Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Mar 07 2018

3/4: Return to Taipei

Up in the morning…we’d packed the night before, so after breakfast downstairs and saying goodbye to Pamela (Ozkar was asleep) and the cats, we headed out into the…what was this? Hail? Freezing rain? Damn. Time for us to leave. Apparently the homeless dude who lived in front of the metro station thought so, too. “Fuck you!” he shouted at us repeatedly, elaborating on this theme as we passed. Finally, a blunt Canadian, I thought.

The usual inspection routine…Chenbl’s bag got inspected hard because of the portable speaker he’d bought. We were lucky enough to be on a sparsely populated flight back to Taipei, and we had the last two seats in the back of the Dreamliner, so in effect a little room of our own. Chenbl claimed the row in front of us, and I stretched out on our seats and watched Selma, Boyz in the Hood, Thor 3 and a few other movies, while sleeping periodically. I still wasn’t feeling great, but just getting a bit of rest finally had a good effect, and the Dreamliner has a lower air pressure as well, so my ears were fine.

Back in Taipei, we went straight from the airport to the ENT doctor for our little bags o’ pills. Work the next day, as well as the first class of the semester. I’m still feeling loopy AF, but I got a gig tonight at Huashan, so I need to get my shit together.

All in all, an interesting trip. One thing I noticed was how little I missed the Internet when I was in Cuba. Other than feeling stupid for not being able to look up things at random, it was refreshing, and I will try to cut down the time I waste on social media now. Wish me luck.

And that was that. Hope you enjoyed the read.

posted by Poagao at 2:55 pm  
Mar 07 2018

2/28: Vancouver

The cold medicine I got while shopping last night worked well enough to keep me asleep all night, but today was mainly spent in nearby shopping malls and restaurants. It’s cold and rainy outside anyway, so outside of mall stuff there’s not much to do, and I need the rest.

T.I.’s “Live Your Life” was playing at the health food shop, while the disco version of the theme from Star Wars was playing at Safeway. A nice young man named Nathan at the pharmacy told me that there’s not much you can do for a cold, except wait it out.

So we ate so-so ramen and watched the nearly incomprehensible humor on TV, noting that Canadians don’t seem to trust umbrellas that much. Keebler products are absent from Canadian shelves, but I did see a few pop-tarts and Little Debbie products. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow, and hopefully I’ll be feeling better as well.

posted by Poagao at 11:55 am  
Mar 07 2018

February 20th: Vancouver – Toronto – Havana

Breakfast at the hostel was a bright, help-yourself affair, full of earnest young backpackers shredding their gums with sugar-flavored Cheerios. The bright sun was a ruse, betrayed by the  bitter cold outside. Chenbl and I walked over to Chinatown, marveling at the familiar smells and signs and produce overwhelming the sidewalks there. The old Kuomintang building was abandoned, covered in weeds and neglect. Warming our hands with some hot Tenren tea, we walked over to Gastown. The whole thing would have been charming if I weren’t freezing my ass off. The famous clock was steaming (I assume it was steam, otherwise it really needs servicing) and hooted out the traditional clock melody at 2:45 p.m., after which we took refuge amid the cheap plastic smells of the local Dollar Store.

Later we walked back down to the harbor and browsed the signs elaborating on Vancouver’s shockingly sordid history of labor relations and all the awful things that happened in the process of labor reform. Seaplanes were taking off and landing on the water near a floating Chevron gas station; the remains of snow crunched under our feet. We chatted with some friendly construction workers who were busy renovating a house. Nearby, a large, forlorn heap of charred wood and plaster had apparently up until recently been a house.

Turning onto Davies Street, we stopped for entirely too much poutine before heading back to the hotel, where we spent a great deal of effort trying not to listen to an excruciatingly awkward flirting session between two young backpackers in the common room.

Then it was time to leave; we walked over to the subway and took the train out to the airport. The last few stops featured a shouty young drunk, but that was far less annoying than when we checked in and found that our airline not only didn’t know about any of these newfangled “frequent flyer” things all the kids are about these days, they cancelled our seat selections and put us in the middle seats to Toronto. The flight was overbooked, so the check-in staff asked if we’d take US$100 and a night at a hotel. Uh, no, we wouldn’t. But the line at the gate was truly egregious, a scene rife with insecurity as everyone wondered if they’d be picked to be a Sacrificial Passenger. Indeed, one passenger seemed to have already incurred the wrath of one of the flight attendants as we found out seats. “I’ve seen the way you overreact; you only have one more chance or I will have you removed from the flight,” the attendant warned ominously as the young man spread his hands in the internationally recognized symbol of WTF, man.

