Friday, August 3, 2007

Silica gel of the Magdalen

File this entry under "idle musings and random connections".

Observation # 1: Each time you buy a new suitcase, or other luggage-type item, it is invariably accompanied by a little packet of something, which I believe to be silica gel. The little packet comes with the inevitable warning "do not ingest", and presumably is included for its desiccant (sp?) properties, as a preventative against mold and mildew.

Observation # 2: Yesterday, while roaming the aisles of the recently-discovered neighborhood supermarket, I yielded to temptation and bought a package of something called "magdalenas cuadradas" (square magdalens), which bore a strong superficial resemblance to the kind of item one might consume as accompaniment to one's morning café con leche. Boy, was I fooled. Upon biting into this "baked good" (a misnomer if ever there was one), the immediate result was to have it suck all of the moisture from my mouth, effect a temporary shutdown of my salivary glands, and send me reeling towards the fridge in search of some resuscitating agua mineral.

Hence my suggestion: a synergistic merger between the producers of silica gel and Grupo "El Arbol", producers of aforementioned magdalenas cuadradas. Though, come to think of it, perhaps the name "El Arbol" should have been warning enough of the ligneous properties of this particular attack on the palate.

Observation # 3: Baked "goods" do not represent the summit of the eSpanish culinary arts.

The plain people of Ireland: Here, what's all this? Nothing for weeks, and now this kind of random rubbish? Has the sun addled your brains?
The management: Very possibly yes. But it's been an exhausting week. I promise to be more focused for the rest of my stay.
The plain people of Ireland: Oh, fair enough so. Carry on!

Kafka on the beach


It seems to me that, if one finds an image of Kafka on the beach, one has a certain obligation to share it with one's readers.
This picture is brought to you courtesy of my Table Talk amigos at Salon.com. Enjoy.
(No, I don´t know who the gentleman on the left might be).

Lesson learned

So, I had a wonderful time during my week at home in San Francisco. Got to catch up with many of my friends (though not as many as I would have liked), spent time hanging out with the kitties, got to see some of my favorite TV programs. One of the things I do miss aquí en España is being able to watch "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" nightly (it's a sad commentary on the state of American news reporting that by far the best summary of current events is available in two satirical programs on the Comedy Channel: nothing can compare with the genius of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who seem to go from strength to strength).

Spanish TV news is, in comparison, a complete disaster, a sort of hyped-up version of typical local news reporting in the U.S. Earlier in the week each of the students in my class made a promise to one of our teachers to try to watch at least two hours of Spanish TV daily. A promise which I, for one, am already regretting, as I don't think it's possible to keep it without risking permanent brain damage. So I am reinterpreting the terms of the bargain with an emphasis on "trying to watch", rather than actually watching.

In my last post I mentioned that the trip from San Francisco was "arduous". With the benefit of hindsight, I have only myself to blame for this. Given a flight leaving San Francisco at 7am on a Sunday morning, arriving in Madrid the next morning at 9am, it probably wasn't the smartest strategy to stay up late Friday night (until 3am Saturday morning), then skip sleep altogether on Saturday night (because I had to leave for the airport at 4.30am), then lose Sunday night altogether to the time difference. By the time I got back to the apartment in Madrid, around mid-morning on Monday, the idea of packing and getting the bus to Salamanca that same day was quite obviously absurd. So instead I slept for about 18 hours straight, finally rousing myself at 7am on Tuesday to face the task of packing everything into my two (medium-sized) bags. I just thank my stars that I had this option, having paid for the apartment in Madrid through the end of July.

Note to self: stop buying books. They weigh a goddamned ton. Although I did manage to squeeze everything into the two bags, I was barely able to lift them, due to the assorted dictionaries, textbooks, reference materials etc. that I seem to have managed to accumulate in the past four months. And suffering cardiac arrest in the midday heat of a Madrid bus station would really be a terrible way to go. So before I move again, all of my books (barring, perhaps, a small dictionary) will have been shipped back to San Francisco.

However, I did manage to make the 2pm bus to Salamanca on Tuesday, and arrived at the school around 5pm, in the searing heat of the afternoon, laden like a pack animal, but otherwise none the worse for wear. I am now safely ensconced in the enormous, relatively expensive, hideously ugly, but very comfortable apartment owned by Don Quijote, two doors down from the school. So I certainly have no excuse for being late for class while here in Salamanca.

Lesson learned for future legs of this trip, and for all future trips:

  • Travel light.
  • If you can't learn to do without all those books (and apparently I can't), ship them separately.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Aquí estoy

Just to let everyone know: I am here, in Salamanca, safe and sound. A little travel-weary, but presumably that's all part of the experience.


What is Salamanca like? Two words come to mind - old and picturesque. Extraordinarily picturesque. Here is a picture of the Plaza Mayor, to give you an idea
It is also teeming with students, of assorted nationalities. The kind of town which has bars rejoicing in names like "The Irish Rover". Where, regrettably, they sponsor toga parties. Which, you will be glad to hear, I avoid like the plague.
I will have more to tell about Salamanca in subsequent posts. Also more about my journey from San Francisco to Salamanca. Which was, in a word, arduous.
But aquí estoy. Y muy feliz.
Hasta pronto.