30 July 2007


I, along with my group of students and fellow staff, have arrived in Granada. Finally the air has cooled down and the city streets are once again filled with revelry and joy (as opposed to the rather muted tone of Cordoba).

Today we took a bus out to Guadix, a town about an hour outside of Granada, where many people still live in five-hundred year old cave-dwellings in the hills. The houses are really cool (twenty celsius all year round), and actually quite spacious. They are also, thanks to chimneys that poke up out of the hills, quite well ventilated.

We will be in this area for another three or four days, and on the third of August will commence our trip back to the United States.

More soon, along with pictures.

29 July 2007

The Mank Top Song

Some of the young ladies on this program have been kind enough to write me a song. Enjoy the video, which illustrates their musical genius.

27 July 2007

A Problem

Call it a muscle-T, a tank-top, or a "mank-top" -- It doesn't really matter. No matter how you call it, how you slice it, I've got a problem.

I've become an addict of sleeveless shirts.

It all started innocently enough. I noticed men in Spain wearing sleeveless shirts. They were not muscle-bound gym types, but normal guys like me. They were beating the evil rays of the sun and the disgustingly high temperatures with the oldest trick in the book -- they had gotten rid of extra clothing.

Who needs sleeves anyway? This is the question that I have been asking myself for a week or so now, as I sport my no-sleeved T-shirts (can they even be called "T's" anymore?).

Somehow I have even rationalized the purchase of a hooded, pocketed shirt, sans sleeves, and made of a sweatshirt-like material. Unfortunately I do not currently have a photograph of this gem, but I imagine one will soon enough grace the pages of this blog.

I believe that my explanation for this item's usefulness went something like, "For those days when it is too hot to wear sleeves but too cold to go outside without a hood."

Ellen's words, when she heard the news of my new purchase, were chilling. "I hope you lose it," she said, and then repeated herself, saying "I hope that you lose your luggage on the plane."

Harsh words, but really just tough love for an addict. Today I made another purchase (my fourth in a week or so). To be honest, the shirt doesn't really fit that great, and wouldn't say that I love it all that much, but I really couldn't help myself.

See, there is more than just the fact that this is a tank-top. It has words on it, words too ridiculous, too absurd, too surreal and strange for me to ignore. It says "Think Dirty."

As soon as I picked up the shirt, every irony-loving, hipster bone in my body screamed at me, "A tank-top that says "think dirty" -- You must buy it! You are beholden by your very honor to purchase this shirt!" And so, as you can all see above, I did just that.

Strange as these words seemed to me (and probably do to you), here in Spain, such oddities are in fact a quotidian sighting. I include below the text of some choice favorites, found during five minutes of "research" earlier today.

1. Working hard to be tunned
2. Spring Break Cancun 1988: Hot Experiences
3. Ride my roller coaster

As best as can figure, the Spanish clothing companies have hired illiterate Chinese slaves to work around the clock, dreaming up new and evermore inane slogans with which to decorate their wares.

And for some reason, people, myself included, buy this nonsense.

26 July 2007

Site Meter

Just a quick note and question, with an explanation.

I have a bit of an obsession with checking the "Site Meter" at the bottom of my page, which lets me know the number of visitors per day, general location, etc.

Anyway, I often wonder who is reading this blog. In particular, I am wondering at the moment who from New Zealand is reading this blog. Is it you, Scott?

If not, would the masked man or woman please take off their mask of anonymity?

In addition, to anyone else reading this blog, especially if I don't know you--drop me an email or a comment letting me know who you are. It's nice to know who's reading.

Finally, please do not worry about privacy and all the rest. I cannot see who you are, and oftentimes I cannot even see exactly where you are. All that I can see is the location of the server and/or internet company that you use.

As for an update on Cordoba and Spain in general, today our whole group headed out to Malaga for a day at the beach. The day was slightly overcast, which ensured a minor sunburn for all involved, but we had a great time.

More soon.

25 July 2007

Hooker Row

Down the road from our hotel, on a charming residential street, the doors to a number of unassuming, humble houses lay open at all times of day.

