Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Dear snake

This happened about two weeks ago, when we were driving back home from Córdoba. Most of you will find it uninteresting, but I feel it was something important to me...

Like every other time we have done that journey, we stopped to have our picnic lunch on a wooded spot just off the divided highway to Madrid.
This place is close to Venta de Cárdenas train station (province of Jaén), in the vicinity of Despeñaperros Natural Park. I like that location because it's very quiet there, and you can always find a good shade for the car. The rail tracks are just a few metres away (although you have to climb a quite steep slope in order to get there), so every time I visit the place I take the chance to leave a couple of coins on the track, with the hope of finding them on a future visit, flattened by a train's wheels. So far I have found most of them; they're good for nothing but I find it thrilling :) The thing is, I will no longer be able to do it, as on this occasion I found, to my utter dismay, that a fence had been erected to prevent wild animals (and me) from getting to the tracks. But I didn't want to go without having a final look, so I inspected the area in search of a hole or something. Climbing was out of the question (I'm too fat for the fence, poor thing), but I found a place where the ground was uneven and there was enough space under the fence for me to cross. So I lay on my back and crawled under the fence. Ouch! Suddenly I noticed that there were brambles all over the place. Finally I managed to get in and climbed to the top. The effort had been worth it, as I had found one coin. When I was about to descend, it happened. There it was, staring at me in a fierce way, less than one meter away from me. It was a snake, the biggest I had ever seen (I could say it measured about one meter long, and its diameter at the thickest part seemed to be about 5 centimeters), with two dark stripes running along its light brown back. To me, the most surprising thing was the fact that it didn't seem to have the slightest intention of slithering away, as any other snake I had come across to date had done. It was challenging me, but I didn't feel like responding to the challenge. After all, I didn't know whether it was a venomous snake or a harmless one, so I opted for the safest option: running away. Before doing so, I talked to the creature in a sweet and soothing voice, in an effort to calm the snake —it looked stressed :)— and make it remain where it was. Luckily the jolly fellow agreed to my requests and didn't try to hunt me down, so I retreated slowly and made for the fence. It had been exhilarating!! I was excited and thrilled; it had been my first "dangerous" encounter with a wild animal, and it felt so good! In fact, later I found out that the animal that had challenged me was an adult Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris). They can bite you, but they're not venomous... Thank God it hadn't bitten me: I would have gone mad!

Together with exhilaration, I felt deep inside me a close connection with nature; suddenly I realized that I was forgetting the place where I come from, a small village in the countryside, not in the middle of the woods but teeming with wildlife such as birds and small animals. It had been quite a while since I had last had a close look at a living wild thing; life in the city no longer allows me to do that as often as I would like. I hope this situation will change in the future...

To make our day perfect, when we were about to depart, a couple of jays came very close to the car. Most probably it was a mother and her offspring, as the latter seemed to harass the former in a demanding way, cawing as it flew about. I love these colourful birds! Finally we set off. I was feeling utterly happy.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Back from the Canaries

These have been, by far, our laziest holidays. All we have done is, as promised, swim in the hotel pool and sunbathe. The hotel was in the area known as "Playa del Inglés", which includes not only the beach but also the seaside town that has sprouted at its side. I think they called it like that because of the many British tourists that mill around.

We went to the beach on just one occasion, making use of the free bus we had at our disposal. When we arrived there, it was very hot and uncomfortable, and the sand was especially clingy. We couldn't afford a sunshade and a couple of deck chairs, as I had forgotten to take enough money with me, and there was no chance of using an ATM machine, as there was only one in the vicinity and it wasn't working. And, even if we had had the money, we didn't like it there: there was some kind of net that stretched from the first deck chairs to the last ones, blocking our view of the beach and sea (it had been erected to prevent the sunshades from flying away). So we took a taxi (we were lucky enough: the ride cost exactly what I had on me, 3 euros) and fled back to the hotel pool. In comparison, that was heaven to us...

