The Torches

I had read and heard about it, something I can’t identify. “The time of your life,” “Like nothing else,” “de puta madre.” Of course I was geared up. But nothing opened the book for me – I did not catch a glimpse of the plot. It was all vague, more-or-less wordless trailers with a burning background and a bold, stone-set release date.

The first hints were the mascletà – from the first of March and the opening of the season, every day at 1400, in the municipal square Plaça de l’Ajuntament would come the call in their languageSenyor pirotècnic, pot començar la mascleta! And so he did.


For five minutes, the fabric of the air was ripped loudly by increasingly well-engineered explosions and other such fireworks. The pyrotechnic master was the conductor who scored the production – each day a different conductor, and so different rhythms and music were pounded out with genius precision by so many kilograms of gunpowder, with a greater and greater audience. The great crescendo at the end threatened to throw off pacemakers and shake shelves from their fixtures, and every time my own heart swelled and matched the thousand fists pounding against it. When it was over, great cheering and calls of bravo! were minuscule in the presence of the subsiding echo.

This happened twenty times.

Rumors built and built, until the time had come for all to break loose – maybe it was Thursday, maybe it was Wednesday, but when it came it came without a real announcement, just the general pervading understanding that the time had come. Perhaps the only indicator was the unveiling of what was being constructed all along, with hundreds of thousands of Euros and a year’s worth of fundraisers, paella, and fallera-electing come to pass. When I saw them for the first time I realized what kind of madness and primeval flailing of enjoyment was about to ensue.





The falle (torch in Valencian) is one of about three hundred and fifty gigantic – gigantic – expertly crafted “floats” that are painstakingly painted and given such detail not only in their artistic presentation, but also in the selection of what subject will be lampooned – the mayor of the city holding her husband on a leash as a dog? – Michael Jackson (’nuff said)? – A menu of the unjust American wars with a dessert of petroleum? – and nothing is sacred, everything is beautiful. The institutional casals falleres (Houses of the Falles) are the central organizations that come together to contest at this time with their elected falleras – something maybe like a debutante, except with much less aristocracy and much more cultural purpose (or purpose in general) – who has the most outrageous, flamboyant, ingenious falle.

Together with the parades, the traditional music and dancing come the nightly verbenas that are myriad open-air parties with stages, rock bands, and DJs that see the swelled populace of Valenica party for about five days straight. Every morning (four in the afternoon, eight A.M. despertà be damned) as I awoke I would hear my roomate Raul: “Prosequito, vamos a fiesta!” The truth has rarely been such a dichotomy of sweet and sour.

There was a special consistency, one I’ve not witnessed before – that of a war zone. The amount of petardos (firecrackers) that were exploded in Valencia that weekend, if piled together as gunpowder, would have ended the Iraq war once and for all time. With my blue-checked scarf and my pack of 100 large firecrackers, Raul told me I had changed into a Valencian. That’s pride. The explosion of firecrackers never, ever stopped – the same at noon as at midnight as at five in the morning, all over the entire city. Here is a city so obsessed with fire and pyrotechnics that a flood fifty years ago being their most deadly disaster is divinely ironic. Not a few hands were blown off during the course of the festival.

The episodes were to venture to the ciutat vella (old city) and explore the various fineries, falles, and falleras. This was not so hard in the first episode, because it took place on a Thursday and so there was more time for the plot to escalate and the situations of would-be tourists working was a factor. I managed to get in a fair bit of Valencian-ness this day, which began in the center at about one o’clock. Just as I arrived came the sound of the drum and the triple-oboe-like-instrument-attack of traditionally dressed dudes in their Saragüells. They were accompanied by people wearing falle-style heads and most interestingly a giant “costume” of a woman, thrice as tall as I.

Naturally, I followed them, as the woman danced and twirled to the music of the small band and the people with the falle-heads whacked bystanders on the head with their straw brooms. The procession grew as more people followed and we made it finally right next to where mascletà would take place. There was more playing for the thirty minutes leading up to that day’s “musical selection.”

The day continued as I ate paella in my favorite square and drank some delicious orxata (horchata in Spanish) to wash it all down at the legendary Horchateria del Siglo (Horchateria of the Century!).


