Madrid

This year, I’m living in Madrid. Each day I feel less like a tourist. I stop taking pictures because the novelty of crumbling plaster no longer calls my attention as it used to. I start to yearn for weekends in, reading books and binding homemade journals, rather than getaway after getaway to fill my passport with stamps as soon as possible.

Maybe one reason that things have changed so much is because I really love living in Madrid. Sevilla was a beautiful, warm, friendly, sleepy town. I spent lots of time laying in the sun and reading in the afternoon. When I wanted to meet friends, we’d sit outside on the terrace, stare out across the river, or cook a big meal together. When the weekend came, I was ready for excitement.

In Madrid, it’s always excitement. There are dozens of theaters to choose from, and even the most formal of them are ridiculously affordable. The Royal Theater of Madrid, bringing in Russian ballets and Italian operas, sells tickets at a 90% discount to anyone under the age of 30. Every café is competing to be the cutest, the coolest, the most alternative, the freshest, the most traditional, the most creative, the most underground, the most innovative. I can go to a café that calls its dessert menu “Orgasms” with a decor of hot air balloons and a mounted unicorn head. I can go to a café where 20 living cats share the seats with you. I can go to a restaurant that only serves 20 people each day, and turns away the rest, because the owners are young and couldn’t afford a refrigerator when they first bought the place. I can go to a café that offers brunch theater every Sunday. I can go to a café where you’re sure to see a famous singer, actor, or author every week. Then there is the physical activity: roller blading is huge. You can rent mountain bikes and take them up and down the hills in Casa de Campo for only €4/hour. Daytrip hiking is easily accessible by bus or by train. There are art exhibitions everywhere: in the world-renowned museums, in the restaurants, in the post office, in the bank. Plus, Madrid is a bustling city full of expats, students, young and ambitious professionals, big thinkers, film makers, and entrepreneurs. There are groups meeting every day at all hours to discuss the philosophy of Love, international craft beers, and original version cinema; different groups meet to explore coffeeshops or vegetarian restaurants; so not only is there plenty to do, there are plenty of people to do things with.

When the weekend comes, I’m excited for all the things I could do each weekend — including relax.

I’m trying to remember to look at Madrid with fresh eyes. I want to take lots of pictures so that I can keep the memories of this fortunate experience I’m having. And I want to remember to buy and send postcards. It’s funny and gratifying how postcards from Madrid feels sort of like sending postcards from college. I like how I’ve adjusted to life here.

Buenos Días Desde España

If you’re reading this, that means I’m safe and sound in Seville! It still amazes me that I can fly over an ocean in less than a day. I love you, technology.

I love technology, but not as much as you, you see. But I still love technology.

Took the words right out of my mouth.

Everyone has been asking me if I’m excited. While I was in the United States, it was hard to say yes. To all my friends and family, old and new, who I was reunited with or met for the first time: it was so good to see you. I love you. I will miss you. And it was difficult for me to be excited to say good-bye to you. I will also miss singing while driving. A lot. Among other things:

Harleigh smiles outside, wearing her shirt with the pink giraffe on it.

This little monster.

Delicious, thin crust vegetarian pizza and craft beer from my favorite brewery

Dark beer and great vegetarian food

Trees in the sand by the water

The weather and the shore

But of course it’s not good-bye; it’s see you soon. It’s see you in June! And now that I’m in Spain, it’s time to get back to work. I have a long list of goals, and in order to accomplish them, I must master that mythical thing known as “time management.” Next time you meet me, I’ll be a punctual, productive, accomplished, fluent, capable, admirable, honorable, dependable, reliable, formidable, intimidating, strong, independent BEAST who doesn’t have time to list that many adjectives in a single sentence.

The List:

* Take salsa or Sevillanas classes… or both
* Attend a gym for weight training; or run a 5K
* Schedule 10-12 hours/week of ESL lessons on top of school
* Visit Morocco, Paris, Germany, Gibraltar, Ronda, and Barcelona
* Speak Spanish 2/3 of the time
* See a performance at el teatro Lope de Vega
* Attend the Feria in April; rent a flamenco dress for the occasion
* Build a web page (CSS/HTML/Javascript) and optimize it for mobile
* Take the GRE and apply for Human Computer Interaction programs in the USA
* Send snail mail back and forth with my loved ones

You can encourage me to meet my goals by sending snail mail to my address in Spain. Email me your address, and I’ll send you a plain envelope bearing my return address and containing a colorful piece of paper with stickers on it and various thoughts from my head.