Inside, down the short hall, the rooms of the houses open up, revealing plastic deck furniture and lounge chairs. Women, in various states of dress, sit smoking cigarettes, talking and laughing with eachother, casting strange glances out to the street.

The women vary greatly in age. Some are older, in their forties and fifties, and the lines on their faces and their perpetual grimaces reveal a life of hardship, a life of late nights, of drugs, alcohol, and dangerous pursuits. The younger women bear similar faces, though they are often African, and they are young and fresher-faced.

Their faces are as yet untouched by age, though they grimace just the same, looking haughtily out at the hot streets, at the houses on the other side of the road, just a few feet ahead.

I walk this street every day, passing these houses with their interior rooms and strange women, gazing inside, disgusted and pitying and interested in what lay inside. My interest is in no way related to a desire to partake in the wares they offer, but rather one of simple humanity and curiosity. "Who are these women?" I wonder, "and where do they come from?"

I think of how these places work, if they are run by penny-pinching madams or angry, twisted pimps. I wonder who enters these houses, these obvious brothels. At all times of day, the women seem to sit around, bored and tired.

Perhaps, as stands to reason, their busiest time of the day is the night.

Today, as I walked down the street, as I had so many times, I heard a quiet, old voice behind me.

"Hey!" said the voice, and I turned around.
"Come here," the voice continued, and I noted that the speaker was an old woman in a housedress. She looked like so many other women I see here, though perhaps a bit less well-kept and a bit far into the street to be still wearing her housedress.

I followed her instructions and she motioned me into the open doorway, pulling aside the curtain of plastic, multi-colored beads. The hallway was short, perhaps only three or four feet long, and like the other houses, ended in an open room. The room was mostly bare, save for a plastic table and two chairs. At one chair sat a woman in her forties. Her hair was dyed and brittle, her makeup thick and garish. She wore a revealing outfit, and I could see much of her breasts and legs.

"Where are you going?" she asked, smiling widely.
"I am going home," I told her.

And then she asked me, using a very Spanish expression, if I wouldn't like to have some sex on the way home.

"Y no quieres echar un polvete en el camino?" she said, to which I firmly responded in the negative, though without any rudeness or anger. "But thank you," I added politely.

She wished me a good day, and I left the place to walk home, where I arrived a mere minute or two after.

The E-Book of Poop

For some time now I have had an idea in my head--a personal challenge of sorts--that I find both bizarre and ingenious.

I have a dream--a dream to one day use the sanitary facilities in the best universities in the world. Specifically, this sanitary usage involves the making of a "Number 2".

This dream all began years ago, as one day it suddenly occurred to me that I had excreted in the Sorbonne, at Cambridge University, and in a number of the best academic institutions in the United States. (Oxford University, due to circumstances beyond my immediate control--namely constipation--is one goal that as yet remains unfulfilled. Berkeley, of the great state of California, was not so lucky.) "Why," I wondered, "could I not continue in my already commenced line of success, and use the bathrooms of those universities that were as yet un-defiled?" This became a small personal obsession (an obsession, mind you, of the healthy type, not one that leads to a psychiatric evaluation) and a somewhat ironic, joking mission.

In the last few days, I have begun to combine my thoughts of this strange personal initiative with a pet theory of mine. This theory represents a culmination of my travel experiences, and my realization that the best, most significant, most meaningful travel is that which takes place during an arbitrary journey. As most inveterate travelers know, the best parts of any journey (or the best journeys, full stop) are those which are unplanned. The three-hundred mile deviation from the route for a slice of pizza, the stop in a funny-named town, the entire journey for some apparently delicious pancakes--these are where travel is distilled into its true, unadulterated form. It is in these moments of un-pre-meditated travel that the wanderer ceases to be a mere tourist, a slave to a line on a map, and becomes an adventurer, a discoverer, a colonist of tastes and experiences.

With this theory in mind, I came up with what I consider the perfect travel plan. This idea occurred to me earlier this year, and is really quite simple. Basically, after setting a pre-defined time of travel, I would drive around the United States, guided only by the most arbitrary of signs. Specifically, I would use the infamous "state quarters" to decide the next stop in my journey.

