Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I am typing this with one hand. My left, dominant, arm is in a sling, recently broken after stepping into a ditch and falling. I was only slightly drunk. After dragging myself to my feet and hobbling off, I stopped at the first bar I came to and got very drunk. Despite my bloody face and hand, the bartender didn’t bat an eye when I dragged myself up to the bar and ordered a cubalibre. That’s what they call a rum and coke in Spain. They serve the rum in a tall skinny glass three quarters full (about three shots worth) and give a small bottle of Coke on the side. A 25cl (10oz) glass bottle. It cost €3. I like Spain

Have I mentioned that I’m living in Spain, now?

I had two, which was enough to get completely sloshed. I am a lightweight, which is good. It’s cost efficient. I fail to understand those who brag about the amount they can drink. Sure, they can drink me under the table, but I can get drunk quicker and cheaper. The downside of being a lightweight is that I at times fail to pace myself. I can get to the point of incoherence while my companions are still ordering rounds of shots.

I limped home, or what I am currently calling home. My left arm was immobile, my left thigh throbbing, my left hand and forehead skun and bleeding. I was a mess and in considerable pain, but the alcohol made it bearable. I got to the place I was staying and passed out. Two days later, I finally went to the hospital and they told me I had a hairline fracture. I think. The doc’s English, while a hell of a lot better than my Spanish, was poor. And, my translator sucked. They put me in a sling and said to come back in three weeks.

Caroll drove me to the hospital and acted (poorly) as my translator. She is my host. Our agreement was that I was to work for her for two weeks in exchange for room and board. After four days of starting several projects and finishing none (That’s how Caroll likes to work. It keeps her from getting bored.), Caroll proposed changing the days off schedule because she felt it was too windy to work. I, always eager to take a day off, agreed.

I left the house at 11:30, headed to a nearby village that Google Maps calls Lecrin, but Caroll insists is Talara. Regardless of the name, I found an ATM and got some cash. My plan was to wander, explore, and hit a bar or two.

I ended up hitting five bars in four villages. The tapas bars around here all offer the same deal. A smallish glass of beer (10 or 12 oz) and a tapa, or snack for about €1.50, maybe €1.80. The tapas are small portions, and vary. I was served a goodish sized portion of boiled, unpeeled shrimp, salad, grilled pork on bread, hard cheese and smoked ham, french fries, two omelets (I hate eggs), and too many olives to count (I hate olives).

Between bars, I explored. All of these villages are the pueblo blanco, or white villages, that Andalucia is famous for. The buildings are built of stone or concrete blocks for the newer ones, plastered in a type of cement and painted white. I have seen a few buildings not white, but only a few. The windows are small and usually shuttered during the day to keep out the heat. The streets are narrow and winding, often large enough for only one lane, sometimes too small for even a car. There seems to be a custom for deciding who has right of way when two vehicles meet, but I have yet to figure it out.

The terrain here is incredibly hilly, and roads meander and switchback endlessly. Often one must walk ten kilometers to travel three. Or, so it seems. The hills are sculpted into terraces, wide enough for a row of trees and a small path. Trees are almost always one of four varieties: orange, lemon, olive, and almond. Roadways and gutters are littered with fallen oranges, run over and rotting. I’ve been told that farmerss get paid ten cents a kilo for oranges, and I wonder if it’s even worth the effort of harvesting them. Those who are not farmers, but have a house in the countryside with orange trees do not think so. After taking what they use themselves, they leave the rest on the ground to rot.

After the first bar, I found a path that headed into the woods (woods being planted trees and brush) that ran along a concrete irrigation channel. The channel was about a foot wide and a foot deep. Every now and then there was a steel plate blocking a side path that could be moved to close the main channel. Hence, only one farm could be irrigated at a time. I wondered if, during dry spells, that caused any problems.

I followed the path, looking down at the tops of orange trees on my right, and a steep embankment of clay rising up on my left. Eventually, I came upon a gully with a stream along the bottom. The channel continued across the gully on a stone bridge and disappeared into the woods. There was a metal gate at my end of the bridge, and the water was being diverted over the side. I did notice a path leading down, but it met with the water cascading off, so I didn’t bother trying. I headed back the direction I came.

Back on the street, I discovered that the path continued on the other side, so I followed. Here, the path was concrete, sometimes along the channel, sometimes over it. The land was more gradually sloped, and the trees were behind walls of cement blocks. The path ended at an intersection with a bar on the corner. I stopped in for refueling. A wee lad was there, and we ended up playing soccer. Our abilities were about evenly matched.

A few pubs and two villages later, I found myself in Restabal, a village carved into the side of a steep hill. Here the streets were very steep, at times so steep that I worried about my balance. I wondered how the elderly and disabled got around. While exploring, I noticed the sun beginning to set and realized that I should head for home. It gets dark fast around here, and I had neglected to bring a flashlight.

Barely out of town, and still a half hour walk home, with the sky dark, I stepped into a ditch and fell. I landed on my stomach, dazed and in pain. Lying there, I looked around, trying to figure out what the fuck just happened. I saw my glasses lying in front of me, unbroken. I put them on, always a good first step. I saw my hat, so I put it on also. I’m not sure if that was a good second step, but I like my hat, and I don’t want to lose it. I took stock of where I hurt and realized that my left arm and left leg really hurt. Hurt enough so I was worried I might have done serious damage. I tried to stand and failed. I couldn’t move my left arm without great pain, so I tried using just my right to get standing. It was slow progress, but I used a wall nearby to help support my weight. Eventually I could stand. I attempted to walk and found that I could, though with an awful limp. I was glad to realize that my leg wasn’t broken.

I limped to the bar and enjoyed my cubalibre.

The next morning, I dragged myself out of bed with a good amount of difficulty and put on my glasses, always a good first step. They were blurry, and I discovered that the left lense was caked with dried blood. It was the first time I realized that I had scraped my forehead.

My arm and leg both hurt badly, but I figured that if I could walk, then my leg injury must have been a contusion. I further figured that since my leg and arm hurt equally, and my leg wasn’t broken, then my arm probably wasn’t either. I decided to give it a day and see how I felt.

The next day I asked Caroll to drive me to the hospital. In the waiting room, she asked if I subconsciously hurt myself on purpose so I could have a vacation. I resisted the impulse to smack her.

After the initial consultation and x-rays, we were back in the examining room with two doctors. Caroll and the docs were jabbering away in Spanish looking at the x-rays, with Caroll not bothering to translate a damned thing. Eventually, I asked if it was broken, and one doctor said I had a small break. They fitted me with a sling.

On the way home, Caroll said I was lucky to get a rest, and she worried how I would be able to get my work finished. I worried about the bill.


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