July 2, 2005

7/2/05 Málaga Spain

Waking Up in Málaga

I just hate it when you wake up before the alarm goes off and you can't decide whether to wait or just get it over with. I was ready and waiting when Santi came to get me. Turns out, he had other things to do, so he didn't even try to sleep any. Today they go to Madrid to pick up their daughter Miranda from her grandparents and I'm sure Amparo “Mario Andriette” will be driving. Maybe Santi can get some rest on the road.

Kind of weird standing on the side of an empty road in the middle of the night waiting for a bus. It was late and Santi hoped he had the right place. When it arrived, it was a quick goodbye, load the suitcase and off we went.

I don't even know why I tried to sleep. It never works when I'm in airplanes or buses. Buses in Spain are great, almost like air travel. The buses are new, clean, quiet and modern. There's a fold down lap tray, stereo headphone hookups, and when the sun came up, we even had a movie. The only thing missing was a stewardess. Never did figure out where the bathroom was even though I saw the 'wc ocupado' sign light up by the driver.

For the first part of the trip, we must have been going through some pretty rugged terrain because the bus seemed to be in perpetual alternating s-turns. We made a half-dozen stops along the way – Albacete, Uober and Granada are the only ones I remember. The strange thing was that we took breaks of various lengths (10 min, 15 min, 20 min), all at single restaurants on the highway and spent less than a minute at the various bus stations. Those bus stations were huge, most with two dozen loading platforms and just as many if not more buses ready for more travelers.

With the sunrise, I could now get a good look at southern Spain. Lots of mountains on all sides, and almost all of it covered with olive trees. I mean hours and hours of driving through olive groves (the trip took about 9 hours). Some of the inclines were so steep you wondered how practical it was to harvest from those trees. Saw a few fields of sunflowers and fennel, but otherwise, olives, olives and more olives.

We must have been pretty high because my ears popped. Then came the 120km (75 miles) downhill from Granada to Málaga, most of which winded down narrow canyons and through frequent tunnels. One of the reasons we picked Málaga, besides being on the coast, is that most of southern Spain was already hitting 102°F and it wasn't even hot yet. But Málaga seems to stay cooler because of the ocean breezes, say in the 80-85°F range. I'm all for that. I thought I was going to spend my whole summer sleeping in Almansa when I wasn't in class.

A little nervous getting the taxi, so when I tried to give the driver my change for a tip (I owed 8.50 and gave him a 10) he must have thought I was demanding it back because he seemed to quickly give me the difference.

Tilde, from Sweden, met me at the door of the school which is practically on beach. We took care of some orientation stuff and I emailed home that I had made it to Málaga, then she gave me the keys to my apartment. I'm just across the street and even closer to the beach.

I can see the school across the street from my balcony

After unpacking I took a walk to check everything out. The beaches weren't too crowded but then again, August is the high season. Just behind the beach is a stone boardwalk fronted by restaurants. I'll get up early on Sunday and try to do a long run and see how far the boardwalk goes. Could make for a great summer of training.

My apartment is a three bedroom (2-singles and 1-double) one and half baths. So far I only have one roommate and she arrives tomorrow. Tilde says they have ten new students arriving Sunday. The school's web site says over half of their students come from Sweden and Germany.

My living room. All the floors were marble

There isn't a TV but that's ok. Wish I had a radio. Will have to see if I can find a cheap one. My living room looks away from the ocean to row after row of homes built up the cliffs. Should be some great hill-climbing runs.

The kitchen has a propane stove that I can't seem to get working. Guess it's salad for dinner tonight. Had to stop by the store three times because I kept forgetting things like soap and toilet paper. The only mistake I made in the store is that all vegetables are to be weighed and labeled before you go through the check out. The cashier was pretty miffed, but I guess she's used to the ways of tourists.

Tried to take a siesta but I'm kind of excited to be here. Got up and went to the store, again! Then headed towards the city center. That boardwalk seems to go on forever. It feels like I could walk all the way to Morocco and never leave the boardwalk.

But one of my other observations is that crossing the street is a lesson in survival. Car traffic is pretty fast, but it's the scooters that you've got to watch out for. Definitely preferred by the young and fearless. Girls appear to wear helmets more, but that only gives a person permission to go faster. Sometimes it looks as if the traffic is standing still as you watch the scooters weave in and out of traffic.

No nude beaches but it does appear that bathing tops are purely a personal choice to wear or not to wear. Since it's still early in the high season, I'll be interested to see how or if this changes.

The beach near my apartment. Yippie!!!

The hardest part of being here in Spain is getting used to the schedule of life. Lunch here is roughly between 2 and 5 with time for a siesta thrown in. Bumper-to-bumper speeding traffic is reduced to barely a trickle. And you'd think the city was uninhabited since there are so few people on the streets then.

But as the sun begins to set around 7 or 8, the city begins to awaken with even more life and energy that it had in the morning. I can be an early riser or stay up late, but not sure how these old bones can stand up to both. I get a sense that running in the morning might give me a lot of solitude. But then if I want to hang out with my classmates in the wee hours of the night practicing our Spanish while enjoying the tapas, I might have to run just at sunset. We'll see.

The other weird thing to happen today was that when I was talking to Tilde at the school, I had trouble talking in English. You would have thought English was my second language, what with my broken sentences and an accent even. Weird, huh!