To give an example: On the first day of my trip, I buy a soda. Let's say a Diet Mountain Dew (energize and watch the figure at the same time). I pay for this delicious beverage with bills that will ensure the receipt of at least one quarter. (Hopefully this quarter is a "state quarter". If not, I would need to make another purchase). I look at the state, start up my car, and head in that direction. If the quarter bears the likeness of a specific monument or town, I will travel to that place. If not, I will do my best to pinpoint a reasonable stop (i.e. for Georgia, I would visit a peach farm, and meet a peach farmer).

Once having arrived at the first stop on my path, I buy yet another beverage (or food item--let's say that this time I treat myself to some soft-serve fast-food ice cream), peer at the change to find my next destination, and head off once again.

The beauty of this type of travel is that the destinations are truly arbitrary. One's trip could be cross country, or merely local or regional. The destination is not the point, but rather the path itself and the adventures contained there within.

I have long thought that such a journey would make for a perfect beginning to my travel writing career. But, alas, I am as yet an unknown and inexperienced writer with no contacts or publishing experience. I must become famous, infamous even, before I even dare dream of such a feat.

And so, folks, I present to you my plan. Please don't steal it. More importantly, please approve of it, love it, like it at least.

I will write (at some point in the future) an E-Book, which will appear on this very page, the subject of which will a semi-arbitrary adventure. I will travel the country and the globe, attempting to fulfill my desire to defecate in the most shining examples of academic excellence. The waste itself will not form a core part of the book, and I will not fall into the facile trap of describing, discussing, or even alluding in a vulgar fashion to any waste matter itself. On the contrary, my bathroom visits will serve only as pinpoints as I plot the stops in my journey. The important thing, as I have previously mentioned, will be the path itself, the people I meet, those with whom I discuss my goal and the reasons behind it.

I will meet with professors and janitors, Freudian scholars and fellow sitters in my excretory odyssey. Together we will form the fabric of an adventure story for the 21st Century.

Now, the question of a title remains. With the help of some of my young charges, I have come up, so far, with two different titles. I ask for you, the reader, to help me by either offering your opinion on the previously suggested titles or by putting forth your own ideas on titles. Here goes.

Smart Ass: Pooping in the Ivory Tower

poop: a journey

For all of those that don't know, the Ivory Tower is one way in which people often refer to the institution of academia. The image is generally meant to represent a white, pure, unassailable bastion of scholarship and learning. Unfortunately, as I am well aware, the tower is generally crumbling, scuffed, and quite dusty. Nonetheless, the irony in the title suggests dirty deeds in a sanctified place.

The second title, "poop: a journey" is one of understated humor and simplicity. I think that it speaks for itself.

So please, write me (the best way is through the posting of comments) with your suggestions, opinions, and ideas. I look forward to hearing from all of you.

Hopefully, by writing this E-Book / Blog, I will be able to gain the momentum and fame necessary to secure a literary agent and contract for my next book, which would be somewhat less strange and a bit more "reader friendly". Thanks for all of your help. Please do not hesitate to forward my address to your friends and family, as I would appreciate the help of any and all readers.

24 July 2007

Life in Spain

Things move forward here, and the number days remaining shrinks. In less than two weeks, I will return to the United States, arriving in JFK airport on the third of August. From there I will head directly North, to Vermont, then to New Hampshire to collect Ellen, then South to New Jersey before flying out to Mexico for an eleven-day jaunt.

My days here are much the same as they have been--quite occupied, yet quite nice. The students continue to prove delightful, and our group activities, for the most part have been great (I will not include, in the list of "great activities", the show entitled "Maravilloso Sinatra: Flamenco Divas Perform Sinatra".)

We went to Ronda the other day, a small town in the nearby sierras. The town is famous for being a "white town" (the so-called "pueblos blancos", which are painted regularly with whitewash, and which gleam brilliantly in the hot southern sun). Toward the end of the day, with the sun beating hard upon our heads, some of us headed down into the canyon beside which the town sits.