The whine of the engines drowned out the safety video and my cursing as my watchband broke, but we were in the air soon enough. Several episodes of Blackish later, as we neared Toronto, however, the captain said weather sucked there so we were going to Buffalo NY instead. The whole plane groaned; most people either didn’t have their passports and/or didn’t have a U.S. visa. Nobody could be looking forward to dealing with TSA asshattery; this was one of the main reasons we elected to go through Canada in the first place. The plane circled at the same elevation for a long period of indecision before they agreed that we would be going to Toronto after all, whereupon everyone cheered. After we landed, however, we taxied up to a gate that didn’t work; it was as if they were surprised to see us. Didn’t they call ahead? The crew tugged fruitlessly at the door for a while before giving up and having us all sit down, pack up, power up the engines, back out and head to a gate that actually worked.

That didn’t give us much time to make our connecting flight to Havana, so Chenbl and I booked it from the domestic terminal to the international terminal, embarrassingly specific final boarding accusations ringing in our ears the whole way, and just made it in time.

The flight to Havana was considerably more relaxed, with far fewer people and a party atmosphere. Everyone there, including the casually dressed but smartly competent cabin crew, seemed very happy to be leaving the frigid north behind. As we’d missed meals in our rush, we had some plane food that was bordering on ok. As we approached our destination, people began to change out of their heavy winter clothes into shorts and T-shirts.

Even though my mind was still demanding to know what the hell I was doing in Cuba, the warm air was an incredible relief. Chenbl changed money at a machine, and we caught a cab downtown to the Airbnb place where we’re staying to put our luggage down before heading out with Annanai, a Cuban woman who is more than passingly familiar with all of this.

Of course the old automobiles and colorful buildings are amazing, but I haven’t managed to figure out just how to photograph them sans cliché. All the taxis and buses are crowded, some of the old buildings are being brought back, and I apparently look like I’m searching in vain for a Cuban cigar. Brilliant musicians abound in the restaurants; the lung power of the trumpet players in particular is astounding. I brought my mouthpiece just in case I happen across an opportunity, but I doubt I could come close to keeping up with these guys.

We had cold chocolate at the Chocolate museum and then stopped into the Floridita bar, which was apparently one of Hemingway’s favorite drinking spots (he had many) as well as the origin of the daiquiri, and which features a larger-than-life brass statue of the heavy-set writer sitting at the end of the bar overlooking the field. Daiquiris were had, and we all left the place a little tipsy and wondering if the little straws were really necessary. The sun was setting before Annanai said we should go back to the apartment, so we got on a crowded bus back to Vedado, where our place is located.

Eric, the French-Canadian who runs the place, came out for dinner nearby, and we had a nice long conversation about his background and Cuba’s future.

posted by Poagao at 10:05 am  
Feb 19 2018

Vancouver

Even though I spent large parts of the last several days packing in a vain attempt to avoid last-minute panicking, I still managed to only just finish before I had to head out to meet Chenbl and his parents at Taipei Main Station for lunch. After we bid them farewell, we walked over to the airport MRT and boarded the express to Taoyuan. The weather went quickly from brilliant to gloomy as we descended from the heights of Nankan to disembark underneath Terminal 2, where we found a counter lady who hadn’t heard of her own damn airlines’ contract with the Star Alliance.

Chenbl is a great believer in getting to the airport in plenty of time to spare, so we sat in a movie-themed lounge watching clips from old kung-fu flicks over and over again until I had not only memorized the sequences, but the continuity mistakes.

Eventually we boarded a brand-new 787 bound for Vancouver. I’d never been to Canada before, so this would be a trip with several firsts. The plane was packed, and I had a hard time sleeping in between watching movies and playing with the polarized windows. I’ve been feeling ambivalent about this trip for a while now, and it still hadn’t really sunk in, even though I was looking at snow-covered mountains and fields as we descended.

