Death by Oranges

If you are Canadian, do you remember how special mandarin oranges were at Christmas?  When I was a kid in Prince George imported oranges were an exotic treat.  We knew Christmas was around the corner when the cardboard boxes, full of individually wrapped mandarins, arrived from China.  The crinkle of the tissue paper.  The novelty of an easy-peel orange.  Oranges were expensive in northern grocery stores 40 years ago.


Fast forward to my new life in southern Spain and fresh local oranges can be had for forty cents a kilo!  That’s 18 euro cents a pound! (OK, if you exchange to Canadian dollars it doesn’t sound so cheap.  But still, 25 cents a pound, 57 cents a kilo.)

I could just buy myself 10 kilos and juice away for a week, but that is no fun. Instead  I find friends to share the bounty with and we get a bulk delivery to my house.  So how many oranges did I order last week?

100 kilograms!

That is a beautifully monsterous pile of oranges.  I don’t really need 100 kilos, nor do I need to organize my neighbours’ produce purchases.  But I did it just for the sheer joy of seeing all that vitamin C piled up on my patio.  You might be surprised to learn that 100 kilograms of juicy, sweet oranges easily fit into a Ford Fiesta.  Juice dense oranges are a concentrated use of space.

So, you poor northern slobs, with your ridiculously priced food trucked in from California.  I will eat an orange for you. Maybe 3.  My little electric juicer will sing its song for you as it pumps out yet another glass.    I’ll even buy another 100 kilos of oranges to share with you when you visit me.  Cost to me, 40 euros.  Cost for your plane ticket, 1000 euros.  See you soon!

Redefining Bull Fighting

Bull fighting is controversial.  It is deeply respected tradition in Spain, not to mention a money spinner.   But killing animals for sport is bloody, cruel and seen as barbaric in these times.

There is hope.  I think these freaks just nailed the future of bullfighting.   And a new generation of tumble-tot classes in Spain surely will help rebuild the economy.

Jump ahead to 0:39 seconds to get to the good stuff.




Pave paradise, put up a parking lot

Valdavaqueros beach, in Tarifa’s backyard, is one of southern Europe’s last undeveloped beaches.  It’s crucial bird habitat for many species that launch their migrations to Africa from Europe’s shores.  It’s a paradise.

And now some rich moron wants to fill it full of hotel rooms and houses.

Spain has more unsold housing than the United States, although it has only 10 percent of the population.  Much of Spain’s economic woes are warped around the housing bubble, construction fraud and mortgage debt.

Some politicians, bankers and builders continue to sing the same old song; that construction is the solution to Spain’s problem.  Maybe creating a few short-term jobs will get them re-elected.   But destroying paradise won’t save the economy. Just as leaving one last little happy place won’t kill it.  The same politicians, bankers and builders who paved over the Costa Del Sol have already done that.

This article in English sums up the political scene.

If you haven’t yet signed this petition, (yes it’s in English) please do so.

And you can follow the folly in Spanish on the “Save Valdavaqueros” Facebook page.

Locked in the trunk of a car in Tragically Hip Tarifa.

I’m a bad blogger.  I’ve been slacking.  Actually, it’s been a sick baby and travel preparations consuming my computer time.  We are making the epic journey to Canada next week and there are a million things I must do.

Like spend the weekend at the beach.

Everyone else felt the same.  This was the crowd around 2:00pm.  But when we got there are 10:00 we were the only ones in the parking lot.  Well, the only ones who arrived in the morning.  There was still a minor dance party left over from the night before.

It was already hot by the time we had our camp set up.   Rogelio glanced over at the parking lot and said, “Why are there men with axes circling our car?”

I thought that was a good question too.  Then we noticed the fire truck and two police cars.

Turns out that the car beside us was home to passed-out guy.  The story goes that he woke to find himself locked in a strange car, in an undetermined location and unable to get out.  Luckily he had more cell coverage than brain cells.  He called the police who located him and bashed in the windshield before he roasted to death.

Don’t ask me why he couldn’t just open the door.  It was Rogelio who ran over to see why axes were swinging near our windshield.

“What!  Firemen, drunk guys and kiddie locks on all 4 doors!  And you didn’t take pictures for your wife?”  Sheeesh! 

Next time we have that much excitement in a parking lot I’ll go get the story.  He can hold down the fort.

I mean, what could go wrong?  He has everything under control here.


Bust out the polka dots

It’s feria in Algeciras!  Feria is our week-long festival and its a doozy.  The neighbours are dressed in their finery and off to the party.  I’m on the loosing end of a potty training showdown.  Until we can find enough clean underwear to get to the feria ourselves, a few token images will have to suffice.

Every year it starts with a big parade.

Then everyone heads down to the casetas for food and drink.

Must haves:  ruffles, polka dots and a flower on top of the head.

Of course horses are the preferred form of transportation.

Especially if your car has been torched.

Just like home sweet home, hey Vancouver?

Constable Fraser: RCMP man doll

Having a pack rat for a mother-in-law has its benefits.

Most of Yago’s toys are Rogelio’s treasures from 40 years old.  Rotting boxes from the depths of her garage yield new play things for Yago and old memories for Rogelio.

You should have seen the reaction when Abuela unearthed this:

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police man-doll!  He has snowshoes, a radio, rifle, and is accompanied by his faithful German Shepard.