Down there, I rediscovered youth, and the group of us spent some time in ambushes, hiding behind rocks and trees and attacking each other with unripened figs. We also came upon a number of strange, rather old dwellings, which we explored with all of the excitement of true discoveries. One of the places, a converted cave, appears to have been a medieval watchtower of sorts. The other was, I believe, an old electric plant, which must have been somehow involved with hydroelectric power.

Besides these exciting interludes, the rest of our days have been spent comfortably and regularly. I teach class and we take trips to the movies, a local pool, and nearby cafes for "Cafe y conversacion", one of the easiest and most delicious of official activities.

And little else is happening here. I hope to soon share some pictures of Ronda, though I will have to steal them from fellow travelers, as my camera's battery was dead on the day of the trip.

I hope that all are well. Check back soon for some photographs.

22 July 2007

Soon, Soon Enough

I have pictures to post and stories to tell.

Coming Soon!

19 July 2007

Culo Retentive

Here's another copy of the previously posted picture. Apparently the rifle was too light and "didn't look real enough".

Enjoy even more!

A Gift

A gift from a friend and reader. A slightly modified version of a picture presented earlier on this blog. The subject line was "And you thought you were a bad-ass before Photoshop."

17 July 2007


Here we go with the bullfight video as promised. As I mentioned before, the video is rather violent, though there is no blood, gore, or animal death. (If you're looking for animal death, check out my post "The Butcher")

However, if you're not looking for death, but rather for a rather vivid video depicting a young bullfighter getting thrown by a bull, check out the video below.


As the last post has probably made clear, I am now in Cordoba, a town slightly to the north of Sevilla, still in the region of Andalucia.

It is even hotter here than in Sevilla, though we have been lucky enough to find a local swimming pool in which to cool our overheated bodies.

More soon.

Cordoba Scene

Setting: A small plaza before a church in Cordoba, Spain. The center of the plaza is taken up by a large, heavily decorated fountain. Water spits out from carved stone fish around the perimeter. The water, presumably, is recycled, and after falling into the pool, is sucked back up to re-emerge from the mouth of each fish.

A older man approaches the fountain, near which a young man sits pensively. The older man is holding a long bamboo tube, at the end of which is connected a small funnel. He also carries a plastic bag, of the type which one receives at a grocery store.

He places the long tube near the mouth of one of the stone fish, holding the plastic bag near the end of the tube. He fills the bag with the fountain water.

Young Man: You are grabbing water from the fountain?

Older Man: Yes.

Young Man: Why?

Older Man: To drink of course.
(the phrase is spoken as if it were completely normal to do what he is doing)

The older man leaves the fountain, carrying his heavily filled plastic bag, and enters the house from which he had earlier departed. The young man looks on strangely.

14 July 2007

Big Angry Bovines

We went to see a bullfight the other night here in Sevilla. It was a novillada, which is kind of like the minor leagues of bullfighting. The bullfighters were all baby-faced boys, some of them less trained and less graceful than others. The bulls, while apparently smaller than those of regular corridas, where still quite large.

I have never quite been able to get my head around bullfighting. I have read way too much Hemingway, and developed way too strong a love for Spain, to be able to dismiss the "sport" outright for the bloody, cruel spectacle that it is. I am fully aware of all of the reasons that I should hate every moment of the experience, completely in agreement with the arguments most often leveled against its very existence. I do not like to see animals killed, nor do I like to see bullfighters wounded, thrown by bulls, stabbed by sharp horns.

Still, like I say, certain life experiences and my personal choice of reading material have created within me a certain appreciation for the event. I am drawn to the grace of the bullfighter's movements, the beautiful, brassy music of the band, the joy and raucousness of the spectators. I like sitting among the Spaniards as they scream and cry and yell "Ole!".

The blood, and the proximity of death, both threatened and assured, add, oddly, to the strange beauty of the thing, resonating with some Roman-like fascination with danger and cruelty.

I don't like it, but I do like it, and I make no apologies for what I feel. What is most amazing to me is that I am not alone in this feeling--12 of our young, educated, privileged students remained at the entire bullfight, refusing to leave until all six bulls had been dispatched by the young, inexperienced toreadors.

