed to care very little what it said talking to the girl from FSU about what we were going to do. Neither of us knew just where we were going. She had an address to go to. I did not. I had not heard specifically whether there was going to be someone to meet me or if I was to find my own way to a town where I was to be expected by someone I hoped. While we were talking a man came up to us and said something rapidly in Spanish. I did not understand, so I simply apologized and he spotted the accent and asked if the flight from Madrid had arrived. Since I was on the flight from Madrid, I knew that it had. So I told him so, and he asked if we were Americans and I told him that we were. Then he asked if we knew Craig. Which we did. That is how I met Jorge the head of the los naranjos idiomas academy. We hopped in his little red Volkswagen and sped off to the house were I will be living for the next 3 months. I never would have found it on my own. I will post some pictures at a later date. I met Miguel, the Spanish boyfriend of one of the teachers, Katie who is from Australia, Jeff a bilingual American from tampa, and Alex a Spanish native who speaks no English.

I slept for about 4 hours this afternoon when I got here, then got up and took a shower. I heard flamenco guitar coming from downstairs and descended to find Miguel sitting out on the small patio in front of the house playing guitar. While I was sitting and listening an old man came to the gate, which was open, and stood looking in. Miguel noticed him and asked him to come in. he stood with us and listened to the guitar for a bit and then confessed to Miguel that he had heard the guitar from across the orchard and come over (in his house shoes) to see where it was coming from. He took a turn at the guitar or a bit and then he made up a song to some of miguel’s playing and with that he left. Not before thanking us and agreeing to bring some shakers the next time he came.

Katie and jeff came home from the days work, and I sat around for the evening with Jeff, Katie and Miguel and chatted about random things until about now… which it is…. 215am. And time for bed.


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

First of many

This is the first of many entries that i plan to write here.

That is if i truly make time from the shores of sunny spain.

I'm not there yet...

Still in Arkansas for the time being.

and feeling a universe away.