Tuesday, August 31, 2010

the damn wind

I would like to formally apologize for the post published last week, in which I attempted to inform you all of the winds of Cadiz. I believe I offered a bit of false information. I'm still unclear as to how to correct it though…

As it turns out, I am constantly hearing contradictory things about this crap wind…For example, during a winery tour yesterday, I was informed that the frequently blowing levante causes the level of humidity to lower, doing blah blah blah to the wine barreled in front of a river not half a kilometer from the ocean.

Then today I woke up at 4 am because the wind was going NUTS. Something like a tropical storm was coming, and we were all gonna die. I was more or less pretty distraught, not only because I woke up due to the kitchen door slamming (never pleasant) but also because I had to shut all the windows to keep other doors from slamming, and then shut the patio doors too, and all in all I felt very claustrophobic.

Around 9 am I mustered up the courage to check out the situation from the balcony. There were few people out, and they looked OK, except for bad, windblown hair. What was weird is that it was really cool....eerily cool. I called Luis and he told me it's a strong levante combined with northern wind. That's why it's cool. Still don't get it.

At 11, I couldn't take sitting in the apartment anymore, so I ventured out on bike. I was particularly curious as to what the ocean was doing so I headed straight there, only to be whipped right back home by piercing sheets of sand. It totally sucked.

I still don't understand the wind...but I have come to agree with the people here...levante is horrible. Perhaps it's wind in general... I don't like unpredictability, and that's exactly what it is: unpredictable. My favorite weather conditions, if you can call them that, are the sunrise and the sunset, because they are so nice and PREDICTABLE.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Welcome to Tarifa...the world capital of kite and wind surf.

Apparently it's not such an uncommon thing...to practice one of these aqua-sports. But I personally have never seen either, and was thus tremendously moved by the sight of it upon arriving to the beaches of Tarifa. I also had never seen Africa...which feels so close, you could almost reach out and touch it...

What was so impressive to me was the number of people practicing kite and wind surf in the same respectively tiny area. Just watching the enormous kites flow freely amongst each other made my stomach rise with butterflies and my heart beat rapidly. It reminded me of the hidden milongas of Buenos Aires--the dance halls where people gather to tango. I remember the floor was always packed with at least 40 couples ever-so-gracefully performing the seductive steps of the Argentine dance. I could never understand how they didn't even so much as brush lightly against each other's shoulders, much less bump into one another, or even worse, step on the toes of their neighbors.

The kite's and their respective owners were similar, only that if the kites intertwined, someone could die. Supposedly the force of the kite is so strong that it's strings can slice through the neck of an unlucky daredevil. When I submerged myself in the icy waters (the ocean is cold there), I was filled with anxiety just looking up at the kites on the other side of the yellow plastic balls that separated swimmers from surfers...I had to crane my neck 180 degrees to the sky to watch the massive kites that floated on the edge of the border.

It'd sure be nice to try kitesurfing because it looks incredibly fun (you can jump and soar!!!), but there is no way I have the strength. The kite is attached to your body with a heavy life jacket of sorts that is strapped only around the torso, and then you must hold on and guide using a typical triangle handlebar. My weak-ass arms would surely be ripped off by the force. Anyway, cheers to those who do practice the sport...I have sincere respect for you.

And thanks to my great tour guides, Luis and Raquel :)

let's try this again

Sorry my last map was so confusing. Posting photos is never easy for compu-tards such as myself. The highlighted section is where I am, and if you still need to zoom out, well then I believe that is your own problem...

Thursday, August 26, 2010

winds of cadiz

I mentioned in my last post that the climate here is rather pleasant due to the fact that there is almost always a breeze in the air.

This really isn't that surprising, considering we are on the coast. However, what I have found pretty interesting over the last week and a half is how big of a role the wind plays in the culture here.

Weather is a funny phenomenon. As much as we'd like to brush it off like it ain't no thang, let's be honest: it's omnipotent presence has far more sway than we would like to admit. The spectrum is broad: from the f-ing freezing summers of SF that we will never quit complaining about, to the sunny beaches of Florida that allow senior citizens to truly appreciate their retirement, to the foudroyant spell of Katrina and it's eternal effects on the wonderful city of New Orleans...the weather outside, my friends, is not just weather. For some of us, it's a painfully boring topic of conversation...something that might come up on a bad date, or perhaps the only thing you could ever find to say to your 60 year old father-in-law. But for many (myself, my dad...the people of Cadiz), the weather is so truly important that it only deserves to be the topic of conversation all over town.

