Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hola Todos

What a full few weeks this has been... I have ended my employment, boxed up most of my flat in Amsterdam and I assume all is now in storage, waiting for me to give direction as to where things are to be shipped and now I am in Spain, where Manuel´s mom is on a mission to plump me up. In fact, just this morning she was complaining about how thin I am and about how little I eat. And the fact is, I eat a lot. From the moment she wakes up until she finally goes to sleep, she has just one thing on her mind - FOOD. If we are not stuffing ourselves with donuts, tortilla, olives, jam, pork, eggs, bread or other assorted edibles, she is on the phone dialing emergency services. She is a fabulous cook, and like Bubba in "Forest Gump", she knows just about everything there is to know about shrimps. I have eaten small ones, large ones, shelled ones, shrimps in garlic, shrimps with rice, shrimps with clams, cold shrimps, hot shrimps, and on and on it goes. The whole house revolves around the table which is in a state of constant change... Olives, shrimps, clams, Spanish ham, fried pork, hamburgers, more shrimps and all of this followed up with dessert and then there is the after dessert dessert.

Being in Spain is amazing. The sun is out and the sky is actually blue. Not grey, beige, foggy or smoggy, but blue, the color of a cool swimming pool. Today there is not a cloud in the sky and I am just in from having a few beers on the terrace in the center of town. Everything is clean, quiet, and so calm and relaxing. Our typical day is as follows... Wake up at 10, have breakfast, shower and then head out to a terrace for beer and tapas, after which we head home for lunch and then a siesta (afternoon nap). we wake up from the siesta, have some tapas at home, then head out for more tapas, then head home for dinner and then out for after dinner tapas and drinks and then home for pre-bed eating. I am not kidding when I say our whole day is about food. I constantly feel like I am going to bust and still I manage to stuff some more in, like a goose destined to be a fabulous foie gras.

Aside from all the food, I have to say that this trip has been quite difficult for me. I speak very little Spainish and can´t communicate with anyone. I have been in places where I was isolated from the language, but during those times, so was the person I was travelling with. I was with Ann and Ulco in China and at least we had our own little island of English, the three of us against the People´s Republic. Here in Almonte, it is just me that does not speak Spanish and it is very hard. I am excluded from every conversation and can´t contribute to anything. I am used to being funny, or intellectual, witty, serious, whatever, and where I am just the silent one, understanding nothing at all. And what makes matters worse is that everyone is so nice and so friendly to me and I want to communicate and just can´t. I am going to look into taking some Spanish classes every morning so at least I can do the basics here. I hate being disconnected and outside of everything...

So anyway, that´s it for now, the postings will be a bit far between at the moment as I do not have a computer and have to do all my typing at internet cafes... But I will be posting more and as Manuel and I are planning a few trips here and there, there will be a lot to write about... Next week we are off to Granada to see the Alhambra and so am very much looking forward to that.

Until next time...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Drinking Diet Pepsi

Christmas is almost here and I completely forgot about it. There are none of the usual signs and trappings around. The Santa's that signal it is time to load up on gifts or the friendly reminders from Hallmark nagging us all to get those Christmas cards written and out the door. Not even attending the German Christmas Market here in Delhi last weekend seemed to trigger the annual panic. I went there with Chris, Poul and Anjali in the hopes of getting all sorts of little bits and bobs to make my last week here in Delhi a bit more festive and Santa-like. Asside from the two or three booths with ornaments (and I did have my eye on the Santa with his elephants ornament) there were the usual trapping one finds all over Delhi, or India, for that matter. Pashminas, pillow covers, wall hangings, jewelry and the like. This market, like any good German event did manage to have a beer garden and that is where we spent the bulk of out time, with Chris and Poul smiling and greeting everyone who walked by. I doubt there is anyone they don't know. So there we spent the evening, drinking beer and eating German bread with all sorts of great cheeses.

It wasn't until I was at Danielle's yesterday that I realized Christmas is just around the corner. She was all worked up over the cards she needed to write and I realized I hadn't even thought about them. So, you heard it here first, no cards from me this year. There, that little crisis is now dealt with.