We ventured on to view the mother of god (complete with heavy gold crown and intricate gold crosses, just like in real life) naked for this episode.


The weather was nice and the people were too many to make it back to the piso, so we took our siesta right there in the plaza. That night began the insane cycle of starting out with castillo, the most spectacular fireworks display I have ever seen, followed by attending various verbenas and, like every other Valencian there, enjoying ourselves with a bottle of whiskey clandestinely snuck from a corner store that wasn’t supposed to sell after midnight. Later, at the imploring of my roommate and his girlfriend, we went to some discoteca – a negative scene in an otherwise great episode. I’m surprised the cigarette smoke, not so glamorous as a Bogart-esque moment, did not blind me for the rest of the festival. Bed at 7 AM.

Episode two was similar, except more people came to enjoy themselves during the day. I actually felt a little annoyed that all these tourists were crowding up “my town.” The firecracker explosions escalated in amount, size, and proximity. It took me a while to get used to not having to duck what I expected to be bullets or shell fire. Castillo was bigger, and so were the verbenas. Bed at 6 AM.

Episode 3, as in any archetypal five-part production, was packed with action and plot twists. The center was packed beyond belief – how could the very ground not collapse under the weight of these people? For this reason, mascletà had to be watched from much farther away than normal. I intended to grab a quick bite after that, but nix that idea – even Burger King had a line that would probably take an hour and a half to wait through. Too bad I couldn’t take part in the lunch of the casals falleres.


It was in this disappointed and hungry situation in which I called my Mexican friend Marianna and asked her what she was doing. She replied that she was in a restaurant just of Plaza de Virgen and on Carrer d’Cavallers – the absolute last place I would expect to find a restaurant with reasonable waiting time.

“My friend is the cook – do you want to come in and have some paella?”

The place was only full of people who knew the owners or cook. The paella was delicious, the conversation humorous and in Spanish among what Marianna called hostal de Valencia, since the approximately fifteen people eating with us were either her roomates or friends who were crashing at her piso. As we left we got a picture with a real fallero. That was a good thing.





I do not know what time I went to bed that night.

I woke up at four in the afternoon to Raul’s call. I didn’t drink anything in episode four or five.


Episode four was generally the same thing with Erasmus students. We thought we were going to see a bullfight that night, but it turns out it was just some other bull exposition where people in the audience come down and taunt the bull as he chases them with flaming horns. So no matadors – that was disappointing.


Afterwards we left for the last castillo. The firecrackers came about every second now, and the craziest thing was watching the people move through the avenues as someone would throw one of those fireworks that shot out huge white sparks and jetted around in mad spirals, forcing everyone to scream and run away. I got a feeling of what Tiananmen square might have been like, except without tanks and death. Unfortunately because we left a little late and there were so many people the majority of the fireworks were obscured by buildings. Went to bed about four.

The fifth and final episode came at the purpose of the whole event – Saint Joseph’s Day. Not so many tourists today, they all had their day jobs. This was the finest day to be a Valencian. A perfectly festive number of people in the city, a final great enjoyment before the namesake of the event took place. For at midnight, all of the falles would become torches.

First, at nine in the evening, came the ninots – smaller, cheaper falles that lacked the satirical concepts of their big brothers, which are especially for children. Each neighborhood produces one falle and one ninot. The only structure spared is the ninot that is voted to be the best of the bunch, which is then put in the Falles Museum. Everything else meets the demise of flame.

We chose a ninot very close to the Plaça de l’Ajuntament, so we could be near to watch the final act of the burning of the municipal falle.




We then chose a falle close to that one as well to watch burn at midnight, when all the falles everywhere are put to flame. This one was as tall as the buildings around it, and the bomberos (firemen) had put flame-retardant tarps on the sides of the buildings and were hosing down the facades. I happened to be surrounded by a bunch of American idiots from Clemson (duh) who were drinking heavily and yelling things like “When Americans go abroad, we’ll do stupid things, it’s what we do!” I was quite embarrassed. But the burning falles made everything better.





Finally, it came to waiting in the ungodly huge crowd in relative silence for one AM to come. The main falle, which I estimate was about twenty-five meters tall, stood as the symbol of everything that had come to pass, good or bad, in one’s life over the past year. Thousands of Valencians stood watching, mixed anticipation and sadness evident on our faces.


