ciento volando

travel, stories, and other flights of fancy


2 Comments

to the beach and back – a semi significant juncture

This post is taking forever to get started, because I’m compulsively eating olives and wiping my fingers on a serviette so as not to get the vinegary goodness on my keyboard. Every second word (many of which end up deleted), it seems it’s time to reach for another one… I can’t stop, I’m in Andalucía, resistance is futile! I also keep pausing to dreamily contemplate my setting – one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever sat down to write. I’m sitting at a little mosaic table in the outdoor bar at the top of the Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress in the centre of Malaga (on the southeast coast of Spain). The bar overlooks the city, cathedral and port, and is surrounded by the fabulous rambling Alcazaba walls and a curious mix of vegetation – tall pencil pines, orange trees, palms, and something similar to a willow, which give the gardens an exotic Arab, tropical, and European flavour all at once. It’s all very sun dappled and tranquil – apologies to anyone who happens to be reading this in a claustrophobic office with artificial lighting…

So, olives (I’ve finished them now). That’s my latest excuse for the radio silence. It’s been a while since I last posted. I probably made some kind of disclaimer then too; “excuses excuses, etc”. 2015 has been a bit of a slow year, as far as reportable adventure writing is concerned. Looking back, I wonder how I managed to post so regularly in the past. There were a good couple of years in which I seemed to wonder at, and want to write about, everything – even on quiet weekends at home. I suppose this might have had something to do with living in Segovia at the time. There, daily life was a little more magical than it is now in big city Madrid.

This year has been about knuckling down, attempting to get my finances and future under control (by making ‘sensible’ decisions), studying (for the C2 DELE exam, still waiting on results), training (for a marathon, with ambiguous results), a period of panicked emergency job hunting (a long story), and a time, money, and patience draining visa application process (another long story). Needless to say, I haven’t had many positive or entertaining anecdotes to share and so (rather astutely, I thought) have chosen to remain silent, rather than add to the frightening volume of first world problems complaint literature already swamping the blogosphere. Not that I’m above the occasional whining drivel slipping out… it is so awfully tempting… we’ll see.

Malaga, from the road to Gibralfaro - not taken with an iPhone :-P
 
Anyway, apologies for the lull. Here I am again, chipper and optimistic, Eat Pray Love style on the Mediterranean Coast. Glamorising ‘simple’ pleasures and suddenly finding meaning to my existence. Not that I was previously suffering any kind of existential crisis – my life is trundling in pretty much the direction I’d hoped it would (just a little slower than I’d like). But there were a couple of reasons for this impromptu trip to Malaga. The first being what I’ve now come to recognise as my annual (ok biannual) “I need to see sea” panic. Anyone who grew up in a coastal town or city, but now lives inland, will no doubt understand this.

The second reason being the welcome, but rather unexpected fact that I’m starting my new job much sooner than anticipated, before even finishing up (some of) my other work (I have many works). Meaning uh oh I’d better take a break stat or there won’t be another opportunity until goodness knows when.

aw, thanks Cloe! (but why the goat?)I came to the end of my main job contract (in a government school) at the end of June. I wasn’t sorry to say goodbye to commuting two hours per day, to teach spoilt, spoon fed children (it was a wealthy area), in an institution crippled by corrupt management and the most appalling, restrictive, and poorly written set of text books I’ve ever encountered (the writers must have been high, it’s the only explanation). However, I was sorry to say goodbye to a decent base income, a valid visa, and a relatively easy visa renewal process. I know this makes me sound cynical and materialistic, but I’d be lying if I said I’d formed any special bond with the school during my time there. There was a handful (just a handful) of genuinely lovely and competent teachers, trapped in a system that sadly hampered their potential. It was pretty soul destroying work. As for the children, they can’t be blamed for being spoilt (it’s not their fault their parents buy them tablets when they lose a tooth, or take them to Disneyland for their first communion), and there were of course some fantastic characters among them. Although my natural preference as a teacher is for adult students, part of me is going to miss being with kids; especially their contagious laughter and excitement, the circus spectacle that sometimes made me forget that I was working, and the affection they showed me in the form of hugs (hundreds of hugs! it would be so frowned upon in Australia), disatrous homemade biscuits, random portraits, and cards with astonishingly creative mispellings of my name (Jim, Yian, Llin, Jeams…  far more interesting than the old Jean/Jane confusion I get with Anglos).