Well, in fact, we got our share of adventure. One day we went on a four-wheel-drive trip, which proved to be more than we had bargained for. It was called "3x1", as part of the journey took place over asphalt, another part over dirt tracks and finally we would have a camel ride. When they told us about the trip, it sounded good, and not too harsh, so we bought it. I even asked the girl if there would be any problem, as my wife was pregnant; she answered that this kind of trip was a quite comfortable one... The day of the trip we were picked up at the hotel with a Santana Aníbal 4x4; as directed, we had got some protection for our heads (a couple of baseball caps) and applied sunscreen on our skin, as the day promised to be a hot one. And it was; even though it was quite early in the morning, we were baking in the sun as the guides explained the details of the tour. Thank God we finally set off and headed north. First we drove through winding secondary roads; after passing a couple of small villages, the landscape changed and all that could be seen around you was rock. All of a sudden we came across a bar, which was standing there in the middle of nowhere. Time for coffee. The man in the bar used a moka pot, just like the ones people have at home, but it was the best cup of coffee in my holidays so far (I'm afraid I'm not yet used to Canarian coffee; at the bars they use expresso machines like everywhere else, but it tastes very different... Funny, I would say). I find it surprising how such an establishment can thrive in a place like that... well, in fact, I wouldn't say it thrived, but merely survived. The walls surrounding the bar were decorated with paintings which depicted the story of the island; they were perfect for the guides to give us a history lesson on Gran Canaria. We drove on, and then left the road for a dirt track. The tour guide told us, "Now that we're no longer on the road, you can stand up if you like". At the beginning it was OK, but then the nightmare started! (or the fun, if you want).
We got very little of that smooth dirt track we'd been told about; soon after that, the terrain got rougher and rougher, and suddenly the track consisted exclusively of stones, big sharp ones. Of course we could stand up; there was no way we could do the trip sitting on our seats! So we started to bounce in the back of the car as it moved forward; I thought that this wouldn't last long, but I was wrong: we did that for hours! In fact it was real fun, but I didn't feel at ease as I watched how much bouncing my wife and my future child were getting... But it wasn't that bad after all; she ended up exhausted but amused. The landscapes were impressive, as we drove through pine forests and deep ravines... The drivers stopped frequently, in order to tell us interesting things about the place and its history. Around midday we left the dirt tracks and rode on asphalt again. It was bliss! We crossed Fataga and then San Bartolomé de Tirajana. Curiously enough, the seaside towns in the south of the island belong to the municipal district of the latter, even though the town is so far inland. Shortly after leaving San Bartolomé we reached the restaurant where we were to lunch. The food was great (it would have tasted good anyway: we were hungry!). We continued; it didn't take long to get to the place where the camels were (actually, they were dromedaries).
The ride was fun, and much smoother than the one with the 4x4... After that, not much more was left: we drove back to Playa del Inglés through more winding secondary roads, enduring cold weather on the way (it's true: when we were on a high altitude, the clouds surrounded us and it got chilly; of course, we didn't have any warm clothes). We were tired and our legs ached, but on the whole it had been a really enjoyable experience.

Time goes by too quickly when you're on a vacation. We both had got some suntan, and I had put on a couple of kilograms (the food at the buffet was surprisingly good, and I had to try everything; doing otherwise would have been a crime). Much to our dismay, we had to go...

The last good thing about the trip was the flight. We took off in the evening, but there was still plenty of daylight. Soon it grew dark; at dusk, the sun shone a bright red in the horizon, and the clouds looked beautiful and fluffy down below. But the real show was to start when the night fell and we were flying over Peninsular Spain. The clouds were sparse then, and I could see most of the land through the plane window. Then I saw the cities and towns. They shone like Christmas trees, with rows of luminous spots sparkling like diamond necklaces against the black background. I found it impressive; I also realized how much luminous energy is wasted. It was curious to see how close together the towns seemed to be,; they looked like houses, each with its own light and its group of people living inside... I don't know how to express it, but it was a wonderful feeling.

The landing was perfect, and thanks to the pilot we were 15 minutes early (I don't know what the hurry was, but he was proud to tell us he had managed it. I found it funny; after the landing, I really expected him to do a spin with the plane or something).

And that's all. Next year it'll be three of us for the holiday, but maybe the baby will still be too young for travelling. If that's not possible, we can always go to the beach, as we have it so handy... See you!

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's over!

(Originally written on June the 8th)

Well, sort of. On Friday the 3rd we did the last exam of the semester, and the following Saturday was the last day for uploading assignments on the Aula Virtual. But I've had to leave two subjects for later, so I can't go wild yet. Anyway, I feel relieved to a great extent; I'll take the chance to spend a week with my beloved wife in the Canary Islands and a few days at my parents' in Córdoba. I'm really looking forward to it; it's been quite a while since we last went on vacation...