And now I’ll take my cue from this professional napper and get some rest!

Poncho sleeps on the couch like a 'dorable.

Happy kitty, soft kitty; purr, purr, purr.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Besos,
Megan

Leaving Sevilla

I’ve begun counting down the hours until I leave for home; it’s even easier now that the number is less than ten. As a matter of fact, the number is now 6. How am I spending these last hours? Right now, I’m trying my best to eat an entire funghi pizza while TV surfing; but it’s a sad state of affairs when I’m more drawn to commercials than actual programming. My mind wandered, and I decided to blog to pin it down.

The Torre de Oro framed by summer leavesAs Derek could tell you, I am hard-pressed to finish a thought if I’m not telling it to someone. Thinking without dictating is like trying to put together a puzzle around a baby (my sister will understand this metaphor). As a child, the best way for me to sort through my feelings was to argue with the mirror. Sometimes I will spend hours thinking around an issue, the harder I clutch at it the more it drifts away, yet the solution becomes clear within a few sentences of trying to explain it to someone else.

The last of my friends to leave the city, I spent the evening marking off a to-do list that included cake, hazelnut gelato, and thin-crust pizza. These are my favorite kinds of to-do lists, and yet I procrastinated: I window-shopped for colorful strappy sandals and last-minute souvenirs, bought a bright blue summer purse, and discovered a fresh-made pasta store. I felt some kind of pang when I saw the pasta store; I’d been looking for fresh pasta all year. But I couldn’t try any now; I’ll have to wait until next year. I shoved the pang aside.

People picnic by the river, overlooking the bridge and its memorable circle architectureLater on, while admiring the street glowing orange against a deepening cerulean sky, I revisited that pang. What was it all about? I know where to buy fresh pasta in Ann Arbor… but I won’t be returning to that familiar semi-squalor in run-down rental housing in a college town. I’ll return to a suburb across the state without sidewalks, where everyone is is quiet by 9pm and lights are out by 11pm — it will actually be scary to walk in the streets at night; people are suspicious of you on the street even if you’re just asking for directions; and you’re not allowed to smile at strangers’ babies. If I take a nap between 2pm and 5pm and eat dinner at 10pm, people will think I’m lazy. All the dogs are on leashes.

A street in the city center of SevilleDespite the economy, Spanish life makes so much sense to me now. There’s balance, there’s beauty, there’s culture, there’s trust. As my Spanish improves, I can see myself living here for a long, long time.

It’s easy to remember the good things about home, too; I’ve had plenty of practice mooning over the things I miss about the United States these past few months. I even have a rudimentary to-do list beyond hanging out with family and friends:

  • Finish the quilt I’m making for Derek’s mom
  • Make the two dresses I bought supplies for a year ago
  • Take the GRE
  • Try a few recipes from Herbivoracious
  • Help clean the house and get rid of some of my junk that’s in storage
  • Go fruit picking, hiking, visit the beach, swim in the pool in the back yard, run around barefoot with my niece, cuddle my kitty cat, drink a pint of craft beer, eat some tasty international food, enjoy local ice cream, get someone to take a picture of me in which I do not look like a pirate

A row of bright red Sevici bikes lined up before the Jardines de MurilloNevertheless, I felt a surge of bitterness as I carried my food purchases home. Despite my homesickness, Sevilla is starting to feel familiar. I’m going to come back for another year, and then how will I feel? We work so few hours we can barely call ourselves employed; with the remaining time, I’m forming relationships with the people and things of this city, even if it’s just change over time. The neighbors across the street are almost done remodeling. Someone broke the foot pedal of the trash dumpster on Calle Urquiza. The trees across the street from the park have bright yellow conical offshoots. The geckos are back, scurrying out of the sun to hide beneath the jasmine vines that now reach halfway into the sidewalk. I recognize this city. I have memories here. I’m going to make more. And after next year, when the idea that this is “home” no longer feels novel but is a simple fact of life, I’m going to leave. And I can never come back; not like this. And that stinks.

Fragrant purple blossoms litter the ground in Prado de San SebastianSo, what exactly do I like about Sevilla?

