Why is there so much shit in Malaga?
I mean, actual POO.
“POO!” my friend Rich and I yell at various intervals of his three day trip to visit me. I did warn him Malaga wasn’t the prettiest town on the Costa del Sol but I’m pretty sure he didn’t expect to be tag team scanning the walkway in front of us for smeared patches of doggie-doodoo while the other gazed at the traditional balconies and coloured flower boxes that are just one of the reasons I love living in Spain.
Then the other day I was merrily tucking into a salad from I-Won’t-Say-Which-Cafe when I glance down, the fork halfway to my mouth and wonder why that broken spinach leaf is grey and crusty. I’m not sure if it’s broken because I just ate some or if that’s how it came but the question takes on urgent importance when I realise the grey crustiness is birdy doo-doo. In my salad.
The two waiters were Spanishly casual about the whole affair, talking over each other to, presumably, explain that there was not – as one may suppose – a bird wandering around the kitchen pooping in the food but rather that the cook was simply lazy and hadn’t bothered to wash the leaves before placing them in the salad. It didn’t make it me feel any better.
There’s absolutely no point to this blog I just wanted to share the fact that I very nearly, or actually did and I just don’t know it, ate bird shit today. That stuff’s full of protein right??
PS: for all my email subscribers, I just found this in my archives and wanted to post it cos I think it’s funny. Yes it’s from a few months ago.Read More
Manouvering my shoulder bag around the shelves of bottles glistening seductively in the Duty Free Zone of one of London’s airports, I wander nonchalantly over to the white, round bar containing an assortment of whisky and mixing utensils. As with all freebies I’m attempting to look rich, knowledgable and interested enough to give the promotional person the impression I’ll probably actually buy the product behind it.
A sprightly, older man pops over and begins a chat as he cheerily mixes a cocktail of whisky, cranberries and some other liquid I can’t recognise. There’s plenty of minutes before I need to be at the gate so I sip it slowly, cherishing the opportunity to talk to someone outside of my usual chat-range.
Clive is 63 and has retired twice already before being so bored he took over a pub and began working at the airport. He speaks energetically in a rounded british accent, reminding me of my grandpa, although I know instantly he would take offence to this reference, clearly young at heart as he is. He’s got a friendly, comfortable way about him that I instantly warm to. In between explanations of cocktail ingredients, I discover he has a 35 year old girlfriend living in Spain who he visits once a month or so. Coincidentally, I’m thinking about moving there so we swap email addresses and decide to explore the martinis of Malaga on his next fly through.
Do we have opportunities to meet people like this in our home country or just when we travel? Being a stranger in a new place maybe makes you more open to other strangers, especially those who don’t fit your usual profile. I’m thinking of the hippy-looking busker I met on the streets of Copenhagen who, over a coffee and salmon sandwich, told the sad tale of a cheater from a cheater’s perspective, ending in an empty house and empty achievements. I like to hear about life from the middle of living it, feeling, as I do, that I’m just at the beginning of it.
Clive is no disappointment. Having failed my end of the agreement to find good cocktails somewhere in Malaga we park ourselves at Papa y Pepe’s, a tapas bar well-known for no other reason than it’s in a central location and has a name easy to remember. What I like about my story, unavoidable as it is in anything longer than a 20 minute conversation, is the way it takes a discussion straight to the meaning of life and gives others room to share their own life experiences.
I explain to Clive that I’m at the stage where I’m trying to work out what’s important. What should I go after; career, love, friends, travel, challenge, beauty, knowledge, peace, a cause, a passion? As we walk the streets in the afternoon sun, he recounts a turning point, in a lonely house three doors down from his ex-wife, at the end of a career built from a daily decision to focus primarily on himself.
In his own words, ‘I was in nobody’s world. I was in nobody’s world but my own.’
This must be a similar feeling to that philosophical question ‘If a tree falls down in the middle of the forest where no one can hear it, does it still make a sound?’ Except that your life is now the tree that no one hears.
I add a little piece to my puzzle; to hear and to be heard provides meaning. Reverberations of ourselves are found in others and these echos are affirmations of our own worth and existence. One of the top 5 regrets of the dying is not keeping in touch with their friends more. We all know the value of connection but rarely invest in it as a factor of life success.
Clive rebuilt his world, interconnected with others’ worlds this time, at the age of 50 and has enjoyed an entire one of my lifetimes over since then. He exudes what I’m fast coming to believe is the secret to happy life, cheerfulness. As Pamela Barr said;
“Above all things else, be cheerful; there is no beatitude for the despairing.”
May I be like Clive and never grow old.
And have a lover half my age.
