Monthly Archives: April 2012

Day 225

My brain juice is all dried all up right now, so I’ll make a decent attempt at this.

I’m in Ronda! Woooo-hooo. Visiting Becky, she has been my European travel partner and also my roommate in GB for like a year-and a half, and close friend, and also a comfort and go-to in many situations. I was the one who found out about this specific program in Spain and told her about it, but  I might not have gone through with it if I didn’t have her shared enthusiasm and support, Spain is what connects us and always has, and its really wonderful that we were both accepted into the teaching English program, and also placed in Andalucia.

But its been 7 months and I haven’t seen her or talked to much to her, so its good to finally be here visiting.

I got here yesterday, I left Torrox at 10am and arriving here at 3:00pmish.

Its been quite busy so far actually, definitely more than what I’m used to in Torrox, which is fine, nice really.

After getting here we dropped my stuff off and went to have lunch with the family of the school director? I can’t quite remember the relationship,…but Paco, the husband is in charge where she works. Their family is incredible! But extraordinary,…they should win a family award, or everyone given a gold star or something.

We got there, and two other American girls (former English teachers at the same school) were on the couch waiting for Isa the wife who was in the kitchen cooking this incredible feast for her family and us! They have 3 boys all of them were super polite, and talkative and sweet.  I met everyone, 9 people in total we were and we sat down to a beautiful long table that was prepared with tapas and wine and beer for us to enjoy before we were served mashed potatoes and gravy and a roast and soup and…….etc. Finishing with dessert of course. The dinner was bi-lingual, and light hearted. The family was so generous and humble, and also very educated, cultural and intellectual. The food was obviously fantastic and we weren’t allowed to help clean at all but expected to eat more than what we normally should…and I can handle that.

It was a great time, I really enjoyed being there and the stimulating conversation. I got some good tips too…Paco and his family actually lived in Torrox for 10 years, something like that. They helped organize cultural events, they even managed to pull off getting a music disciple of Ravi Shankar to come play a concert at one of the high schools?! In the living room is one of Paco’s paintings of Torrox. I didn’t even notice it at first, but its the church right behind my house, I swear I see that view every single day. There are also these beautiful black and white photos taken by Paco of Isa when she was younger. She is a very beautiful woman now, but she is completely  stunning in the photos, and I talked to her about it and supposedly there was an abandoned village very close to Torrox, at one time it had been a place for a quarry? if I understood correctly but then became abandoned when the work stopped.

Awesome.

Paco thinks though that the town has been re-inhabitated by artsy sorts of people who wanted to restore it, but I wrote down the name, and honestly it can’t be more than a 5 maybe 6 hour hike from Torrox, which is both due-able and completely worth it, even if I get there and its full of old artsy hippies.

I met Jose, Becky’s much talked about boyfriend. He made a good first impression, and invited me my coffee. That was nice.

Then I went out for tapas with Becky and 2 other American girls and another British girl. It was nice to meet Becky’s friends, but I was stuffed. But thats what people do here,…go out for tapas, so its not really even a question if we go out or not. I just had a glass of red wine. It trickled its way down my throat and found space in my tummy some how.

It was around 10pm then when Becky took all of us to a free flamenco show. It was free so the talent reflected that a bit, and we ordered more drinks and tapas and the service was a little under-par so we stayed for an the first half of the show. But it was nice. Free entertainment is free, so take it or leave it.

After ditching the show Becky, one of the other girls and I made our way to Huskies, the bar that were Becky met Jose and also where he works as a bartender. Its a sports bar that sort of caters to the foreign crowd, with posters of Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan and they play a mix of English and Spanish music. There was a band that played for awhile, they were ok. I think they had strong vocals that weren’t backed very well by the sound equipment. They sang songs by Nickleback and such…

I haven’t been in a sports bar probably since my going away party in Wisconsin back in September.

I got to meet a bunch of friends and aquiantences of both Becky and Jose at Huskies, and heard lots of backstories. Everyone was really nice and friendly, except for maybe like one or two creepers, and then this other guy I actually got into a fight with. He was in my face being annoying and saying stupid things and trying to make sex jokes, and I was just like look I don’t know you,…so you can be quiet and go away now. But he didn’t, and I didn’t want to go away because the place was packed, and I had a stool to sit on, so I wasn’t leaving. He ended up doing me a favor though, he’s told me a joke in English.

In the worst broken English imaginable he tells me a joke about a guy who goes to a store to buy a big gun to shoot a can. The man at the store says to him, why don’t you shoot a Mexican instead?

THANK YOU.

Without even knowing me or my love for Mexico, and having already annoyed me with his presence he said the magic words that just set me off and gave me a way to go off on him and make such a fuss that he would have no-choice but to walk away from me. So after I just stared at him at first, thinking you did not just say that…he tries to tell it again. Yeah I got it the first time, and it wasn’t funny I told him as he just assumes I didn’t understand. But its a joke and its funny he says,…

Perfect entry into my verbal explosion. I was sober the whole night, so I was able to make a solid and lengthy argument, in Spanish of course, and backed and supported my ideas and didn’t allow him to interrupt me as to why its not funny because people actually do go buy guns and shoot Mexicans for fun, to simplify it.  <<anyways I hate those and similar jokes…like dead Jew jokes. After standing in a former gas chamber in Dachau, no body tells me dead Jew jokes without hearing me go off.>>

So dude’s brilliant response to me was to tell me that Mexicans are responsible for bringing drugs into the U.S.

