Saturday, June 13, 2009

Muniellos and Mari's Part 1

Over the last year I've spent a lot of time in Spain. More than I ever would have thought 2 or 3 or 4 years ago, and I'm happy and I'm grateful for the chance, for the experience. My Spanish is getting better and I've had the opportunity to see a lot of this great country. Spain isn't a very big country, maybe the size of Texas, probably a little bit bigger, but it's surprisingly diverse. One of the reasons Californian's love California so much is because there's so much to see and do, literally all different types of climate; beaches, forests, desert, mountains, lakes, farms, national parks, major cities. California has it all. But the thing about California, and the United States in general, is that from coast to coast, top to bottom, San Diego to Sacramento, San Francisco to L.A., most of California feels the same. Homogenous. Starbucks, In and Out, the ever present Wal-Mart and McDonalds. Driving five hours in California guarantees visual changes, changes of landscape and scenery, topography and vegetation. Anytime you cross the state, say from San Francisco to Reno, you're in for a lot of changes, some good, some not so good. But you're not in for an uprooting. You're not going to feel lost or confused. You might get lost, but you aren't, really. Drive far enough in the direction your car is pointing and you'll find something to spark your memory, to help you find your way.
The point I'm trying to make about Spain is the lack of homogeny. Drive five hours and a lot of things change. The scenery to start. There are mountains everywhere in Spain. There are also farms and lakes, dry brown areas covered in dead grass and there are green areas, trees that grow year round, flowers that bloom all day. There are sunflowers and solar panels. And the animals: when was the last time you saw a goat on the side of the road? Or a pack of sheep or a thousand pound bull pulling at grass, wagging his tail in the sun? When was the last time your car was blocked by cows in the road? (If your from Kansas or Nebraska the answer might be yesterday.) But it's not just the scenery that changes. The food changes, the language changes, and sometimes it feels like the century changes. Take southern Spain. It's hot, 100 degrees in the summer, easy, with a heavy sun that shines until ten o'clock at night. The landscape is brown, almost everything dies in the perpetual heat and sunshine. When you talk to someone, the accent changes. Letters start to disappear. Consonants especially. My Spanish isn't great, but for the most part I can understand what people say, but listening to the southern accent here is like listening to the thick southern accent in the states. Somewhere inside of your head you understand that the words are mostly the same, the structure of the sentence resembles the structure you would have given it, but for some reason it takes an extra second, two, three, four to understand what this person is saying. You end up saying "Yes" to a lot of things without really knowing why. What you eat is also different. If you're in southern Spain you can't pass up the seafood. It's just too good. You can taste the freshness, taste the fact that it came out of the sea that day or the day before, that it was never frozen, that it didn't sit on a truck for eighteen hours riding from the Gulf Coast to Manhattan, KS. But you can't get seafood like this in Madrid, which is only five hours north. You can get good seafood, but you can't get the truly great seafood of southern Spain. It's weird. That's really the strangest part about Spain. Each region has its specialties. In food, in wine, in liquor, and rarely do these specialties make it out of the region. In the U.S. you can get BBQ, or pizza, or hamburgers, or steaks in any part of the country. If a drink is popular in New York, you can almost assuredly get it in Kansas. People will argue that their part of the country has the best steak or the best seafood or the best pizza, but it's mostly the same. Also, it's never impossible to get another regions specialty in the U.S., even if it is a second rate version. In Spain it can be impossible.
Which brings me to our latest trip, to Asturias, to Casa Aguadin. Casa Aguadin is a bed and breakfast owned by a woman I'd guess is in her 60's. The house sits in the mountains of Asturias, the deck looks out at 19th century Spain. That is to say, the deck overlooks a couple of small villages, fields with sheep and cows, roosters and chickens. When the sun goes down little street lights pop on in the neighboring communities. These street lights look completely out of place. They look new. Like someone finally got around to lighting these towns five or six months ago and the towns haven't really decided how they feel about it. When I say towns, what I really mean is a small collection of houses, four, five, six, surrounded by fields, cut through by one lane roads that wind through the mountains. Each town has a name, but they remind me of those towns in central Nebraska or Kansas - something like Steven and there's one house and a bunch of rusty cars in a field, and a sign, Population 8. Except in Spain they're bunched close together, about as close as some of the nicer neighborhoods in the states, neighborhood's with lawns that just go on forever. It's weird.
I'm out of steam... Part 2 later.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A little trip to Mari's and Muniellos

At the last minute we are taking a trip to Muniellos and a bed and breakfast run by a wonderful lady named Mari. Muniellos is a natural reserve in Asturias (northern Spain) that you have to have a reservation to visit. We've been trying for three years to go, and finally we've made it work. Mari lives in a small town nearby and cooks the most delicious food, most of which is fresh from her garden and the nearby farms. The best cheese, eggs, butter and anything else you can think of is there. Naturally, I'm very excited because I love all of those things.

The picture above is taken from our trip to Mari's last year when we were trying to leave and the road was blocked by a few local inhabitants out for a stroll. I hope we will see them again on this trip. Hopefully, Zach will take lots of pictures that will pop up here on our blog after we return. Hooray!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Yes we are!

We were inspired recently to write this blog and consequently, here it is.  As I write this first post I am watching a bullfight in El Escorial, Spain. I hope that my friends and family will enjoy this blog and I hope that Zach and I will continue to post our personal current events, or our thoughts on whatever random minutiae floats into our minds. To date our plans are as follows: we are now in El Escorial staying with my mom (Sofia) enjoying her hospitality, particularly the food. In July we will go to the Czech Republic to obtain our TEFL certifications in a three week program. We are returning to Spain for several weeks and will be flying to San Francisco on August 17th to get the Kia (my car) with all of our stuff inside, as well as the Sebring to drive to Memphis. We will stop with friends and family along the way, provided they don't mind :-). While in Memphis, I will hopefully have an awesome, well-paying job while I pursue my secondary-education license and Zach will pursue his m.f.a.. Whoa, and that's the short short version. More later, besos! 

Our New Blog

Hey everybody, Sara and I are starting a blog.  We've been a little hard to keep track of the last year and we want to share our adventures with our families and friends.  Sadly we rarely get the chance to see many of you and a blog seems like the perfect way to say hello every now and then.  We'll try to keep this thing updated with our location, some pictures, and every now and then some interesting commentary on something that interests us.  Also, if you're trying to get a hold of us and can't reach us by phone or e-mail or telepathy, try this blog.  Hopefully we'll be listening.