Okay so an emergency medical technician, a computer science Ph.D, an adjunct professor, and an olympic gold medalist baton twirler get on an airplane. “What is this?” Asks the snarky flight attendant, “some kind of joke?”
The EMT was a San Diego native getting an associate’s degree and on his second-ever plane flight. He was impressed when he learned that I had a PhD, but he just could not get over the professor who was sitting across the aisle from us. He just kept saying “wow, a professor.”
The reason we were all sharing so much about ourselves actually had to do with this EMT in training as well. Somehow within the first 5 minutes of the flight he had revealed that he was on a flight back from Baltimore where the long-distance girlfriend he was visiting avoided him for 7 days straight. This led to the medalist and the professor demanding more details, and soon we were all working together to advise this man on his relationship.
Meanwhile, and this is true, the snarky flight attendant would ask us to speak up when we spoke to him and then accuse us of yelling. The captain turned out to be snarky, too, and he told us to look out the window- no wait we missed it – wow you don’t see something like that every day. Then the flight attendant tried to offer me food off of the floor. When he came around with clean food, I politely declined, and the EMT was dumbfounded. This led to a lengthy discussion in which I tried to explain that I was not on a special diet beyond “free junk food is not a good enough reason to eat junk food.” The conversation was interrupted when the flight attendant threw the extra cookie the EMT had requested and succeeded at hitting him in the face.
The plane was noisy enough that we could never understand each other when we tried to introduce ourselves. The professor wanted to keep calling me “Stan” but I wouldn’t let her. We compromised on “Stam.”
The flight attendant told us that he was from New York and his southern accent was from when he had an injury that impaired his speech and he learn to speak again from a Mississippi-based speech therapist.
The pilot was whispering unintelligibly into his intercom by the time we got off the plane. We all wished the EMT luck in love, and “Stam” bid farewell to his brief friends in the air between Baltimore and San Diego.
Besides the flight attendant asking if it was some kind of joke, the above is all true. The cover image is not related.
Help yourself to a second serving of Spanish photographs! This time I’ll document some of the food of my trip! Click any photo to start a slideshow, and look at the captions for descriptions and interesting stories of my experiences!
A brioche. It is a bread with especially high egg and butter content to make it extra tasty. This one was soaked in something sweet to make it a dessert. I did not order it, but I got to try some, and it was delicious.
The best fruit salad I have ever tasted. It starts with a strong sour note and then proceeds through a medley of the flavors offered by the other fruits. Perhaps a better food author than me could describe the experience in words, but I am at a loss.
A vegetable dish ordered special by my struggling vegetarian colleague. He also didn’t drink alcohol or coffee and couldn’t help getting up early, so he was pretty unhappy in Spain.
A squid and peas dish. At this restaurant we deliberately ordered 1/3 size dishes (an option on the menu) so that’s why they look so small, because they are.
Assorted cheeses. Look at that presentation, and the food itself wasn’t bad either.
I was planning on sharing this dish, so it was lucky that it was brought to me as two separate copies of the same item.
“We took some carrots and put some salsa on them” You would not think these would be as delicious as they were.
“Foie” was the only description given. It means liver. Yes, those are ice cream cones, exactly the same texture and taste. It’s the best liver in an ice cream cone I’ve ever had.
My breakfast at the hotel. I stopped going when I learned it was €11, more than a full dinner in Spain.
This is a picture of Jack Nicholson eating watermelon. The magazine translates as “Nom Nom Magazine”
My friend ordered cooked pimientos (peppers) so that’s what he got.
Everybody gets olives. It is required to serve a food in Madrid whenever one serves alcohol.
Tortilla de patatas. Where’s the tortilla, you ask? It means “omelette” in Spain.
This is my bacon dish. Apparently bacon means an enormous amount of ham. When I asked for a box to take some home, the waiter started telling me where on the pig the meat came from. When I tried asking again, he told me the meat was boiled. (not cooked in a box)
No, these are “Spanish Fries.” Just kidding, they’re french fries.