Nobody here cares too much about the sun or the rain or the humidity. Instead, they talk about the wind. And because it is such a common topic of conversation, even children refer to it by its oceanographic weather jargon. Of course, we all know that wind can come from four main directions, but here in Cadiz, it more often than not comes from the east or west. A warm breeze that comes from east is called levante, whose name refers to the direction in which the sun rises (levantar=to rise, if we speak of the sun). Like I said, this breeze is warm, and thus, totally awesome. It's counterpart goes by the name of poniente, which as you can guess, comes from the west and translates, more or less, to "set". It isn't necessarily a cool breeze, but rather a dry one, and thus, supposedly more pleasant. Between the two, they change frequently because, well, that's what wind does.

If the levante is up, it's hot and humid and the restaurant patios are particularly buzzing. There is no way you can go without a tinto de verano or a cold beer at 9 pm, when the sun is finally on its way down. Your skin is sticky, and it's a little stuffy, but you can't complain, because warm wind is better than no wind (curse the day I arrived...the only day that really no wind has blown).

It seems to me that poniente is less frequent, which is apparently unfortunate. Maybe I was just desperate for hot weather, but I think I can live without a cooler breeze. Plus, I've never been particularly fond of the desert, and that's what it feels like to me. However, it's supposedly much easier to navigate a boat in these conditions, and it's lightness doesn't levanta (oh!! slam! a play on words in spanish! levantar--lift up) the sand and whip it against your skin.

I am about to embark on an hour-long journey to Tarifa, where I will be able to see Africa from the beach. Supposedly it's almost unbearably windy there, often times causing abandonment of the beaches due to mild sand storms. Luckily enough, it's also supposed to be beautiful, so it's worth the sacrifice I suppose.

If you are one of the people mentioned above who share a fascination for the weather, read more about levante and poniente.

Monday, August 23, 2010

spanish vacation, week one

So it has recently come to my attention that when I say I am in Cadiz, many people have no idea where this place is. As it turns out, neither did I. South of Spain, yes. More or less an island? No.

Cadiz is a province (one of the eight) on the southwestern coast of the autonomous community of Andalucia, and the city of Cadiz is geographically similar to an island (had no idea until I was actually here)..a tiiiiiny piece of land connected to the peninsula by a tiiiiny little strip of road and train tracks.

But I am based in El Puerto de Santa Maria. As you can see, Cadiz is just across the way. Pick up a ferry in the port, and for the price of two euros and 15 cents you're there in exactly 30 minutes.

I have been rather disconnected since I arrived, as we have no internet in the house. So much for bringing my computer. Nor have I seen a single internet cafe in town, thus the only way to connect is by plugging into Luis' iphone (what CAN'T an iphone do?).

There is no internet for a reason, and that reason would be the following: BEACH. The climate here is insane, and unless one is eating or napping (this is Spain), there is no other excuse. It's so warm, day and night, and although people complain about the heat, it is actually quite pleasant, as there is always a breeze. The water is clear, predator-free (hooray for no sharks or jelly fish!) and perfectly refreshing.

And now to the personal stuff. I am staying with my friend Luis, who I met along with his girlfriend Raquel in Gran Canaria over semana santa as we have mutual friends. They are both from Cadiz, and thus have a plethora of friends and family everywhere. And because we are in Andalucia, all members of this expansive social network have welcomed me with wide open arms.

I spend most mornings alone, roaming around on bicycle and exploring the neighboring towns, and meet up with my pals at two (everyone gets off work at this hour in August) for lunch at one of their family's houses, both of which are beautiful villas just off the beach. The majority of the afternoon is spent eating and resting, until around 6, when we can finally muster up enough energy to head to the beach for a swim, then to a chiringuita (beach bar) for a drink, and finally, around 10, to dinner, whether that be at home (freshly caught fish, spanish tortilla, etc) or a restaurant (sardines, fried calamari, etc). If we are feeling really ambitious (which we generally are), we then have a cocktail. Supposedly cocktails help you digest.