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The afternoon my husband and I agreed to a trial separation I escaped to a yoga class. Afterwards, floating in savasana, muscles tingling, eyes closed, I listened to everyone leave the room, tip-toeing around my wet cheeks and occasionally hiccupping chest. One by one they left me Aloneness like little presents, candles in the corners, flickering pockets of empathy.
When it was finally too rude to lie there any longer, I went to the beach and sat looking at the water until my husband rang. Or whatever he was. I told him I’d be home in 5 minutes.
But the truth is, I haven’t really felt ‘home’ since.
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Two streets away from my little apartment is a restaurant called Noviembre (November). It has a bright pink curling staircase leading up to a mezzanine level which is part office, part kitchen. I never put any of the delicious smells it emits into my mouth though because Noviembre is un poco caro (a little expensive). They don’t mind me sitting at a table by the window all day on just a green tea though and it makes me happy to simply walk in. The walls are wood panels painted in alternating muted, pale shades of blue, green, timber and white. Higgledy-piggledy chairs, some thrones from an Alice in Wonderland world, some simple brown wood, sit on the painted wood floor. I suppose it’s only honest for me to also mention that the waiters are muy simpatico…
When I rounded the corner to enter here this morning I heard someone call my name. Turning around, there was Dani, standing behind a vintage red bike, beard and ear piercings waggling in greeting. Dani owns the Drunk-o-rama bar and leads a band called ‘Massacre’ (less death-metal, more 50’s throw-back than it sounds). His bar is my preferred pre-game, not least for the 1 euro beers and friendly people. Dani knows Victor and Sergio from El Ultimo Mono, Dave‘s regular writing haunt and it makes me laugh to see him standing outside Noviembre, chatting to Ale, my favourite waiter like old friends. It’s one big social circle here with the Spanish.
Wandering a corner to the cheese section (of course), I’m accosted by the manager. In every way the opposite of the check out guy, short with quick eyes, his face lights up as he starts chattering away like the cheeky little monkey he is. The first time we met I wanted a bottle of gin from the top shelf and he asked how it was he was supposed to get it considering I was twice his height.
I know it’s a small city, I know that’s why tourists don’t like it but I’ve never been friends with waiters or bar owners or supermarket managers simply because I always go there. It’s nice.
Sofie, a blonde internship student from Holland, is sunning herself on her balcony above Plaza de la Merced, fielding messages from whichever male has unsuspectingly come across her beautiful being in the past day or so. I sit on the tiles, rolling up my jeans, hoping the sun will start browning my white legs in time for the warm weather due to hit in 3 weeks. Flower smells are already exploding along my usual route to Spanish class; under the Mook castle, through a rose garden with fountains and along the harbour. I stole some purple ones for my dining table.
We’re bitching about the atrocious price of drinks at one of the clubs, Sala Wenge – 9 euro for a vodka red bull – and I declare I’m never going back there. It’s a lie though; I know this Sunday morning at 6am after Gangnam Style has finished playing, I’ll be hugging the manager, teasing the giant creature that is the bouncer on my way out and tap-tapping the few streets back to my apartment. There’ll be a half drunk bottle of something still on the coffee table from where Lola and I – an English expat working at the Embassy who speaks about 50 languages and has a wicked sense of humour – ‘got ready to go out’ (aka: drunk at home) until about midnight. That’s when bars open. Don’t even think about a club until 2-3-ish.
I lie down on my bed booting up the laptop for some writing and glance at the blue sky out of the window, the bright white of the wall outside glowing from the sun, a wonderful sweet, light taste of peace and contentment crinkling the corners of my eyes. It matches the sparkles I hold in my hand from what has now become a daily habit, the 5pm gin and tonic.
Not quite home yet… but not quite a strange city either.
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One from the Colombia Black Hole Archives…
I’m vaguely disturbed about the fact that I may not be cut out for South American travel.Read More
“If it actually has two bedrooms, I’ve just decided I’ll take it on the spot.”
I’m telling this to Max, one of the German Erasmus students who fill Malaga’s short-term accommodation places during their three-month Uni exchange (read: binge-drinking, party-fest) with short-term, high paying rental contracts. AirBnB found me my own room for four days and on emerging from the pleasure of my own uninterrupted company for an entire 24 hours (a luxury unheard of the past 6 months) I discover the rest of this unlit, unkept, tiny apartment is occupied by four of the sweetest 20-somethings Europe ever had the delight in producing. They are to be my salvation.
What they pay for one bedroom in this crowded, paint-peeling student apartment is about three-quarters of the monthly rent of a modern, sunny two-bedroom place I’ve booked to see first thing the next day. So when the place turns out to actually have a second room as advertised (not as common an occurrence as you might think!) I have no worries. Three days later I’ve signed a year-long contract. I think I want to be back in Australia for Summer but you know… details, details.
