Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Yesterday is lightyears ago and tomorrow seconds away;

We were having our first dinner party at my apartment the other day, eating cous-cous and drinking red wine when one of the girls said, 'We've almost been here for a month.' My head tilted to the side and even though I knew it was true I felt a little cheated. Where did all the time go? It seemed like we had just left the hostel last week and had only just settled into our apartments. Seemed like yesterday we were  discovering Zara 5 hours after landing in Malaga and celebrating Australia Day for the first time in what was soon to become our regular bar. 

Time keeps stealing away into the dark, cloaked in the smell of gin, sweat and Europe itself. I've lost my memories in one giant mojito made by the Latvian bartender, in Robert Boyd (the name of the bar, not some other random guy) and a haze of eramus students playing guitar, the hilarious 'regulars' and the inevitable amount of random encounters with room-mates and students and anyone looking for a good time. 

I've climbed to the Alcazabar, saw the beaches at Torremolinos, sat on rocks in Nerja and walked 'my' Dog Hendrix to Malagueta. I've talked to the African guy who sells weed to my room-mates, learned how to swear in Russian, practised my Persian with a German Afghani guy, met more Diegos and Alejandros than I have ever thought was possible and have been to every single Zara there is in Malaga (there are 4 :). I've cooked my own meals and gone grocery shopping, found a spanish version of 'Ladette to Ladies' and stuck it out in an intermediate spanish class that at first made me want to cry. 

There's so much that's happened already that it makes me think it couldn't have only been a month.. and on the other hand everything feels too recent to have been weeks ago. Time is strange, here in Malaga. For this reason last week a friend and I sat down near the teatro romano and over some peppermint tea we began a list of things to do while we're here. Every day we discover things we want to do, so many things to see and bars to drink at, restaraunts to eat at, museums to go to and events and festivals and carnivals in this place we now call home. There's no shortage of Must-See Must-Do cosas that here's what we have so far, with the suggestions from a few friends and roomies, no doubt with a lot of things absent. No matter other suggestions welcome too :) Disfrute!

Malaga To Do List

-       Go fishing (and actually catch a fish!)
-       Ride bicycles along the beach
-       Take a bus without knowing where we’re going and get off at the final stop
-       Spend an entire 24 hours speaking Spanish
-       Get something pierced
-       Go to a flamenco class
-       Go to a concert
-       Open air cinema
-       Go on a date
-   Make a killer Paella
-   Go roller-blading along the beach
-       Eat an entire ice-cream tub by the beach
-       Buy something from the vendors
-       Be a Spanish man for a day
-       Confront a Spanish man
-   Actually use the exercise equipment by the beach
-       Watch a bullfight
-       Nude beach
-       Skinny-dipping
-       Watch a movie in Spanish
-       Vespa/scooter riding
-       Buy and read a book in Spanish
-       Have an awesome churro
-       Actually visit the museums in Malaga
-       Get a hair cut at the pelequeria
-   Eat at El Pimpi
-       Learn a song completely in Spanish
-       Make the perfect Spanish omelette
-   Roadtrip to Ronda
-   Clubbing in Marbella
-   Go the cinemas
-   Having drunken spanish macdonalds
-   3 Litre Mojitos for 12 Euros
-       Play Flip Cup and buy 1 litre Mojitos at Shamrock
-       Eat at 100 Montaditos in Plaza Const
-       Go find the chupiteria and buy 1 euro shots
-       Eat "datiles con beicon" at Pepe y Pepa
-      drop 18 euros on a steak at a restaurant called Cladenstines

And the list would have been longer except we made it and then started ticking off things already. We've gone out almost every night for a week, played hooky skipped class and gone for ice-cream at the beach, (The russian got high, we got ice-cream!), went to a drum and bass party, joined the local library (it was exciting, I promise!), I finally heard the Mercadona song my friend kept telling me about and too many things to name or remember. I'm trying to keep a hold on time but it's a slipperly little fella who won't keep still long enough for me to take in a breath. This is my attempt to get a grasp on it and once again let you all know what's going on this side of the hemisphere.

Abrazos y Besos!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Upside, inside out, she's living la vida loca.. Why Ricky Martin was right.

Vodka caramel chupitos. Stumbling home in zara booties and on cobble stones. Really attractive security guards. Giant 4am salami pizza slices for 3 euros each. Free champagne. Too much tequila. That Shakira world cup song everywhere. Salsa dancing. Spanish version of timmy trumpet playing his sax in the club.

All the nights seem to blur into one and sometimes it seems like one long random adventure that doesn't seem to stop. When the sun sets and the bar starts filling up it's a guarantee the night-walking shenanigans and series of unexpected meetings will begin. The drinks keep coming and the real spanish lessons get underway.

The alcohol is liquid courage and every night you get this feeling of invincibility. There's also that unfounded belief that you're the centre of the universe and everybody is fascinated in hearing your drunken rambling, especially if it's broken spanglish.