Hmm…so first passionate argument didn’t drive  him away…but THANK YOU because he just said another idiot thing to say,….and again I proceeded to go off on him for that.

And after all this arguing and shouting at him he still wanted to talk to me, so I just had to leave my stool and go hide in the bathroom and laugh a bit because I couldn’t believe this guy. Luckily leaving the bathroom a group of people were dancing,…so I joined in and escaped the Mexican hater, and had a great rest of the night.

But my brain juice is dried up,…Im not used to staying out late, and didn’t sleep my usual 9-10 hours on the weekend…. but its really nice to see Becky again and I’m enjoying my time here and looking forward to the rest of the weekend, its only started…it may be 4pm, but we are both still in our pj’s hanging out in the living room.

Our brains gotta get some juice in them before anything takes place. But come tonight we will be recharged and ready to start all over.

 

Advertisements

Day 223

Ever dragged yourself to the mailbox dreading to find fliers selling useless crap, bills you don’t have money to pay, the bills from the guy that used to live at your address…5 years ago…, and maybe an occasional letter asking to donate to some cause? Any cause, pick one. All over the place millions are dying, sick, needy, hungry, or some combination of the above. For $20 bucks a month you can end all that and blah blah blah. Of course you’d love resolution to the worlds problems, but you’d also like gas prices to go down, and the rent be paid, and those amazing shoes that would go great with the new pair of pants you just bought. It’s just math. You’d help if you could, but you can’t, but its something you’d like to eventually donate to in the future when things are less complicated.

A psychologist by the name of Paul Slovic did an experiment with a group of people by giving them a photograph of a starving African girl from Mali and when asked to make a financial contribution to help her, most were willing. People were given a photo and also asked to contribute to help a starving African boy, which again most were willing to do. People were shown the photographs of both the boy and girl together and donations sharply decreased. When the group was asked to donate to 21 million starving Africans no one wanted to contribute at all.  This study and other research has found that there seems to be a “compassion fatigue” once the number of victims reaches 2. I find this a bit disturbing, but maybe not that surprising.

Groups like Save the Children play on this “compassion fatigue” when they send you their letters asking you not to help X number of needy kids,…they ask you to help little Juanito, with big brown eyes and a desperate ‘please help me’ look,  go to school so he can become the doctor he dreams of being. There seems to be scientific evidence that when the brain makes a moral decision its the emotional areas of the brain that are light up, not the rational ones. So in the case of causes and goodwill, hearing figures like X million means a lot less when compared to 1 situation, or 1 person with a name and with a story.

Last Friday PBS broadcast “Crossing the Line at the Border” through the program “Need to Know”, outlining the story of one man’s death at the U.S. border by the hands of U.S. officials.

This man has a name. Its Anastasio Hernández Rojas. He was 29 years old. That’s 5 years older than me. His widow is Maria Pulga, and she now is left to care of her 5 U.S. citizen children. Anastasio who was an undocumented Mexican living in the U.S. who had been detained. It was while he was detained requests for medical attention (stating that he was in intense pain after an officer had kicked his ankle that had metal pins in it from a previous surgery), and the inquiry of his court date were denied. Despite being undocumented these are legal rights the detainees have, again both were denied. He was simply taken to the border to San Ysidro / Tijuana, Mexico and it was on the U.S. side he was eventually tied and handcuffed behind his back and surrounded by a group of up to 20 U.S. border officials who proceeded to beat, kick, punch, hit with batons, and then use a taser 5 times on him. It was brutal torture and killing of a man, who was not resisting at anytime, and called out for help multiple times.

There are at least 3 eye witnesses who have come forward, one from the Tijuana side, one from the ground on U.S. side, and one eye-witness from above. Their stories match and more over, have actual footage showing the killing of Anastasio, taken from their cell phones. The videos are incredible to watch. Absolutely disgusting. You see him on the ground surrounded and being brutally murdered. Its sickening.

Some of the witnesses even called out asking why this was happening, that he wasn’t resisting, and non of the officials did anything except continue for around 30 minutes until he became life-less. It was only after the excessive force an ambulance was called, which by that time was useless. He was pronounced dead in the hospital.

This story was aired on Friday, however the incident took place 2 years ago, on May 28, 2010. Journalist John Carlos Frey broke the story, and has been working to uncover the details including the investigations or in this case lack of. From statements Frey made on Democracy Now! Aired on Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 Frey basically explains that the San Diego investigation into the matter was only half-ass and didn’t lead to any action but more dismissed the events, and that the Justice Department hasn’t taken any further steps such as a simple reviewing of the video evidence, or questioning the witnesses. All support lies with the officers of the border control and things are being kept under wraps. There hasn’t even been response on the part of a civil suite made by his widow, Maria.