When we first arrived in the Plaza de Toros, we found our seats being utilized as countertops, sausages and ham and bread and bottles of wine lined up in front of the old men in the row behind us. I explained to them that they had taken our seats, they recommended we find some different seats. I told them, in no uncertain terms, that I was not excited by the prospect of trudging around the entire arena, 15 students in tow, getting kicked out of every new seat by the rightful owners. They would just have to leave.

We continued to yell at each other, not angrily, but loudly, for the next five minutes. We made huge, sweeping gestures with our hands, and acted annoyed, smiling at the same time. We adamantly asserted our rights, and finally, the old men shifted back a few rows, sucking sour grapes and telling me the "air was cooler up there anyway."

Later, after a number of young men had nearly been killed, tossed like rag dolls by the massive heads of massive bulls, I met the men again. I had moved from the group for a few minutes, and was sitting alone a few rows back. Suddenly, I heard taunting, though friendly, voices behind me.

"That's not your row!" they said. "What are you doing here?"

I turned to find my adversaries from earlier, sitting behind me, laughing at my displacement. One of them, the one I had most spoken with earlier, clamped a huge, meaty hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eyes, and yelled to a friend, "Get this man a glass of wine!"

And so it began. Before the eyes of many amused spectators, I was stuffed with chorizo, ham, bread and wine for the next fifteen minutes. My once empty stomach was quickly filled, and my once clear, sober head was quickly muddled with the four shot-glass sized cups of wine they forced upon me. They laughed with me and clapped my shoulder, and when the bullfight ended, just a few minutes later, they shook hands with me, every single one of them, telling me that they hoped to see me again soon.

Perhaps this is what I love about these events, more than danger and blood and Romanesque gore. Perhaps it is the revelry and joy and loud, exuberant living that I have always found at bullfights, ever since my first experience in Puebla, Mexico.

That one too, come to think of it, involved wine freely given by fellow spectators, served from a bota, a flask made of flexible leather. With great flourish, I was taught, on that day, nine summers ago, to squirt the wine from far away, aiming the stream directly into my mouth, quickly and skillfully stopping the flow with a twist of the wrist.

I, of course, ended up with my once-white t-shirt stained a deep red.

Some of the students made videos of the bullfight, and I would like to share one with you all here (will put up on the next post, hopefully later today). This is not, however, the standard image of death, but rather a particularly exciting, and frightening moment of danger for the matador. There is no blood in the movie, though the young man is hit with a frightful wallop by the bull.

Thanks for reading. I hope that all are well. As always, please feel free to leave your comments and to pass on my site address to your friends, family, and enemies too. The more the merrier.

12 July 2007

Sevilla Daze

I apologize for the few days of my absence, but this always seems to happen during my time in Spain. It is tough sometimes, working with the students all day, giving most of my time and energy to them, to then find the time to write about my own thoughts and reflections.

But here I am, and I probably don't need to be playing this here violin, because I probably don't deserve all that much sympathy.

Things are going really well, and we have been keeping busy despite the constant heat (generally around 100 degrees or more in the shade). We have visited monuments and historic sights (Cathedral, Giralda, el Alcazar, etc.), and I have taught classes on such varied subjects as Andalusian history, grammar, and Spanish vulgarities.

Our evenings have been busy as well, filled with visits to the river (where there is currently an international festival of music and gastronomy), concerts, and excursions for tapas.

One concert took place last night. The headlining act was (believe or not) a band called Los Panchos. I purchased the tickets and planned the excursion based on a vague sentiment or name recognition and the fact that the lead singer's smile was incredibly amusing to me. I figured that anyone with such a smile would put on a find show. (In the photo below, he is the young man on the far right. He is now much older, though his smile seems not to have changed a bit).

He did, in fact, put on a great show, and this (apparently very famous) group was obviously well practiced and very experienced. The majority of their songs were sappy love ballads, nice at first, but bound to get old quickly. Most amusing of all, however, was that this man with the exaggerated smile and round, innocent face, was a dirty old coot.

