Moving On Up

Moving On Up to The Westside

Benalmadena Spain
Moving On Up

We’ve moved to a new community out in the countryside. We are now living in a small town called Benalmadena. I’ve mentioned it in a previous short story I wrote about a trip we had taken earlier in the year before the days of the mask. The patio home we chose to move into has a small garden and lawn area, a patio downstairs and a terrace up with fabulous views of the Mediterranean Sea from both upper and lower floors. So far, after just a month of being in the new town, we rate it higher–better on everything compared to the previous town. It probably should be rated higher because it is located in a much more expensive part of Spain. Though we are still two cities east of the most expensive part of the southern coast of Spain (Marbella). For those of you who know me well, you know that’s where I’m headed — one day in the not too distant future. Let’s just hope I don’t outlive my money or I’ll have to move in with you. 

Moving on Up Beaches
Benalmadena Sun Set Beach

The expensive living in Spain along the Mediteranean Sea is precisely why we moved here. I mean, it was not an easy decision to leave our sons and daughter behind and move to a new continent. However, the costs were a huge part of the decision for us. Even when we compared the most affordable areas in the USA to here in these most expensive areas in Spain, the costs here were a third of those USA costs. How could we resist? We have family in the USA but we also have technology to stay in touch with you all. There was nothing to keep us from retiring early and spending the rest of our lives exploring the world. It’s been a great first year.

Warning: Political humor ahead. Proceed with caution!

On the bus in Spain
Bus ride travels

In the first year here we’ve traveled to somewhere in Spain, almost one new city each month. Up until February to June when Trump started a pandemic to destroy the world and kill everyone. We have visited 8 cities so far. Plans were to have been to the Danube, and to Bordeaux by now but, again, thanks all you people hating Trumpsters for trying to kill everyone. We are back to traveling again now starting last June but we are still hesitant to go outside of Spain. Last week we went to Marbella for a few days and we were very inspired by the city. 

Waiting for the bus
Waiting at the bus stop

We don’t have a car and I still have not pursued a driver’s license in Spain. We mostly walk everywhere and when necessary we take the bus. The public transportation in Europe is good enough and the longer I go without a vehicle the less I want one. When we were in planning stages, prior to getting here, I planned to get a BMW 1800 motorcycle. I imagined the thrill of traveling through Switzerland, Germany, Hungry, Bosnia, etc. on a big touring bike. Now that we’ve been here a while I’m thinking it’s better to let someone else drive while I watch the view out of the window. Maybe, all we really need is a scooter, just for getting around town for those late night concerts and shows at the casino.

Visit to Buddhist Stupa

I have learned some more about the Spanish language and particularly for the accent found in southern Spain. In Spain the letter c is generally pronounced as a th. Gracias, for example, in Mexico we would say graw-see-ass, but in Spain you would say Graw-thea-ass. Also the x and z are enunciated as a th sound. Sanchez for example is pronounced San-theth. Which is, by the way, the name of Spain’s Socialist President: Pedro Sanchez.  Who is a great leader when compared to Trump who is an asshole idiot and makes every other leader on Earth look brilliant. I apologize for being so passive, but I don’t want to get the few mentally damaged readers who worship the orange kleptomaniac in an uproar. It’s so easy to insight violence with this horrible-horrible person, so I keep the dialogue gentle. Anyway, the words we speak in English tend to be grouped into syllables and follow rules for how the letters are sounded out. In Spanish each word makes a single sound rather than groups of letters and syllables. It is very difficult for the English trained ear to hear the spoken words in Spanish. Most of the time,to me, it sounds like everyone speaks with a lisp.

Wrap it up here. I’m retired and have a lot to do so I can’t just sit here writing these words of wisdom all day.  Pronunciation time:

Benalmadena: English = ben-all-ma-den-a
Spanish = benalmadayna (Think, Al Bundy, and madonna only with an i instead of an o).

Marbella: English = Mar-bell-a

Spanish = Marbaya

OK: English = Oh-kay

Mexican = Bueno 

Spanish = Vale (ballay)

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Scrabble, Chess or Jump

Scrabble,Chess, or Jump

When we retired Kim and I had plans to explore Spain’s Mediteranian coast. We wanted to explore the beach towns and live like Gypsies moving from town and city for 3 to 6 months at a time. Through a process of selling, giving away and throwing out our accumulated stuff from 55 plus years of life we managed to get everything into two medium sized suitcases, two duffle bags, and two backpacks. We have just the bare necessities so that we can move without the hassles of trying to get an entire house of stuff to come with us. The first small coastal town we want to explore landed us a very luxurious, by European standards, high rise apartment that is right on the Mediteranean. It came with a one year lease and even though the lease was twice as long as we wanted to stay, we couldn’t pass up the sweet apartment. The property manager informed us that in Spain you can end a one year lease after six months without penalty. Apparently it is new legislation and some property owners don’t like it. Go figure, right? With a view as nice as this, and a climate as good as southern Spain’s, and just a six month lease, what could go wrong?