But you meet more people than you remember meeting drunk here than in Sydney, it's almost like you have an alias and the dangerous feeling that there aren't going to be consequences. Anyhow when the sun rises again the next day it makes an appearance long enough for you to recover just in time to do it all over again.

Here in Spain the week days don't mean the weekend partying is over, the week is one long weekend that dips into the next. Sundays are recovery days and even then not for everybody. The most interesting part of every night are the people, the endless streams of random encounters with the guy who makes our pizzas or the Argentinian that worked at our hostel or the old Australian guy who frequents our regular bar. There's the girl on holiday from Sweden, the Irish musicians just passing through and the never ending supply of Erasmus students from all over.

And that's just Málaga. Granada is coming up, weekends in Torremolinos and trips to Marbella, Nerja and Cadiz. 

The days are cafe con leche in the sun, menu del dia and recounting epic adventures while simultaneously planning more. They're spanish classes and walking home along the beach, afternoon siestas and mid-morning skype sessions. 

And the nights, well they're everything in that stupid Ricky Martin song about the crazy life. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

10 things you need to know about Spain

When you travel to another country the differences stand out more than anything else. Some things, like language, are obvious while others are more subtle and discovered over time. There are so many little cultural and social differences I've noticed and that I could ramble on about for hours but here are 10 to get the ball rolling, hot of the press while I still find them ‘foreign’. Already everything feels normal and I know, given time, all the things I find a little strange are fading into a blur of life here in Malaga. These are the first 10 of at least 100 things that popped into my head, so enjoy!

  1. The concept of time is all but lost on the Spanish, or used only in reference to the future eg. Luego, manana, luego - later, tomorrow, later! For example when waiting for la cuenta, or the bill, don't expect any of the waiters to be in a big hurry. 
  2. Everything starts later. Don’t even think about eating dinner until at least 9.30, 11pm is still OK. Then drinks at a pub or a bar for a few hours before the clubs or discotecas open properly at about 2am where you’ll probably stay out until 7am which is pretty standard - I speak the truth!
  3. ‘Australian drunk’ versus ‘spanish drunk’ are two very different things. What we’ve dubbed ‘Australian drunk’ consists of messy hair, falling into the gutter and the stank of sweat and alcohol sticking to your clothes. In Australia you drink to get drunk. Here the Spanish have this (foreign?) concept of ‘social drinking.’ A few bottles of wine from 11am until 3am is easier to sit with the next day than 10 shots of vodka taken in less than an hour (who knew?).
  4. Siesta is no myth. The shops (bar Zara and the other huge retail outlets) close from about 2 until 5, 5-30. This is a good time to catch up on sleep you will have missed from getting home at 7am.
  5. There are no cappuccinos, lattes, chai lattes or anything like that here. It’s café con leche o café solo. Nothing more, nothing less. Attempting to order anything else is pure madness and will result in the waiter probably spitting in your coffee with disgust. Also, the concept of 'take away' is as alien as saying you would want a sushi roll at a tapas bar. It's not going to happen!
  6. The style is different. Sure, there are the odd Spanish bogan in track pants here and there but for the most part, like the rest of Europe it’s all coats, scarves and gloves for winter. In Australia in winter you brave it with layers of denim and trendy cardigans with holes in them you got from General pants. In Sydney, if you wore a coat people would make Inspector Gadget jokes and wonder what you were selling under it. In Malaga, a coat is a must have – so getting yourself to Zara is number 1 on the to-do-list.
  7. Here in the south of Spain, everything is fried. You can fry calamari, potatoes, sardines or pretty much anything. I’m yet to see them have the famous Bondi deep-fried Mars Bars but their churros are not far off…
  8. Everything is dubbed. Don’t expect the original versions of anything, unless you have cable. The Spanish love their dubbing and the fact that there seem to be only 5 voices in the entire repoirtoire only makes it more interesting. Watch the simpsons and the voice of Bart can be exactly the same as that of Lisa, completely unreal and overly dramatic. It’s great because everything becomes a comedy (watched Indepence Day in the hostel… Will Smith with a serious face shooting things and yelling like a Mexican guy at a bar).
  9. The guys have more testosterone than they know what to do with. The major difference is that in Australia when a guy cat-calls you, you look at him with disgust and wonder how cave-men like that can still exist. In Malaga, it’s part of the culture of ‘machismo’ and is a standard part of everyday life, if nothing else if you're a girl your self-esteem is sure never to be depleted.
  10. The girls love the peroxide – I’ve seen more fake blondes here than I have at Kings Cross on a Saturday night. For some reason the Spanish girls rebel against their gorgeous brown hair and opt for the less natural and more eye-grabbing (I’m trying to be neutral here) look of ‘la rubia’. This is something not unique to Spain but I was a bit surprised I would find here anyway!
More things coming up later... !

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Long walks on the beach, red wine and more thoughts on the good life;

Walking along the beach on the way home from Spanish class this is what I get to see. The clouds that were here when we arrived have vanished and all day everyday the sun comes out and makes us take off our coats and wish we were wearing thongs and summer dresses. Sometimes after uni we get a bottle of red wine and try our hand at spanish, other times we skip the spanish and go straight for the red wine.