I like the color of the streets, here. I like the reliable distribution of stores; shoes and bazaars are everywhere, and you can count on a baby clothes store at least once per block. I like the fresh fruit stands that hand you your fruit order wrapped in thick paper cones. I like the fresh, cool mornings and slightly muggy but comfortable evenings. I like hiding from the sun in mid-day, when I’m always sleepy anyway, eating an enormous meal at lunch-time and sleeping it off along with everyone else. I like Spanish.

Wares crowd the streets during the Thurdsay market on Calle FeriaI like my bedroom on the 5th floor and how I can lean over the street and people watch. I like how I’ve arranged my bedroom and the amount of light that comes in through the window. I like crumbling plaster in the city center, the park benches throughout the city that are actually used to socialize and relax outside, the way that I can usually still hear children running around outside and playing when I go to bed at 1am.

I like the dogs who trot happily off their leashes, despite the busy streets and the foot traffic. I like that the train station is a block away, as well as the bus to the airport. A bus to the bus station is only 2 blocks away. At a moment’s notice, I can go to Paris, Rome, Ronda, Córdoba, Cádiz, Madrid. I never have to drive.

Blue, yellow, and green tiles create a repeating pattern

Looking through all my pictures from this past year, I am amazed at the things I have seen and done, and how it already feels so far away. Amsterdam? A lifetime ago! Even London is an old memory. What will I be doing in 5 years that will make Seville feel like a former life? I can’t even begin to imagine.

Luckily I don’t have to yet, because I’m coming back next year.

Salmorejo con Remolachas

Today was the perfect day for a picnic. But almost as much fun as sitting in the park down by the river, chatting and eating to our heart’s content as the clouds scudded across the shining blue sky, was getting ready for the picnic.

My picnic plan was to bring several dips and dippables, including tortilla, bread, and carrot sticks, hummous, salmorejo con remolachas, and a yummy mustard and nutritional yeast dip to be eaten with home-made fresh-cut french fries. I have been enjoying all of these things a lot in the past few weeks, but had only made the dip and french fries on my own before.

The good thing about these dips for beginner cooks like me is that they are very forgiving and relentlessly tasty.

Here is the recipe for one of the dishes so that you can try it yourself!

Salmorejo con Remolachas

Derek and I first had this dish in a little restaurant called Arte & Sabor off the Alameda de Hercules. Every time we go there, the terrace is seating several groups of French people and their children. We do not see this as a bad sign.

The very next day after we tried their Salmorejo con Remolachas, Derek attempted his own version. It was spectacular. I wrote down what he did, and here it is:

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe roma tomatoes
  • 2 medium packaged beets
  • 4 cloves of raw garlic *
  • 1 T rice wine vinegar (+ taste)
  • 3 t salt (+ taste)
  • 2 t pimentón, or red pepper powder (+ taste)
  • 2 T olive oil (+ taste/texture)
  • 1/4 C water (+ texture)
  • 5-6″ toasted or day-old baguette

Preparation

  1. Blend together everything but the water and bread.
  2. Add the bread.
  3. Add water as needed. You may not use all the water.
  4. Continue to adjust seasoning to taste.

The ideal texture is smooth and fluffy. It should not be as dense as hummous; but it should be just thicker than tomato soup.

* NOTE: 4 cloves of garlic makes this a strong and spicy dish! More subtle palates may prefer fewer cloves of garlic.

Enjoy

My favorite way to eat this dish is to buy buns of panecillo viena, which rips easily into 6 dainty triangles. I play a little game called see-how-much-salmorejo-I-can-fit-on-just-one-triangle before I pop it all in my mouth. However, salmorejo con remolachas is also meant to be eaten as a soup.

I would love to try putting a dallop of sour cream and some cilantro on top, but I will probably save such shenanigans for when I return state-side.

If you try this dish, please leave a note and tell me how you liked it!

How My Phone Got Stolen In Lisbon, Portugal

Derek and I had only been in Lisbon, Portugal for a few hours at that point. We were there to meet Bill for Semana Santa. While we waited to be able to check in to the hostel, we went on a free tour of the city and then headed back to where the tour guide said the “real” food was.

We passed through the “real food” district, with codfish prepared in 5 different ways on every single menu, and the street ahead was plain and stark and unpopulated. We were both disappointed, tired, hungry, and grumpy. Derek wanted to turn around and go back, but I urged just one street more.

