Archive for August, 2009


August 31, 2009 By: erik Category: Complaining, Musings, Spain, Spain-v-USA, USA

One difference between the US and Spain – and the rest of Europe, I think – is the practice of tipping in restaurants and bars. In the US, tipping is such a common custom that the waiters’ salaries are reduced, sometimes below minimum wage, under the assumption that the tips that they make will put them back over the minimum wage. In Spain, waiters are paid at least minimum wage, and there is no tipping whatsoever. None. If the check comes and it says 4.80€, you put down a 5€ bill and you wait for the change to come back. That’s the norm. I submit to you that the European system of non-tipping is inherently superior to the American system of tipping.

Batalla de Flores, The Day After

August 30, 2009 By: erik Category: Partying, Photos, Spain

Batalla de Flores 2009 (the day after)Every year, on the last Friday of August, the nearby beach town of Laredo holds the Batalla de Flores (Flower Battle), which consists of parade floats decorated with flowers and young girls. It’s always a very beautiful event. This year the weather was terrible, i.e. raining and cold. The Batalla, however, is not really an event that can be postponed, since each float is decorated with 100% real flowers, all specially harvested and attached to the floats for that one specific date. So they had the Batalla anyway. We chose not to go, because the event is only barely worth the impossible effort to park and the crowds, so in the rain, forget about it! Luckily for my blog readers, however, we went the day after to examine the exhibition of floats.

The creativity and quality of the designs were absolutely staggering. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that these are 100% real flower petals!!! In the 2D photos, it’s sometimes hard to appreciate the shapes amongst all the bright colors. It’s a contest, and every year there’s a winner, but the winner seemed completely arbitrary since the quality of each float was so outstanding. I can’t even begin to imagine how much work goes into these things every year.


Dinner and a Portrait

August 29, 2009 By: erik Category: Extremadura, Family, Photos, Spain

Leering ErikOn the penultimate night of our summer vacation in Extremadura, we went, at my insistence, to a local restaraunt that we call El Cruce because it’s at a crossroads, but that is really called Hotel Trajano. The food was excellent, as always, but so was the company. My camera got passed around the table, and my sister-in-law, Belén, took several portraits of the attendees. She’s a good portrait photographer.

Coin Operated Amusement

August 28, 2009 By: erik Category: Complaining, Funny, Parenting, Scary

The other day I took Nora out for a walk. We stopped at a bar with a terrace, and I ordered a glass of wine and opened a book. Nora was content to observe the other patrons. By bad planning, I was situated right next to one of these coin operated amusement vehicles, the kind that the kids get in and the machine moves and plays music when a coin is inserted. That is when the following events took place.

Cantabrian Clogs: Shoes With Legs!

August 28, 2009 By: erik Category: Colindres, Spain, Videos

thumbThese wooden shoes, called albarcas de Cantabria in Spanish, date back to at least 1657, when King Felipe IV mentioned them in a letter to the Pope. They are overshoes, worn over your house slippers, to be kicked off at the door upon entering your house after a long day of work in the fields. Translated from this Spanish Wikipedia page:

The use of albarcas, very practical shoes in a region as humid and rainy as Cantabria, has been common in the towns by all social classes, since it’s a very appropriate footwear for preserving the feet from the water and filth on the ground, and especially for performing countryside farm labor. The custom was to have two pairs, one for daily use in the fields, and another newer and more attractive pair for wearing during festivals.


Sauga Folk Festival 2009

August 25, 2009 By: erik Category: Colindres, Music, Partying, Photos, Spain

Sauga Folk T-Shirt (crop)In August every year, my adopted town of Colindres, Spain, holds a Sauga Folk music festival celebrating local and international folk music. We have missed it the previous three years because it almost always coincides with our annual migration south to Extremadura. This year, however, I was lucky enough to be able to attend.

Internauta – Favorite Spanish Words

August 25, 2009 By: erik Category: Internet, Musings, Spanish

thumbinternauta: n. a user of the internet.

Just like an astronaut navigates the stars (still only figuratively, unfortunately), an internauta navigates the complex network of tubes connected computers collectively known as The Internet. The threshold to be considered an internauta is more or less being able to send and read email and watch a video on YouTube. I mainly hear the term on the television news when talking about users of a certain website.

Five Months Old

August 24, 2009 By: erik Category: Family, Offspring, Partying, Photos

Five Months Old (crop)Today is Nora’s five month birthday. Every birthday so far we’ve had cheeseburgers for lunch. We’ve stopped buying cake, though, ever since con of calories began to outweigh the pro of having cake. She slept through the burgers on her activity mat. It’s strange now to see tiny babies in the street and be the one saying, “I can barely remember when mine was that small,” but here we are. We have no envy for the parents of week-olds, though. Every day Nora’s getting more interesting to be around.

Spanish People Is Weird

August 24, 2009 By: erik Category: Musings, Spain, Spanish, Weird

Spanish QuestionOne tough grammatical hurdle for English speakers learning Spanish, or vice versa, is the word “people”. In English it’s plural, and in Spanish it’s singular (la gente). I still find myself incorrectly conjugating verbs when “people” is the subject. e.g. La gente están contentos esta noche.

Mommy's Hiccups: Funniest Thing Ever!

August 23, 2009 By: erik Category: Funny, Offspring, Videos

thumbThe other day after bathtime, Nora discovered the funniest thing in the world: Mommy with the hiccups. This dovetails perfectly with the theory that, evolutionarily, humor originates from a shock-relief combination. What better shock-relief pattern than your protective mother suddenly convulsing and releasing a loud sound, followed by her immediate recovery and smile? The randomness of hiccups adds to the suspense, as you never know when the next one is coming.