Apparently, RCMP-man was Rogelio’s favorite playmate before he moved onto the Sinclair Spectrum 48 computer.  It’s been quite a reunion for them.  Yago didn’t give RCMP-man a second look,  but Rogelio has been playing with him non-stop for two days.  Rogelio and the RCMP go way back.

Then he married a Canadian.  Named Fraser.  Hmmmm.

I think Rogelio watched a little too much Benton Fraser on Due South back in the day.

Rock a bye-bye baby.

“Way to go team!  Great bike ride!”

“Holy bursting breast milk, Betty.  I have a funny feeling we have forgotten something.”

“Head count.  Two on the bike,  one taking photos.  Damn.  We’re short a small, gassy one.”

“Río?  Has anyone seen Río?  He can’t even roll over yet, never mind wander off.  I must have left him somewhere. ”

“There he is.   That blue bundle amongst the pine needles is our bundle of joy.”

“Doesn’t look like he missed us.  Apparently he was overcome with sleep while cheering on the bikers.”

Oh, what would my neighbours say if they knew that I wrapped our abandoned, mistreated, sleeping baby in a coat and left him on the forest floor while I wandered about with the camera.  Worse yet, the coat clashes with his PJs.

Shame, shame.

What’s in a name?

As I mentioned in my last post, this blog is supposed to be about Spain, or a Canadian in Spain, or a foreign Mom taking pictures of her kid in Spain, or something like that.

The problem is, now I don’t live in Spain.  I live in a parallel universe with more laundry.  I gain tidbits of info about your universe via Facebook.   But I will spare you the details of my newborn focussed micro-world.

However, as friends of mine suggested (second children themselves) we could do worse than take too many photos of Río.  Hell, I’ve exploited the bejesus out of Yago, I might as well subject Río to the same in the name of equality.

Besides, if we don’t get out to capture some visuals of Spain, we  can at least discuss some of the finer points of the culture.

Like, what’s in a name.

Río José Santos Fraser. Quite a handle, isn’t it.

Two accents, no hyphen.   So when the kid has to fill out his tax forms, what boxes does he put all that in?

Río is his first name.  Although the Spanish word for River, Rio is not a Spanish name.  In other words, everyone thinks we are nutcases for naming him after a water course.  So, I tell them it is a very common Canadian name.  They accept that.  And since I can’t roll the R, I can now tell everyone here, “No, it is a Canadian name, which means it is all 46 million of you Spanish people who pronounce it wrong.” And I get my hippy nature name.  Check.

José.  Second name.  As in, the one that usually has to do with distant relatives and that kids get teased about.  Rogelio’s second name is José and there are countless branches on the family tree to credit.  Required traditional family name.  Check.

Santos Fraser.  Here is where it gets fun.  In Spain, everyone has two last names.  The first from their father, the second from their mother.  For women especially, it’s a great system.  No big debate about whether or not to change your name if you get married.  No worries about kids with different last names from unmarried parents.  Nobody here has the same name as their kids.

For example, Rogelio’s Dad’s last names are Santos Franco.  His mother’s last names are Marquez Caro.  So, Rogelio’s last names are Santos Marquez.

Yago and Río take the Santos from Rogelio and Fraser from me to become Santos Fraser.

And I spend a lot of time explaining to bored Spanish bureaucrats that I only have one last name, but they can call me Fraser Fraser if it makes their lives easier.  I’m sure Canadian bureaucrats will add hyphens and subtract accents willy-nilly to appease their forms and boxes.

You just can’t put the Santos Fraser family in a box.  Check.

Introducing, Cola Cao

For those of you in Spain, this needs no introduction.

For the rest of the world:  Meet Spain’s breakfast of Champions,  Cola Cao.

The ingredient list reads:

  • sugar
  • cocoa powder
  • wheat flour
  • malt extracts
  • added flavours
  • salt

In other words, it is cheap chocolate milk with flour for filler.  My father-in-law says, “It’s healthy!  It’s cereal!”

There are three generations of Spaniards convinced that this is the perfect breakfast food.  I have watched in utter horror as Rogelio’s aunt force-fed her grandson chocolate milk because “The damn kid refuses to eat anything healthy.”  She is off the hook for babysitting my kids.

Spain has the worst childhood obesity rates in Europe and although they haven’t yet reached American levels, they are working hard to catch up.  I have also seen mothers force feeding their children French pastries in the park.

Strange.  My common sense suggests that if your kid isn’t interested in chocolate milk and pastries, he probably isn’t hungry.  Call me crazy…

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate and am a choco-holic from way back.  I am in no way qualified to judge people’s eating habits.  But just like with alcoholics, there are levels.  It is one thing to indulge in a few too many scotches after dinner.  It is another thing to do it for breakfast and then expound the health benefits.  A good single malt is arguably more cereal-like than chocolate milk and after watching a force feeding incident, infinitely more appealing.

My neighbour invited me to a lecture about childhood nutrition.  I was assuming a discussion about vitamins, healthy recipes, meal planning etc.  Youth nutrition in Spain means “how to train your kids to eat when they don’t want to”.  The system suggested was to make them sit in front of the plate for ten minute intervals and then send them to their room for ten minute intervals until they “Drink the chocolate milk, damn it.”

Rogelio is one of the converted.  He drinks warm milk with Cola Cao before work every day.  He thinks that soon he and Yago will be doing morning male-bonding over their chocolate milk breakfast of Champions.

“Come on Mom, let me have some Cola Cao.  It’s just cereal!”