I stopped to take some pictures of a tile-shop with adorable hand-painted tiles of different animals, from whales to goats to kitties, as well as tiles with pretty patterns and landscapes.

A few meters uphill was a sign shaped like a giant cupcake frosted in layers of yellow and pink, with a dainty cherry on top.

“Oh, a cupcake shop!” I squealed. “And it says it’s vegetarian!” I felt like I was in Brooklyn. I begged to go.

Derek noted that the shop looked closed, but I insisted that we at least take a look. To our surprise, the door was open, and it was not a bakery at all. The menu of the day listed seitan with gravy and mushrooms on rice, an adaptation of a typical Portuguese dish, plus soup and salad for only €7,50. On the counter were trays full of empanadas. On a shelf in the back were tall, bright, primary-colored teapots. A man was sitting with his back toward the door reading a Kindle. I could not have imagined a more ideal place: the adorability of cupcakes with the real-food-fillingness of real food.

“I want to eat here,” I said.

Derek noted that it looked like the restaurant was closing. A tall, thin boy around our age gently approached us from the back of the restaurant.

“Do you still have your menu for today?” I asked.

“Sorry, no,” he said, jerking his chin back and forth. His eyes were sorrowful. I thought he looked depressed. “The menu is over.”

“Oh,” I said, disappointed. I looked at the man calmly reading his Kindle. “Are you still serving tea?”

“Yes, yes; please, sit,” he said. “One moment, please…” He turned and scurried back into the kitchens.

Derek and I looked over the laminated, tri-folded menu on the table. “The coffee is expensive here,” Derek joked. It was €0,15 more expensive than at that metro station that morning; it was only €0,65.

“I love Portugal! The food is so cheap!” I said. “Oh, the tea is the same price as it is in Spain.”

The tall, thin boy emerged from the kitchen and scurried back to our table. “We can do it,” he said. “We can do the menu.” Quick on his heels was an excited woman with her hair tied back in a simple ponytail. She was dressed in black from head to toe.

“We can do the menu,” she said, “but there is no more soup.”

“Oh, great!” I said. I sent Derek a significant look that said, Do-you-want-to-eat-here?-Yes?-No?-Well-whatever,-because-I-want-to,-and-I’m-going-to. “We’ll do it.”

With expert confidence, she continued to sell us a salad and two empanadas, a milkshake for Derek, and a tea for me. “They’re staying open for us,” I said, justifying how expensive this meal was going to be after all.

The empanadas came out first. The crust was flaky and light, but not dry. I was pleasantly surprised. Then came the salad, with no iceberg lettuce in sight. Tasty greens ranging in flavor from bitter to nutty to spicy were covered in fresh vegetables and sunflower shoots. It was so big, I hoped we’d have room for the entreé.

When my tea came, I was given a pretty yellow teacup that matched a pretty yellow teapot — a full-size teapot, not a single-serving pot with a Lipton bag. I looked inside. It was loose-leaf in a metal tea-ball, and it smelled heavenly. “I loooooove Portugal!” I repeated. “And it’s only €1,40!”

I took my iPhone out of my inner pocket, where I’d had my hand on it all day, and took several photos at different angles. Our entreé came out (“It looks so good!”), so I took some pictures of that, too. Imagining cell-phone radiation mutating my insides, I laid my phone beside my plate to take my first bite. The rice had cilantro in it, and it was so good. The gravy was good, too. And the portions were generous. “I want to come back here tomorrow,” I said.

Derek and I were discussing something — public transportation, maybe, or NIMBYism and low-cost housing — when two women entered the restaurant and interrupted our conversation. They were of the same height, with the same long, dark hair in a single long, dark braid, and billowing white dresses. One was old and fat, and one was young and thin and pretty. The pretty one approached me quickly and started shaking yellowed papers in my face.

“No,” I said. “No!” It was strange; the papers looked like nonsense. Why would they be selling papers? She pressed in on me, touching my arm, and nearly hitting me in the face with the papers. I pushed her arms up, away from my food; I blocked my face. “No, no, no!” I repeated. I was becoming upset. I stared down into my lap, shaking my head, wishing they would go away. Why were they doing this inside the restaurant?

