A Travellerspoint blog

“BIDET” IN FRENCH IS “JACA” IN SPANISH! april 2008

“BIDET” IN FRENCH IS “JACA” IN SPANISH!

“BIDET” IN FRENCH IS “JACA” IN SPANISH!

April 1, 2008 to April 30, 2008

~I logged Lauren and/or Meagan’s 15 text messages to me during their travels:

1 i love you (September 23/07, Edinburgh, Lauren)
2 its laur. I bought a phone (Edinburgh, Lauren)
3 sounds cool! im in Scotland trying to find work..its amazing here. You should come visit! I want to work for a hostel as wel to pay for accommodation i love you (Edinburgh, Lauren)
4 hey i’m okay! i got ur msgs..in edin now, gave out resume today but tricky w.out visa. thx 4 calling! love you, laur xoxo (Edinburgh, Lauren)
5 can you call me? i need advice..i think I have 3 jobs but no visa! going on pub crawl thurs! how are you? luv laur xox (Edinburgh, Lauren)
6 hey! did you change my pin # for my bank? i can’t access my $..it says someone changed it?! Ahh help! xox laur (Edinburgh, Lauren)
7 hey thx 4 the offer but i’m fine. bank works now so all is good! hows spain? luv laur xox (Edinburgh, Lauren)
8 sorry i just got back in can u try again? (Edinburgh, Lauren)
9 hi guys im in zaragoza and catching a bus 2 jaca @ 730 cant wait 2 get there! (December 13/07, Zaragoza, Meagan)
10 Hola guapa! guess which loco backpackers r en route 2 jaca! see u late 2nite or early 2morrow can u leave a key? – ur kids :-) (January 21/08, Sevilla, Meagan and Lauren)
11 Hola! next bus out of zara is @ 0530 so we will see you in the morning :-) (January 21/08, Zaragoza, Meagan and Lauren)
12 Hola dana! we’re alive but just barely. rough night! made friends avec a banos. good thing i had lo! sry we didn’t call! love (January 1/08, Barcelona, Meagan and Lauren)
13 Hola otha’ motha’! we’re in seville @ samay hostel. let us know where 2 pick u up on friday!! cant wait morocco here we come! (February 28/08, Sevilla, Meagan and Lauren)
14 Coming! (February 29/08, Sevilla, Meagan and Lauren)
15 Bad traffic be there soon! about 10 minutes…can u wait near temp parking? (March 18/08, Paris, Meagan and Nick)

~It takes time to get to know the “right-for-you” people in a new place! I really do like Spaniards! And I love Jaca…and no, I haven’t fallen in love or anything so foolish. It’s just that small communities, even 10,000 people small, (a record big in my recent history of small towns) especially being a foreigner, and especially one like me…it takes people time to adjust and accept and invite you into their true lives, beneath the superficial. Especially when they know, inevitably, you are going to leave. It’s not my first encounter as a small town fly-through.

~Spent an afternoon and evening in a Spanish pueblo of maybe 70 people, all older than me I suspect, in the only bar of Laures playing cards. Now although this may not sound so extraordinary to the common Jose, imagine you and your friend are the only women in said bar, and you alone are the sole non-really-Spanish speaker, and the locals start to pack in as, I imagine, word of mouth is a popular sport in such a rural community. And the foreign game they are trying to teach you, in Spanish, is also played with foreign Spanish cards, which don’t even look anything like I’ve ever met, and there’s an awful lot of drinks being bought, thus consumed…well, I’m glad I had a camera, and I probably could have had a lot of boyfriends of the retirement age had I been wanting. And I haven’t laughed so much in one place since I arrived in Spain! And I think they had their entertainment quota for the decade!

~I know what it is most about a parcel from Canada which I truly like…reading ingredients, tags, labels in English! English is just so foreign here!

~Thanks Jen! For $7.90 pair of airmailed underwear plus the cost of the underwear! They’re featured front and centre hanging on my living room wall! But never fear, I will wear them periodically, possibly on the outside of my clothing, ‘cause they really are special! (On the front Jen has written, “The best way to prepare for life is to begin to live!” And on the rear-end side she has added, “And in the END, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the LIFE in your YEARS!”)

~And also thanks for the “Wacky” “Rocks”. I placed them in my bathroom where eventually everyone ends up at some point. In all my years of rock collecting, never have I looked down and spied a rock with words on it…you are amazing! I must mention, Carb and Gas were awfully disappointed, after they noticed the Parcel notification slip lying at our front door, they did notice the absence of Temptation cat treats within the package! Their birthdays were in January-ish,…as both were strays, it’s a random guess! (Hint)

~You know when a new town is beginning to feel like home when you start taking shortcuts…and you can leave the map at home with confidence.

~While Gas is my Zen master, Carb is of the higher-maintenance variety of spirituality!

~God, I miss the days in the land of yards…and grass and trees etc…where the cats could go outside and shit in other people’s gardens! Small apartment, big smells!

~I’ve reached that place in life where I’ve decided I look better with clothes on!

~Turkish laundry lady shrank jeans in dastardly dryer, 8 months of stretching capris into full length-ers down the drain!

~Probably the highlight of my month was my FACELIFT, of the unintentional type and certainly free! Went snowshoeing at a 2,300 m altitude for a day…a very sunny day, with only one too-late application of sunscreen. I am reminded of the Turkish Bath peeling process, only this ain’t dirt, this be flesh! As I have never really burned before, it has been a really curious experience watching my face fall off!

Well, I’ll be off to Latvia now! Hope they speak English, Spanish or French there!
Hasta mayo, muchos besos, dana xoxo

Posted by hiitsdana 08:39 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

A FULL COMPLETMENT OF FEET BACK IN THE PIRINEOS! march 2008

A FULL COMPLETMENT OF FEET BACK IN THE PIRINEOS!

A FULL COMPLETMENT OF FEET BACK IN THE PIRINEOS!

March 1, 2008 to March 31, 2008

~For those of you lacking the want or time to read my lengthy words, I’ll sum up my month of March’s travel succinctly.