Like a practiced Vegas lounge singer, he would tell jokes and banter between each of his songs, talking the crowd in a strange, almost creepy voice. His smile, seemingly so benign, came to seem a bit off, as he told jokes that he had obviously told hundreds, if not thousands of times.

Like, for instance, the one about the two Mexican babies that sat, chatting with eachother one day. One looked at the other and asked what he was sucking on, and the other responded, "This is my pacifier."
"Oh," said the first baby, "and what does it taste like?"
"Well, at first," responded the second baby, "it tastes a bit rubbery, but then you get used to it and it tastes delicious."
"Ah," said the first baby, "but I am much smarter than you, for my mother lets me suck her nipple."

(Smiley boy pinched his own nipple here, and I was instantly convinced that he had closets full of dresses and lingerie at home, or some other hide-worthy secret).

"And what does that taste like?" asked the baby with the pacifier.
"Well, at first," the other responded, "it tastes like tequila and cigarettes, but you get used to it."

And then he started smiling again, and laughing a strange little laugh. Soon after, I left the stage area, not sure that I could take much more of him, though happy that I had gotten to see all that I had.

There have been other entertaining performances here, some of which we have seen for free (or nearly so) on the streets as we stroll around town. One guy that I saw today was truly amazing, and I include below a video of about 20 seconds of his performance. The man's only equipment was a metal box and a number of crystal glasses secured on a length of wood. Using only these glasses, the man played classical music, which rung loudly in the air, attracting huge crowds of awe-inspired spectators. I hope that you all enjoy.

Not much more to tell from here. Everything is good, though I must admit that I am also looking forward to returning home, seeing friends, family and loved ones. As I have said before, I will be returning stateside in early August, before heading on a short trip to Mexico and then back down to North Carolina.

08 July 2007

Photos from Spain

I am posting a few photos here of the last few days in Sevilla. Enjoy, thanks for reading, and thanks for all of your comments, encouragement, and suggestions.






Their chant was, "Mohammed, Capullo, El Sahara no es tuyo," which means, "Mohammed (King of Morocco), Dumbass (or similar insult), the Sahara is not yours!"




*A few years ago, the Cathedral of Seville was proven to be the largest cathedral in the world. Sorry for the incorrect facts in the last post.

07 July 2007

Civilizing Seville

Spain, according to Spaniards, is often despectively excluded as a true part of Europe. As they tell it, citizens of other countries in Europe are constantly throwing around the cliche that "Africa begins south of the Pyrenees". This may be true, though I have never heard any European say this.

Any European besides a Spaniard, that is.

The Spanish have got an inferiority complex, it would seem. This is not a difficult thing to understand, as while the British, French, even the Italians, were all treating themselves to some form or another of democracy, the Spanish and the Portuguese, both south of the Pyrenees, were enjoying themselves a good old-fashioned dictatorship until the mid 1970's.

Portugal, under Salazar, and Spain, under Franco--both struggled beneath the yoke of totalitarianism, and both spent the eighties like stunned kittens blinking at the light, trying to figure out how to become the truly first world countries that they should be.

The truth is that they have done quite well. I have no statistics for you, and I am no historian, so perhaps some of my suppositions are a bit shaky, but I think that they hold water pretty well.

Spain, and Portugal, are both still mired in the mud of patronage and networks of good-old boys, but they strive forward admirably, leaving a not-too distant past of poverty, illiteracy, and general backwardsness.

The funny part is that people, at least some people, at least some people here, don't seem all that happy about some of the advances being made.

When I first came to Spain, in 1999, and again in 2000, people smoked on the buses, in hospitals, in taxis. They smoked everywhere. Internet in the University was a mystery, and the computers were slow and antiquated. The streets in the vicinity of the major tourist monuments of Seville were jammed with cars--dangerous and annoying and generally unsightly.

Today smoking is at least somewhat curtailed in places such as those mentioned above. There is no longer a smoking session on long-distance buses (it was the back of the bus before), and the University here seems, at a quick glance, to be packed with new and real purty computers. And most importantly, the main street here, La Avenida de la Constitucion, which runs in front of the Cathedral (the third biggest in the world), is now reserved for pedestrians and sleek new trams.