It’s a case that no body wants to look at. The Federal Government doesn’t want to do anything. Branches like the U.S. Border Control and ICE are untamed monsters that go unchecked and reprehended. Similar abuse cases happen all the time between the 250 detention centers around the U.S.. I listened to a podcast by another PBS program, “Frontline”  a special “Lost in Detention” aired October 19th, 2011 that gives personal examples of victims and witnesses to sexual assaults, and beatings and illegal and immoral practices that continually go unchallenged within the system.

The U.S. stance on immigration is an evolving epidemic that seems to only worsen. So much can be said on this topic, and so many people are being affected when taking in account all the murders, harassments, and illegal and unpunished actions being carried out in detention centers,  at our border, and in our communities.

I wish that throwing out figures and numbers would shock people into realizing how large a scale this issue really is, but I feel just like the X million starving people in Africa, immigrants in this country are being ignored and injustices are continuing and building in front of our eyes, when these events are altering who we are as a nation and define how we are as a people and what we allow to happen. This is our history and our legacy unfolding and I think now more than ever with examples like Egypt and Occupy and the continued use of social media and awareness we should feel empowered to know that we have voices and duties to stand for what we know and feel is right.

It’s tragic to think of the millions of people who have and continue to be victims of the harsh U.S. attitudes towards immigrants. Even after hearing stories or having evidence people still say ignorant things like,…well ‘they’ steal our jobs, and ‘they’ should speak English, and ‘they’ broke the law, and ‘they’ this and ‘they’ that. If anything good could come out of such a dehumanizing and barbaric act I would wish that ‘they’ would start to take a name. a face. a family. a life.

Stop thinking in ‘they’ and in X amounts.

His name was Anastasio Hernández Rojas, and he was murdered by U.S. Border Control.

 

 

**This is based on information I gathered the following podcasts:

APM: On Being with Krista Tippett “Journalism and Compassion” February 9, 2012 [encore]

Democracy Now! Video April 24, 2012

Frontline:Audiocast PBS “Lost in Detention” October 19, 2011

**as well as confirmation on MANY other Spanish news sites, because this is basically  Mexican Rodney King here and the U.S. doesn’t care.**

Day 218

Alarm: Set
Type: Melody only
Volume: 3
Ringtone: Left Right
Snooze: 5 mins
Frequency: Once

When I rest my head to my pillow each night before I go to sleep, this is what I program into the cellphone that gets tucked away under the pillow next to me. Its the alarm to go off precisely 40 minutes before I need to leave the house for work in the next morning. I always give myself 40 mins allowing time to carry out the leisurely inward battle of waking up and getting out of bed. This normally takes an average of 3 snooze buttons, but experience has taught me that if I don’t comb my hair, just put a sweatshirt over whatever top I already have on, and wear sandals I can snooze 4 times.

And when I wake up my first thoughts are mainly drifts of consciousness between reality and what ever it was I had been dreaming. Sometimes I find myself brushing my teeth in front of the mirror sleepily reliving previous night dream swimming in the ocean and I zone out to the sound of the water coming out of the tap.

I hardly ever wake up anymore and think that, “I’m in Spain!” It’s more,
I don’t want to get out of bed.
…ugghhhh.
I wish someone would make me pancakes for breakfast.
Why is the woman in the apartment above me stomping around like an elephant in heels?!

I think very basic thoughts like these when I wake. But hardly ever that OMG  I’m in Spain.

Why? Because I am in Spain. 218 days later I get that. I feel that. You only think things like that when they seem out of the ordinary. I rarely wake up back at home and think…what I beautiful day to be in Brown County! No. Never. Just doesn’t happen. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate where I am, when I am or take note of it. Everyday little things slow me down and make me smile, or something will be said that makes me know I’m not in Wisconsin.

Example:

Random normal day this past week, get home, look down and fumble for my keys and out of the corner of my eye I see a colored blob on my doorstep. I jump back (natural reaction and self-defense mechanism in the event it may be a cockroach) and to my startled relief upon closer inspection I find its the dried out corpse of a small lizard.I stare at it first….looking at the empty shriveled sockets that once housed eyes, and decide to keep it there on my doorstep because in some weird way I like it there. Well on Wednesday, I had gone to visit Miguel at the radio and coming back down when we were finished we passed my house, and I showed him the lizard.

 



How is that called in English?
He asks.
Lizard. I reply.
Yes, this I know, but what kind of lizard? He insists.
I dunno, I’m not really an expert on lizards. Is what I come up with. Lizards are like cars…there are greens ones, fierce ones, fast ones, and Japanese ones. Don’t ask me more than that.

Miguel proceeded to inform me that this was a special lizard and according to Torrox legend (ready?…) these certain lizards will spit on your head and make your hair fall out.

Not exactly a Wisconsin thing to think. That was a Spain, or Torrox moment rather. Other moments that used to be ‘Spain’ or ‘Torrox’ moments are now just moments. Stores close at 2pm? Take a nap. There are horses in the street? Watch out for shit. The buses are late? Bring a book. No internet? Life continues. Saturday night no plans? Take a walk.