We've chosen the Canary Islands once more, as we wanted to relax and do nothing much apart from lying on the beach (or by the hotel pool), eat at the buffet and laze around: as we are five months pregnant, we must take it easy. Maybe we'll do some sightseeing; we'll decide when we arrive at our destination.

Last year we went to Tenerife and spent a very active week: we rented a car and visited many landmarks and attractive places around the island; just driving around was also highly enjoyable. This time we're going to Gran Canaria so as not to do exactly the same trip. In fact, we're heading there on the plane at this very moment; the plane's in-flight magazine is rubbish, so I've decided to prepare this entry for the blog as a way of killing time... By the way, 2€ for a 33cl still mineral water bottle? That's what I call a daylight robbery!
And they have the cheek to write "Have a snack at Vueling prices" on the menu, making you think that it's going to be cheap... And another thing: who had the wonderful idea of serving such an excellent gin as Bombay Sapphire with such an awful tonic water as Nørdic Mist? I want Schweppes! Urge to kill... rising...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's a boy!

Finally I know: I'm going to be father to a lovely boy. Great!! And there's not much time left now (well, in fact, we're more or less in the middle now)... someone is going to be the proud bearer of my surname and carry it on to the next generation :) Oh my, isn't it nice? I'm thrilled...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The girl from the future

I saw this advertisement some time ago, and I can't get it out of my mind. It showed a blue-haired girl (no, it wasn't Marge Simpson) who supposedly came from the future, and had brought a revolutionary washing powder with her. Each time I saw the ad, I thought to myself, "hey, hold on a minute. She has come from the future and all she has got to show us is a bloody box of washing powder?" This girl comes from the far future, maybe centuries away from us, from a world with an advanced society where scientists must have found a cure for every known illness, where they must have found solutions to the problems we have today... and she comes here just to show us what the washing powder of the future will look like? She must come from a world where there is no AIDS, no cancer and no Alzheimer, where they have found the secret of eternal youth, where they have a remedy for the ever-increasing hole in the ozone layer, where natural resources are plenty and available to every human being, where they have developed new energy sources; still, she wants to tell us about washing powder. What on earth is she thinking about? Well, maybe in a century or two, washing powder will be as valuable as gold, or even more valuable than that, who knows... But if we ask the woman in the advert (the one that receives the unexpected visit of the blue-haired girl from the future), who is busy trying to remove some stain from her laundry, I'm sure that she would rather get some other piece of information instead: the following week's winning lotto numbers, for instance? Seriously, this really drives me up the wall...

Slave to pastry

Yes, I have to admit it: I'm a slave to pastry. I couldn't think of my life without it; the mere thought of it is unbearable! I would eat my way through a whole box of Donuts ("mmm... donuts", Homer Simpson would most probably say) if I allowed myself to do it, but I feel too much remorse to carry it out. Why is it that all good things are harmful to you in one way or another? Why do they have to make you fat? It's so unfair!! And, in addition to this, if I want to be able to indulge myself in those deliciously sweet and spongy little works of art for the rest of my life, then I have to consume them in moderation. Arrggghhhh!! I want to do a binge!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The end is nigh

Definitely it's time to panic. The dreaded day is approaching inexorably, and there's no way I can escape from it. Of course, I'm talking about the final exams. They have been there all the time, we knew that some day or other they would finally arrive, and that day is around the corner now.

What to do now? There's still soooo much to do, and so little time left. Usually, I work better on tight deadlines (the more time I have, the less fruitful it is), but I'm not too sure about what will happen this time. I'm so stressed!! I've been too many years safely away from this world (that is, I've devoted my time to working), and I had quite forgotten what it felt like to be a student. Man, isn't it unfair? A student can never really get away from the worries that future tasks and upcoming exams cause. If you're a student, you can never fully enjoy your free time (free time? What's that?).

Worst of all, everyone else who is not a student will think that you are leading a lazy and comfortable life, doing nothing apart from cramming for a exam from time to time. People who work and have never studied (I mean seriously) think that we study just in order to avoid working; that's absolutely false! (well, at least in the majority of cases). Actually, working is the easy solution; I myself have been working for many years, and I can tell you that there's nothing like finishing your working day and not having to worry any more about it until the following day. But if you want to get a good job, then it's essential that you study. After all, that's why I'm taking all this trouble at this stage of my life... But I'm sure it'll be worth the effort; I want my offspring to be proud of his/her daddy :)