Tag Archives: coffee

reflections on reírse

Sunday morning of a three-day weekend, and on my second cup of coffee.  In the background, a tango music program on Radio 3 (the Spanish equivalent of NPR and WNRN all in one).  Mentally looking ahead at the week and it includes midterms, midterms, cramming, caffeine, midterms, and then hopefully a weekend jaunt to Barcelona.

But now for a glance backwards at the past few days:

T. came to visit from Lyon, France, after many months of us attempting to travel together but never succeeding in it (why?, you ask?).  Showed him as much as I could between classes, English tutoring with the niño, applying for various post-grad jobs in Spain, pilates classes (a few of my normal weekly activities).  In reality, we mostly just ate well and café hopped, comparing and contrasting our study abroad experiences.

What stood out to me about his time in Valencia was that he does not speak Spanish (not 100% true; he did a great job ordering his meals and thanking people, and even spent days solo in Barcelona, and survived!), and therefore I would have to take a minute and translate for him when necessary.  Interesting to me because he was my first true non-Spanish speaker to visit me (Mom don’t even deny it, you speak de puta madre, as M. says), and it showed me how integrated this language has become to me.  When I hear it spoken, or when it’s spoken at me, I’m no longer mentally translating, finding the English equivalent, constructing my own response two minutes before I have to give it.  Spanish and English now seamlessly glide back and forth in my brain, living in [almost] perfect harmony.  I think this is called bilingualism?

Another pleasant product of his visit was the pain in my side from laughing so hard.  Whether caused by K.’s flawless impersonations and performances of classic YouTube videos or T.’s own inability to extract a snail from its shell during a lunch of paella valenciana, I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in the past three months.

Also humorous (only in retrospect) was my bus ride Friday afternoon, which I was [un]fortunate enough to experience all my own, with only my [quasi-defunct] iPod to keep me company.  After dropping T. off at his hostel, I decided to be productive, break a €50, and recharge my bus pass.  After having done so,

I hopped on the first number 10 bus I saw, knowing I was getting on at one of the stops at which I usually get off (meaning it was going in the opposite direction of home), thinking (completely irrationally) that riding it for the full circuit would only delay my return home (which I was greatly looking forward to, as it included a siesta) by less than thirty minutes.  A circuit, implying a circular trajectory, it is not. Instead, route 10 is an enormous line extending from my neighborhood to the southern outskirts of Valencia (specifically, ending at the tanatorio municipal of Valencia) crossing a major highway before returning in the opposite direction towards my house (which at this point is now 45 minutes away).

bus route 10

I think the worst part was the realization that, at every stop we made, moving farther and farther from my ultimate goal, the corresponding number 10 bus was on the opposite side of the very narrow suburban road, meaning once the line was finished (and after a five minute break for the driver) we’d be repeating the route, making the same number (a bajillion, to be exact) of stops before I saw my house again.  Thinking of my mother, and already plotting how I’d describe this adventure in the blog, I had a brief moment of laughter, especially in light of the fact that the correct place to have gotten on the bus, at the very beginning of the whole ordeal, was literally one block away.  It was my laziness and exhaustion (the same things that were making that nap so enticing) that lead me to take the wrong bus; I was the only one to blame here.  The irony (is it actually ironic, or some other form of humor?) was just too much.

(SEE MOM! I am capable of laughing at myself.)

And with that, the weekend comes to a close, leaving me with only the prospects of a paella lunch in thirty minutes, and a day of empollada (cramming) for the various exams and papers that await me this week.  But if I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times over: no pasa nada.

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Filed under schmoozing, spring semester, travel, Valencia

how do you like your leche?

This morning over my coffee I decided I could no longer put off documenting the café con leche experience that has now become so integrated into my life here.  Not only do I ponder it as I make it, it is the first thing I think about in the morning, as I trudge to the bathroom and wash my face (the only activity that gets done before the coffee gets made; everything else can wait), and it’s safe to say that for at least 10 minutes of my 90 minute classes my thoughts are on whether I need another cup, from which cafetería it’s going to come from (I have conducted my own taste test in the barrio as to who serves the best cup ‘o joe) and how much I’m looking forward to the extra energy.

If you had forgotten: caffeine is a drug.

So what follows are my personal notes/thoughts/observations on the coffee culture here, to give you a sense of how integral it is not just to this cracked-out caffeine fiend, but to the Spanish people in general:

-the drink: café con leche (literally: coffee with milk).

  • This should actually read: leche con azucar, con una gotita de café (sugary milk with a drop of coffee).  When I came to this country I was downing daily a triple-shot, iced americano with a dash of skim milk and sweet’n’low. Pretty much as high octane as you can get, as far as coffee orders go.  But the Spaniards serve their coffee (which is actually all espresso) with more milk than anything else, not only brining the temperature of the drink down to what can be best described as “tepid” but lending it a taupe tint that indicates that the coffee is really playing a secondary role.  I even have friends who go as far as calling it their morning leche, which only further proves my point: the Spanish like their coffee weak.

– the acoutrements: magdalenas [SEE POST: huerto-day, gone tomorrow], pan todada, ensamaidas (in short: carbs).

  • This is not an inherently Spanish practice, I’ll admit, but I have a feeling (or maybe I’m the only one analytical enough to care) that your choice of bread product to accompany the morning café does indicate something about your character.  M., for example, likes his leche with 3+ magdalenas straight from their plastic wrap, claiming that this is one of his favorite moments of the day.  I will give him this, the burnt sugar on top is not only surprising for store-bought muffins, but also super yummy. P. prefers her morning cup with pan tostada, drizzling it expertly with fresh olive oil, nixing the optional dash of salt.  In a rare showing of patriotism, I have taken to a bowl of oatmeal with my coffee, though I must say I do this only so as not to be starving in all of my morning classes. It doesn’t actually do the trick.

-the locale: cafeterías, bares, hornos, en casa.

  • I think by now I have frequented every type of establishment that offers the stuff.  Except for the last one (en casa = at home, which for me has included the seat in front of my computer, M.’s balcony looking out onto his building’s courtyard, in front of the fire at R.’s country house, on S.’s couch in Barcelona), every one of these places is sure to be filled with smoke, and is sure to not open until after 9:30/10 in the morning.  What I love though is how ubiquitous the espresso machine is in Spain, allowing for the wide variety of places to get your daily dose.  It could be that smoky bar around the corner, where old men chuckle and grunt from the bar, pulling on their twelfth cigarette of the day, drinking a beer and munching a big sandwich; or that female-run horno (oven, aka: bakery) right by school, where standing up facing the window, you can take in the panorama of Avinguda Blasco Ibañez as the professors and students hustle past on the way to the university; and let’s not forget Luna Luna, where students bask in the all-white decor, gossiping and glaring, talking about last night’s party or this weekend’s soccer game.

And although I wax sentimental, the point remains the same: coffee is not something to be taken lightly, here.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  And seeing as how it is now pushing 2:30 on a rainy afternoon, it seems like the perfect time for cup number 2.

[shout out to Tyler for the awesome photo!]

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Filed under spring semester, travel