This is my life now. I do life things like wake up, work, talk to neighbors, eat tapas, hang out in pj’s, and also I have friends now. It’s taken a bit, but  life is coming together and is very comfortable and normal almost. Normal and with routine. Thats how people are though, creatures of habit and routine. Sure its always good to add spice to life,…but I have my routine.

Will have my routine, for officially 6 more weeks to the day. Knowing that is just enough to want to shake me out of my routine.

I think sometimes you just know. Well, maybe I shouldn’t speak for you. Sometimes I know. I’m actually pretty good at knowing, when my time is up, and when I’m ready to move on. Its often a feeling, either of accomplishment or dissatisfaction. If a place, or a city or a situation isn’t working and I’ve given it an honest go….I gotta take my experiences, and lessons learned and keep forward. Put in that same situation, if I feel I’ve become too comfortable, or maybe I’m not giving or receiving all that I can or should be, or that I have sufficiently discovered important lessons I feel I was meant to learn…then I need to go someplace else to find new challenges and opportunities to grow. That being stated of course it can be natural to still miss that place when you’re gone, but thats what visits and vacations are for! And needless to say you don’t have to stop growing in one place, just because I left Wisconsin doesn’t mean I know everything there is to know there,..it just means I reached a point when I couldn’t grow any more, so I needed to take a break from it.

Thats a bit of my mindset right now. My time in Torrox is limited. I have a deadline, a plane ticket, a pending farewell.
I’ve made the decision to leave Spain and Europe, which is seemed crazy by some, because I know that my time is up and I feel I’ve learned what it is I needed to learn here. I would love to think that touring Europe going to summer music-festivals, more art museums, couch surfing and binge drinking my money away would teach me something or I would look back and think, I made the right choice. But I think that would be a mistake.

I knew before I came, my mission wasn’t to check-list travel ( although I’ve made some pretty incredible trips and have a few more in store yet ) but I wanted to be content, still, and observant. I have been that, and by doing so I have made enormous progress in my own self-development. But living easy, and calm, and simple for so long has stirred up this energy inside me, that I can’t wait to release…its an energy that doesn’t come alive in Torrox anymore nor is it an energy I feel is right for Europe at this time. So I’m leaving. Almost immediately as I can, hopefully putting it to use.

If my plans where formulated and calculated out completely I’d share them, I really would. But they aren’t, and its unlikely they will be, perhaps ever. What I can say, is I have a longing for the Americas, and that doesn’t mean necessarily the U.S..I need a Latin American prescence in my life, and when its not there I feel its like a part of me is missing. So that is where I’m headed. To Latin America, this time to Costa Rica, a place I’ve never been to, but only dreamed about. I’ll speak more about Costa Rica as it draws nearer, but I wanted to just officially make the announcement that:

I leave Madrid, Spain: June 2nd, 2012
I leave Frankfurt, Germany: June 3rd, 2012
I arrive in San Jose, Costa Rica: June 4th, 2012
(Its my 25th birthday on the 13th!! Start planning gifts and surprises! ; )
I arrive back to the United States of America: July 5th, 2012
I leave with my family on a weeks vacation: July 7th, 2012

Then I want to be completely absorbed by all the people and places and things I’ve missed!!!

Its going to be a crazy 6 weeks and then some. And thats probably the best, and most honest way to sum this up.

Day 214

$11 including the wine. Goods bought at the stores today. Food to last me at least till the weekend.

Im living ‘la vida cheap’. I’ve gone 2 successful weeks without using my fridge in attempt to cut down my electricity bill, mainly buying fresh fruit and veggies everyday and just eating what I have, when I have it. It hasn’t been such a problem, or rather I haven’t wasted much food is what I mean, and I’ve learned that when I see large carrots in the store and I decide to buy 6 of them,…its actually painful to eat 6 large carrots in the span of two or three days…so best to buy just 1 or 2 and go back when I want more…which in my case is going to be a long time from now.

I don’t want to be misleading here though. I should be no ones health inspiration. Doritos and popcorn and chocolate don’t require refrigeration either :p so I still eat those things.

But its a good feeling to at least think that I’m saving money, even if its just money that I can spend frivolously else where.

Day 212

I didn’t realize that this past Friday was the 13th. Apparently it did though. I had been in my usual weekend hotspot- underneath the library stairs, it was nearing 1am, battery about to die and it had started to rain. So when I walked home, and arrived at the foot of my front door, I looked in my wallet expecting to find the key to open the door.

It wasn’t there.

It was a bomb slowly exploding in my head.

Huh? Keys? Huh? Come on….Pockets? Damnit I not wearing pockets. No keys!? Its raining!? Its 1am I got my computer in my hands and no way to get into my house?! FUCKity fuck fuck.

So right as this F bomb is exploding in my head, from the street a bit of a distance away I see the figures of 2 unknown men walk past and one waves and says, “Hola, Esperanza!”