The tall, thin boy stood at the back of the restaurant, watching with his bewildered, sad eyes. He looked like he wanted to say something; he looked like he wished he would say something; but he stood poised, alert, and un-doing. His eyes said, “I’m sorry,” as his body said, “Gee, I hope they leave soon. This is uncomfortable.” The man with the Kindle did not look up.

Derek was starting to yell. For once, I was glad. Usually I chastise him for being so stern with the Roma women when they push rosemary at us in the street. “Just ignore them and keep on walking,” I would say. “You don’t have to yell at them.”

Finally, they seemed to change their minds. The young one moved toward the man with the Kindle, but the old one headed straight for the door. The young one hurried out.

Derek and I looked at each other. “Ugh,” I said. Derek looked annoyed. “What were we talking about…? Oh yeah…” and he began to revive our conversation.

“Wait. I just… I just need a minute.” I said. I was still fuming, wondering what I could have done differently to make them leave faster. I was still confused that they had come into a restaurant. I was angry with the tall, thin boy for not shooing them away. I wished the manager lady hadn’t stepped out to run to the bank. She would have shooed them away.

I pulled myself together, took a deep breath, and decided to enjoy the rest of my meal (even if those dirty pamphlets might have touched my gravy). “Okay, I’m ready. Sorry; what were you saying?”

Derek opened his mouth to repeat himself, but bolted up in alarm. “Megan; where’s your phone?” His voice was tight. His eyes were already at the door.

“Oh no!” I said. Derek hurried to the door. “They took it!” I said. He looked left and right. The street was empty and silent in both directions. Lunch time was over. There wasn’t even anyone to ask which way they had gone.

“I’ll be right back,” he said, and I saw him jog out of sight.

I stood up and paced back and forth. I sat down. I stood up and went to the door. I wanted to run and help, but I didn’t want to appear to be dining and dashing. The tall, thin boy had disappeared into the kitchen. The man with the Kindle didn’t look up.

The tall, thin boy came back into the room. I was angry. I felt he saw them take my phone, and I didn’t understand why he hadn’t said anything. Why was he so quiet? Why was he so sad? “They took my phone!” I said. The man with the Kindle looked up.

“I’m sorry,” said the tall, thin boy. His eyes looked scared. I’m sure he was thinking, “This is bad.” Maybe he was wondering if the noisy American was going to yell at him. “What kind of phone was it?” he asked.

I felt awkward. An iPhone is a very expensive phone in Europe, and it makes me feel guilty somehow. I was very aware that I was a tourist in a country in crisis. “An… iPhone.” I said.

The man with the Kindle said, “What? What happened?”

I explained how the two women had come in, hassled my table, and left; how we didn’t realize they had taken anything until a couple minutes later. “I didn’t even notice they came in,” said the man with the Kindle. “Did they take anything else?”

No; strangely, my wallet was untouched inside my open purse, which was also not taken, even though it was hanging on the back of my chair. It probably would have been easier to take than the phone. I felt like an idiot. Why hadn’t I put my phone in my purse and closed it up? I made a note to myself to always eat with my purse in my lap for the rest of all time.

Derek came back. “Nothing,” he said, disappointed and angry. “They must have turned somewhere.”

I experienced a complexity of emotion; something about “unfair,” “karma,” “Roma!” and “Stupid!” I felt loss, disappointment, bewilderment, anger, guilt, shame, and hope.

I thought to myself, “Well, what do I do now?”

So I decided to finish my meal, again, dirty pamphlet and all. “It’s mostly the pictures that I regret,” I said. “I can always buy a new phone, but I wish I had those pictures.” I was so angry with the two Roma women. How could they do that? How could they just steal… from me? Didn’t I seem nice? I just gave money to a man playing an accordion by the church that morning. I was so happy. I was having a good time. What were they going to do with it anyway? Its face was cracked.

“Well, I’m going to be a lot meaner to the Roma women from now on,” I said.

“Good!” said Derek.

“And I won’t yell at you for yelling at them anymore,” I said.

“Good,” he said again.

I struggled with these thoughts. I thought about all the Roma who froze to death in the street this past winter after being deported to Romania with no where to go once they got there. I thought about the racism in Spain, how they are discriminated against, how they don’t have papers and can’t get legal work. How they risk deportation when they come in contact with the authorities; how it’s unfair to expect them to follow law. They’re not citizens, and they’re not treated with any hope of becoming citizens. What should I expect?