A) I could be camel-rich had I accepted all the offers I received for Lauren!
B) My Moroccan agenda deviated with a slight detour to Paris and Turkey!
Even Duct tape can’t cure broken plans!

~Life is all about BALANCE! Some people may not consider me “balanced”, given my choice of lifestyle, but I deem myself as the epitome of either “harmoniously stable” or “schizophrenic”! I love the freedom, challenges and “getting dirty feeling” of travel…AND…I love the comforts, routines and cleanliness of home! I love both existences, I want both existences, I need both existences…
I HAVE BOTH EXISTENCES!

TOP TEN REASONS I LOVE TRAVELLING!

1 Body language is a great form of exercise.
2 I feel most alive (less stagnant) when I’m travelling.
3 Liberates me from my OCD organizational habits, and dates and time.
4 Helps me re-appreciate a bed-bug-less bed, or even just a bed.
5 Can meet like-minded folk.
6 A break from cleaning the cat litter box.
7 Feels okay to be a bit dirty.
8 I get to learn new stuff.
9 The less I have to live with, the happier I feel.
10 I can do crazy(er) things knowing I’ll never see these people again.

HASTA ABRIL JACA…IF I’M NOT DEPORTED!!!

~On February 29, 2008, I bid adios to Carb and Gas, after loads of trips to the farthest Jacian grocery store stocking a month’s supply of scoop-able cat litter and Ultima cat food. I recruited a tag team of 3 reliable cat sitters, one deathly allergic to cats and one deathly afraid of cats, perfect, left them a 10 page document of “Carb, Gas and Apartment Quirks”, and never looked back as I boarded a bus…destination…the other side of Spain, Lauren (and Meagan) in Sevilla.

TRANSFER TO TRAIN IN ZARAGOZA

~While awaiting a train in the warmth of the southern Zaragoza sunshine, sitting on my backpack, looking like a traveller, I unpacked my brownbag lunch. I had resourcefully utilized the last of my still-psychotic fridge’s contents and hardboiled 8 eggs, storing my homemade egg salad in a Flora margarine container. I ziplocked separately two buttered slices of bread…by the way, I see a potential career doing Ziplock commercials, “The travellers best friend…keeps shampoo and underwear separate”! As I dined on my delicious egg salad, shovelling the yellow contents into my mouth by the spoonful, I imagined that innocent passers-by might actually think I was eating spoonfuls of margarine with my accompanied slices of bread! Things like this make me laugh! So I did! And there I sat, looking completely mental, laughing out loud with my mouth apparently full of margarine!

MY MADRID

~A brief layover at the Madrid train station, yes, THE very station location where Gas cruised through the x-ray machine 8 months prior, the probable cause of his current intense passion for shadow chasing and other psychotic behaviours! Madrid makes me smile. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for my sweet home of 8 months, 3 years ago. People watching while waiting, I was reminded of Madrid’s mental mentality. For example, instead of city planners reworking traffic signals to accommodate rush hour traffic, they send out cops with whistles, sounding like hysterical Phys. Ed. teachers, in the middle of major intersections. After an hour of frenzied arm flapping and frantic whistle blowing, the cop retires, looking exhausted. And really, I couldn’t actually see the point of his cardiovascular workout! Everyone would have eventually got home with or without his help! Hombre, I miss mental Madrid!

MARAVILLA SEVILLA

~A wonderful reconnection with Lauren and Meagan. How cool to find yourself sitting across an outdoor café table from your kid(s) in a foreign country exchanging travel and living abroad stories over una cerveza or 2! Chilled out a day in Sevilla. The first day of any holiday needs to be restful after the hustle of prepping for that holiday. March 1st and we were sun tanning on the rooftop terraza of our Youth Hostel. With Muslim and Macho Morocco our destination, I figured this may well be the last time our skin saw daylight for a while!

OK, CONFESSION…I’M LIVING ILLEGALLY IN SPAIN!

~I received a spankin’ new passport back in Canada before departure, ‘cause my old one had become extinct. It’s a beautiful navy blue little booklet, although I think it should be red, and now my new smile-free photo is imprinted directly into the paper to avoid fraud issues and such. How nice, new passport. So I have a total of 1 whole stamp in my brand new passport. Espana, Julio 16, 2007. It’s REALLY, REALLY, REALLY obvious when I arrived in Europe and where! For 7 ½ months I’ve been sweating it, trying to compose the perfect lie…any lie…that could be believable to the Spanish Passport people as to why I forgot to leave the EU after 3 months…my only pragmatic plan is to plead ignorance…it is possible an educated Canadian professional can be stupid.

So here’s kinda how the conversation goes between Passport Police guy and me!

Remember, I’m also travelling with Lauren and Meagan who have wall to wall stamps in their little navy blue passports. Also, the girls are young and attractive. I plan to either use them as my alibi or sell them if I’m forced to!

Uniformed Unilingualed Serious Spanish Passport Police Security Guy: [Analyzing every fucking empty page of my navy blue passport.] “Habla espanol?” (Do you speak Spanish?)

Me: [Secretly sweating profusely in my armpits] “Not really…un pocito.” (A little.)

Uniformed Unilingualed Serious Spanish Passport Police Security Guy: [Still flipping through my passport, front to back, back to front. Long dramatic pause. Makes eye contact.] “Cuanto tiempo estas en espana?” (How long have you been in Spain?)

Me: ”Un mes. Pero, viaje toda europa.” [Flailing both arms in huge circles.] “TODA europa, TODA!” (One month. But I’ve travelled all of Europe, ALL of Europe, ALL!) [Girls overly nodding heads in unison.]

Uniformed Unilingualed Serious Spanish Passport Police Security Guy: [Still longer dramatic pause, still trying to find another stamp in my empty navy blue passport. Again, eye contact.]

Me: “TODA.” [Flail arms again without exposing sweaty armpits.]

Uniformed Unilingualed Serious Spanish Passport Police Security Guy: [Reanalyzes empty passport pages once again. More dramatic pause.] STAMP!

Me: [Breathe. Walk fast outa there. Don’t look back.]