July was opened by a long weekend of partying, tourist-ing, and reminiscing with an Aussie friend who was in Madrid. But after she left, the month dissolved into a blur of new and complicated private classes (it’s slim pickings in summer in terms of teaching work), and vain efforts to muster up some kind of creativity during the inconvenient timetable gaps, long commutes, and extreme heat. Mostly I was just trying to stay cool. I’ll take too hot over too cold any day, but even I found this July tough. The thermometer hovered around (often above) 40° for the whole month (it’s even hotter in the south of Spain, but I swear you feel it more in big, sticky cities). Our flat is on the top floor, gets sun at every hour of the day, has no air con, and is right next to a whole lot of busy highways (I’m not sure if the cars are responsible for more heat, or it’s just the idea of them). ‘Heat management’ became time consuming. It involved a lot of cold showers, opening/shutting blinds and windows at specific times, mopping floors with cold water (everything counts), spraying plants, rotating frozen water bottles etc. Despite the lack of sleep, if I wasn’t teaching, I usually chose to forsake the siesta (you can’t siesta in an oven) in favour of going to an air conditioned café (or the library) to write or plan classes. There, with climate control, caffeine, and my tablet (my deskbound laptop kept overheating, I named it the wrist-roaster), I could usually squeeze out a few hours of productivity. After that I’d kill a bit more time by aimlessly wandering supermarkets, to make sure I didn’t get home until the sun had left our building (around 10pm) and we could open all the windows.

And there went July.

My plan for August, as the majority of my private students and all of my friends would be leaving Madrid, was simple: hold tight, don’t spend any money, and write. I was kind of looking forward to the austerity, and a clean, distraction free break in which to get some proper writing underway. I wasn’t sure what the outcome of my visa application would be (it was a complicated case, with a technicality I could easily have been rejected on), and while this was in progress I couldn’t leave the country without a permit. Not that I would have risked travelling, with potential unemployment and expensive life relocation on the horizon. But I was happily resigned to just hang on in there, in limbo, trying to make the most of the time creatively. When I found out the definitive answer in September I’d adapt my plans accordingly.

maybe I could just wait around on rooftops, like this guy
 
However, much to my (and my new employer’s) surprise, my visa was approved almost instantly – well over two months earlier than expected. My first reaction was relief – I have a job, I don’t need to get a last minute peak season ticket to Australia, I know where I’m going to be the next year, and, as I posted on facebook, I can now invest in things like a gym membership, pot plants and tabasco sauce… But in a way it was hard to take the definite news that I’ll be away from home for at least another year, something which isn’t getting any easier. And I was really looking forward to being an August hermit, spending all my time writing (going a bit feral… perhaps developing a tic). Now, everything has changed, and I have to start my new job and be professional, like, immediately. I had my orientation last week, and we have a staff meeting this Sunday evening where I’ll get my timetable for August’s summer intensive courses, starting…Monday. I’m really not psychologically prepared to be starting this soon, but that’s the way it is, and it’s definitely better than the alternative.

So the ‘emergency’ 3 day break to Malaga is more of a symbolic interval rather than a real holiday. I’ve had more than enough extended time off over the past few years – I can, should and will survive a little longer without it this time round.

Thinking.

What was initially intended to be a travel post has again, inevitably ended up another ‘about me’ update. I suppose I should add something more about Malaga, to balance it out a bit.