And so… I’m officially living in Malaga. (Cheers! Applause! Life Altering Decision Made! Wahoo!)
You know the first time you tug on a dress for Summer? Entering My apartment after 6 months on Others beds was just the same feeling. I ran around opening windows, checking cupboards, turning on taps and confirming the location of light switches for a good half an hour, like my friends’ dog doing circles before it beds down. Then I went to the markets and bought salt, pepper, butter and garlic as well as the usual meats, veggies and bread. Then I went to IKEA and bought an entire suitcase full of items (yes, I took an actual suitcase. I just pretended that’s how we did it in Australia), including a garlic press, hand towels and some candles. Then I went to LUSH for my first ever purchase of ridiculously priced soap and bought 150 grams of a blue one for the bathroom and 300 grams of a sunset coloured one for the kitchen. As a housewarming gift to myself.
I know, I know… it was only just over 6 months ago I was thinking how amazing it was to be whittling my life down to one suitcase and no keys. And no regrets. I highly recommend it even just for the exercise of working out what you really need. And for the story to tell your grandkids.
I’ve discovered though there’s only so long you can live looking at a blank slate before you start to get bored with it.
Blank slates are just begging to be drawn on. And I am SOOO ready to draw. This little apartment is going to be a very happy base for… some life purpose thingy that will reveal itself soon hopefully 😉
And so, fluffy towels in the bathroom, nice scents playing with the breezes and lamps lit for the approaching dusk…
A home? TICK.
Now for some wine and friends to fill it with laughter!
I’ll start with this one, my new flatmate 😀 If you’re after some inspiration to quick your day job, check out his website!Read More
Even though I’m craving my own space like I imagine an astronaut must crave gravity, there are benefits to living in a hostel and sharing a room with 10 other people. The first is the 9-euro a night price tag. The second is the ability to meet Swiss brother-and-sister-travellers who agree to an overnight road trip to Sevilla. Win!
I need to see other parts of this country. Dismally, I’m starting to doubt whether Malaga is the place for me. I’m like some kid on a limited budget in a pastry shop, panicking at the thought of choosing the wrong goodie and spending the next few months wishing I could eat that cream puff instead of this custard tart. In our 7 euro a day hire car, we set off for a night in what was, half a millennium ago, the Gateway to the Americas, with a stop at a little town called Ronda on the way.
It’s like Ronda fell out of a Lord of the Rings movie. Bright-coloured buildings frost the edge of a giant chasm under which white water rushes. A huge bridge towers over walking paths criss-crossing their way down to the rocks. Black clouds burst from the watchtower, which according to legend were both prisoners’ quarters and execution site, before morphing into birds, wheeling over my head and dropping away to surf the patch-worked Spanish countryside all the way to the horizon.
I could definitely live in Ronda.
And Sevilla. On a Friday night the University students the city is known for are decked out, heading this way and that to bars I don’t know and, frankly, can’t be bothered with tonight. It’s raining a little but a pair of rowers are out, smoothly slicing through the lamp light reflections in the city’s wide Guadalquivir River. The sun is setting and the entire city is bathed in a purple-blue glow. It’s buzzing and serene at the same time.
I could definitely live in Sevilla.
One would think that finding two new cities I could live in made the dilemma about Malaga harder. But actually, walking back to our hostel the next evening, I see it all in a new light. And realize why I’ve been so confused.
When I’m finding it difficult to make a decision, I’ve realised, it’s because I’m attempting to marry what I really want with what I think I ‘should’ want. Or with what other people want for me. Sometimes we need to explore, evaluate, understand and choose in a cocoon of our own voice.
Once we can work out, or more often, admit to ourselves what it is we actually want, decisions are as easy as slicing through jelly.
And I want to live in the city.
Everyone wants to live by the beach, and I understand that, but aside from one pretty awesome facebook update of the view from my lounge room (aka: caption, “Living Everyone’s Dream!!”) I don’t want to. I want to live in the city because I love the life of it. I love the buzz of people in the street looking for somewhere to eat at 9pm. I love the host of coffee shops, cozy restaurants and beautiful stores. I love the musicians playing on street corners and the fact I can ‘pop out’ for tapas just a couple of streets away at a moments notice.
Who knew I was a city girl? Not me. But there it is…
And so here I am.
In Malaga, Spain. Looking for an apartment in the city. A little burrow to call my own.
And just like that, once the decision is made, the answer arrives.
Usually, there are reasons we live in whatever city we do. We have a purpose, something tying us to it; a workplace, a lover, a university, which sets our initial playground. Our decisions on where to live and what coffee shops to frequent are built around this anchor. We fit ourselves into the city as much as it fits itself to us.
I don’t have any of these anchors. I could just as easily live 6 hours drive away in Valencia or a plane ride away in Munich. Nothing except what I experience of a city’s features; its rhythms, its people, its landscapes, restaurants and streets, will entice me to settle here.