TERRIBLE TANGIER

~Terrible Tangier, still takes the breath away, and I find myself holding my breath a lot, not so much from the initial overwhelming shock of this foreign world but from the bad smells! Unavoidable Tangier, a half hour boat crossing from Algeciras, Espana, is the almost only Moroccan thing that absolutely has not evolved in 28 years since my last visit! Even the “vulture” “guides’ awaiting the naïve tourists at the port (“like flies on shit”…my words 28 years ago) may well be one and the same kids-now-adults from my first 3rd world exposure. Yes, we stupidly accepted the assistance of said vulture guide as I had yet to discover how much more doable Morocco is at age 46 than 19, and after 28 years of their exposure to tourists. These guy guides have terrible nerve, asking for money while in possession of a mouthful of braces! While I, with crooked teeth, hand over the money!

~We are immediately lost and at our guide’s mercy as we obediently follow him through the crowded, zigzagging labyrinth of skinny streets. Dragged to many sketchy upstairs Moroccan merchants who speak perfect English, as they have had ample opportunity to practice at the expense of, literally and figuratively, the tourist.

~Charif, our probably-richer-than-me veteran guide, who probably gets a commission on every purchase I make, immediately insisted the girls would “blend” better into this foreign Muslim mass of 1.5 million people if they wore Jalavas. Coincidentally, he so happened to have an uncle or cousin or friend etc. who had a souk (shop) that sold Jalavas! What a learning curve we rounded! Lauren and Meagan were outright pointed at, laughed at, in their face, by sheer Muslim strangers! Lauren’s sense of humour is slow to develop when it comes to fashion statements, even in the 3rd world! A priceless-almost-peed-my-pants moment!

~The second priceless-almost-peed-my-pants moment was witnessing Meagan, or hearing Meagan’s reaction, as she first opened the communal grungy Hostel bathroom door! When she ceased screaming…I yelled down the communal grungy Hostel hallway, “It’s a hole, isn’t it!” Indeed, the notorious HOLE, otherwise known as an Arabic toilet. Lesson learned, you get what you pay for! Cheap Hostels have holes! It gets better though, because later that day, Meagan discovers a WESTERN toilet on another floor, still grungy, but at least familiar to the western bum!

~Entering Morocco through the Tangier door, is like inviting a Hoover vacuum cleaner salesman or a Jehovah’s Witness into your living room! Persistent, especially the Moroccan carpet salesmen. I tried every imaginable excuse like, I don’t have a house to put a carpet in, it won’t fit in my backpack, I’m allergic…finally, NO! Worked the best, but took lots of practice, and we had lots of opportunity for lots of practice.

PAINTED CHEFCHAOUEN

~Imagine an entire town or Medina (the oldest part of a North African city), even the streets, painted bright Mediterranean blue. An extraordinary and remarkable site! Peaceful and clean! I figured a sale on blue paint.

~Here, in clam, quiet Chefchaouen, we can clearly hear the repetitive, haunting, and amplified prayer call 5 times each day, and night. It’s novel to my unaccustomed ear so it awakens me at 4 AM and stops me in my tracks throughout the day. Although the words are all Arabic, I can only make out “Allah” and “wet bum”! Okay, I know they obviously aren’t actually saying “wet bum” but this is what my ears hear, and it makes me giggle uncontrollably, 5 times a day, even at 4 in the morning, and once you have these words embedded in your head it’s impossible to tune them out or refocus. As soon as I pointed this out to Lauren and Meagan, they were doomed, and they, too, could hear nothing but “wet bum”!!! So, the 3 of us spent 4 days in Chefchaouen giggling uncontrollably 5 times a day!

~In a world with no electric appliances, one improvises! Meagan was 1st time ever hand washing clothes on the Hostel’s rooftop while I was taking photos to give her mother as proof. I stopped at one point to agitate my wet hair with my hands in the breeze, as Meagan was moving her wet laundry around the plastic washtub in a circular motion. Meagan says, “Look, it’s the spin cycle of a washing machine!”, while I said, “Look, it’s my blow dryer!” Okay, maybe you had to be there to see the humour…we thought this was hilarious!

~A new meaning to the concept of Junior Kindergarten! From an outdoor café, observed a handful of young, hip-high, happy-go-lucky children walk by and a traditionally dressed, sullen woman waddling behind. Was just about to relate to the teacher, when she suddenly whipped out a long wooden ruler and started hitting these little kids on their heads and backs! A Canadian lawsuit…a Moroccan way of life!

~Innocently enjoying a pleasant Moroccan meal on a rooftop-terraced restaurant, watching the sun set over distant mountains…naively witnessing a Palestinian demonstration/rally in the town’s central square below which terminated in the burning of the Israeli flag! An unappetizing site! Powerful and really disturbing!

FRANKLY MY DEAR, I DON’T GIVE A DAMN!

~Humphrey, I hear ya! CASABLANCA! Nothing, but a name!

DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE CAPITAL CITY OF MOROCCO IS? (RABAT)

~Big city, big minds, big McDonalds. Great used English bookstore! Problem…gotta carry what you buy! Ok, one book…”The Lone Traveller”, it’s about a 60+ year old woman who bicycles around the world, TWICE! Makes my life’s adventures seem meek in comparison.

~Wonder if Muslims would cut off my left hand for stealing toilet paper, which has become 2nd nature to me! Steal it when you can, and use it where it’s not!

HAPPY 47TH IN FES!

~Best gifts ever…a bathtub in our immaculate Hotel room (it’s been 8 months since I’ve had a soak!), Schmirnoff Ice discovered in a obscure rear room of a little local grocer’s (it’s been 8 months since I’ve sipped a Schmirnoff!) and a day and dinner in the company of my kids, Lauren and Meagan! The cake and gifts (more literature mmmmmmm) were bonus!

~Sucks to be sick when travelling, ‘specially in a 3rd world country, ‘specially without health insurance! Lauren suffered a “weird head” whilst (I love that word) an even weirder red, woven, waffle pattern materialized on her upper thigh! But she lived!

~Traditional Muslim Moroccan man dressed in Jalava, pointy-toed slip-ons and skullcap reaches for cell phone ringing to the tune of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”! What’s wrong with this picture?!