Included within our downsized and meager possessions are a deluxe dominoes set, travel size cribbage set, and a deck of cards. We need something to do on rainy days and when we’re not in the mood for mental stimulus from learning Spanish, reading Spanish news, or hearing about economics, and an hour of television, or two at most, can leave me feeling overly manipulated so we needed the games for those rainy days and down days when we can’t get out on the beach. Here we are today halfway into week five of the war with China’s virus in lockdown. Spain has taken draconian government steps and we cannot leave the apartment except to get food. We’ve watched the police and civil guards stop people to question why they are out of their homes. In some cases we’ve seen them take their IDs and sometimes they tell the people to go home. Most everyone tells the officers that they are heading to a nearby small grocery stores that are scattered throughout the town about one for every two or three blocks. At the beginning of week two of the lockdown the government began a policy of each family making one trip a week to the main supermarkets in the town. Kimber makes the once a week trek into the market for us. It’s a 3 kilometer walk to the main supermarket. But even so, we are finding after 3 weeks of isolation in this grand apartment with its spectacular view, and even though we enjoy dominos and listening to podcasts, learning Spanish, meditation, zumba on Youtube, reading, and… well we’re cabin fevered! Let me out. Even when I was on an 8 and 9 month cruise stuck on a ship in the Navy we would pull into port every few weeks.

Well I’m telling you we had to get creative and we couldn’t find a way to get a couple of gallons of mazola oil into the apartment. Besides there’s the mess a mazola party makes; It’s impossible to get all that oil cleaned up after the party. Seriously though, we like to play chess but the chess board and pieces take up a lot of room in the duffle bags so we don’t have it. We also like scrabble but it too requires space in the bags so we don’t have one. We’re not gen x so we don’t play game boy and axebox or whatever it’s called. One day as I was cruising through my Facebook feed, looking for a debate I explored the Facebook games feature and — look at that, there’s scrabble, poker, and chess. Electronic versions of the popular games. Yes, artificial general intelligence versions of the games and the option to play with real people too. Kimber and I sat back on that rainy evening and played chess and scrabble until the wine and whiskey were gone. It was so fun and we were so happy to have a distraction. Perhaps we can prevent the depression from weeks of house arrest. Even the terrific view from the balcony has started to become little more than a reminder of all the great beaches, hills and trails we used to enjoy daily and cannot now. Now though, now we have chess, scrabble, and poker. Three days, yes, three days later even these have no joy remaining. 

“The world karma unfolding now is something we cannot predict or control – it is a force with an energy and lifespan of its own that will exhaust itself in its own time. However, we do have a choice. We have a choice in the kind of relationship we will forge with this karma. Will it be a relationship fraught with fear and anxiety — unsettled, ungrounded, and disconnected to any source of sanity and compassion? Or will it be a relationship that relaxes in the flowing energy of change, of emotional upheaval, of not-knowing?

Can we hold in mind and body the truth that we are meant to be here, now, to experience and feel all the energies surging around and through us? Can we recognize the truth that these energies are a radiant expression of love and of the beauty and tragedy of being human? When you sit, feel the earth. When you sit, feel the sky. Remember that you came here, that you took up this path to learn what it really means to be fully human, awake and aware, in suffering and in joy, holding still in the middle of fire.”

Lama Elizabeth Monson

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Learning Spanish over 60

Learning Spanish over 60
Learning Spanish Over 60

Back in 1994 through 1996 while obtaining a Master’s of Mathematics from Boston University I learned some very valuable lessons about language and the benefit of using correct grammar. The course curriculum for the hard sciences was daunting, and I had just the minimum acceptable level of GRE score. Nine courses were required with one course taken at Harvard University and another from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The three universities frequently work together in some sort of state run cooperative, and since they are all just around the corner from one another, why not? For me, hard sciences like physics, engineering, mathematics, etc. came pretty easily. But nothing prepares you for the massive workload of a Masters program. It was a challenge for my own self doubt, self loathing, and a confrontation of internal struggle as much as the day and night efforts to accomplish all the assignments and to master the material knowledge. The absolute hardest part for me in both undergraduate as well as this first Masters degree were written reports. The drudgery of writing out the detail of defining the projects, the techniques for proofs, the execution of plan and research occupied my time and elevated my stress far more than proving the mean distance to the sun. 