The winner of all the mascletas put together a final overture, the most magnificent of them all. The symphony lit up the dark sky of the plaza, and we all watched what played out on the screen of black. When the last note had been played, there was a moment’s silence before the finale exploded in our eyes.






The infernal pillar grew in form, defeating a defiant statue of a monster that had awed and plagued the millions. Our faces fixed unwavering as the deep flame reflected in our pupils. It was at once deeply satisfying and a reluctant close. I found myself at the end of a film with no conflict but replete with action. The black smoke billowed to the east.

Plain Talk

I told to my mother several months ago that Tiffany was applying for the MC of AIESEC in Pakistan. Not being updated on the situation after Tiffany did not get the position, my mother relayed to me a conversation she had with some kind of foreign government diplomat that she described was half-likely to be a member of the CIA, who had worked in Pakistan. The foreign agent became concerned when my mother relayed Tiffany’s interest, and the agent implored her to relay that Tiffany should stay away from Pakistan, that there were high instances of Western female kidnappings and all of these kinds of things. Despite my statement that the current (maybe past now) MCP of Pakistan, Tori, is a white Australian female, my mother stated in the old-world fashion, “I wouldn’t want my daughter going to Pakistan.”

These two heroes have stated, with their particular eloquence, why Tiffany should go to Pakistan, or Kenya, or Iran, or any such place where my mother does not want her daughter to go.

In the Dam, for the weekend…

Amsterdam was a great time. I flew in and met Jeremy and Mischa at Schiopol airport at about six in the evening on Thursday, and Mischa in his extremely hospitable way bought our train tickets and gave us a large, well-worn map and showed us exactly how to get to his flat in the Jordaan district. This didn’t keep us from going too far and making it to the Central Station, but with our handy-dandy map we were able to make it to Best Thai restaurant, where we enjoyed quality Thai food in the company of AIESECers and trainees alike. Jeremy made it to his hotel smack-dab in the middle of the Red Light District, well-located indeed.

The next day Jeremy and I did the tourist thing in the Dam, going to the Rijksmuseum (disappointing because they are renovating the main hall until 2010 – at Jeremy’s suggestion we would have just stood and waited until 2010 came), experienced gezelligheid at a cozy koffe huis with a canal view (what DOESN’T have a canal view in the right part of the Dam?), and wandering the Red Light District both during the night and the day. What an odd piece of the world it is. I support the purpose of the Dutch policy on the Red Light Districts (which are not just in Amsterdam) and it is very interesting to see the actuality of nearly-naked women (slightly over half of whom are attractive) tapping their all-glass window and enticing you to pay their rent. But there are also the many prostitutes who sit at their stools, bored and unsmiling, which quickly washes away the novelty and boyish grinning one would associate with such a place and replaces it with a feeling of mixed sympathy, slight discomfort, and a sincere understanding of the phrase “Not In My Backyard.” Add in the fast-walking immigrants who mutter “coke, ecstasy” as you pass by, and De Wallen is not exactly the headiest district in town.

The next day was the excellent AIESEC Amsterdam reception weekend. We started the day off adventurously touring the city on a contraption called a “Stepbike,” which is essentially a scooter but with the wheel orientation and size of a bicycle – so you stand in the middle and use one foot to push off. Since it’s closer to a bicycle’s construction, the stepbikes allow you to go about two-thirds as fast as you could on a bicycle, making for hilarious hijinks along the canals as we zipped around in masses of twenty, imploring me to hum “The Ride of the Valkyries.” We stopped in the middle for a gezellig time having a beer on the corner of a canal. That night they pulled out the big guns as we had a dinner and a few hours of pre-party in the upstairs room of Café Heffer, where the LC has their meetings. That is amazing. Then it was off to the crown jewel – a boat party. Best reception weekend _planning_ ever (Mountain Mayhem still struggles for best event ever). And as a major cool bonus, I met their LCP Jaan – based on the fact that he went to high school in Guntersville for a year. Really nice guy, and he appreciates and knows North Alabama.

On Sunday we went to the Heineken Museum, which is a cool experience, but we were unable to go to the Van Gogh museum due to time constraints. I’ll definitely return to Amsterdam sometime in the future though, so there’s always then.

