Important Notice

Special captions are available for the humor-impaired.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Iniesta Goal from 2010 Wolrd Cup (high quality video)

I will never get tired of watching this brilliant goal that won the World Cup in 2010 for Spain. Enjoy this video while you can because it will probably be take down soon because if copyright issues. The quality is as superb as the play on the pitch. A great moment in Spanish football and something I will ever forget. OK, it would be difficult for me to forget it because I lived in Spain during the Cup and watched every game. I also have this video on my desktop and I watch it almost every day.

Monday, November 28, 2011

¿Arroz en la noche? (Rice for dinner?)

I think that I have worked very assiduously to integrate myself into Spanish life. I study the language like a conscientious undergrad. Spanish cooking comes naturally to me and I probably eat less American food than the average Spaniard. Football to me is fútbol and not the game with pads and helmets.  Despite all of my efforts to fit in, I just can’t get used to the Spanish dinner hours and their rather rigid notion of what one eats and doesn’t eat at a certain hour of the day. The biggest problem I have is the local prohibition of eating rice for dinner.

¿Arroz en la noche? “Rice for dinner?” I remember the first time someone asked me about this after telling them that I was making a risotto for dinner. For Valencianos eating rice for dinner rates right up there with rat poison. Rice is a midday meal for them, period.  If you went to a restaurant and ordered paella for dinner I think they would first laugh at you and then escort you brusquely from the premises while warning you never to return.

The Spanish eat their big meals in the afternoon.  They feel that eating a big meal in the evening is basically just asking for trouble; trouble in the form of weight gain, disturbed sleep, gout, rickets, and possibly erectile dysfunction.  You name it and eating big in the evening causes it.  From everything that I have read about nutrition there is absolutely basis for this belief because the body is basically on a 24 hour schedule and what matter is the total caloric intake during the day and not when they are consumed.  I understand that it is the tradition to eat a big afternoon meal basically everywhere in the Mediterranean basin. I respect tradition but this doesn’t mean that the tradition is based on science.

Even after all this time here in Spain I would much prefer to eat a being meal in the evening. And it’s not like Spanish people don’t eat big meals late in the evening. It’s rare to see anyone in a restaurant before 10:00 pm and it’s not like people only eat carrots and celery when they go out at night. Someone who admonishes you for eating rice at night will think nothing of eating a prodigious amount of bread with a salad for dinner. Potato dishes are quite popular for dinner as well as other recipes steeped in carbohydrates.

If I am going to eat a big meal I like to have a bit of wine with it. Having even a single glass of wine at lunch just wipes me out for the rest of the day. I can drink wine at lunch on Sundays when I have nothing to do the rest of the day put the rest of the week this just isn’t the case.  I will often eat rice for dinner (only if there are no Spanish people around to witness this heinous crime). I sleep like a baby after these meals.  You can read all about it in my upcoming book, Eat Rice at Night and Live to Tell about It!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Chinese Community in Spain

There’s a corner café near my house staffed by an older Chinese couple who work every day, all day, from about seven in the morning until ten or eleven at night. I have lived in this neighborhood for four years and they have never had a vacation unless their vacation coincided with one of my many holidays. I doubt this is the case because I have never been by this place when they weren’t working. The woman—who appears to be somewhere between 40 and 60—is about half bat-shit crazy from spending so much time locked up in her concentration camp disguised as a corner café with a pleasant terrace. This couple isn’t any sort of an exception as the absolute minimum work week for Chinese people here is six days a week. My question is this: who is forcing these people to literally work themselves to death (the woman doesn’t look good at all)?

There is no way that any person would work this much of their own volition. I just don’t fucking believe that. What I believe is that the Chinese hierarchy here in Valencia is making these people work. It is impossible not to notice the enormous wave of Chinese immigrants here in Spain, even in some of the smallest villages. They generally work in little variety stores that sell products, most of which are manufactured in China. In the last couple of years, at least here in Valencia, the Chinese community has been buying up bars and restaurants at an alarming pace which certainly isn’t news to anyone who lives here. The Chinese community seems to be completely apart from the rest of Spanish society.  Labor, health, security, and other laws don’t seem to affect them in the least.

I have said this before and I stand firmly behind this statement: the Chinese in Spain are not immigrants at all; they are economic colonists sent here by the Chinese government to sell Chinese manufactured goods and to earn hard currency for the Chinese mainland.  Think about it. If you are Chinese you can’t go to your local government and say, “You know, I think that I’d like to leave this shithole of a country and go live in Spain. Is that OK with you guys?” I doubt if an average slob can even get a passport in Spain let alone emigrate on his own accord. Therefore these “immigrants” are sent to Spain and that begs the question “Why?” I think that I answered that question in the first sentence of this paragraph.

Most of the Spanish people that I have talked to have very ambivalent feelings about the Chinese. On the one hand the Chinese cause no trouble and keep to themselves. And of course they work hard, not the most admirable trait as far as the holiday-loving Spanish are concerned. On the other hand the Chinese do not participate in any way in the quotidian life of this country other than performing their assigned tasks within their own community. Last year I was with a group of friends downtown for a fireworks display during Fallas, Valencia’s biggest and most important festival (in a country where it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of festivals). There were perhaps 120,000 people crowded into the main square. I challenged my friends to point out a single Chinese person in the crowd. Not one. Every other immigrant group was represented that day, South Americans of every stripe, black Africans, and even a few Pakistanis, but no Chinese. I have never seen a Chinese family at the beach. It’s rare to even see a Chinese person sitting in a café.

In my years here in Spain I have read only one or two articles about the Chinese community in the newspapers—and I read at least two Spanish papers every day(OK, I admit that perhaps I spent too much time in cafés).  No one seems to know anything about them or how their community functions.  I should point out that anything I put forth in this essay is purely speculation and strictly anecdotal.  From what people have told me there are very few Chinese students enrolled in the local universities and the few that you do see may very well be adopted children of Spanish families (about 100% of whom are girls—another story for another essay).  I would wager that the Chinese government does not want the children of “immigrants” to attend Spanish universities to pursue careers in this country. Their job is to continue working for the Chinese mainland, selling Chinese merchandise and earning money which is mostly sent back home.

The brilliant Canadian economist and polymath, John Ralston Saul has stated that China doesn’t believe in globalization. They aren’t interested in free trade; they only care about selling their products around the world. Spain’s Chinese population certainly backs this point.

P.S. Myth Busters: The Chinese in Spain Never Die

This is one of the first urban myths I learned upon arriving in Spain. Many people have told me that the Chinese immigrants in Spain never have funerals and that there are no Chinese cemeteries. I’ve heard a lot of bad jokes about how you should be careful about eating in a Chinese restaurant because you don’t know where the meat comes from. The whole idea seemed rather silly to me and not really important enough to give much thought to it. I doubted that the Chinese passed on their documents to others when they passed away and their bodies were unceremoniously discarded in unmarked graves or tossed in the sea as legend has it.

In Roberto Saviano’s book, Gomorra about the Mafia in Naples, Italy he addresses this issue in the first chapter. He describes a scene at the port of Naples in which a container breaks open and dumps a load of frozen Chinese corpses on the wharf. Evidently, the Chinese pay to have their bodies shipped back to China when they die so that they can be buried in their native land. The expense of the shipment is sometimes deducted from their pay. Anyway, that makes more sense than the urban myth version.