~Our unofficial “official” guide informs us that up until 5 years ago men could still have 4 wives. Then the women’s rights movement exploded and now a woman can demand a divorce and is entitled to 50 %. Only a century slow in coming!

~We also learned that every Moroccan Medina is divided into “neighbourhoods”, each one containing 5 communal things: Hammam, Koran School, Mosque, Bakery and Fountain. Okay, so sometimes having a guide is worth it!

~The best Turkish baths or Hammams, are in Morocco! This weekly local gathering place for gossip is where men and woman, separated according to gender, have their skin scoured with SOS/Scotchbrite textured washcloths and black taffy-like soap made from olives, by a large and powerful masseuse. We nervously laughed at the excess jiggles of our nude bodies, held our breath as every crease, crack and orifice was scrubbed, were grossed out by the copious rolls of dead skin peeled off our epidermis, and flinched when muscles we were unaware of were pounded! As Lauren and I discovered, superficially, Canadians are quite filthy, modest and wimpy!

~Morocco…how does one verbalize what the senses can barely describe or even identify! Starting to see patterns in Moroccan lifestyles:

~Prayer Calls (haunting, five times a day)
~overpopulating=overcopulating starving stray cats (e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e) ~Couscous and Tajine (top two tasty traditional dishes)
~limited alcohol (big wrong)
~Moroccan whiskey (=mint tea, saturated with enough sugar to make
Lauren happy)
~Kif (legal Hash! Makes you Couscous in the head!)
~no dogs (“the dog’s breakfast” takes on a whole new meaning here,
I think someone’s eating them, hope it’s not me!)
~rooftop vistas (laundry and satellites) as far as the eye can see
~satellite dishes (even the poorest of dirt-floored piecemealed shanties
have dishes!)
~donkeys (the transport trucks of the 3rd world, Eeyor wannabes)
~Medina (a”maze”ing, winding labyrinth of narrow streets chock block full
of miniature souks/shops and workshops)
~shoeshine guys (flip-flops, Crocks and running shoes saved us from this
hassle)
~pedestrian traffic signals (non-functioning or non-existent, J-walking
must be legal here)
~clock illiterate roosters (they can’t tell time)
~tuque (a Canadian invention, but all the poorest older geezers wear
them in this heat! They look ridiculous!)
~men are Muslim (no souvenir shopping this trip!)
~water (don’t drink it)
~uncooked veggies (the untouchable water, saturates plants during
growth and washes vegetables once mature…salad’s on the menu in
Jaca!)
~diarrhoea (an unintentional but effective weight loss program)
~haggling is exhausting (but it’s just as exhausting avoiding purchasing)
~the HOLE or Arabic toilet (not yet extinct)
~palm tree climate
~badly translated but entertaining menus (cuckoo pie…should be coconut
pie)
~water looks a lot cleaner in a clean sink (Moroccan definition of “clean”
is really different from mine)
~fuck Lonely Planet’s recommendations of “friendly service” (I just want a
hot shower!)
~window cleaning (still use newspapers)
~Moroccan Berber (Native/Aboriginal) not to be confused with Turkish
Berber (barber)

~Meagan leaves us for an Amsterdamal experience! Lauren and I head east…

MAMMA AFRICA

~The Sahara Desert! Wow! Who would ever have thought…to me, the Sahara was only ever a photograph in an elementary school geography textbook, THE example of a desert ecosystem! And here I am, meeting camels. I’ve always wanted to meet a real camel, and now I’ve met Abe, short for Abraham, as intimate as a pet lizard! A sensible and efficient creature, but you would be too if water didn’t grow on trees. He’s quite passive and obedient, but you would be too if you were lead your whole life by your nose ring!

~Our international caravan was comprised of 2 Canuks (Lauren and I), 2 Argentineans (Julia and Manuel), 2 Brits (Lauren #2 and Sophie) and Bert from Belgium. Our fate rested in the hands of 3 Arabic bongo-playing, hash-smoking guides and the hooves of our trusty vehicular camels. At our base camp we feasted on Tajine, smuggled booze and hash while pre-celebrating Lauren’s 19th birthday beneath Saharan stars, singing, drumming and dancing summed up with a sand dune summit. The latter would have been a difficult enough excursion without the influence of the aforementioned contraband!

~Toilet facilities…pick a dune, any dune, and dig!

MAGNIFICANT MARRAKESH

~Shared a 12 hour luxurious, worry-free Grand Taxi ride through dessert fog (sand and dust) and tenuous car paths of the Atlas Mountain range with our Argentinean friends to avoid the discomforts of the Moroccan bus. Not that I don’t enjoy Berber burps, cramped and dirty seating and the fear of missing luggage!

~City culture shock after the Sahara!

~Marrakesh rocks! My fav Moroccan Medina. Let me paint a picture. In the large open central square are vendors, merchants, musicians…cobras sway to snake charmers flute music or upon request you can have a snake wrapped around your neck…a photo op! Buy a cigarette individually or choose your dentures from a table of other people’s extracted teeth and molars! Pyramids of rainbow coloured spices or dried fruit to keep you shitting through the eye of a needle, live monkeys chained to their masters, silver jewellery sold by weight, freshly squeezed OJ, shoe shiners, prayer calls and millions of people! Even photos don’t do it justice!

~Upon entering the doorway of the Marrakesh airport, I spied a younger-than-me English-speaking-looking guy sitting on the cement ground leaning on his backpack. Jokingly, I leaned over and offered him some money…3 weeks of daily confrontations with beggars warps one’s sense of humour…the guy laughed. Lauren, walking 2 paces behind, says, “Dana, you can’t just do that.” Poor Lauren, so easily embarrassed. OK, the story gets better. Pre-boarding, I go out for one last quick smoke and re-approach the guy I had joked with only to learn he had actually considered taking me up my offer of money as 2 days prior had had his wallet stolen and was awaiting a money transfer!!! Lauren and I heard his story out and pooled together our chocolate bars and disposable cash. In the end, ‘twas an intuitive random joke that helped a fellow human and traveller!

GIRONA AIRPORT FLOOR

~Who am I kidding…I feel old, trying to crash for a night on a cold, hard floor…and I feel even older the next day!