And all I hear are complaints. One guy complained about the mayor, saying how terrible he was, complaining about him having ruined the Puerta de Jerez (once a traffic circle around a fountain, now pedestrian as well). When I dared to disagree with him, he pointed animatedly at the paving stones, saying, "But look at these stones! These don't go with Seville at all!"

Another woman looked at me and rolled her eyes when I mentioned the tram. "Oh," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm and mockery, "We are so European now."

And to be honest, I don't get it. The city looks great, the street is clean and pedestrian friendly. Locals and tourists alike seem to be enjoying its views while walking it. Cafes and restaurants are abundant, the trains (not yet being used, still in testing) run smoothly, ringing bells as they do.

And all that I can figure is, these people are pissed because they want Africa to begin after the Pyrenees. They don't want to be like the others, even if that means not improving their cities or adapting at all. And after all these years, all the complaints I have heard about their European reputation, many seem sad, percieving that they are losing it. I have got to hope, though, that some people here are happy about changes....

But who knows? I will keep researching and let you know.

A few other notes before I leave.

One, in response to Jerz's recent comment--Yes, the chains are taking over Europe (though it is nice to hear that Starbucks is failing in Italy). But, he's right--these places exist on supply and demand. And they are always, always, packed. Spanish seem to enoy a Big Mac more than any American I know, and prove their love with their presence.

Two, the program with Abbey Road, my work and reason for being here, is going well. We are being housed in a lovely student residence (dorm) in the center of town. We all have AC, TV, and WC on site. The students seem great (they just arrived yesterday), and our program schedule is exciting and filled. The weather is perhaps the only downfall, as the days seem to be steadily staying at 100 degrees.

That's all for now. I hope that all are well. More soon.

04 July 2007


I arrived yesterday in Sevilla, having decided to come straight here rather than pass through Faro.

When I got off the bus, it was only 105 degrees here at five thirty in the afternoon. This summer is going to be interesting.

Sevilla, if it was beautiful when I studied here in 2000, is now even more so, and it is honestly shocking to see the changes that have occured even since I last visited one year ago. The road before the Cathedral, once busy with automobile traffic, is now solely limited to trolley cars and pedestrians. Palm trees have been planted in once busy round-abouts, as well, adding to the semi-tropical feel of the city.

Unfortunately, Starbucks stores have also cropped up all over the city, and Sevilla's inhabitants may have become even more preppy than they were before.

More soon, as this Internet is costing me "an eye from the face" (as the Spanish say), and my economic situation is quite grim at the moment. Thank God for stipends.

03 July 2007

Still Lagos

Well I continue, as of this morning, in Lagos. My Belgian friends are hitting the road, my French friend is unsure, and I too am unsure of what to do.

I do know that this morning will be a morning of goodbyes and hellos and of chores. I will wish my friends farewell, pack my bags, wash my clothes, and make phone calls to those far away. Only then will I decide as to my next stop on this journey.

As of tomorrow I must be in Seville, in Southern Spain. It is then that I will begin to earn my meals, working for Abbey Road, a company that specializes in study abroad programs for high school students. I will be in Seville for a little over two weeks, followed by ten days in Cordoba and five days in Granada. My days will be filled by teaching, "chaperoning" and, without a doubt, trips on which I accompany students to the much loved hospitals of Spain.

And then home, back to the much internationally maligned, much flawed, but much loved United States. Only then will I begin to please the part of me that is "sometimes not [nomadic]". Only then will I return to see all of those that I miss and to pick up my home life where I left it off.

More soon from your loyal chronicler, Pancho. I hope that all are well.

02 July 2007

So Lagos

Two days ago, indecisive and a bit bored, I finally made the decision to leave Faro. The beach was too far, and a bit boring, and it was time to head on to different climes.