The most important thing I learned, though, was after I’d been back in Spain for a couple hours. I had the mentality, due to my long weekends and the fact that being in Europe is far from being in the US, that I should see as much of Europe as I can. However, a minor culture shock upon my return to Spain led to a small amount of regret that I had left at all. I saw and did some cool things in Amsterdam for a few days, but the value of what I experience in Spain is so much heavier and important than jetsetting and not being really a part of that culture. As Pepe’s girlfriend Davinia said, “Puedes ver mucho, pero conocer nada (You can see a lot, but understand nothing).” That’s the concise truth, and it’s one that I will commit to with a new appreciation. With the exception of next weekend’s trip to Roma to visit my mother and sister, and my trip to Romania for ITC (Hooray!), P. Rhea will be sticking around Spain to savor the culture that abounds. At least until June opens up.

Look at your hands, they’re just right for a new kind of dance

Granada was not what I expected, unpleasant at times, and a bildungsroman in places on the time-line. We left Valencia two hours later than planned at 17:00 hours, and proceeded down through the rest of the Comunitat Valenciana into Murcia, and finally into Andalusia where we came to the jewel of Granada at 0100 hours the next day. We parked and put our stuff into the small but pleasantly arranged hostel, which I recommend should you pass through Granada while your mind baits your body to tread the path.

From there it was straightaway to a house party, but on the way in the university square, I was approached by a very strange man clad in bridal gear fretting in a stereotypical high-pitched voice that his bridal veil was caught, which it was, in his hairpin. I had to release it from his hairpin for him, and I said, “Eres libre (you’re free)”. He responded jubilantly: “SOY LIIIIBRE, SOY LIIIIIIIIIIIBRE!” And then it was off to the house. I gathered that they were all, more or less, from the same town in Alicant where my roomate Raul is from (Orihuela), and that we were here to celebrate one of their birthdays. I was the only one drinking beer, which I prefer over the poisonous liquors, although in Spain I am learning to enjoy the excellent wine. I was chided for this by all the Spaniards, who said I was “not being very Spanish.” This is the second time I’ve heard this, the first time being at the open bar with Joséluis that one time. I talked with one dude about the differences between university here and in the US, and I mentioned that I try to go to all my classes. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Has aprendido nada de España, me parece (You have learned nothing about Spain, it seems).” On that inspiration alone I chose not to go to class Monday.

We left for the discoteca at about four. Being bored and very tired, I actually sat down from an inability to stand up and sway anymore, and I fell asleep for thirty minutes seated in the club. I was awoken by three of the girls who were returning to the hostel early (at six), and I went with them. We had a delicious shawarma along the way (wish we had those all night in Valencia!) and as we arrived back to the hostel at about seven, the inky blue was turning into more of an aquarium-blue, biased towards the east. My other roomates got back at about nine.

Then began the gauntlet.

At noon sharp we awoke, showered, and headed to the cafe bar next door at one. In the south of Spain, the normal state of affairs is “una caña y una tapa,” wherein you purchase a third of a liter of beer and you receive a free tapa. Repeat four times among five friends, and you’ve had a diverse meal for cheap. Maybe you’ve gotten a little buzzed too. From there it was on to the Bar do Polvo, Galician for “Octopus Bar,” so named because octopus is well-loved in Galicia. We were here to celebrate the girl’s birthday, and we would celebrate it for five hours – with 150 liters of free beer to celebrate with. I knew straightaway that this would end out badly. While reducing the amount of oxygen to one’s brain cells is an enjoyable pastime on an irregular basis, beginning this at two in the afternoon and knowing it would not end earlier than eight the next morning allowed me to project the probability of how I was going to feel as I would try to bounce around at the discoteca at three in the morning. But my efforts at holding a single beer for a long time proved insufficient to their watchful eyes; “mas! mas!” which inevitably turned into the necessity of the mixed drinks. I was getting that syrupy feeling in my head and stomach as we left at about nine to go to grab dinner – at “Casa Braulio.” There is a saying in Spain: “Has encontrado a Braulio (Have you met/seen Braulio?)” which is so named for its similarity to the sound one makes when one vomits. Kind of like “Selling a Buick.”