This Friday is my last day in Delhi this year and my last day in my current job. Yep, I am off to Europe for 5 weeks of holiday and then it is back to India where, on the 1st of February, I start my new job at a new company. But first things first. Friday I am off to Paris and then taking a train to Brussels where I am going to see Joe and go through a real Christmas Market. I love the Christmas Market in Brussels. The cold weather, the music, the gl├╝hwein, the German sausages with sauerkraut and musterd, all topped off with cocktails at Fonatines. Some habits die hard, but some habit should just never end. It will be great to be back in Brussels. It was amost a year ago when I was there, staying at Nik's while he was sunning it up in Hawaii (yes, I am still bitter about that) when I got the call to come to India. So much in my life changed in that one short week. I got a job in Paris, turned it down to come to India and met Manuel. In fact, that all happened on the same day! So here I am, almost 11 months to the day from my arrival in India about to end this chapter and start a new one and what better place to kick it all off than Brussels, where it all began.

From there, it is off to Amsterdam for a few days of intense organisation and no play at all for me before I head off to Spain for a few weeks of just getting away from everything. I have loved my time in India so far, but I am in need of a break. I love being back in a place where I am anonymous, just one of many, nothing special if not a bit of a bore. To walk the streets and not be shown the way to the emporium, the tourist office or the ever increasing offers from the ear cleaners. Huh? What? Perhaps I should take them up on their offer. I almost did once, just so I could have the experience and write about it, but then I was told that a lot of people get ear infections after having it done, and so decided that was one experience I was probably better left not doing. That said, I do still want to go for a haircut at one of the sidewalk places. In India, all one needs is a pair of scissors, a chair and a wall to hang a mirror on and you have yourself a beauty salon. I have also seen them with just a blanket on the ground and a hand mirror, but I prefer to lay back and relax and inspect the damage being done to my once flaxen locks. I told Stephen and Pierre of my plans for my basic beauty treatment and the look of shock and awe on their faces gave me pause and I thought again about it. I figure if it all goes wrong, I will just shave my hair off and start the garden from scratch. Stephen and Pierre weren't buying that logic and so for now I will stay with my L'oreal endorsed salon in Basant Lok.

Speaking of Basant Lok, it was just over a week ago that I had a breakthrough in that very market. Normaly I am an easygoing guy, not one to ruffle anyones feathers or really make much ado about nothing, but a few days back, I was pushed beyond the breaking point, thanks to Manuel and a Diet Pepsi. Perhaps drinking Diet Pepsi really does bring out the best in me. Anyway, the story goes something like this... Manuel and I were out shopping and he went to a little kiok to buy a couple of Diet Pepsis. He came back, we opened them and his turned out to be flat. Not a bubble of carbonation to be found. I told him to take it back and get a new one, and he returned without any drink in his hand. It turns out that the guy who runs the store refused to exchange or give the money back because it was opened. And we are talking a whole twenty rupees here. I marched myself over the the stall and tried reasoning with the owner who was just not budging. So I gave him a choice. He gives us a new Diet Pepsi, refunds our money or Manuel goes and gets the police. In his silence and non action, I assumed he chose the police and so off Manuel went. I kept trying to reason with the guy until I realized I may as well have been talking to the cow that was lurking nearby and watching the scene with a great deal of interest while at the same time trying to look very discreet. I waited as Manuel went in search of a police officer. The I had a brainstorm idea. As people came up to the kiosk to buy things, I told them not to buy anything there and made a big deal about the lack of quality in all of the products and pointed them to another kiosk where the quality was surely higher. I did this a few times and the owner gave me looks of daggers. I informed him that I had absolutely no plans at all that day and was perfectly happy to make sure that he didn't sell another thing the rest of the day. I don't think he beleived me until I kept doing it. It took about ten minutes and several lost sales when he handed me a can of Diet Coke and informed me it would cost me five rupees. I refused and continued my anti-sales campaign until he threw the twenty rupees at me and snarled at me to go away. I wished him a very nice day and lots of success for the future. It was a scene that wuld have made Bunifa Latifa Halifa Sharifa Jackson herself smile.