Regardless of how I felt or didn’t feel about it, we arrived in Vancouver at around noon, and the moment we walked out into the cold wind I thought, ok, this might be a problem. Really? Canada in the middle of winter, you say? Shut up.

We took the subway into town and walked to our hostel, which is located in an older building, put our stuff down and went out to walk around in the cold. The disappearing light was nice, and we followed it down to the waterfront, where helicopters were taking off and ferries were running across the bay. After the sun set, the temperatures dived further, and we searched in vain for a public bathroom before finding one such establishment underground in a nearby park. We then escaped the cold for a while in a large cathedral, hiding in the midst of a large Catholic congregation during a Spanish-language church service.

Later we met a longtime online friend of mine, photographer John Goldsmith, at a nice ramen place, and we spent the rest of the night engaged in great conversation. After arriving back at the hostel, however, Chenbl decided he needed a second dinner, which was donair-related and delicious. The weather was bitterly cold, however, the sidewalks in front of the sex shops and pizza parlors and bars was sparsely populated. The remnants of yesterday’s snowfall are everywhere, and even locals are surprised at the coldness of the weather.

The cold’s not so bad as long as indoor spaces are heated, unlike in Taiwan where, if it’s cold, it’s cold everywhere. The hostel’s floors creak and tremble whenever anyone in the building takes a step; I guess I’m sensitive after being used to concrete structures.

I don’t know what we’re going to do tomorrow, except for catch the overnight flight to Havana.

posted by Poagao at 3:48 pm  
Nov 29 2017

Lately

We played a rather strange gig at a university down south a week or so ago. While well-paying, it was odd; the campus buildings were plastered with ads for the institution, in addition to large posters of various white men saying inspirational sayings. The buildings themselves looked rather new, and the campus is located out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by fields. We were in the middle of soundcheck on the outdoor stage when a battalion of gas-powered grass-cutters descended upon the large field in front, which was occupied by dozens of tables and chairs for the dinner that night. Apparently it didn’t occur to them to cut the grass before setting up the tables, chairs and tents. Nor did it occur to them that the noise might interfere in the soundcheck. When we asked them if they could wait a few minutes, they said, “It’s ok, your playing won’t interfere with our mowing, go ahead!”

The Important Older White People they’d invited to the academic conference were not only far fewer than expected, it seemed from the many empty tables and the achingly uneaten buffet (we were served lunchboxes in a backroom), they weren’t terribly into music either. I hoped that the indigenous singing/dancing group they’d hired were getting paid handsomely as well, but I doubted it. Halfway through our show they stopped for a highly orchestrated “flash mob"which was actually a kick-ass breakdancing group.

Though our show might have been a little underappreciated by the intended audience, when we broke out one of our new songs for the next album, “Temple Blues”, the indigenous group and the breakdancers came out and danced together to it. It was the highlight of the entire trip, and we stretched the song out so everyone could enjoy it more.

Then, afterwards, the organizers forgot that they were supposed to call us taxis so that we could get back to Taipei before midnight. We managed anyway.

My photography course is more or less back on track after the Dadaocheng events. Since we’ve been irking the janitorial staff by staying late after the night classes, I’ve decided to move some of the indoor instruction and review of shots to our outside photography days on weekends, and we now meet at Chenbl’s empty office meeting room in the mornings before going out to shoot in the afternoons/evenings. This last time we took the train out to Zhongli, where we then took a bus out to see a nice green mosque and nearby markets, before marching through empty rice fields to a recently refurbished old military village. My friend Josh Ellis buzzed in on his swank new Gogoro2, impressing the hell out of every single cat in the area, and took us to an interesting restaurant in the city. The place was on the second floor; the first floor was full of cobweb-covered antiques, and you’d never guess that there is a restaurant on the second floor. It was quite tasty. Zhongli is an interesting city, and I can understand Josh’s frustration that many in the expat community seem to look down on the place. Their new mayor is apparently a real mover and shaker as well, implementing the nation’s most generous subsidies for electric vehicles for one thing. I’ll have to make some more trips down there, which is even easier now that recently completed airport MRT goes there.

posted by Poagao at 12:19 pm  
Jul 10 2017

The rude restaurant is gone.