Casa Braulio was cool ’cause we got there in time for the game between Sevilla and Barça, which Sevilla won. We ate a good bit of quite good food, topped off with bull penis (it looks like roast beef and tastes even better). But at the end was the obligatory orujo, and the stabilization I had felt from the proteins and protein-producers that were now deep inside me began to falter under the weight of the yellow alcoholic suspension. As we left at midnight sharp, one of the females encountered Braulio.

Then we went into a random side-plaza where other revelers were and we began to drink more, nothing but liquor and Coke now. This was the night of the full lunar eclipse, which was de puta madre. But I wasn’t as lucky as a certain nomad, who probably saw God and his forefathers under the blood-sign. Drinking and talking until about 3:30 when we entered BoogaClub. Here was a place I actually dug! It wasn’t the shite techno I had been whipped with so much, but was instead a place for “groove music” – for the first time in a while, I got down, as in, “I came to get down.” So we partied there until the club closed at seven; I was shaking and ready to fall asleep right away. Perfect timing for the others to say, “Which club should we go to next?” I had no idea what to say. The aquarium-glass blue was returning to the sky, and I had lost my sunglasses, and we were piling into a taxi to go on some hunt for the next dance club – which would NOT be groove music. The supposed discoteca was out near the airport (not close), so we saw Granada’s countryside and the Sierra Nevada mountains as the sun rose and painted the spaces ahead. The trip was ill-fated, however – we reached the top of a hill among hills where the club supposedly was, and there was nothing. We then went back to whence we came – the whole episode took an hour and cost 40 euros for all of us (the meter read 65). At this point I wasn’t even willing to BS that I was able to “be Spanish” for another hour; I paid the extra six to head home. The others arrived back at noon or one.

Two hours of sleep and we awake again. I feel horrible. Extremely hot, and like I might be dehydrating. A bottle of water and orange juice are insufficient. We walk around for a while, without seeing anything tourism-worthy, and we leave a couple of hours later to drive back to Valencia (we went the wrong way at first and added a couple hours to our trip, but at least I got to see the modern windmills of La Mancha). The same girl, who was in our car, met Braulio twice more on the trip, thankfully on the side of the road.

I was unhappy that I had taken the long trip to Granada and not seen the “Absolutely must-see Alhambra and Almohada,” but it was nonetheless the first time I had witnessed that kind of staying up and going all out. I could not fathom how it is possible to party like that. I don’t imagine I’ll be doing it again unless it’s on P. Rhea’s terms (or at least doesn’t involve any techno music) and I can at least take a right siesta.

Last night I was watching a movie at another piso and someone from the opposite window threw an egg in.

Amsterdam this weekend, with faces old and older. What will happen next?

The Curse of Circumstance in the Kitchen

At every turn, I am thwarted in my efforts to defeat Rachael Ray as Be’elzeboss and become the King of Cooking.

First the lack of sizable containers prevents quality sweet tea.

Next, not so much the lack of Rice Krispies (Smacks work OK) but instead the lack of pure marshmallows and forced substitution of a blasphemous half-mallow half-strawberry mix prevents Rice Krispy Treats.

And tonight, I was almost done with my most daunting undertaking yet: Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes. But they have to be mixed on “low.” And the mixer we had only worked on “Jet Engine.” So instead of fluffy and light mashed potatoes, I ate thick soup. My roommates like it as a bread spread.

Barstools & Dreamers

On Friday night, after watching Volver and eating pasta by my lonesome in my habitación, it got to be about 12:30, and some Erasmusvolk were having a good time at the Bar Negrito (after watching Crash dubbed in Spanish, “negrito” is their word for what Bull Connor would have called Martin Luther King Jr.). So I decided to amble on over through the Ciutat Vella (old city) and join them.

Some of the people who were bound to be at Fox Congo – not a place for me – were here at the Negrito, but left shortly thereafter. The remainders – Sarah from Madison, Stefan from East Germany, Vidar whom I went to see The Long Winters with, Ian from the Netherlands, and Vincenzo from Italy – remained and we talked about music, how Europeans don’t put a focus on lyrics but instead on beautiful women dancing to techno in the street (words attributed to a fellow nomad), the same old stuff, and what it meant for Italy that Prodi had asked to resign. Eventually there was only Ian and myself left.