Here are a some things I learnt/realised during my three days away, and a few travel tips for anyone heading to the Costa del Sol. All cunningly organised into lists, as is now the rage, to give a false sense of readability…

  • On ‘on the road’ entertainment: It’s a good idea to finish the addictive series you’re watching before going on holiday, or at least time it to finish on the bus. Nothing worse than your first night in a new destination, in a hostel with a good vibe and a beautiful terrace bar, when you’re sharing a room with a lovely, chatty German girl who’s just got back from a yoga retreat in the country (that you’d really like to pick her brains about) and she’s travelling solo as well so this would be a good time to make friends… but really, secretly, you’re tired of making friends and just want to watch the season finale of Orange is the New Black, with a mojito, by yourself. But you don’t want to be that antisocial loser glued to their tablet, especially if someone happens to walk by during a scene with unbridled violence or prison sex, it might seem a little weird, even though the acting’s really quality, at least that’s what you’re telling yourself. This is definitely the last time, the last time, you’re getting into a series, especially as you always complain you never have enough time to write or study! Well there’s an easy chunk of hours (you don’t want to know how many but the maths is pretty simple) you could’ve spent on much worthier tasks! (Now, get up off yer bum and go for a walk! there’s a city to see!)
  • On navigation: despite having markedly improved since I left the motherland, my sense of direction is still lamentable. Even when my accomodation was across the street from Picasso’s house, one of Malaga’s most signposted landmarks, I managed to get lost every time I tried to find it.
  • On getting lost: extensive experience in this department has led me to believe that this is by far the best way to explore a city. Malaga’s old town (mostly revamped with swanky shops and great bars) is a joy to wander.
  • On Gelati: At the mature age of 30, I’ve finally come to the sad realisation that my two favourite frozen flavours (pistachio, and mint) are not only incompatible, but their colours clash awfully. This, in some small way, aids my reluctant acceptance of the fact that gelati, no matter how delicious, is something I always end up regretting. The end of an era? I fear so, cruel world!
  • On travelling alone: I’m a big fan of solo travel, but then again my ‘loneliness threshold’ is probably higher than most – in fact it probably puts me on par with all kinds of antisocial freaks. However I am actually quite a social person. When not hooked on the final chapters of a book or series, I’m generally open to conversation with just about anyone, and have no trouble making friends (I’ve started from 0 enough times now). But I like solitude, and I consider the ability to be comfortable in my own presence as a blessing. It must be awful to be one of those needy people who can’t be by themselves. These days, and I think this is due partly to having a job which requires constant social energy and patient conversation, as well as maintaining friendships both in the ‘real world’ (the here and now) and in my ‘other’ life (my ‘real’ life back home) – the “socialness” often gets a bit draining, and I need my alone time regularly. So in Malaga I had one night in a hostel (not to meet people but because it’s what was available when I made my last minute reservations), and then two in a budget ‘hotel’ (I think it was some kind of disused University residence, and the weird thing was that upon arrival I realised that I’d actually stayed there before, years ago when I passed through Malaga on my way from Hinojosa to Morocco). Anyway, I wanted to have my own quiet space to go back to in the evenings (after barely talking to a soul all day as well). That was a mistake. There’s a time and a place for solo travel, but Malaga, in high summer, on a weekend, is not it. The streets are literally overflowing with people enjoying the balmy air and delicious looking food and drink in a myriad of fantastic bars… it’s such a lively city, and going there alone, surprise surprise, can make you feel really lonely.

That’s enough unabashed personal word churning – now for some recommendations:

