Monthly Archives: November 2015

Fin de noviembre

Today is Sunday and we’re mostly taking it easy.

Yesterday we spent several hours at a seven-year-old birthday party followed in the evening by a Thanksgiving fiesta hosted by Americans for Spanish and American families. We were the first to leave when we took our exhausted child home at 11:30pm, which, by Spanish standards, is not late at all.

Agradecemos que nos hayan dado una tal oportunidad

I think I speak for all three of us when I say we’re truly enjoying our life in Granada. Things have been going so well, in fact, that the niggling voice in my head says “Ojo, watch out. Everything that goes up must come down.” And it will. But for now things are really good. We are thankful.

Some recent photos…

La contaminación

Version 2A high pressure weather system has been parked over Granada for the past three weeks, delivering one sunny day after another. With no wind to blow the dirty air over the hills and no rain to wash it away, we’ve instead watched it accumulate—to dangerous levels and above limits set by the EU, according to a recent news story. It’s a persistent problem.

Diesel cars and boilers (we have one), motorcycle exhaust, and open burning of post-harvest agricultural waste are contributors. I think cigarette smoke should be acknowledged, too, at least for polluting the air on sidewalks and at outdoor cafes.

Granada has a plan to improve air quality, but some of the big programs—a light rail line, a bike rental program, an incentive program for hybrid cars—are stalled or have otherwise not been executed. At least progress has been made in limiting car and bus traffic through the city center—we appreciate how pedestrian-friendly it is.

With mixed feelings we welcome rainy and cold weather today.

Algunas fotos de la primer parte de noviembre

La caridad

Today, on my way to treat myself to a frothy cappuchino (different from the ubiquitous and flat café con leche), I narrowly escaped talking to a canvasser. But then, as I headed back down the street distracted by the grocery list cycling through my head, he caught me. Ugh. Those conversations are so uncomfortable! To be confronted, with gentle directness and in English, by someone actually doing something to help refugees, when all I had on my mind was shopping? I promised him I would make a donation to the UN Refugee Agency, and I did.

I don’t know anything about the settlement of refugees in southern Spain. I do see black skinned men in the city center selling umbrellas, selfie sticks, and travel packs of Kleenex and, when they can’t get that desperate gig, holding a paper cup outside grocery stores. And I read that last week a group of 33 people from sub-Saharan Africa was rescued off the coast south of Granada. They were in a small boat and, fortunately (miraculously?), unhurt.

Because I’m in a place where I can barely speak the language, where I have to rely on the kindness of strangers to help me do things I take for granted at home, I have even greater empathy for people who have been forced by economic circumstances and security threats to leave their countries (and who, let’s assume, have almost no financial resources). And I’m glad that canvasser reminded me that actions, not feelings, are what will help them.

Menuda chorrada

Saturday's visit to the Moroccan barber who speaks French, Arabic, Spanish and English. Unfortunately, he and Lou agreed that Lou is personlizing his hairstyle with a tail.

Saturday’s visit to the Moroccan barber (married to an American) who speaks French, Arabic, Spanish and English.

Lou came home this week with a few Spanish swear words rolling off his tongue, so we know the immersion thing is working.

I also learned a new palabrota by reading the comments section of an online Spanish newspaper. At the end of a news story about ISIS propaganda referring to modern-day Andalucía as “the lost Islamic paradise of Al-Andalus,” a number of people left ignorant, facile, and xenophobic comments about terrorism and Muslims. Finally a commenter interjected “bullshit” (menuda chorrada).

And with that I’d like to share this statement published by travel writer Rick Steves following the terrorist attacks in Paris as a kind of anti-menuda chorrada.

After Friday’s horrifying events in Paris, as we keep the victims and their families in our prayers and marvel at how violent hatred can express itself, it’s natural for those of us with travels coming up to wonder what is the correct response. Let me share my thoughts:

I have two fundamental concerns: what is safe, and what is the appropriate response to terrorism.

About safety, I believe this is an isolated incident. Tomorrow Paris will be no more dangerous than it was the day before that terrible Friday the 13th. I also believe that security in Paris and throughout Europe will be heightened in response to this attack. Remember: There’s an important difference between fear and risk.

About the right response to terrorism, I believe we owe it to the victims of this act not to let the terrorist win by being terrorized. That’s exactly the response they are hoping for. Sure, it’s natural for our emotions to get the best of us. But, especially given the impact of sensational media coverage, we need to respond intelligently and rationally.

In 2004, Madrid suffered a terrorist bombing in its Metro, which killed 191 and injured 1,800. In 2005, London suffered a similar terrorist bombing in its Tube system, killing 52 and injuring 700. These societies tightened their security, got the bad guys, and carried on. Paris will, too.

I’m sure that many Americans will cancel their trips to Paris (a city of 2 million people) or the rest of Europe (a continent of 500 million people), because of an event that killed about 150. As a result, ironically, they’ll be staying home in a country of 320 million people that loses over 30,000 people a year (close to 100 people a day) to gun violence.

Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Paris, the victims, and their loved ones. And it remains my firmly held belief that the best way for Americans to fight terrorism is to keep on traveling.


“World heritage, don’t step on it.”

I knew I was missing something in my translation when I posted this image earlier: “patrimonio de la humanidad” refers to the Albaicín’s status, along with the Alhambra and Generalife, as a World Heritage site. Such a clever note writer might have wanted to remind passerby of UNESCO’s recent warning to Granada that the city is not in compliance with its promise to protect (and keep clean) its historical sites, in particular the Albaicín neighborhood.

Why is dog poop in the street such a problem? First, people don’t have yards. When dogs need to go, they go in the street. Second, there are obviously people who just don’t care about picking up (because they are too busy tending to their dreads, says our landlord, but the problem is bigger than free-range hippies). I think it would help if Spaniards stopped calling it buena suerte—a vestige of WWI or WWII, when intact animal droppings signaled an absence of landmines and therefore “good luck”—and just call it what it is.

A fantastic word for street cleaner, according to my dictionary, is barrenderoabarrendera, although for obvious reasons it looks like it gets shortened to barrendero in actual use. For fun listen to the full audio pronunciation.