Well at least he knew me whoever he was, so I ran to catch him before he walked off. It was Jose. Jose the gypsy. I swear thats what people call him. Spanish has a weird way of adding and using adjectives to describe people, like oh hey, its skinny Maria, or chubby Jorge, or blonde Lucia or Marcos the dark skinned one. Well I had run into Jose el gitano…and his cousin? (if I’d have to pick an adjective here, I’d say his cousin the tall one) out walking Lola, his dog. The conversation went immediately to my state of panic as I freaked out about my keys to him.

He looks at me all serious and says, “can you calm the fuck down?” “Can you do that?” “I’ll help you but you gotta calm the fuck down.”

OK. fine. I suppose.

All 4 of us, including Lola, circle to the front of the apartment. My apartment is on the street level on the backside, but would be like a second level on the front. I have two small balconies, both have sliding entry doors into the apartment, but have metal door things that were closed in front of the doors. Fortunately for me, there was a nice silver compact parked right underneath one of the balconies. Jose hopped on top of the roof, and Spidermaned his way up the wall and pulled him himself on to one of the balconies, pried open the metal door, and slid the entry door open, successfully breaking into my house, without breaking anything.

I was so relieved, and extremely grateful for his help, I offered both of them to come in. I had the scraps of a steak I ate for dinner still on the plate, gave those to Lola, and then served the guys some wine and offered them each one of the cigarettes I keep for when I go to the radio.

They didn’t stay long, but we got to talking. Jose is a nice guy from what I’ve seen so far. I think he must have been a bit tipsy though, because he started telling me a lot of personal information about himself…like including the fact that no one in town likes to associate with him, and they outcast him…not because he’s gypsy he said, and he’s only half, his dad really liked women he added to that?,…but because he did 10 years in prison. I asked him if he raped or killed children. He said of course not! He only stole some things,…”like avocados…and you know other things like that.”

Well regardless of this mans past, he saved my ass big time, and that means a lot to me. Plus, I had already long eaten my ‘Jesus avocado’…so if he was an avocado thief, I was safe from any potential crime.

Semana Santa 2012

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day 208

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The best Easter I ever had was spent in some unknown pueblo in Oaxaca, Mexico. The year was 2009, and by car I had traveled with a bunch of people I barely knew to some hidden village tucked away in the mountains. I had spent the day hiking in a vanilla/coffee plantation, and wearing only my underwear swam in the coldest mountain spring I’ve ever found. When it became night the sky was wrapped a blanket full of starts. I and the others I was with, hung outside a fence drinking Coca-Cola’s and through the holes of the fence tried to see as much as we could of the rodeo that was taking place on the other side. We didn’t have enough money to join the people wearing cowboy hats and fancy skin boots, but we were content non the less.

That year, I was far away from friends and family.There was nothing traditional or familiar. I thought and still think that it will probably be the best Easter I’ve ever had.

This year, I wanted to keep with that tradition. The tradition of doing nothing traditional for a holiday spent abroad away from family and friends. I warmly reflected on Mexico and then came across tickets to see a bullfight in Malaga. I imagine to formally study Spanish it is impossible to not at least once discuss the topic of bullfighting in Spain, as which I had in former Spanish classes. So I was well aware that a bullfight would be sharply distinct from any rodeo that I may have gone to. I was already against the bullfights before I went, but as I hope they will be banned someday (soon) I thought it would be an interesting opportunity for a first hand experience, and a way to remember Easter 2012 by. Thinking in terms of the reflection of innocent sacrifice.

I didn’t want to google information, or look up videos before I went. Honestly, as soon as I bought the ticket I was terrified for what I was about to witness. That feeling continued with me as I walked up to the Plaza de Toros, which was bustling with people, tourists and Spanish alike. It was a slow and sickening walk to my entrance gate, number 10…I had to make a full circle around the ring before entering, I started to get really nervous and felt sick. I entered, and after making a run to the bar- beer to calm me down please!- I made my way to my seat.

The ring was a decent size, but small enough so that the whole time I could see everything with good detail. It was all the details that made it so hard for me. The hot sun beating down on me, making me sweat. The bugles and trumpets that sounded signaling something violent was about to occur, the bulls’ s loud moans of death echoing and amplified as it was being stabbed, the aggressive cheers of encouragement from the audience, the man walking around shouting ‘potato chips for sale’, the squawking of the seagulls that circled the ring and touched down to pick at bits- it all came together to create this very vivid experience. One so vivid I’ve been continuing to have violent nightmares when I sleep.

One of the most haunting things beyond seeing the slow, and very torturous killing of a majestic animal were the reactions of the people. What in particular stands out in my mind is the father who sat in front of me. A Spaniard who had brought his very young son and his young niece to event. I was witnessing in effect the passing of pride and an idolized cultural pastime. The boy, sat in his fathers lap, and looked to him for cues as for when to cheer, and mimicked in his small voice “Ole”. I watched him learn how and when to wave his Kleenex that looked like his dad’s white handkerchief when the matador had ‘fought well’. His niece was older, but still a young girl. From the mouth of missing baby teeth she flung out comments like, ‘Come on! What’s this guy’s problem!’ and ‘For heaven’s sakes already, kill it’ and other things that, as I was holding back my tears and gasps, she was something between bored and annoyed with the performance, as if completely oblivious to the fact that this bleeding and dying animal was in front of her.