  • Torremolinos: is the town just outside of Malaga where I stayed on my first ever trip to Spain, about ten years ago, with my friend Bec, who was living abroad at the time. I remember it for great nightlife, chiringuitos (beach bars) pumping music all day long, fantastic walks along the waterfront, and life being so so good. It was surreal to be back there, re-navigating the winding streets, walking past Playa Miguel (our favourite chiringuito), thinking all kinds of profound thoughts about time and friendship and ice cream.
  • I wish I could say this was me!  Other person gliding, NerjaNerja: another beachside town, over an hour’s drive from Malaga but well worth it for the beautiful coves, which were accessible by winding staircases, and had much fresher water and atmosphere than the larger city beaches.
  • The Alcazaba and Gilbralfaro Castle: are both Moorish castle-fortresses, the latter being an extension of the former. Construction of the conjoined fortress complex began in the 10th century, and was continued for a few more hundred years, until Malaga was conquered by the Catholic Monarchs in 1487. The siege of Malaga took four months, and not unusually for that period of history, the local population ended up being forced into capitulation by starvation. What was interesting about this particular conflict is that it’s been credited as the first, in history, in which they made use of dedicated transport for the wounded – that is, ambulances.
    If you decide to visit the fortresses, I recommend you not doing as I did, which was to scale the hill in the midday heat on my last day, after checking out of my accommodation and therefore having no opportunity to shower before the long bus ride home. Instead, aim to get there at either sunrise or sunset, for cooler air and more spectacular views, and also to avoid the likelihood of having to share Gibralfaro’s narrow walkways with hundreds of Italian teenagers on summer camp. They are way too cool for school to step aside.
  • El Vegetariano de la Alcazabilla: a fantastic restaurant, with the best moussaka (meat or vego) I’ve ever had. Really friendly, helpful service, and great location just next to the Alcazaba and the Roman Theatre.
  • Did I mention there was a Roman Theatre? But of course there is, this is Spain! It’s just below the ancient Moorish castle-fortresses, about a 3 minute walk from the super Baroque/Gothic/Renaissance all-in-one (yet curiously unfinished) cathedral, and probably within a stone’s throw of countless other ancient buildings of varying historical significance.
    The theatre is pretty cool, it’s nice to walk by at twilight and spot the napping cats…

And, that’s all. I could add olives to that last list of recommendations, just to bring this round in a full circle, but that would be a little contrived. Besides, I’m not really sure the olives are any better in Malaga than in other parts of Spain, or whether it’s something psychological. I seem to remember thinking they were the best I’d ever tasted in Cordoba, and Jaen… I guess most things are pretty fabulous when you’re on holiday and they’re accompanied by a cold drink after a long walk up a big hill.

As for full circles – if only I could ever write a neatly rounded post in one sitting! I got back from Malaga a few days ago. It’s now Friday evening, and I’ve just finished my first week at the new job.

So? So far so good. Most academies get a bad rap amongst the ex-pat ESL teaching population, but I seem to have landed on my feet with this one. It is more work, more responsibility, and less pay than the Auxiliare program, which I suppose means that I’m an idiot or a masochist or both… but to be honest, and despite my exhaustion, I’m loving it. I now have more autonomy, significantly smaller class sizes, an opportunity for creativity, better materials, training and support, a much shorter commute, and a whole host of other little perks… it really feels like the decision to stay here was a good one, and the time, stress and money invested in making it happen will all be worth it. Here’s hoping!

So, now that I’ve got the beach trip out of the way (that was hard work!), bring on 2015 knuckling down part two!

olives

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Chapter ???

School’s out for this academic year, and I find myself once again in limbo. Whilst the kids have finished exams and are clearly on their long summer break, I’m in a slightly confusing no man’s land between three cities, some random work/life/bureaucratic ‘to-dos’, and a deceptive amount of free time (which sometimes feels like too little, sometimes too much, but mostly just never fully presents itself).

Having 3.5 months school ‘holidays’ is definitely a blessing and a curse. At the moment I’m holding on desperately to a dwindling number of private classes, to see how far I can stretch them in to the summer. Unfortunately not many people have ‘ganas’ to study once the term wraps up and the heat kicks in. But fortunately I do have just enough students to get me through the next few weeks, and whilst these classes get in the way of most other plans, they also break up the day and give me a good reason to keep myself showered and sober :-P

So other than sitting in the sun and staring longingly at frosty beer taps, how else am I planning on filling this idle, gaping, gap in commitments? And what’s on the other side of it?

On the other side of it is Madrid, where I’m due to start work in a primary school next October. I know little about the school, other than that it’s conveniently located just inside the Zone A metro perimeter, the website is pretty, the students look to be suspiciously non-diverse (did they pick out all the blond ones for the photo shoot?), and they’re terrible at responding to emails (which is not surprising). Despite my initial preference being to work in a secondary school, now that I’ve received my placement I’m starting to get pretty excited about teaching kids again, and I’m hoping that infantíl (pre-primary) will be included in the bilingual program. I wouldn’t mind another year of finger painting red apples and yellow bananas with three year olds – I’ve missed the little ones!