I didn’t order these, but I took one. Then I paid a quarter of the full price to be fair.
This is effectively an alcoholic milkshake. Stronger than a sangria.
Another tortilla and some cheese wrapped in ham. Sounds like something an American could appreciate, right?
Not only is beer sold at a public education institution and advertised on posters, but Homer Simpson is known and loved across the globe.
This “popcorn” does not look like popcorn,.
The apostrophe means nothing in Spain. This is just a flourish to catch people’s attention.
Another mandatory opening dish to satisfy Spain law. It tastes like Cheetos.
In Spain, alcohol is an important part of the culture, perhaps even more so than in the United States. I had a sangria with my colleagues, but when they ordered another round, I asked for a water. The server gave me another sangria, which I passed to the person next to me, then the came by and gave me a third sangria, at which point I reminded him “agua.” When he came back again with my water, he growled at me, “here is your agua!” emphasizing the resentment in the last word.
Tapas! Tapas de patatas! Lots of delicious meat-and-potatoes dishes. Multiple kinds of Chorizo! We fed five people a feast for €40
Cold cuts never looked or tasted so good.
Even the university’s food was memorable.
The clever servers just started serving things and waited for the Americans to say “no”
Tiramisu and Whiskey Tiramisu
A squashed peach. It is known as a “Saturn” peach
Attempting to order at a Spanishized Chinese food restaurant. My theory was that Spanishized Chinese food would be an interesting blend of Spanish food and Chinese food.
Egg drop soup
Lemon Chicken. It turns out that fake Chinese food is cross-cultural.
Flan pudding. The only thing besides the impeccable presentation differentiating this from Chinese food in America.
My Hamburguesa de España
That’s just a big wheel of cheese on top. It was so bitter it overwhelmed the whole burger. No Regrets!!!
Our fancy conference dinner
A beef dish referred to as “topside”
My fish entrée
We got white wine, red wine, and water.
An extremely attractively laid out dessert. It was a pudding in a dark chocolate trough with strawberries
As a small child it always confused me that Spanish was the language of Mexico. Despite being raised speaking English in the United States of America, it seemed disappointing that I would always see and hear the Spanish language, but never any Spanish people. Well, that all ended this week. Persona de España, árbol de España, restaurante chino de España, gato blanco de España, y más! I got to see them all! With all the experiencing I’m doing, I have very little time to document besides taking pictures, so this entry will be a collection of picture galleries. I’ll start with a few easy ones while I’m in Spain, and finish up with some more detailed storytelling after I’ve gotten back.
¡Graffiti de España!
The first thing you notice in Madrid, at least if you’re near the university instead of in the tourist area, is graffiti. There’s graffiti everywhere. Lots of colorful, artful graffiti, but also, especially on campus, simple messages in black paint. Most of these appear to be pro-communist or anti-fascist messages, but I also saw some that praised the prevalence of Catholicism in Spain. One graffiti was an elaborate full-color portrait of a woman surrounded by a bicycle chain. There were a few messages written around the edges as well, maybe some Spanish scholars reading my blog can translate them. One picture includes the proud artist, who told me in proficient English precisely what he was aiming for when he tore off the metro poster to reveal the poster beneath. “There is another face. Half man, half woman!” he beamed.
¡Flora y Fauna de España!
The Spanish foliage was generally beautiful. The birds were exciting, but difficult to capture on camera. The bright green birds were monk parakeets, I believe. There were also large black birds like ravens but with white spots that I dubbed “orca birds,” and small birds that always seemed to be flying around in swarms. They seldom stopped for long enough to clearly make out, let alone record, any features. One got trapped in a huge cathedral I visited and just flew around and around in wide circles the whole time I was there. The pigeons were docile, though. They seemed to be asleep on their roosts on top of the statues near the royal palace. The area that looks like an arboretum was on the way between our hotel, AC Hotel Los Vascos, and the university.