Ian remarked that he was tired of the same old Erasmus gatherings, which were not exactly immersing us or expanding our boundaries. I agreed. We both live with Spanish people, and we agreed then that if either of us had access to a particularly cultural undertaking, that we would invite the other. It was toasted to and agreed.

Yesterday at four (an hour after I had awoken, I have GOT to wake up earlier) Ian called me. House fiestta in La Canyada, a pueblo outside of Valencia, to last all day. No question about it – soon we were on the tram line going all the way out to B-zone (that ain’t Valencia). When we arrived in La Canyada, it was about six-thirty. He called his compañera and she and her friend drove to pick us up at the tranvía. This is when we noticed something interesting. Both of them were dressed in unusual costumes and had on face paint. When we asked about this in the car on the way to the house, we learned that it was because the party had a theme, “fantasia.” So upon arrival we had to paint our faces and put on strange clothing, because these people went all out. And I believe that if you’re gonna do something, you better do it right.


The Spaniards had not only decked out in their costumes (or disfraz), they had also constructed considerable decorations for the room with numerous butterflies and a large holey board covered in colored translucent paper to make tinted light.






At first it was unusual, but as these things usually do at fiestas, they got more interesting. Before long we were playing a game called “Gestas” (which is just like “bitches, bitches” except with hand motions instead of vocalizations), and later on some of them began dancing flamenco. Also the Spanish are “cool,” as in “Hey, man, are you cool?” When dinnertime came, we raided the fridge tapas-style until there was nothing left and our hunger was mostly sated by circular hot ham-n-cheese sandwiches, ham-n-cheese pizzas, potato chips, and olive loaf.

When it was time to go, our driver (Ian’s roomate) spent thirty minutes driving lost through the neighborhoods until we finally found our way back onto the highway and back into Valencia. That was an interesting night. Even though I did not go to Paris or Madrid this weekend, I had an auk-cellent time with the Spaniards.

I did not figure out until this morning that we were all dressed up because everyone was celebrating Carnaval.

For My Brother

I was pretty useless this weekend except I went to see Valencia CF v. Barça Sunday evening across from my piso. The first half was uneventful but the second half saw Valencia score twice between the 50 and 55 minute mark, then there were some yellow and red cards because of two near-brawls, and then Barça scored late in the second half. So Valencia won which is awesome. Rooting for Barça when you live in Valencia is like rooting for the Yankees. Period.

All this sleeping and the Spanish lazy lifestyle caught up with me. I slept until about two or three every day for a week, because I just don’t have class after Wednesday, and not on Monday until five. Then on Tuesday, when I have to be at class at nine – which means I have to be in the shower no later than eight – I slept about two hours because of “too much” sleep. I guess my body needs it because definitely since the middle of December and probably long, long before that I have been way overworked, between preparing for WSC as an OC member and preparing for Mexico SDL as a faci, and actually being there and getting about three hours of sleep in a week, then having to wake up for class in Gandia for two weeks. Now I suppose is the time to get in gear and go all out for whatever I should go all out for.

A female friend from Barcelona told me a bad tale. She is on an Erasmus exchange in Maastricht, the Netherlands (birthplace of the EU) and there they have the best Carneval celebrations in the Netherlands. She was out with her friend from the US (another female), and according to the Barcelonan, the US girl was dressed “like a hippie” so like everyone else, indistinguishable. Some revelers asked her, “Where are you from?” and she replied “The US.” Then they said “AMERICAN WHORE,” and such, and began to push and shove her, and eventually kick her. The Barcelonan tried to intervene and became caught up in the same mess. Someone who took pictures of the attackers had their camera smashed on the ground by them. Then when they went, bruised and crying, to the nearest Dutch police car, they rolled their windows up and drove off. The next morning at the police station, the police said did not care again. Why does this happen? Sure we’re “the US” and all of that, but why would these people just attack her like that (especially Western Europeans?) and then the police not care at all? That’s a question that’s been with me since I heard it.

Anyway, I woke up too early on Tuesday having gotten so little sleep, and then there was no first class. How does this happen. It happened again this morning – my first class again. That doesn’t make me happy.

