Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Broken Arm

The Junta changed our health insurance company from Sanitas to Asisas with the new school year. Happily, I haven’t had any reason to try out the new health plan…not until last week, that is. I managed to fall and break my left wrist. A Colles fracture of the radius, for those who know about such things.

The incident occurred during my first game of padel, sort of a combination of tennis and racketball. The padel itself looks like the result of an unholy union between a tennis racket, a ping-pong paddle, and the vice-principal’s dreaded “Board of Education” back in junior high school. I brilliantly snagged my foot on the bottom of the net and fell in the perfect manner to maximize the damage. My friend José drove me to the hospital, and Franci came over on his motorcycle to see what was going on. Our wives were all visiting at Esther and Franci’s, doubtlessly giggling about us silly men. The doctor (Doctora Consuelo, which can translate as “comfort”…love the name) had to set the bone in a highly disagreeable procedure that I’d recommend avoiding if possible. I’m now sporting a lovely cast.

My friends agreed that we needed a more dignified story to post on the web page for the padel group. The official story, therefore, is that I was on my way to the padel court when I noticed a shoe falling from above. Looking up, I saw a small child hanging from a third-floor balcony, in imminent danger of falling. With no thought for my own safety, I shoved a moving car out of the way and leaped several meters to catch the child as he plunged toward the cobblestoned street. Despite having broken my wrist while diverting the car, I was able to save the child from what would have doubtlessly been a fatal impact. The full story, along with this picture, was posted on the web page.

Some of you will remember Bob the octopus, who I use in the children’s classes. Bob suffered an unfortunate accident around the same time…the kids filled me in on the details. Bob was playing with his friend Popo the crab near the beach, when he saw that Popo was in danger from a giant wave. He pulled Popo to safety, unfortunately trapping one of his arms beneath a rock. The grateful Popo took Bob to the Under-the-Sea hospital, where he was fitted with a cast. Happily, he has enough remaining arms that he doesn’t expect to be inconvenienced at all. His friends have been amusing themselves by autographing the cast (using waterproof markers, of course).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


This was not the most interesting hike I’ve done with Llega Como Puedas; much of the walk was along flat, straight, and dusty roads. Still, there were some pretty views. I found the pueblo of Fuencaliente particularly appealing. See the pictures at:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pronunciation Snafus

For Spanish speakers, pronunciation of English words can be very difficult. The Spanish language has only five vowel sounds, and the English language has no less than fourteen. To them, the words “red”, “rid”, and “read” sound nearly identical. This can lead to some amusing misunderstandings.

The other day in class, I was explaining the word “guy.” I pointed out that a guy could be any male, saying, “For instance, Pepe over there is a guy.” Pepe looked startled and said, “No, I’m not!” Yes, you guessed it. He thought I’d said “gay.”

Thursday, November 5, 2009


The perol (pronounced pey-ROL) is a fine Córdoban tradition. Not a Spanish tradition, and not an Andalucían tradition, but a Córdoban tradition. You probably won’t find it in your Spanish-English dictionary. In my old dictionary with all of the older, little-used words, I find the definition “Metallic container in the form of a half-sphere.” In Córdoba, however, the perol is an all-day picnic out in the country. It has all kinds of eatables and drinkables, but it always involves a big pot of Córdoba rice. This is not paella, as our friends always hasten to inform us. A paella is cooked in an oven, but the Córdoba rice is cooked over a fire. In the old days it would have been an open campfire; nowadays there is generally a stove available somewhere. It’s enough of a custom that there are businesses that do paid perols for the tourists. Proper Córdobans turn up their noses; doing a perol with a paid staff is missing the point. Whatever else you can say, it’s a fine way to spend a day in the country.

The occasion for Sunday’s perol was a fortieth-birthday celebration for our friend Franci. His wife Esther had been planning this for some time. It was to be a surprise, but it’s a bit difficult to do a surprise perol, since you have to get the birthday boy out to the country. Also, Esther wanted to make sure that we could go under cover in case of rain, always a possibility at this time of year. When I asked her how many people would be there, she said, “Oh, eighty or a hundred.” Wow. We must remember that Franci has six brothers (I think). Counting wives and kids and Esther’s family and all of the friends, the numbers add up pretty quickly. We ended up at an ermita, a church building very similar to the one we saw at the Pozoblanco romería last spring. It’s the home of some hermandad. Esther’s uncle had been an important church official in Córdoba. Although he’s now retired, he still had enough clout to get us access to the building.

The building was very cozy, lined with heavy wooden tables and with a big fireplace. The walls were covered with photographs of romerías and festivals and weddings going back to the 1930’s. It had a nice, big, old-fashioned kitchen and an ample tree-covered yard. Happily, the weather was nice, so we were able to do all the serious business of eating outside. The event had a level of organization that I hadn’t expected. They had brought rags and big water tubs to wash the outside chairs and tables. There were appropriate bathroom supplies so that we wouldn’t have to take advantage of the church stocks. Everybody brought a dish to share, as well as the characteristic big, round paella pans.

Eventually, Franci showed up. The cover story was that a friend had taken him out motorcycling, and was responsible for getting him to the ermita. Franci was appropriately surprised. As I heard later, he’d expected that something was going on, but didn’t realize how big a crowd would be there. He’d been giving Esther a bad time, saying that he wanted to do something for his birthday. She’s been putting him off, saying that everyone was going to be out of town that weekend, and that they’d do something the following weekend. Although it was his birthday, of course he had to lead the preparation of the Córdoba rice. That’s his traditional job.

After everyone had their rice, we took a stroll with a number of people. It was just getting to twilight, and had cooled down a bit from the afternoon heat. Unfortunately, I was so full that it was a bit uncomfortable. No matter how much I try to pace myself at these sorts of events, I always end up eating too much. When we returned, there were the obligatory desserts. Tonya’s apple pies were a big hit.

As if responding to some unspoken signal, everyone began stacking the chairs and tables shortly afterward. We ended up getting home around 8:00. That was kind of nice; usually, when we go out on something like this, we have to be mentally prepared to be out until the wee hours of the morning. Spanish social events are not for the weak.