Sunrises In March

As far back as I can remember in school classes it was always English I found most difficult. With all of the silly imperfections with such nonsensical silent letters, words that sound alike but have different meanings, always put the i before the e except in certain arbitrary situations when you just don’t do that. We have semicolons and colons; but even the Ph D in English literature cannot tell you precisely the correct usage. The language has just five vowels except it may include a sixth one. Each of the vowels have a variety of sounds which are sometimes strong or soft but not at all when silent. Oh the madness goes on and on. You see, science is precise. Science is exact. Mathematical proofs are not sometimes this or sometimes that, they are just this and only this so-to-speak. And so, one day in a fit of despair and anguish I basically in fact did tell a professor that mastering science should not have to at the sametime require I must also master language. He was quite calm as I recall. He explained to me that even the most brilliant person in the world, with the greatests of idea of all human existence who lacks the ability to explain the idea at a basic level of understanding has no worthy idea at all.

Sunrises of February

The lesson from that day was worth more to me than the entire course curriculum. I got it. It made so much sense to me. I wasn’t just writing a report, I was communicating. I was just doing the required work, I was helping others to understand what I have accomplished in a way they could confidently agree I had succeeded. For example when you hear a commentator on a televised news show talking about the success of a restaurant and how the success of the restaurant has made a good living for all the employees. As a scientist and a communicator I can instantly determine that story is incorrect and is as devastating to people as lead paint. It has more poison in its message than lead water pipes in your homes. The data they are using is incorrectly translated. The restaurant has not been a success. Restaurants like any business are not successful. The people working at the restaurant are successful and have amazing talents. When you combine all of their talents together they have made a good living for the restaurant. Not the other way around. Let me take this one step further. If I was able to come up with an idea for a new product or even a spinoff of an existing product, the idea is worthless even if I can write up an amazing document about the idea. To make this idea into a success I will have to have people work with me and for me to produce the product. I will need people who can get the product into the hands of consumers. Factually, therefore, any and all success isn’t the result of an idea, it is the result of many people working together to make the idea a reality. We’ve been poisoned with poorly written and spoken reports based on data that has been wrongly interpreted. It’s not the business owner who deserves all the credit and therefore all the profits. All the owner did was to file the paperwork with the state to register the corporation, and probably had a lawyer do that. All he did was find a place for the work to be done and probably had professional help with that. Maybe the owner hired a few engineers to layout the machinery, technology and methodology to make the product. You see the owner isn’t doing any of the work at all. It’s other people with amazing talents that are making the idea into a tangible thing. 

Sunrises of January

With the poisoning of the Regan era “trickle down” the narrative in classrooms, televisions, and governments alike have over forty years learned to tell the story with determination and boldly naive. The data is wrong, the story is killing humanity. People are successful not corporations, not the wealthy, not bankers and politicians. People are successful. We’ve been led to the gas chambers and forced to breathe in their poisonous wrong narrative. Their poison message works at our own demise. Sadly too, right now and even back then you can find 18 million people who believe the wrong narrative with such blind conviction they are willing to fight to the death to defend it. Everytime you find yourself in this kind of heated and highly volatile quandary, let it be a beacon of warning. When the issues of the debate seem to have people with absolutely differing opinions and the data on both sides is interpreted opposite to one another, it’s a clear signal to stop. There’s Mara again trapping you in the illusion of what is real and what is nothing but a lot of noise distraction. Enlightened as we would like to think we are, seeing this argument as a root cause for wealth inequality would seem evident by the obvious existence of wealth inequality. Further an enlightened mind would also see that all news is totally false and misuse of data and only broadcast to allure humans and to appeal to their vulnerability so the network businesses owners can sell advertising to make them wealthier. 

It’s all a masquerade and a game of illusions. Human nature at the whim of Mara has our ego constantly blaming others for the ills of the world. The world doesn’t have wealth inequality, the world doesn’t have successful businesses, the world doesn’t have i before e, except when insanity sets in. Humans can only ever have a chance at fixing just one thing and one thing only in each of our lives. Ourself. Whenever you find yourself judging, comparing, blaming, and getting your emotions all worked up pointing all the blame at them, it’s time to stop. Learn to use the emotional escalations in life as a trigger for self growth. Ask yourself, what is wrong with me that I think this is so important when I know it really isn’t? Ask yourself, how can I help myself to stop getting tangled up in all this noise? Always remember it’s not them who need to change, it’s only you who can change.

Learning Spanish at my age is not just a challenge to learn words, vowels, nouns, present tense, past tense, future tense, etc. it’s about continuing to teach myself how to better communicate.

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