Tonight I saw The Long Winters with Vidar. Thanks to my musical and Alabamian comrade Matt Wurtele for heartily endorsing them one hour before the show because they were very good, and in an intimate setting. I wonder how many of the Spaniards there could understand the lyrics, because Spaniards as a rule probably don’t know much if any English.

I will post pictures from these events next time. I meant to write more but I’m tired. Looks like no Paris / Decemberists for me, maybe Madrid this weekend.

Levanta

Last night I went with my roomate Joséluis and some of his Spanish friends to a ticket-entry open bar. I had eaten one doner kebap three hours prior to leaving. I also, at the behest of my roomate and his friends, promised to do it like the Spaniards: drink only whiskey- or rum- or vodka drinks.

I don’t usually play by those rules. Last night was quite fun at first, but after all that heavy alcohol in my not-so-full stomach, I felt kind of like old syrup by the end of the night – which was like six o’clock. I woke up today at three, still feeling bad from the lactic acid buildup.

Today was relaxed. Everything here is just relaxation. I asked Joséluis what he was going to do about going to work today and he replied, “Por? No pasa nada!” (Why? There’s nothing wrong!) He skipped work today – and that’s okay. This is the greatest culture in the world.

I also recall the two things that I ate at dinner that time. The tiny mussels are called tellinas, and the yellow liquor is called orujo.

The person who was going to go to see The Decemberists with me in Paris backed out. If I get a suite deal on some plane tickets the night before or something, I’ll pack up and go; but Paris aint’ a great town, and the weather isn’t so hot right now either, especially in Northern Europe. But I am absolutely certain I will be taking some kind of trip next weekend. Perhaps Barcelona or Madrid if not Paris. The next weekend I am going with my roomates to Grenada. And the Fallas loom ever closer.

We’re watching Clerks II right now in Spanish. Isn’t so easy to understand.

My birthday is Tuesday.

Are you feeling better now?

Yes.

Because, my last-ditch email for course approval yielded all transfers – so now, I have a better situation than I could have imagined.

The intensive language course went through for three hours, which is awesome for two reasons: I only have to take nine equivalent hours at UPV, and that completes a scheme where I now get six free elective hours because I get SPAN1001 and 1002 filled in on virtue of higher-level completion and the classes I took in hike school.

Two of the classes I am taking went through for ECE (my major school) credit, one as three hours of 3xxx credit and the other as a direct transfer class, ECE 4330, Power Electronics. Finally there is Spanish Regional Economy, which I did not go to this morning because I chose to sleep through it, and which will be worth 3 ECON hours. That’s 13 hours when I needed twelve.

Oh, and I only have class between 1700 Monday and 1700 Wednesday. So’s theres gonna be lots of Eurotrips and Hispanotrips.

I am, needless to say, extremely happy about this arrangement. I still don’t believe that everything turns out for the best, but I am quite amazed at how well this has turned out.

Now I just need to plan my trips. My companion for the Paris trip to see the Decemberists backed out… I could do it, but I kinda don’t want to go alone, and Paris isn’t a great town. Whatev. I shelled out what it takes to go see Valencia play Barca this Sunday. Yes, the game is across the street from me.

There is something else that has been on my mind which must be stated.

I don’t really think of anywhere as “home” – I realized this when I was in Tuscaloosa one weekend in 2004, and we were out and it was late, and I said, “let’s go home” – meaning to my friends’ dorm room. I realized, however, that I meant home. It just meant base.

So, I really don’t get homesick or want to be back somewhere, like the South or the US or anything. But there are two things – just two – that I want here, and both of them have to do with food. The first is an establishment open late-night where you can grab some grub on the cheap. Waffle House is the most obvious answer, but I’m looking for anything – a doner, tapas, you name it.

The other thing is Jefferson’s Bar and Grill. The original Jacksonville, Alabama location served as the spiritual equivalent of Tolkein and LewisEagle and Child Pub to the high potential and extremely bored young population of Gadsden, Alabama. Though every one built since the Jacksonville original, including the one in Gadsden, has not so much character (my friend David refers to them as “shitty nice Jefferson’s”), the most important factor remains: they have the best buffalo wings I can possibly imagine. It doesn’t matter when or where I am, I dream of Jefferson’s wings.

If you are reading this from Kansas or St. Louis, you will go to one of the nearby Jefferson’s restaurants.