~Happy Saint Paddy’s Day on an hour’s sleep and 2 green Breezers!

MON PARIS!

~Lauren dragged me across 2 continents to meet the human souvenir of her travels! “Dana meet Nick, “he’s just like you!” Uh oh.

~Indeed, the famous-at-the-moment Nick who is just like me, is a GREAT person! No, seriously, he’s a good guy, I approve! Re-met Meagan and 2 friends of Nick’s and “did Paris” and crepes in 2 days, including the 668 steps up La Tour d’Eiffel, again, on minimal sleep! Toronto’s still 6014 km from Paris…some things never change!

~A final 3 weeks spent in Lauren’s company, although shared with fellow travellers, has been a gift, the gift of experiencing and observing her maturing process! She’s grasping at adulthood and my job now, as a parent, is to remind her to appreciate the moment. Ironic isn’t it…first we teach them to be independent, to grow up…then we tell them to slow down, smell the roses and enjoy life! I’ve always loved Lauren’s excitement about life and her ability to verbalize it, and now she’s at the peak of that excitement! She brings me life (…and wrinkles and grey hair…), and I miss her more when I’m with her! I am SO proud of this kid of mine, surviving 6 months of the most memorable education she may ever receive! SO proud!

~I have no idea how Lauren turned out to be so girly!

~As Lauren walked away through the Charles de Gaul security gate, I turned to Nick with tears and said, “There goes 19 years of hard work!” My heart hurt simply not knowing when we will meet again!

DETOUR TO TURKEY

~Quintessence of globetrotting…touching 3 continents in 3 days, Africa, Europe, and Asia! No wonder I returned home exhausted. My first steps in Asia, ever! The concept was actually bigger than the actual experience.

~Kebab is pronounced Keh~bob (soft “o” sound) in Turkish! I did a survey! Ha!

~Canada must have done something to REALLY PISS OFF the Turkish government, because the cost of a Canadian visiting Visa is more than double any other country in the world! See what happens when you do things the legal way!

~A smokers first and most commanding desire when arriving anywhere after a flight, is to have a smoke! So upon arrival to Istanbul (not Constantinople), I immediately exited the terminal building to smoke! Now clear headed, at midnight, I could cope with the duties of exchanging money, purchasing water and sussing out a shuttle bus to central-ish Istanbul, so I proceeded to walk back inside the airport. As a current connoisseur of dealing with constant harassment, Morocco taught me well, I consciously ignored and literally, physically brushed off some guy yelling to me in his foreign language, until he stuck his machine gun in my face, then I paid attention! Had I taken even one second to look, I’d have noticed he was a military security guard, and I would have paid attention, I swear. Body language with a rifle is totally comprehendible. He was pointing with his weapon to another door I needed to enter through, the one with x-ray security where they would quickly discover the bomb I was concealing, disguised as a bicycle pump…doesn’t everybody travel with a bicycle pump?! Every single content of both bags had to be analyzed individually because of that bicycle pump. They documented my name and passport number on a list, probably their Turkish Top Ten Wanted. That stupid cigarette cost me an hour of hair-raising persecution and interrogation. Moral of this story is wear a “Patch” when flying into Turkey!

~30 room Youth Hostel dorm living adds insight to understanding human nature!

~Turkish coffee could convince me to change my religion…and put hair on my chest!

~Fact: Istanbul has 17,000 people living in it, and I’m guessing the same number of homeless cats, the equivalent of ½ of Canada’s population!

~Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and Spice Market are much more civilized than Morocco’s Medinas. For one thing, the indoor streets or aisles are set up in a grid system so you only get temporarily displaced as opposed to totally lost. Also, the merchants here aren’t quite as aggressive, for example, only 100 carpet sellers approached me, versus the 1000 predators in any given Moroccan Medina. Overall, a somewhat gentler vending culture.

~3 weeks of travel equates to way beyond the expiry date of wearable underwear, I only own 10 pair! Laundry lady across the street from my Hostel will dispose of the 3 kg of Sahara Dessert I’ve been lugging around in pockets and cuffs for 12 YTLiras! But always the dilemma of what to wear on laundry day?!

~Toured town with 2 Brazilians (Paula and Tomas) and a German (Andre) and an Istanbul-ly (Fatima) who was a friend of a friend of a friend etc. Saw and tasted Turkish stuff only a local could locate in a city this size, like Kumpir, big frigging potatoes filled with anything you can imagine and even things you can’t imagine.

~I fled the city for a few days to recuperate in a manageably sized Southern town near Ephesus. The 11 hour night bus trip was, as usual, sleepless. I sat next to a very pregnant tiny Turk who arrived armed with a huge stash of plastic shopping bags. I suspected she had no intentions of going shopping even before she began vomiting. I willingly sacrificed my soul water bottle and packages of portable Kleenex, and rubbed her back for 11 consecutive hours, stopping only when the bus paused long enough for me to jump off and deposit the full bags of vomit into the Petrol station’s garbage cans. Now suffering Lauren’s sickness of 2 weeks past with the added bonus of a literal “wet bum” (Allah was paying attention), I was quite content to sleep a lot in Selcuc, and in a private room thank you very much!

~History in Turkey has substance! Stuff here commonly dates back to B.C.! And I don’t mean Before Children!

~Despite being sick, I managed to eat a lot of melt in your mouth Baklava sprinkled with ground green pistachios, stuffed grape leaves drizzled with fresh lemon juice that looked like cigars but tasted more like heaven than Havanas. Although booze in this country is pricey, tried the Turkish version of Ouzo called Raki. Even tried a taste of TESTICLES! And I’m still alive!

~You simply don’t see Muslim women smoking!

~And you never meet Turks or Moroccans travelling outside their countries!

~I had NO idea Istanbul had 2 airports! Oops and fuck! I had bused back to the same airport I had been interrogated at, back through the scary security, only to discover, two hours prior departure, wrong airport! Right airport is an hour’s drive from wrong airport. Ran, which is difficult when one is fully loaded with luggage, to find non-English speaking Formula-One looking taxi driver. Arrived at right airport with my heart in my throat 36 minutes later ! Taxi cost me more than the flight! Life is so exciting!