The father was nice to me though. The children left early, but not because they were disturbed. He offered me the seat next to him, as he was in the very front row, and I had been taking pictures (as a way of distraction) and talked a bit to the kids. We exchanged dialog, and after one of the killings he asked me how I liked it. I told him my knees and tummy were trembling. He suddenly looked real concerned and offered me a sandwich (as people eat refreshments while watching). I looked at him, paused and said, ‘my tummy is trembling for the bull’. He rolled his eyes and said, well in Spanish if you say that it means because you’re hungry. I don’t think thats true.

Bullfights have been banned in las Islas Canarias, and also in Barcelona (although some people say the ban in Barca is more political than animal rights). There are bullfights though, like in Portugal where the animal is not killed in the end. I understand that bullfighting has an old and rich history in Spain, I guess I just don’t understand why. It was disgusting to watch. While I’m ‘glad’ I went, it was very disturbing and I would completely support the ban of the sport entirely.

But many people disagree with me. Visibly almost all the people in the ring that day did. For a lot of people bullfighting is not just a tradition, but is a respected art form. That makes me think a lot about what I find to be art. In the end I conclude for myself it is not art, but sport. But I think it is the idea of art- in the form of story telling, which is a real art form, that has lead to this notion of what bullfighting has been created to be.

The only possible comparison that I personally know of would be deer hunting.

I grew up in a family of deer hunters through my father’s side. Growing up it was a dinner treat to receive venison ring bolony, with a side of mashed potatoes and corn. I knew all the words to the ’30 pt buck song’ in elementary school, I helped my father build and maintain deer stands on our land every summer, and he showed me how to distinguish their tracks in the mud. Before I could hunt myself I was allowed to go with my dad, uncle, cousins and grandpa and wake up early dressed in all orange, with hand-warmers stuffed in my boots and gloves, and sit for hours in the cold looking at the same spot, often falling asleep. I got to be in charge of the walkie-talkies, and would wait to hear that someone else had seen movement, or better yet, hear the echoes of a bullet fired deep in the woods. I learned about every aspect of deer hunting. I had seen the preparation for the season, I learned how track, to sit and be quiet, to spot a hidden deer, I learned how to gut an animal, and even as a child I was taken to where the animal was processed and would be a bit sickened by the smell of death and seeing carcasses and parts everywhere. Yet when I was 12 I was so proud to get my own rifle, made special for me to be lighter and shorter, and to have an official license to kill.

It wasn’t till my second year hunting though, when I was 13 that I ‘got’ my first deer. Basically, what happened was I was in a tree, waiting, a deer came past, I picked up my rifle and shot it. Thats basically what happens with every hunter actually. But thats not how its told. Ever. Part of deer hunting is a learning how to tell your story. Its partially from that story, full of details and elaborations that the excitement and tradition of deer hunting lives on.

I had been waiting for hours already by that time. Cold and bored and loosing my enthusiasm. Then it appeared, literally forming in front of my eyes that had been staring at the same shades of brown and green for the whole day. It was a small female, thin but healthy. Adrenaline surged through my veins and I squinted my eye and put its neck area in my crosshairs. My father was next to me and I couldn’t disappoint him, this was my moment. I watched the doe, it had stopped moving, it could sense our prescence…it either heard or smelled us, or both. Its eyes looked so big and never seemed to blink. I couldn’t breathe. Worse, I couldn’t pull the trigger. I started to panic and froze up, not able to do anything but just watch it. My dad softly whispered in my ear, ‘shoot’. I wanted to but I couldn’t. Then as it started to walk away I took aim, pulling the butt of the gun tight to my shoulder, I held my breath and pulled the trigger, and fired the shot that killed the deer.

My first reaction was to cry. I sobbed and choked on my tears. My dad says to me, ‘why are you crying’? I said ‘I don’t know’, and stopped, and became proud and happy. I felt like a hero later that day and told my story to everyone, each time making it a bit more exiting and dramatic.

I never went hunting again after that. I don’t find anything wrong with hunting, its just not for me anymore. But everything that built up to that time was glorified in that moment and will forever live on in story.

I think thats how bullfighting is in a way. Matadors can start training as children, who have looked up to an older generation of fighters, they learn the ways and skills of a fighter, they hear the proud stories of bravery, man-hood, near death encounters, and then they come to that day when they too can put on the uniform and step into the ring and create their own story, and become their own legend. This legend is fed by the crowd, who too come and share the stories of the fights they have seen. Newspapers and books- even authors like the famous Hemingway- make such a splendor out of the sport. Less and less it becomes that a man with a sword, who stands in front of a bull previously wounded and unable to defend itself properly, and he kills the bull, slowly, and that the bull dies in agony and suffering, so that for 30 bucks people can enjoy 2 hours of entertainment.