So there you have it…my extended vacation in a nutshell. Another week and a half lays ahead of me, which will include a visit with Nicole (who is melting in Sevilla right now) as well as my 23rd birthday. Ole!

Monday, August 16, 2010

hello from the train

Per usual, things are off schedule. It's the 15th of August, and finally, I am on my way to Cadiz. I was really shooting for a good month of living the life there, but I suppose two weeks will suffice.

So anyway, because we are all on this journey together, I will be honest. My first day back in Madrid was really rough, in a really terrible way. I was filled with regret and nostalgia (number two and three on that list I made of the most horrible feelings that exist in the spectrum of human emotion) for having left San Francisco. I suppose that the fact that I literally have nothing to do until the first of October had a lot to do with it. I left all my family and friends to come to Spain and do what? I couldn't remember.

But the mind always amazes me. We are made to adapt, and adapt we will. Some are better than others when it comes to this evolutionary phenomenon, but in general, we figure it out. And for this, I am thankful.

It took me just about 24 hours to figure it out. I spent the day at the pool with Alex, who I will give credit to for bringing my spanish back to life (11 year olds talk a lot, especially this one), and over tinto de verano (what Spaniards really drink…something similar to sangria) at the pool bar with Pilar…I remembered why I came back.

Summer is a completely different experience here, and I had to experience it. It's been ten years since the last time I did! (remember when you got fat from eating ice cream every.single.day Ashley?) It actually hasn't been that hot, but nonetheless I've been wearing as little clothing as possible while going about the daily routine of a kid on summer vacation: waking up at 11, meandering over to the neighborhood pool, going to get ice cream, going back to the pool, having a drink, eating a tapa. Oh man, it is THE life.

And then I was sad to leave Madrid, but excited to see the ocean. I feel a little whirlwind-ed (especially after staying out until 6 am in Madrid last night…) and its presence will certainly ground me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

part two

The scene:

I am seated at a heavy wooden breakfast table planted in the center of a vast lofted apartment...looking and listening to the buzz across the street at the AT&T ballpark...Ash and Ralph passed out on the couch in front of me. It's 10 pm, you old farts!

I should be on my merry way to Spain right now...but things get complicated sometimes.

Instead I spent all the live-long day sleeping in a heavenly bed (no, really--imagine your dream bed. This was my dream bed) and lucidly dreaming about dive bars and golf pars. It sure felt like night though, considering I never went to sleep last night. And anyway sleep hasn't been much of a desired activity these days. Insomnia.slowly.creeping. The body has a mind of its own, and wants to get a head-start on the battle against jet-lag.

Well, I have to admit that perhaps it was meant to be. Last night was surreal...singing this with Kaitlyn at the neighborhood kareoke bar and then restlessly lounging around with the mice at the apartment until the wee hours...I certainly was not feeling ready at 6 am this morning which was apparent by the exhaustion-induced tears that were shed somewhere around 7 at SFO. After laying low in the city all day, and a second going-away dinner with my presently snoozing company (I swear I'm leaving guys), I'm feeling a whole lot more prepared to say goodbye. Thanks to my wonderful sister and family and friends for the as-always wonderful times. Needless to say, but I'll say it anyway because it feels good, I will MISS you.

See you soon, Madrid!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


My six weeks in California are quickly coming to an end...

And too quickly they come! I suppose I only expected this, but nonetheless am kicking myself for making the decision to stay so short and so long a time, at the same time. Does that make sense?

I feel lightyears away from Spain. When I finally cross back over the pond, I will not just be traveling in space but also in time. My life in Madrid feels like one of centuries ago. Why didn't I have this feeling when coming here?

This must have something to do with the fact that Spain is old-school. We walk down cobble-stone streets...we are religious about gathering on Sundays for eight hours of eating...we women don't shave our armpits always...we eat every single part of every single animal as if they (the animals) might disappear at any point in time...

Perhaps this isn't personal at all. Going to Europe really is traveling in time in it's own maaaagical way.

But then what am I talking about? It's so personal. Me da pena (it pities me, literally) to leave the US after submersing myself here again. Oh well, such is life. I'll be back someday! For now...looking forward to home-basing for three weeks or so in Cadiz and traveling a bit around the Costa del Sol. God knows I need it after "the coldest winter I ever spent", aka a summer in San Francisco.