THE SCENIC ROUTE TO JACA…VIA LONDON AND BARCELONA

~Stansted airport, somewhere in outskirts England, was truly one of the highlights of my month’s worth of journeying! Completely uneventful but it had a W. H. Smith bookstore! English books…lots of them! And Stansted sold coffee with milk and Stansted had BLT sandwiches and there was English language everywhere at Stansted! I invented questions to ask perfect strangers JUST to hear them speak my language. Stansted was blissful!

~Barcelona, too, was like being home ‘cause they spoke my 2nd ish language. It’s just a really nice feeling to be able to communicate with people! I mean, I know people can’t help it if they can’t speak my language, but I like talking.

~4 airports in one day is at least 1 too many!

MARCH 31, JACA

~To all those readers who actually made it this far…you either have way too much time on your hands, or perhaps, you’re sincerely interested in my take on the world! You have no idea how much more I could have written…but didn’t! You’re welcome!

~My kitchen now smells like a Moroccan Medina stuffed with fresh aromatic Moroccan spices. Spain eat your heart out!

~Ahhhhhhhhhh…home! Things I missed most:

~salad
~clean glasses (both kinds)
~guaranteed toilet paper
~happy and healthy cats
~privacy
~pork
~freedom of rights and religion
~browsing

Well, 12 pages is an ample idea of what I’ve been up to lately, for those of you who have been asking or even just wondering, I bet you’re sorry now! April’s update is going to seem a tad dull after my month of March. But I’ll see what I can muster up to keep things interesting! Till then,

Dana xoxoxo
Carb and Gas, who incidentally, are alive and kind of happy to have me home!

Posted by hiitsdana 08:35 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

8 FEET EN LOS PIRINEOS AND 2 VACATING TO MOROCCO! feb 2008

8 FEET EN LOS PIRINEOS AND 2 VACATING TO MOROCCO!

8 FEET EN LOS PIRINEOS AND 2 VACATING TO MOROCCO!

January 30, 2008 to February 29, 2008

~Just finished reading “The Power of Now”…and conclude that Gasoline, my cat, not the fuel, is my Zen master! Simply put, he exists in the moment, and loves every minute of the moment! For a while there, I was thinking that the x-ray machine he slid through in the Madrid train station had turned him retarded. When in actual fact, he is my role model…accepting all that is…next I’ll be chasing shadows!

~No joke…when I asked a Spanish friend why Spaniards don’t have automatic clothes dryers, my friend replied in complete seriousness, “Because clothes dry faster on a clothes line.” And it wasn’t a man who said this!

~Daily, in Jaca, I almost get hit by at least one car! As I’m crossing a street and am first looking left for traffic…I forget about the car to the right of me backing up into the empty spot where I am illegally J-walking from. I thought the concept of parallel parking was only used in driver’s examination tests!

~The canuck chicas, Lauren and Meagan, revisited Jaca. Something about the lure of comfort and cleanliness that can’t be found in a youth hostel. I’ve attempted to discourage their visits by forcing them to help me carry copious amounts of cat litter from the farthest located grocery store in Jaca…but they continue to return!

~Not much new to report here in the neighbourhood, except I suspect the Ecuadorians that live above me are trying to have another kid!

~I miss a bathtub. For Christmas I received a bathbomb so I put a plastic bag over the shower drain, dropped the bomb into the two inches of water and had lovely smelling feet for a day!

~The fridge and I have come to an understanding in our relationship, actually a standstill. It beeps. I unplug it.

~I’m still bewildered by the cartons of sterilized milk I am forced to buy in Jaca. The Spanish have fridges for fresh milk. And the surrounding mountains are full of fresh cows! No entiendo!

~Do you know the processed, never-goes-moldy, glow-in-the-dark fluorescent-white sponge-like stuff you can buy in Canada, called “Wonder” Bread? (An appropriate name!) Well, here it’s called “Bimbo”! (Another appropriate name!) So, I looked up Bimbo in Spanish…doesn’t exist…but in the English more-than-half of my dictionary, Bimbo translates to “tia buena sin seso”=a good girl without brains/intelligence! Once Spain learns to speak English, they may have to change this name!

~I’ve now skied 5 times in the Pyrenees mountains, which supersedes my Canadian expertise, and I can confidently announce that I have mastered the chair lifts! February 8, my last alpine insurance-less adventure…the temperature was 22 °C at midday! We had joked about skiing topless…good thing we didn’t, because my face was beet-red the next day! As my Spanish friend described, we looked like traffic lights.

~So, if the world is “getting smaller”…then why do parcels from Canada take so long to get to Spain?

~Like Pavlovian’s Law, Carb and Gas have learned to recognize that a Postal package notice equates to Temptations cat treats! I, too, am conditioned and get excited at the thought of anything Canadian! I’ve never so appreciated such basic gifts as: a new pair of socks, Werther’s candies, dish towels, tomato paste, chocolate chips and all the extras. Thank you soooooooooo much Karen and Cassandra! A Christmas parcel in January still feels like Christmas!

~Even in February…there really is a Santa Claus…I laughed a lot opening your gifts Bev…how will I ever explain where Providence Bay is to a Spaniard! Great “stuff”, but the book, oh, the book is like orgasmic or gold or both! I’m starving for good literature and wondered how I could survive while abroad in Morocco without a fix! I steered my eyes away from the synopsis on the back cover as I immediately slipped “Eat, Pray, Love” into my packed pack (I did catch the title and see below why my pack is packed!)) for fear the temptation would overwhelm me…! Many thanks for thinking of me and my furry friends. We feel spoiled!

~Now I know why I’m still single! I’ve been wearing my ring on my right hand…seems this is the wedding ring hand in this region of Spain!

~Jaca has just experienced 3 consecutive days of cloud…and already I’m suffering symptoms of S.A.D.!

~How well do you know cats? Are you aware of the phenomenon of cats magnetizing to papers…sit down to work or read a newspaper, for example, and the nearest cat plops themselves on the centre of your attention? Well, Carb has a similar intrinsic knowledge of locating my bladder when he feels it’s time to wake up in the morning!