Day 205

My prized Easter possession from this year lies in my fruit bowl. It takes the center spotlight, dominating over the soggy lemon and two lumpy oranges.This special Easter avocado is still firm in my hands, not quite ready to eat, and is the kind with smooth lighter green skin- not Hass. This avocado is special, because Jesus gave it me. I guess saying that Jesus ‘gave it to me’ might be a stretch…he didn’t actually hand me it. To be more honest he more ‘threw it at my direction hitting me’. But God is notorious for doing things like that.

11:00am this morning I was still fast asleep in bed in my cozy village of Torrox. This week has been an incredible blur of events and I’m still left exhausted from it.I had 10 days of Semana Santa vacation and took full advantage of it. Between hiking and exploring, to bar hopping and tapa trying, to parades and street food, to bullfights – I have accumulated probably around 1,000 photos that need to be gone through, as well as the need for a good nights rest. I might have achieved this rest last night but it was the bustle of people outside my window walking along the tree lined boulevard that awoke me. I’m glad they did though. I was able to wake up and quickly brush my teeth, and make a quick pony tail trying to smooth out all my frizzes. I didn’t bother washing my face, I still had the makeup from last night on. I tried to compensate for my messy appearance with a nice feminine spring dress and a pair of heels. I may live in a village but people still dress in their best when the go out to the streets.

I was out the door in 15 mins with 35mm camera in hand and ready to find some Easter Sunday action.

There certainly was quite a number of people out and about. I ran into and talked with my neighbor Antonio, we’ve been speaking with each other more now. He was taking it easy on a bench next to this other old man who kept repeating, ‘who is it?’ ‘who is that your talking to?’, in reference to me after I had been there for awhile. Antonio proudly announced that we were neighbors and knew each other.I left Antonio but told him I’d like to invite him to drink orange juice sometime.

I ran into another Antonio. I had met him 2 nights before, he’s a friend of Manu’s- the man who made me a pumpkin lamp. The young Antonio is 29 and from Torrox. He’s nice and also a Capricorn,…I know that because he asked me my sign right away when I met him, and then we googled what it all meant. Dispite a really harsh predicted incompatibility we get along just fine. So the young one and I met each other on the street just as the as people started to swarm the streets forming a crowd, and the bell signifying the start of the religious procession rang.

To give a brief background Semana Santa, or the holy week before Easter is huge in Spain. Huge is an understatement. It’s an event that is not only steeped in tradition that stems back to the Middle Ages, but with all the time and money spent as well as the amount of people that pour into Spain to witness it, is impressionable. The main attraction are the processions, or parades of people carrying elaborate and lifelike wooden or plastic scuptures of various depictions of Jesus, the Virgin Mary or other biblical scenes related to Easter. These sculptures are carried on the necks of men dressed in long robes (or suits in the case of Torrox) and paraded through the streets making a route to and from the cathedral. Not only are there these sculptures but other people are designated to follow carrying candles, or other religious significant items, and also often there are younger women dressed in all black that symbolize the Virgin that follow as well. ((Once I organize my photos I’ll have a separate photo blog on Semana Santa))

Technically speaking Easter Sunday isn’t part of Semana Santa, but does include mid-day processions. I was fortunate to have been able to witness processions in Malaga this past Thursday as well as Friday night in Torrox and again this afternoon. This afternoon was a bit different though. It was more relaxed and less elaborate than the previous night, and in particular the ‘trono’ or carried sculpture was different. It was Jesus, wrapped in beautiful robes surrounded in gold, but the bottom of the figure was surrounded by various fruits and vegetables that had been carefully placed adorning the base.

I was able to follow the crowds of people and partake in the procession while simultaneously taking pictures. It was while I was taking pictures that I was ‘thunked’ with an avocado that had been shaken from Jesus and hit me. I felt it before I saw it, my eye was squinting into the viewfinder of my camera, but I looked down and picked it up before it could be trampled upon or roll away.

I didn’t make it to see the return of the big plastic Jesus to the cathedral, I ran into the girls who work at the cafe and ditched Antonio to drink some beers and eat some tapas with them. But apparently its tradition that before Jesus enters the cathedral again the people are allowed to pick off the fruits and veggies and keep them.

So as you eat ham, eggs, jelly beans, chocolate or whatever traditional food that Easter may include for you I’ll be with my holy Easter avocado this year. It almost makes me want to peel it open and check to see if there is a secret message from God in it,…or maybe its an Easter miracle and full of dark chocolate!!(could explain the firmness!!) But even if its not, its special just the same.

Happy Easter everyone!

Day 200

Conflict meet Resolution.

I was never really picked on growing up, except for a few occasional and perhaps understandable situations…

Like peeing in my pants standing in front of the class in first grade. That was a bit rough.

Or when I went through a phase when I wore the same “Spice Girl” inspired rainbow shirt for days in a row in 4th grade. I need to find and burn the photo evidence.

And I’m just assuming I was made fun of when I was 12 or 13,…its an awkward age for anyone,…and I had some REeeally bad hair cuts on top it.

