Archive for the ‘oranges’ tag

Oranges, dogs and football.

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I haven’t written for a while, and that’s because nothing has really happened apart from the exams.  Now I am back to normal, still not much has happened.  I went to Tarragona and got rained on (but it was good fun nevertheless) and that’s about it.

I’m outraged at the stripping of the trees that line the streets of their oranges.  (In reality, they were starting to rot and make a mess on the pavement, so it’s for the best.)  No longer can I stand on my balcony, coffee in hand and gaze at the bright orange blobs dotted in the dark green foliage.  On the other hand, I am excited about the appearance and resulting perfume of orange blossom whenever that should arrive.

This morning I walked passed the world’s gayest scene.  As I wandered down the street, I glanced in a hairdresser’s to see (1) a super-camp looking hairdresser guy with super-camp hair and (2) matching tiny palm-sized dog, sitting on the side by where he was working, dressed in very similar attire to its owner and with identical hair.  How cruel to give a dog that gay choppy-hair look.  At least the highlights were natural.

Tonight is the England vs. Spain friendly.  For one day only I’ve developed an interest in the sport.  EEENGEERLAAAAND! (etc.)

Written by Benjamin

February 11th, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Posted in Erasmus, Valencia

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Exams and Public Paella

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This time I write to you not from an airport departures lounge, but from the middle of the first examination season here.  Revision time, like the departures lounge, is one of those points in life that no-one likes to be.  One is here, waiting for the next step (flight or exam) whilst trying to find something to do, whether that be ruffling through notes or browsing duty-free (despite being on an intra-EU flight).  I wouldn’t go so far as to say revision time is killing time (ha! I’d like to say it were), but it’s definitely a limbo of ill-ease.

Each time I find myself facing exams, I notice certain characteristics of my approach.  Procrastination has become refined; it’s no longer a random process of finding a distraction, I now mentally select what I will do to break the revision.  Here in Valencia, that involves going for a walk to the greengrocer’s (fruit is healthy! It’ll help in the long run…) or making tea in the microwave (kettles aren’t usual items here, at least no-one seems to have one) amongst other things.   Another choice of course is writing, which when you’ve been scribbling sums for hours is a blessed relief.

A lot of the exams I take involve a multiple-choice test as part, if not all of it.  These things I don’t like for many reasons, the main one being you have no way of proving you know something about a topic even if you can’t arrive at an exact answer.  They’re fine for testing “bullet point” facts, or perhaps even quick calculations of fundamental quantities, but to test and probe someone’s knowledge is impossible.  The ones I’ve faced here are negatively marked and designed to catch you out with real red-herring answers.  The idea is to pick the “most correct”, so several could be correct but not the whole picture.  Added to that there is the subtlety of language used.  My fault has always been not to read the question properly, so throw in language doubts, and there’s a real problem.

As a relief from exams, the other day with a couple of friends I took the Metro line I live on out of the city into the surrounding villages and countryside.  I’ve got to say it was a blessed relief to escape, if just for the afternoon!  To be walking along the sleepy streets, through the dead town square, reaching the edge of the village and continuing into the farmland and orange groves was just the thing I needed.  Picking the odd orange or clementine here and there from the trees or the ground and smelling the rich, sweet aroma of the fruit in the air definitely lifted the spirits.  Between mouthfuls and with hands sticky and dripping with the fruits’ juices, which, perhaps because of the situation, seemed much sweeter and tastier than usual, we were checking for an irate farmer with shotgun.

Whither will the road take us?

Whither will the road take us?

"Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clements..."

"Oranges and lemons, say the bells of St. Clements..."

An odd encounter in the town at the end of the line, Rafelbunyol, were the smoking remnants of fires laid to cook paella, en-masse.  Not just one, but there were at least a couple of dozen smouldering heaps of ashes and bits of log all in a line, surrounded by discarded rice packets and bits of spilt paella.

Written by Benjamin

January 18th, 2009 at 6:50 pm

Tata for now

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Alright, I know I said I would write about Madrid, and I will.  I still need to sort out the photos and things first, and then I can finish writing about it.  After all, a picture is a thousand words.

It’s come to the end of the first “cuatrimestre” here in Valencia, and tomorrow I’m about to jet back to the familial abode for, in theory, rest and relaxation.  In reality, it’s going to be two weeks of solid, horrible revision in preparation for the exams literally the day after I arrive back after the break.

The festive feeling is quite strange here.  For one thing, the trees are full of oranges (which are now starting to drop and be squashed and annoying on the pavement, adding to the instinct that you need to develop to avoid the dog shit) and there are no mince pies.  Christmas is not Christmas without mince pies.  Another thing is how it can still be 18ºC in winter.  I’m not complaining, but it’s strange!

Naranjos! Tarongers! Orange trees!

Naranjos! Tarongers! Orange trees!

Then there are the usual Christmassy things, like huge nativity scenes (see below for the one in my School) and humungous Christmas trees (like the one in the main square).  The one in my School is studded with notes to the Reyes Magos (Three Wise Men, or in the case of one, to “Gauss, Fourier and Laplace”) asking for improvements to the department building or for certain lecturers to improve their personal habits.  I should’ve noted them down, some of them were pretty inventive…a tradition that would be pretty cool to introduce in Bristol!

Nativity scene in my Escuela

Nativity scene in my Escuela

Christmas tree in Plaza del Ayuntamiento

Christmas tree in Plaza del Ayuntamiento

Another thing I encountered the other week in my School was this bizarre trophy, given for the traditional troupe of male singers, musicians and general merrymakers, called a “tuna”.  Apparently it’s “la Dama de Elche”, whoever she is, but to me she’s more like Princess Leia.  Decide for yourselves…

La Dama de Elche and/or Princess Leia

La Dama de Elche and/or Princess Leia

I meant to mention before about the concept of “botellón”, which features quite largely in the life of the yoof in Spain.  Essentially it’s a huuuuge number of people that take to the streets en-masse to drink between about midnight and 5 or 6am.  In Valencia it’s in the roads around one of the campuses of the Universidad de Valencia and there’s usually literally hundreds and hundreds (if not thousands over the course of the night) of students.

Botellón in Tarongers

Botellón in Tarongers

The idea is to get very drunk, very cheaply.  The streets quickly become littered with discarded Fanta bottles and the glass of vodka and rum bottles is smashed everywhere.  It’s not unusual at all to turn up with glasses and ice too, or the dedicated (aka boy racer chavs) bring their cars with pimped-up stereos for entertainment.  Fanta (or coke) with the cheapo 56-cent cartons of red wine to make “tinto de verano” (or “calimocho” with coke) is a surprisingly popular combination.

Oh, one last thing, here is the infamous 24-hour bread machine of Benimaclet.  So useful, practically right outside my door, and full of fresh baguettes baked the same day.  Why don’t they have more of these around the place?

24-hour bread.  What more could you ask for?

24-hour bread. What more could you ask for?

The last few months have gone as fast as anything, and I expect the next will go even faster.  So tata for now to Valencia, and see you in the new year.  ¡Felices Fiestas!

Written by Benjamin

December 19th, 2008 at 5:02 am