~I’m taking the month of March off (overworked…need a vacation!) from my 3 hour a week job! I have successfully accomplished attaining the 5-day weekend, or 2-day workweek! That’s right, I’ve downsized my work schedule, I quit my day job! Lauren can vouch for me, it was glorified babysitting, and that’s not in my job description this year! Lauren and I are meeting in Sevilla to venture through Morocco for a month! Meanwhile, it’s a game of musical cat sitters for 31 days! It’s been 27 years since I last roamed Marruecos…wonder if sandstorms still blast through the glassless windows of 3rd class trains filled with goats, chickens and people like me, or if random guys still run up and faceplant kisses on unsuspecting travellers (I am 27 years less attractive!) But if they still speak Arabic, then I sill remember how to say “Get Lost”! Stay tuned…I’ll update you in April!

~Flying to Latvia in May for a week! An all-expense paid excursion courtesy of a European Project. All I have to do is pretend I’m a Spanish-as-a-Second-Language learner. I can do that! Isn’t life just full of opportunities…all you have to do is notice them!

Con todo mi carina (just imagine the “n” in carino has a little curvy line over it!)
Dana, Carb and Gas xox

Posted by hiitsdana 08:27 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

TOO MANY FEET IN THE PYRENEES...december 2007-january 2008

TOO MANY FEET IN THE PYRENEES...AND LOVING THE COMPANY!

~Pre-Christmas, Lauren wrote me some cool words…”I’m coming home”! She has always said I am her home, regardless of where I live!

~For Christmas, Lauren collaged a card for me with these words: HOME is where the river flows Pushing past the willows Home is milkweed in your hair With hemlock moss your pillow Home if only you could know Is any place I see you It’s in my heart And from the start I’ve known my home would be you.

~Christmas, New Year’s and the 3 Magical Kings have come and gone…and I never did finish my annual Xmas poem! 26 years of tradition…I’d better get at it. It’s not like I have nothing to write about this year…

~Since last I wrote you…I have skied thrice, attended Spanish Mass twice, obtained a black eye, hosted 4 post-adolescent Canadians, introduced 2008 in Basque Country and as a result of one CRAZY month, received a whopper of a cold!

~The traditional Christmas turkey dinner, which goes without saying, was yet another Spanish cooking adventure. Trying to reproduce familiar tastes without turnips, cranberries or skewers made it challenging…but nothing is impossible! First, I had to buy a roasting pan which would fit inside my Spanish-sized oven (one forearm length in width), then I had to search and difficultly pre-order 2 small turkeys from a local butcher shop…seems turkeys only come in one size here, small, which I almost forgot to pick up Christmas eve day! Then without skewers or even a needle and thread, safety pins will hold stuffing in…in a pinch, sort of, as one turkey kind of exploded as the stuffing I made with an improvised seasoning expanded, a lot. And had I not found a platter and serving bowls in the garbage the week prior, we’d have been serving from the pots! Homemade placemats and place markers made from homemade paper, candles in wine bottles, twinkly Christmas lights wrapped around Simon and Garfunkle my 2 little potted evergreens, lights I formed as a shooting star on the ceiling, Christmas music, repeated a lot, as I only had 2 Christmas CDs, pinecones adorned with little red bows hung everywhere hang-able…and tah dah…the best make-shift Canadian Christmas imaginable!

~And Santa found us here in Jaca! 2 couches and a floor full of gifts! An unexpected Christmas morning for the “kids” and cats! Carb didn’t get his wall-to-wall carpeting as he had hoped, but he did get 6 new toy mice…all of which have disappeared. Gas was simply happy for all the shadows 4 houseguests could make while visiting! And me, I was happiest of all, having my kid “home” for Christmas!

~I forgot about life with Lauren. Long Lauren hairs everywhere, accumulative missing dishes from the cupboards, little trails of cookie crumbs, half finished projects engulfing my living room but I really love her!

~Why is it 2 soundly sleeping cats feel the need to awake and inspect my freshly washed wet floors, every time?!

~Carb kisses like a true North American, on the lips! He also shakes hands/paws. Gas does the European thing and gives me his cheek to kiss! Just a bizarre observation.

~Since the advent of heat/radiators at C/ Del Barco, 9 (bajo), which incidentally were installed the day before Lauren arrived (November 28th), and incidentally Spanish labourers make as much mess as Canadian ones, I have discovered I now have more heat potential than my electricity supply will allow! I now live in an electricity-juggling circus, a fine art, a multifaceted performance. For every stove element turned on, means one heat radiator turned off or “CLICK”, the main breaker pops! Juggling the coffee maker, hot water tank, washing machine or rechargers with radiators is also complicated! In other words, if I want food, clean clothes, a shower, or a caffeine fix…I must temporarily be cold! It sure has taught me to organize my day’s schedule well!

~I have well washed armpits! Rubber drip cuffs need to be invented for that concealed cupboard dish rack above my kitchen sink. Every time I reach up to put a wet dish in the rack, a stream of water dribbles down my arm to my armpit! Just a little annoying.

~Gas has discovered Carb has a shadow worth chasing. Carb has discovered Gas is truly psycho! I have a friend whose dog barks insanely at EVERY shadow he sees…I’m so glad Gas can’t bark!

~I’ve decided my fridge doesn’t like change. Yes, it’s disturbed again…had a couple months reprieve. If I remove even one egg it complains. Add a pound of butter and it beeps. Drink a glass of water from the water jug and it flashes hysterically.

~NEVER order Gulas con Gambas in a restaurant…or you’ll go away hungry! Lesson learned…never order something that’s not in your diccionario!

~In Spanish, one doesn’t miss a bus…they lose it…Lauren and I lost 2 buses in the same day trying to return to Jaca from Canfranc Estacion. But we made some cool friends in the bar during our one hour wait at midnight for the 26 € taxi!

~I just can’t understand how a country can function without peanut butter! Thanks Jo-Ann and Blaine and Rhonda and Linda for the chilli powder, real Baking Soda and Powder, rubber spatulas, Christmas ornaments, peanut butter and cat treats! Life is now complete! And we’re good to go till July!