There's a lot of things I never said I liked, that here in this city, turns out I don't mind at all. Up until about a 2 weeks ago I swear I wouldn't have taken to being one of those red-wine-drinking stuffed-olive-eating full-on-european-coat wearing people. Two days into Malaga I gave the wine a chance, put a few olives in my mouth and ditched my casual Sydney gear for some camel coloured Zara love.

What this whole year has been about so far is giving everything a chance - whether it's a chance to disappoint, to surprise or to blow everything out of the water. I don't think there's been a day where I haven't spoken to a stranger or met an insane amount of new people, Irish musicians, british english teachers, other Aussie travellers and so many european students from all over.

If there's also one thing that Malaga isn't short on it's musicians. There's a harp player on Calle Larios, a musician that plays on the view point at the old Alcazabar, the Irish lady that belts out gaelic songs in the bar at night, the sprinkling of gypsies whose voices crack into tragic flamenco and pretty much anything else you can think of too.

There are so many adventures on the cards, road trips and bars to go to, hippy beaches and caves in mountains, snow to touch and the mediterranean to dip our toes into when the temperature finally catches up with the sun. In short, Malaga continues to be awesome and I struggle to keep you all informed on the  insane amount of ways it keeps being incredible and surprising.

Though I'll definitely be writing on this more when I can, make more use of my siesta which has so far been filled with some well-deserved sleep (well, I think so anyway!). More tales and details soon... Thanks for reading & hasta luego!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

This is home... Málaga, Spain.

So, I'm in spain. What a trip, where to begin, what to say?

After 33 hours of traveling, 3 plane trips and 4 airports, after 3 years of waiting, anxiety and preparation. I don't even believe it's here and it's officially been a week! I've found an apartment (or actually make that two), I've moved in, I've gone out, made friends, gone to a flamenco bar, at least 3 different clubs and officially have a regular place for drinks, food and shopping. Made too many friends to count, learned new names, new slang, new phrases, new faces, new places and all that you would expect of a city I've never been before and that I'm a little in love with already.

Arriving in Malaga was a trip to say the least. I walked around with my jaw dropped to the floor for the first couple of days just taking it all in. The architecture and layout is so starkly different to Sydney. Along with the rest of europe the history and culture is written all over the old buildings, the alleyways and the castles that dot the mountains. You walk into stony apartments or bars or restaurants that smack you in the face with a sense of deja vu or a feeling of nostalgia for a time you never even knew. You can't escape the feeling that there's so much that this city has been through.

Having said that, at the same time Malaga is always under construction. There's dust everywhere from a building being renovated, a pathway being laid with stones. You'll be walking along the corner where Picasso used to live and you'll run right into a jackhammer and construction guys in fluro vests about to start work. The dichotomy is bizarre but only makes the city that more interesting - like a kid caught in those awkward teenage years (you know the ones?) still growing and not quite right just yet. 

It's a big tourist city, too. The main street, Calle Larios, is cleaned to perfection by Malagas little trucks that go around picking up rubbish and shining the lamp posts. There are gorgeous pink flowers on each lamp post down the street, buskers with harps and flutes and guitars. There are more bars, restaraunts and clubs than I know what to do with - just enough to never have eaten at the same place twice after a year, I think. After the main tourist spots there's all the apartments and buildings that change as you move away from the city, no little trucks picking up rubbish here folks! It's what I refer to as 'the real Malaga' where you don't feel like you're walking down a fashion parade of Europe's finest. And this is where I'm living! Just a little bit out of town, no more than 5 minutes from the centre, with a gorgeous view, a dog named Hendrix (after Jimmy, of course) and a shy little cat named Chula. 

So far, it feels like home. It feels normal, like this is what I've been meaning to do, waiting to do for such a long time; now that I'm here Malaga and I, we're fitting in pretty snug. The routine of waking up lazily and leisurely then going to have breakfast lunch (what's breakfast? A meal you eat before 12am what is THAT??), exploring the city, exploring the city, exploring the city. Meeting up with new friends and old ones, shopping, swapping spanish slang and striking up conversations at bus stops, in op shops, on a street corner asking for directions. 

I have random moments where I get struck down remembering that I'm here in Spain and then a big fat, stupid grin spreads across my face. Then I realise that some spaniard probably caught me out and is thinking, 'bloody tourist!' or similar, in spanish of course. So the dust is barely settling but it feels like I've done so much already, like I've been here for months. On the other hand, I've been accumulating a long  bucket-list of things to do in this city, this country. Tips from strangers and friends are making slow and hazy plans in my head for what this year is going to look like. There's so many things to do - places to conquer, people to drink with, dance with, talk to. I feel like I've taken a lot of Darwin with me too, the talking to strangers and not caring what other people think. There's a lot to say about that so I'll leave it for another post - this one is all about Malaga for now! 

The tales of shenanigans and adventures will come pouring in a bit later, for now this is just a bit of rambling about my first week in Spain - a snap shot into the good life!

With love, from Málaga.