I thought about my privilege, traveling the world well-protected, welcomed, cared for. I have a job in a fantastic city just because I speak English as a native language. I have had an iPhone 4 to begin with, plus a Spanish phone. And a laptop, and health insurance; friends who fly over the ocean just to visit. Every night I sleep in a warm bed. Every day I eat whatever I want to, whenever I want to, and how much I want to. Complete strangers welcome me into their homes for days or weeks at a time, just to help me travel.

As much as being the victim was frustrating and annoying, I knew that overall, I have the way better end of the stick.

But I still wanted my phone back.

Now, having only been in the city for a few hours, and not yet checked in to our hostel, Lisbon seemed dirty and dangerous. I certainly didn’t feel like going out in the evening or drinking, just to have something else stolen. I was more annoyed by the pushy service industry, who walk with you down the street with their menus trying to entice you to their restaurant; if not now, then later. I was less amused by the smiling gentleman who would walk up and down the streets beckoning toward families with stacks of sunglasses and bracelets, but lowering their voices to students to murmur, “Cocaine? Hash? I’ve got good hash!”

As we left the restaurant, I peered suspiciously in every nook, cranny, and side street, wondering where the two women disappeared. When the manager had come back to the restaurant, she gave us the address of the Foreigner’s Police Station. It was across the street from our hostel, just a block away from the street where we had eaten lunch, and I had gotten robbed.

When we arrived, there was a girl with long, dreadlocked hair complaining about being stolen from. She was American. Another pair of girls, younger, probably study-abroad students, were talking to another agent. They were American, too. After the agent had filed my police report, we passed another American couple coming in report a theft.

I was too overwhelmed to make any comment other than, “Is Lisbon just really dense with American tourists, or are we that easy to profile and take advantage of?”

The two American girls finished up at the same time as Derek and I. They caught us in the lobby. “Hey,” said one, breathless. “Are you American, too?” When I affirmed, they said, “I thought so. I heard you say, ‘Well, in the United States…‘” I was offended by her tone. I had been clarifying why I had asked if there would be any fees if I wanted to press charges.

They were still standing there, excited, expectant. I asked, “So, what happened to you?”

“We were on the bus,” said one. “We were talking and I didn’t even feel it, but someone just took my wallet right out of my purse! My purse was on me the whole time! So be really careful to keep an eye on your purse!”

I thought to myself: everyone knows that. Everyone knows that you keep a hand on your purse when you’re in a crowd; everyone knows that you turn the flap toward you, so that it’s harder to access.

They didn’t ask me, but I said, “I was eating in a restaurant when two women came in and took my phone off the table. They waved paper in my face so I couldn’t see. We were sitting near the window of the restaurant, and we were closest to the door. Always sit in the back of the restaurant!”

They looked at me like I was crazy. I realize they were probably thinking the same thing about me as I had just thought about them: “You stupid idiot. Everyone knows…”

I reflected for a moment on how I felt like a victim, but how the experience seemed to give me very little empathy for other victims. “I wish it was just my wallet,” I thought to myself. “It’s easy enough to cancel a credit card or get a new ID.”

This story doesn’t really have a happy ending except that when I wake up, groping for my iPhone to check my email is not the very first thing I do. I’m even considering not replacing my iPhone with another smartphone. I managed to enjoy aspects of Lisbon despite the inaugural experience: the view from Eduardo VII Parque was exceptional, for example.

But mostly, I wrote all of this just to tell you that I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures to share, and that I won’t have any new ones for a very long time. I considered drawing you some crude impressions on MS Paint, but I don’t have MS Paint, so I can’t.

I’m considering taking up ink and watercolors and going around the city making my own pictures… and if that works out, I’ll try to scan them for your pleasure. Until then, keep your purses close and don’t sit by the window.

Oily Spanish Food

Don’t get me wrong; as much as I say I don’t like Spanish food, I like Spanish food. I should be more specific.

Things I Like About Spanish Food:

  • It’s cheap
  • It’s covered in olive oil
  • I can dip bread or picos (crackers) in it
  • It tastes great with Cruzcampo (beer!)