~Spanish Special K cereal has a hint of a suntan with blisters.

Loving life as always, and hoping you are too! Dana, Carb and Gas xox

Posted by hiitsdana 09:57 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

10 FEET IN THE ALMOST SKIABLE PYRENEES! november 2007

10 FEET IN THE ALMOST SKIABLE PYRENEES!

November 3, 2007 to … December 2, 2007

~Lauren is due to move in for the holidays! How awesome it is to be looking forward to spending time with my kid. Seems like only yesterday I was counting the days till she matured!

~Speaking of Lauren, at Thanksgiving, she and 3 fellow homeless travellers prepared a complete Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, a first for Lauren. She wrote to tell me of her experience and proceeded to “thank” me for ALL the turkey dinners I have created in her history…wow…she’s growing up!

~Have I told you about “the Cave” yet! The Cave is the name I relegated to my downstairs bedroom. You enter via a curved stone stairway. Stone walls, clay floors, exposed beamed ceiling the height of exactly me, spot lighting…everyone thinks it’s the highlight of my piso! I’m afraid to share it’s alleged history for fear of disillusioning potential visitors! Apparently, this building is situated on a river…should I have suspected something by the name of my street, Calle Del Barco = Street of the Boat! But worse than the running rio beneath the room is that the renovators discovered “the Cave” occupied by sheep skulls! It’s very curious…Gas has a daily morning ritual of “demanding” I open the Cave door, he then proceeds to sit on the second stair down with his face only millimetres from the wall, staring, for indefinite periods of time! Do sheep have spirits or is Gas simply retarded?

~On my street, it’s not customary or necessary to have a doorbell! Visitors simply stand on the street and SCREAM the sought after’s name, LOUDLY, until someone answers or they give up realizing no one’s home! I now know the name of every resident on my street!

~After 3 month’s growth, most people’s normal volume of hair, I finally figured out all the Spanish words to make a hair appointment to get my hair cut. Walked away from the salon after making the appointment feeling p-r-e-t-t-y proud of myself, and my growing command of the language, till I realized the time I had arranged coincided with my work schedule! So, next day, with the help of my diccionario, reworked my vocab so I could reschedule my appointment…told the girl I had to rebook because of a funeral! I now have a Spanish hairstyle (No, Lauren, not a Mullet!) and I still don’t look Spanish!

~Things I’ve noticed about Spanish women’s hair:
~few wear it short
~The Mullet forgot to go out of style here
~no one is grey
~some really bad dye jobs goin’ on in Jaca

~Thing I’ve noticed about South American men’s hair:
~the Mushroom cut…see Mullet above!

~I don’t know why the Spanish think it necessary to complicate a language with 15 different tenses (7 simple, 7 compound, plus the imperative). I’m operating in 2 and managing just fine!

~So I’m working with nuns! They’re grey. My favourite one is the short, plump, happy one who guards the front door…not really security material. She’s actually the only consistent daily contact I have in Jaca. I gave her some “Canada” Ginger Ale can earrings and an “I am Canadian” Beer lighter in my first week of teaching, as gifts, she was ecstatic, and now we must be best buddies because she’s forever presenting me with little Spanish pocket versions of bibles and religion related stuff…either that or she’s figured out the Pop and Beer themes of my gifts and she’s attempting to save me! While working at Colegio Santa Maria, I have this overwhelming feeling that I have to behave myself at school!

~Carb and Gas have never had such variety in their diet! Ultima “crunchies” are available in beef, chicken, salmon and turkey flavours! Plus, they make special mixtures for hairball or urinary tract repair work. Unfortunately they haven’t come out with Ultima Light, a weight watcher’s variety. How will I ever convince these cats to leave Spanish Ultima for Canadian Medical!

~I really like that every weekend for me is a 3 day weekend…but I just had a 4 day weekend…and I REALLY liked that!

~Coffee and Siestas have the same effect on me! Although one is a stimulant and the other is a relaxant, and I love them both equally, if I do either one too late in the day…I have difficulties getting my 12 hours of sleep at night!

~Gas is the only one of us who doesn’t mind that radiator-installer-guy still hasn’t shown up, but then we’ve only been waiting a few months, which is more than a couple. There’s supposed to be a radiator in every room. As the evenings have become brisk, Carb and I huddle around our sole living room heater, while Gas derives great satisfaction basking on the cool clay floor in any of the above mentioned non-heated rooms…a true Canadian he is! So, unless we start keeping the butter in the living room…there’ll be no soft butter in this casa…until summer!

~While “Visado” to most Spaniards means “a Visa”, the Asturians of Northern Spain know that it actually means “leftovers”…because the word VI-SA-DO contains the first 2 letters of VIernes/Friday, SAbado/Saturday and DOmingo/Sunday! I love rule breakers who play with language and their food!

~Gas has taken up the sport of shadow chasing, fulltime. Our smooth clay floors provide the perfect surface for doing donuts and major skidding! Neither Carb nor the furniture really like it, but I think he’s hilarious.

~Mind my tears…I just started and finished Anne of Green Gables, an evening’s indulgence to what I belief is THE classic Canadian Fairytale. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this story, and I’m still in love with Anne, Matthew, Marilla and Avonlea. I have always admired Anne and while my childhood peers wanted to be princesses and knights, I wanted to be Anne of Green Gables! I have also been echoing Lucy Maude Montgomery’s words since I was Anne’s initial age, 11. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to myself, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet”, since living in Jaca!

~When the Spanish greet on the street, dicen “Adios” or “Hasta luego”…instead of hello! The first time I encountered this, I thought the guy was being rude by replying goodbye to my hello! Evidently, it simply means, “No time to talk”…so why not just say “No time to talk”!

~Gas has started to talk in his sleep! I’ve watched these guys twitch and vibrate while dreaming…but never before have I heard them talk…not sure in what language!

~Just bought some tampons labelled “Normal”…so what do abnormal tampons look like?

Happy almost Christmas shopping… Amor y Besos, Dana, Carb, Gas and almost Lauren xoxo

Posted by hiitsdana 09:52 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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