I returned to my hotel, my mouth and brain filled with lies for Paul, my Armenian hotel proprietor, very aware of his desire for me to stay in Faro. I was unsure of his reasoons for wanting to keep me in Faro, though I suspected that they were perhaps more economically motivated than the ones that I knew he would give me.

Our conversation went something like this:

ME: "Well, it looks like I am going to leave today. I got an email from a friend in Lagos, and I am going to go meet him."

Paul: "Well, okay. You take bus to Lagos for day and then you return in evening."

ME: "No, I think that I am going to leave. My friend is there and I am going to go see him. I will stay there."

Paul: "No, much better to stay here. Why rush? Here is safe, good price. You go and come back."

ME: (Trying to avoid his teary eyes, sad look on his face) "No. I think that I must leave. My friend is expecting me."

Our conversation continued like this for a few minutes, until finally Paul accepted the fact of my departure with resignation. I went upstairs, packed my bags quickly, and returned to say goodbye and leave my key.

Paul: "Well then, you leave. I go to hospital in a little while, first I go to take a coffee. Give me some change to drink a coffee."

ME: (incredulous) "Change to drink a coffee?"

Paul: "Yes."

Somewhat annoyed, quite surprised at this behavior, I counted out fifty-five cents, the running price for a coffee in Portugal. He looked at the money and told me to give him more, digging through my Moroccan change purse (or perhaps it is a murse, or manly change sack), pulling out a bit more. Seeing that there was little to take, he looked at me and said, "Well, it is okay. No problem. Thank you."

And so I left, truly shaken by this encounter, weighing my pity for this man against my annoyance at his beggarly behavior.

I took the bus to Lagos, a trip that took a bit over two hours, and wandered the town searching for a place to stay, unwilling to pay too much for a room. I finally found the Youth Hostel, which, just arriving at the end of the "low season" was still offering prices of eleven euros with breakfast included.

In the hostel, I quickly met a groupe of Francophones, whom I had shyly ignored on the bus ride from Faro. Invited to join them, I headed off with this Belgian couple and lone French man to a nearby beach.

The beaches here are a glorioius thing, sandy pitches that rest at the bottom of massive and multi-colored cliffs. At certain points, the huge rocky cliffs butt into the sea, and walking around them one finds beautiful, hidden beaches.

Yesterday, we walked to one such beach, climbing over rocks and through tunnels, using ropes (already there) at times to negotiate particularly tricky climbs up and down. Finally we arrived at a secluded, private beach, where we set our things and began to engage in some serious relaxation.

With time, the tide rose, and we slowly moved up the beach to keep dry. With more time, the sun hid behind the cliffs and we remained in shadow, cold and damp. Around us, the sea raged, waves rising and falling, crashing against the rocks. Looking at our cameras and books, our video cameras and wallets, all dry and safe within our bags, we realized that we could not leave. Leaving would require swimming, as the dry beach on which we had walked around the cliffs was now covered in deep water, and swimming through it would mean getting our things wet.

And so we sat, cold and wet, on the shady beach. We joked around and lit a fire with grasses and a few pieces of bamboo, more for something to do than for any heat the fire would provide. We told riddles and jokes, and read our books, and finally, hours after we wished to leave, we left, hungry and cold.

Arriving back into what we considered "the real world", we were surprised by the warmth of the sun, the number of people on the main beach. We immediately repaired to a small shop, where we bought cold beer, potato chips and olives, in celebration of our ultimate victory.

At night we ate Indian food, accompanied by one dollar beers, and afterwards returned home to sleep, tired from our adventurous day at the beach. In doing this, we were doing something truly unique, as this town seems to have been built on foundations of partying until the wee hours of the morning.

We walked past Australian rock bars and the posted results of local "beer-bong" contests, past scantily-clad Americans with hoarse voices inviting us to enter their bar, past flag-waving Canadians and stumbling Brits. And finally, after a long and tiring day, we headed off to sleep.

01 July 2007


I am in Lagos now, a beautiful, paradisiacal, bacchanalian town a few hours from Faro. I cannot write much now, as the Internet is a pain in the ass, and I am tired as hell, but I will return soon, with photos and stories galore.

I hope that all are well. More soon.