Why is it always my most wonderfully romantic thoughts that end up being fraught with confusion?
Because adding to this are idealistic fantasies about a modern one-bedroom apartment overlooking the beach costing only around 250 euro a month. I rationalise I could even go a bit further out from the city and truly live the European dream with a little Vespa Scooter. I’m thinking pump heels, a scarf and big round sunglasses for its virgin journey (aka: facebook photo in front of the beach, caption: “Living the European Dream!” Won’t Kendyl just be so jealous of my happy little face!!)
So the question is posed: does Malaga have what it takes?
The city is gorgeous. The perfect European dream complete with tiny lanes lined with balconies overflowing with hydrangeas. A man has his shoe polished on a street corner next to a band of musicians in traditional dress. Marble shines under my tired disoriented feet; streets keep popping me into plazas, the blazing sea on completely the opposite side I thought it would be.
For groceries I’m directed to the ‘Supermercado’ which turns out to be a small version of the Victoria Markets; three sheds of innumerable vendors selling fresh veggies (in the first) fresh fish (in the second) and meats, cheeses and wines (in the third). I order some fat, tight, juicy strawberries (unas fresas, por favor!) and wander down to the harbor eating them one-by-delicious-one out of the paper cone.
On the way back to the hostel, Oysho, a pretty little store selling soft bed clothes, (of all varieties *wink*) is having a sale. I buy PJ’s, a new set of lingerie and something like a super-soft jumper-thingy. It comes to about 20 euro. I can only describe this feeling as Smug. All those other people in the ENTIRE WORLD buying these things for TWICE AS MUCH! Fools. Sunshine sits in my heart as I step out into the main street and head for the next task… a SIM card for my mobile phone. Also 20 euro a month.
I could definitely live in Malaga.
Until I start trying to find an apartment. Bit by heart wrenching bit I up the price I’m willing to pay. The Spanish have a, er, unique perspective on décor that clashes with my own. I start considering a studio or sharing with someone. The areas outside of town are a conundrum. Where are the coffee shops? Do people go out here or just head into the city? Am I going to make any friends being a bus ride and a walk up a steep hill away? And should I even be thinking about making friends or just concentrating on writing?
By Day 5 I’m utterly frazzled. I don’t want to be here. I should’ve stayed in South America. Gone to Canada for Christmas and travelled down the West Coast of the USA in a combie van (aka: facebook photo, caption: “Living the American Dream!”) ending up in Costa Rica. Maybe I should try another country. Bali’s warm right? How much would a ticket to Bali cost? These thoughts whirl around my confused head huddled under a blanket at 3pm in the afternoon. I’m having a siesta. Gimme a break, it’s Cultural Research.Read More
I’ve heard Malaga is littered with unfinished buildings and smells like poo. A city to miss on the Travel circuit because, well, it’s on the “Tourist Circuit” *nose wrinkle*. The thing is, it’s one of the warmest bigger cities in Europe’s only Spanish speaking country (coincidentally enough known as Spain) and I’ve met at least 6 people just in the past 2 months who used to live there and say it’s wonderful. It’s also super cheap as well as right next to the sea and some pretty rated paragliding spots. Just perfect for someone looking for a pretty place to learn Spanish and hole up on the cheap in the sun for a few months while tackling a first attempt at a book. A first attempt at professional writing, actually, but hey I’ve never been one for half measures.
I should be in South America, soaking up the warm rays of a similar climate to Australia’s this time of year.
But something wasn’t right with me and South America. Maybe I was sick of travelling alone and wanted deeper friends around. Maybe the craving for life purpose and a lounge room I can pad about in wearing PJs and fluffy multi-colored socks overtook me. Or maybe the student of a Native Indian Chief I met somewhere up the backside of one of Columbia’s mountains was right and my energy lines don’t align with its magnetic flows. He suggested feathers and a song. I booked a ticket back to Europe instead.
So it is with a bit of trepidation that I walk off the plane into the airport. To say you’re going to go live in a city without actually ever having been there is a bit like going on a blind date. If it sucks, you’re stuck for an awful long time in a whole lot of awkward.Read More
“It’s a tour about Fidel Castro. We actually meet his brother!” I can already tell the new New York girls in my dorm room are super impressed at my cultural immersion in Medellin, Colombia.Read More
I’ve officially regressed.
Every morning, a breakfast of eggs or toasties, fruit and tea or hot chocolate is set out on the dining table, each evening delicious smells of rice, meat, vegetables and “arapa” wind their way into my recently tidied bedroom and yesterday all my clothes were washed and hung up by the time I’d finished my afternoon nap (gimme a break, I thought a had food poisoning!).Read More