But October is a long way away. At the moment I’m hanging tight in Segovia for as long as my private classes continue, whilst sorting out the move to Madrid (find a flat, renew visa, start carting stuff eastward). Other projects include trying to get the sticky blu-tack residue off my walls, finding creative ways to use up all my dry goods and condiments, and filling any other down-time with creative writing (not self-indulgent blog posts). Kayaking with a big group of 14 year olds is also on the cards.

In early July an Australian friend is coming to visit in Segovia and help me polish off all the alcohol, because glass is just too heavy to move house with. (Books are also heavy, if only she could help me quickly read them all!)

Then in mid July, providing I don’t get cold feet/chicken out/acojonarse, I’m setting off on the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage/series of walking routes which start all over Spain and Europe and finish in Santiago de Compostela, in the North West corner of Spain. I’ll be doing the Northern route, starting from Irún and walking some 800km along the coast, via places like San Sebastian and Guernica… hopefully all the way to Santiago, and hopefully at a fast enough pace to make it home in time for my flight to Australia in late August.

Most of September will be spent in Melbourne, where my little brother is getting married, and lots of people are turning 30, and I will be undoing six weeks of wholesome hiking with just over 3 weeks of solid socialising (if my last trip home was anything to go by).

And then it’s back to Madrid for the next chapter (or has that started already?)…and continuing the continuous cycle of constant movement but no real progress in any direction. Perhaps I will take another Spanish exam in November, providing that the trauma of the last one was worth it (still no news).

So, friends, family and random readers, that is the short term plan for the moment. It’s pretty much my long term plan as well, and of course, subject to change. I might experience an epiphany on the Camino and decide to become a nun of the cloister, or swim to Canada, or study economics. Stranger things have happened. But for now, if you are in Melbourne, keep warm, and I look forward to seeing you in August/September.

Everyone else, Madrid is a great meeting place from October onwards!


3 Comments

What merits a post?

Some Sunday arvo navel gazing and a bit of a bitch.

When I first joined facebook years ago, I noticed a change in my thought processes, and sometimes even behaviour. I used to be quite a shy creature (believe it or not), and to begin with, being suddenly propelled into such a voyeuristic and public sphere was more than a little nerve wracking. Of course I could have resisted (I tried to) and just not have signed up, but the lure of social invitations, photos, clubs, competitions, gimmicks, games, and importantly, the sheer convenience and ease of communication, overcame my initial reluctance. You know how it is. And predictably, like many first time users, I was instantly hooked. Particularly with the status updates. It was so much fun, making wacky little sentences (several times a day) and proudly posting them for all to see. Anything from venting frustration at tram drivers, celebrating culinary successes, or making snide remarks about bosses, lecturers or politicians… I just had to publicise my opinion. I thought I was so witty, so bold. Really I was just using my status as a means to express what I would never have had the guts to say out loud in the real world. Or comment on things that had happened to me, but that no one was around to see, and that weren’t exactly dinner party conversation material…such as burning my tongue on hot chocolate, missing a train, or completing a Sudoku… One time I even posted ‘I change my status more often than my underwear’. Sad. But no matter, it was fun.

And still is, I might add.

What I’m getting to is that not long after joining facebook, I literally began to think in terms of status updates. Which often lead to thinking of myself in the third person, ie Tuesday morning status: “Jean is…thinking aloud, about herself in the third person…this is a bit of a worry”. I’m not sure if I was slipping into some kind of narcissistic madness, or it was just normal behaviour for someone of my generation. I couldn’t brush my teeth without wondering if I could somehow sensationalise the experience into a snappy one-liner, which would hopefully have all my friends choking on their breakfast cereal with laughter. Fortunately, over time, the novelty wore off and I stopped thinking in statuses. The here and now of the real world eventually regained priority and perspective.