Things I Don’t Like About Spanish Food:

  • Sometimes it’s gross
  • Sometimes it’s really covered in olive oil
  • On holiday weeks like this–I hope this doesn’t last all tourist season–, it’s twice the price and half as delicious

What I’d like to focus on today, though, is the olive oil. Olive oil is delicious. I like to buy several different kinds of olive oil and put them on several different saucers and eat them with several different kinds of bread, all in one sitting. Sometimes for breakfast I will cut off a hunk of baguette, toast it, and count to 10 while I pour olive oil all over it, and then I smear some mushy tomato on it, and say, “Mmmmmmm!” while I eat it. When I am cooking and the recipe calls for two tablespoons, I put in four. Sometimes six. Later on, I usually add some more.

In the past (read: 3 days ago), I justified this behavior in the following ways:

  • I like to snack on frozen peas
  • I don’t eat a lot of doughnuts
  • Maybe olive oil is good fat

Basically it was a let’s-pretend-good-things-cancel-out-bad-things game, but we all know that good things don’tcancel bad things just because they coexist.

Luckily, I don’t have to play mind games to feel good about olive oil anymore. An “11-year study of natives of Spain,” according to this cautious Atlantic article, had the following results:

Increased fried food consumption had no effect on the probability of death or developing heart disease. The results were the same for those who used olive oil for frying and those who used sunflower oil or other vegetable oils.

Of course, the article doesn’t mean I should start adding doughnuts to my daily diet:

Frying food adds extra fat and calories. Clearly, it’s not a recipe for weight loss.

But that reminds me: I highly recommend doughnuts in Sevilla, especially from a pastelería. I think they bake them. They are the best doughnuts I have ever had. Here are some pictures of silly doughnut shops around town:

Doopie's DoughnutsDuffin Dagels

The Politics of Fútbol

I can hear church bells and falling rain. The swanky grooves of Outkast’s album The Love Below go surprisingly well with church bells. Gray days don’t seem so bad when they are rainy. Gray days aren’t bad at all when they are couched within weeks of bright blue skies–and today is special anyway, because today is the day that Derek arrives. The rain is good for him; it will feel more like home (bwahaha, snow storm!).

I turn on my space heater for a couple minutes and drink hot tea, staving off the chill in solidarity with my friends and family back home, and I read the news. BBC Mundo is a lot easier to understand than El País. For some reason I gravitate toward the sports section, something I rarely do in English. I see that Barcelona vs. Real Madrid is coming up on Wednesday at 10pm.

I’m probably thinking about sports because last night the bar across the street blared el himno sevillana, the “anthem” of Sevilla Fútbol Club:

There are two major Sevillan fútbol clubs, Bétis and Sevilla. Sevilla plays in Nervión, near me, and that is enough to earn my loyalty. I’d like to learn the lyrics and go to a game. I need to buy some red and white.

My loyalty is similarly arbitrary when it comes to the Real Madrid v. Barcelona rivalry, El Clásico. I have been to Madrid and liked it, but have never been to Barcelona; and so I root for Real Madrid. Except when it comes to Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, it’s political; you either affiliate yourself with right-wing pro-Franco Conservatives or Catalán nationalists. Bummer.

Unsure how I felt about separatism and concerned that my choice would reflect my overall attitude regarding Spain in the 1930s (EVERYONE WHO LOOKS AT ME IS JUDGING ME), I took that Political Compass test. The test did nothing to clarify how I felt about secession, but the results would come as no surprise if you played Apples to Apples with me at all over Christmas. For those of you who did not get this pleasure, I will tell you:

The x-axis represents social politics while the y-axis represents economic politics. My red dot falls within the bottom left quadrant, indicating that I am both economically and politically liberal.

FYI: I will pick "George W. Bush" for "Scary," but not if it has already been played. Be creative, people!

According to my results, if I want to surround myself with like minds, I should sit with the blue and red. But when you’re at a fútbol game, you’re saying to the person next to you, “This referee is horrible!” not “Can you believe that Franco guy?” Are politics really the best reason to affiliate yourself with a team? I support the maize and blue because I went to University of Michigan and so did many of my family and friends, not primarily because of the University’s politics. Some of my friends simply root for the underdog, and who cares if that changes every year–or every game. So why not choose Real Madrid just because I like el Parque del Buen Retiro?

Alternative title for this post: “Megan Thinks A Lot And Then Decides It Doesn’t Matter.”