Averaging it all out high school went pretty smoothly. However,there was this kid in gym class who was just a little crap to everyone. Apart from being extremely unintelligent he was particularly popular,..and thats a bad combination. Everything just went to his head and he wasn’t able to process it. I think his name was Chris. Yeah thats gotta be it. Chris came up to me one day and said really slowly, “Are you an exchange student”? I answered him with an ‘are you for real?’ blank stare. He says ” yeah you look like you’re from Czechoslovakia”! From then on he never called me Jessica and always spoke to me like I was mentally handicapped. Poor Chris, Czechoslavakia wasn’t even a country at the time. I gave him the satisfaction of being ‘king of gym class’ because I figured after high school life would go down-hill for him.

Fast forward to now.The present.I’m 24 years old, and I dare say its a bit too late in life to start letting people pick on me. More so when those people are little punk ass teenagers.

I’m not going to lie and pretend that I feel cool hanging out grabbing WiFi underneath the library steps, nearing 12:30am on a Tuesday. I would much rather be in some baggy shorts and a T drinking wine and checking my FB in bed. SO naturally its humbling when I come and squat out on the cold steps that stink like cat piss and are stained by cigarette butts. Granted its worth it, or I wouldn’t be doing it. But in contrary to the norm, tonight I met conflict.

So Damn Lucky- Live in Rio, Dave Matthews.Spotify.I’m Jamming out, thinking to myself, you know what? I am pretty damn lucky…although that luck is actually work and sacrifice…but yeah sure I’m lucky. The song was playing, things were going great…awesome instrumental solos…drowning out the sound of TEENAGER above me, and then plop. A pizza box comes sailing in the wind and eats dirts a foot away from me. 2 other pizza boxes are thrown down from the kids above, now laughing, as they are trying to hit me.

‘You think I’m going to tear myself away from this song and look at you scum bags?’ Is what I’m thinking. Not worth my time. I choose the way of pacifism and ignore them and turn my headphones just a bit louder.

Thats when a slice of half eaten -who the hell knows what kind of pizza- lands on my legs and just enough to touch the far right corner of my MacBookPro.

Here let it be stated, I worked my ass off for this thing. I have no children, pets or boyfriend. My money and affection go to things like my prized electronics (….after the fam,friends, and travel of course) so little bored and delinquent children just have no business trying anything. Won’t let it happen. Pacifism out the door…would have gone out the door,..but in the few minutes it took for me to realize what the hell that was, I saw all their little shadows dart away into the darkness and the heard the laughter follow.

I was pretty pissed. Actually really pissed. A few minutes pass and by then I calmed down bit, telling myself that as a school teacher beating the shit of teenagers would be inappropriate and not worth the brief satisfaction. And it was just as I had calmed back down 4 little shadows slinked in front of me, heading my way, laughing and calling me names, I swear Spanish kids have serious balls. Except, this time I could see them.

2 girls. 2 boys. Well. My sister’s 16,….so that means that…I have no idea how old they were. In the range of 13-16 yrs, although one of the boys was so tiny. I mean just tiny, he looked 7,…but he had a little Mohawk and said the “f-word” equivalent, so he had to of been older, besides its not cool for a 13-16yrs old girls to be hanging out with 7 years old. Come on I know that.

They approached slowly. I ignored them, but turned the sound down so I could hear them. They started taunting me, and then screaming “Hi, whats your name, stupid!” OK. I clearing wasn’t going to beat them, but I stood up,…put the meanest serious adult face on I could and walked fast and confidently towards them saying, in damn near perfect Spain Spanish ( I put effort into it,..its normally comes out Mexican/Gringo) ” Hello. My name is Esperanza, and I am actually a school teacher here in Torrox finishing up some assignments for my students…” and I didn’t need to say anymore because they actually ran. But bolted from me, as fast as they could,..and all I ever did was speak Spanish and walk towards them. Then…they actually shouted out apologizes. The girls did anyways. The shrimpy boy who ran first, and the fastest, he called me an idiot.

So I actually moved from the steps then, and sat in the place they normally hang out in. Finders Keepers punk asses.

I was actually pleased how it worked out, the kids were probably just really bored, and obviously weren’t serious about getting into trouble, or they wouldn’t have run away from me.

10 minutes later they came back. Really hesitant. First they looked at me and turned back to the way they had come from,…then slowing walked toward me again, because after all I’m on the steps and they had to walk past me to go down. “Esperanza?” one girl says to me walking past, trying to act like I didn’t just see her run away from me.
“Yes, my name is Esperanza”.
“Oh. I’m Gloria”.
“It nice to meet you Gloria. Have a nice night”.

Conflict meet Resolution.

Not only resolution but also partial realization of why the classes in Torrox are all wrong. Teachers and people like myself sometimes forget that kids are kids and have kid brains. I mean the same punk asses who I was going to have to teach a lesson to ended up being these fragile children who ran like their life depended on it as soon as I stood up. And I see this happen all the time in class, like with threating the kids, or trying to make them feel shame or even in some cases actually arguing with them…! You gotta handle them differently, because they are and do think differently. And sometimes the resolution turns out to be simpler than what you might think.