However, since starting this blog, I’ve noticed the same, slightly obsessive thought process creeping back. For everything I do or see, one of the first things that comes to my head is ‘Can I blog about this?’. I know (well I hope) it’s great writing experience; not just the actual writing up of events after they’ve happened, but the way I’m learning to look and think about things while they are occurring, observing and remembering details. But it’s also a bit stifling. Where do I draw the line? What about my personal life? Should I name names? And do I need to be doing more interesting stuff, just so I can blog about it? (Or less? in case I don’t have time to blog about it?) If I’m serious about documenting my experiences, should I be reviewing every single holiday, day trip, exhibition, and social event that I go to?

If so, I’m falling way behind.

Last weekend I went to La Granja. It’s a mini Versailles, just outside of Segovia. In my opinion it’s more beautiful than the original, and as a little known destination for non-Spanish tourists, it would have been ideal to review in this blog. Off the back of my Autumn post, it’d be perfect to show some photos of royal palace gardens in all their Autumn splendour. But I didn’t take any photos, I didn’t feel like writing, and now, the moment has passed.

Some days I have the opposite problem, and want to write about the most random or everyday things. Not long ago I posted a salad recipe…kinda pushing the boundaries of the alleged ‘travel’ theme of this blog. Nor would it have been any use to my friends at home, who usually just want an honest answer to the question ‘How are you?’. Well I’m fine thanks, and eating a lot of beetroot.

So what does merit a post? Managing to peg out my washing without dropping anything on the ground? Finding a new and worthy tapas bar? Returning my library books on time?

Judging by the blogosphere, anything goes, just get it out there! But by my own criteria for this blog… well it appears I don’t have any. Ideally I’d be writing regularly about weekend escapades all over Europe. But the reality is that life at the moment isn’t much of an adventure. In fact it couldn’t be more routine or less romantic. Mondays to Thursdays are full up with school, private students and Spanish classes. I then spend all day Friday, and much of the weekend, preparing lessons and doing my homework. Like a good girl. Then perhaps I’ll go out, or perhaps I’ll just do some housework  and make a soup. Often the highlight of my day is something like not being rained on, or having dinner ready before 10pm, or finding Viña Albali on special at Mercadona. Hardly what I had in mind when I used to daydream about my amazing European adventure*, all that time ago in Melbourne. I suppose I should have guessed that it wouldn’t all be flamenco and sunbathing, that the bit about the work contract actually meant work. Though it didn’t necessarily mean that we’d be getting paid on time…

So unfortunately, until the departamento misterioso de educación figures out when, how, and if they’re going to give us our dues, life is going to be very mundane and sans adventure for the next long while.

The upside of this rather mediocre existence is that  it’s actually quite comfortable. No adventures equals no trials or tribulations, no map reading disasters, no lugging heavy backpacks, no wild nights out, no hangovers. And on weekends I have more time to relax, read, explore my immediate surroundings, navel gaze… and write awkward posts on nothing in particular…like this one.

:-)

*Although next Tuesday will be pretty exciting – I’ll have enough stamps on my coffee card to get a freebee**. This may well be the highpoint of the week!

**That means coffee and a biscuit and a tapa (which we get to choose). Oh I take back all my frustrations about Spain! Just pay me in tortilla and manchego cheese!


6 Comments

Write here, right now. The “first” post.

This is weird.

Considering I’ve been spamming friends and family with travel reports for years, and writing a regular journal for a decade, it now feels a little odd being prompted by WordPress to get going and write an ‘opening’ post… Surely that moment has long passed! Which means my blog is already a chronologically wrangled, unsalvageable disaster…

So where am I coming from, and why am I bothering to learn all this html/CSS/widget nonsense?

Well…

Roughly this time last year, I packed up all my things, sold some bits n’ pieces, gave away the bulk of my clothes, threw out a whole lot of ‘stuff’, and left Australia on a one-way ticket to Europe. I did a brief (wonderful) scoot around France and Italy, and then made my way to a small and isolated village in the south of Spain, where I would be living and teaching English in a primary school for eight months. That was my starting point. The extended plan was to use Spain as a base to further travel Europe, and then, after magically ‘mastering’ Spanish, I would continue onwards travelling around the globe, goodness knows where, for goodness knows how long. I made no promises about my return date to the folk back home. The reasoning (impulse) behind this indefinite departure was that I wanted total ‘freedom’. Freedom from what, I’m not entirely sure. I simply felt overwhelmed by the urge to be on the road, to find some time, space, ‘inspiration’, and then think of something amazingly clever to do with those things. Sounds a bit wishy washy, and it is.

Needless to say, since leaving Australia I haven’t had any epiphanies, or even come near to being fluent in Spanish. I’ve realised I have no real desire to truly ‘break away’ from where I’ve come from, and just how lucky I am to have a place in the world that will be a pleasure to go back to, when the time comes. Meanwhile, I haven’t tired of travelling (not even close!), I am making headway with Spanish (slow and steady), and teaching English is the most gratifying work I’ve ever done. I’ve signed on for another school year (in a different part of Spain), there’s still an awful lot of Europe left to see, and after that I’ve got my sights set on a couple of other continents… so for the foreseeable, ‘day-dreamable’ future, my initial ‘plan’ hasn’t altered much at all.

As for the dismal, ever-pending onset of creativity, well my most recent excuse is that it got waylaid by an irresistible tide of Spanish hospitality. Guilty as charged. I also got sidetracked by lesson planning, taking on too many private students, fretting over Spanish verb conjugations, and running up and down a hill (to work off all the churros and chorizo). Either that or I was travelling. But somehow, I always found time write in my journal, and maintain a detailed correspondence with people at home. To be honest, waay too much time. My travel emails have grown to excessive lengths; impossible for my very busy and mostly office-bound friends to read in their tea breaks, without violating codes of responsible internet time usage. And my journal makes my emails look like haikus.

So in regards to time usage – mine clearly merits scrutiny. It’s hit me that I do a lot of writing, without doing any actual proper ‘writing’. I’ve never struggled to fill a blank page… but how and what I fill it with, is something I want to improve upon.

Which is why I’ve decided to start this blog, against all warning that it will be a very dangerous source of procrastination. I’m never going to stop telling my travel stories, because I can’t, but I can aim to make them more concise, and present them in a more attractive format. I’m also hoping that having an ‘online showcase’ will spur me on to more ambitious projects, other than only writing about myself. For those of you who are kind enough to ‘follow’ me, I’ll be adding some photos, links, articles, sketches and snippets… whatever I can find to make things interesting, and as far as possible from a narcissistic online diary (even if that’s what it is).

If I’m feeling particularly brave, I’ll publish my attempts to write in Spanish, for anyone who knows the language and feels like a laugh. Even if you’re just learning, go on and have a read… my vocabulary won’t be nearly as daunting as that of a native speaker. But keep in mind that I’ve still got my training wheels on, so if you’re looking for examples of perfect Spanish grammar, look elsewhere! And I should probably make a similar disclaimer about my English. (there it is again, the ‘and’ at the start of a sentence!)

So… that’s it really. Oh I forgot to say ‘welcome’. That’s an important part of any opening post. Well, welcome! Have a look around. If you’re curious about the name ‘ciento volando’, check out the ‘about’ page. If you’d like to read my past travels (perhaps whilst planning yours), I’ve uploaded some old emails and backdated them… hopefully this isn’t a major breach of blogging etiquette/regulation. I promise I won’t fiddle with any more dates. (But that’s no fun! Perhaps I’ll write the next entry from the future…)

I digress. Old posts/emails can be found in the archives on the right. They aren’t nearly as dusty as real archives, how ’bout that?!

It appears that at  circa 1,000 words I go all stupid. Which is why in I must endeavour to write shorter posts.

Anyway, thank you for reading this far, and I hope you’ll stick around. Please feel welcome to leave me feedback, criticism, ‘likes’, ‘dislikes’, ‘hahahas’, ‘jajajas’, or even just a nice old ‘hello’ from time to time.

jean