Over the last few years when I have business in Neihu in the afternoon, I’ve gotten into the habit of taking the metro to the end of the Green Line at Songshan Train Station. Before I hop on a bus on out to Neihu from there, I usually have lunch at Songshan, usually at the Doutor restaurant in the first-floor mall there.

Doutor, you might know, is a large chain, so why would I go to that particular one again and again? I can tell you it wasn’t because of the service. The woman behind the counter seemed to be actively trying to keep me from eating there. One day I’d be told that the sandwich I’d become accustomed to having would take half an hour to make (It never took that long in reality), and the next day the sandwich was “sold out.” Then it wasn’t on the menu any more, so I switched to another sandwich. Every time I walked in I swear the woman was trying not to roll her eyes at my appearance. Her “Can I help you?” was always uttered in the same tone as “You again?”

At one point not long ago I had misplaced my Kindle, and thought I might have left it there.  When I asked them about it, I was told, “Can’t you see we’re busy?” I found the Kindle elsewhere, but damn.

So why did I keep going there? It was, odd service experiences aside, a comfy little cafe with a nice view of the people walking by inside the mall and out on the sidewalk. The food was always fresh and good, especially the bread, and I was addicted to the sour salad dressing they used there.

But when I walked through the mall the afternoon, it was gone. In its place, under the large Doutor sign, was a huge billboard reading “Coming soon – Tomod’s Pharmacy.”

Though there’s plenty of other restaurants in the area, I’m going to miss that place, rudeness and all.

posted by Poagao at 3:40 pm  
Jun 27 2017

Distances

Panai, Nabu and Mayaw were planning a special “119” concert on the 119th day of their protest, and they invited me and David Chen to participate. Day 119 (“119” is the emergency number in Taiwan, just as “911” is in the U.S.) was a Wednesday, so I brought my trumpet to work in my gig bag, and waded through the sweltering heat of the day to the park, where they were setting up the performance space in the square in front of the 2/28 Museum. One by one, the groups did soundchecks in the reverse order of the performances. David and I came up with a couple of suitable songs for guitar and trumpet, one slow and one faster. Well, David did, I just listened and played where I thought I could add something.

People showed up to the square as the park fell into night. The performances ran the gamut from traditional indigenous nose flute to classical violin. There was even a smoke machine.

Mayaw was last before we had to leave the square. The show had to end before 10 p.m., and the remnants of the crowd flowed back to the metro exit protest site, where I saw Thomas Hu and Ah-zhi, the accordionist I played with back in ’09 when we toured Taiwan with the Heineken beer band. Panai and Nabu sang; it is always a joy to hear them sing, Nabu standing with his cane, at once chanting, singing, shouting, as Panai sits by his side, singing like the mother of our dreams. They’re strong people, but it’s hard to see how little attention their efforts are getting, especially by an administration that has professed to have their interests at heart.

The next Saturday I led a group of my students on a photowalk around Qingtian Street. Chenbl was busy with work, so I had to assume some of his duties, but it went well despite the heat. I used to live in that area back in my free days, back when I started this blog in fact. I’d thought I was struggling then, but it wasn’t real struggling. I’d find that out later. So much time has passed that I end up reminiscing about reminiscing, and that gets old fast. Now I make mental notes as I go, but don’t dwell on it. It’s just too much.

After we cooled off at the traditional iced fruit shop across from the NTU campus, I walked over to the Treasure Hill community with the remainder of the students to view the display of the remains of the Kategelan Village there. People had gone out to the empty, open lot out in Neihu where the police had dumped all of the people’s belongings and recovered most of the art, and made it into a display at the foot of Treasure Hill along with a wall of photos. I found one of my photos and one of the rocks I painted, though badly chipped from its journey.

I took the students around the area, noting where we had filmed our movie there so many years ago, how it’s now all art spaces. Again, meta-reminiscing. After the students left, tired from the day, I waited until all the protesters had left as well, and sat quietly staring at the space and remembering the village as it had been. It seemed appropriate.

I was walking back out towards Gongguan when I spotted Mayaw and some others waiting for their car to be liberated from the temple parking lot. I had planned to go home, but they invited me to the bakalan, a kind of celebration of accomplishment, at the metro station protest site, so I tagged along with them to find tables of food, people singing, playing guitars, people dancing, people playing badminton. I played a couple of sets. Panai was asking everyone, “Can you play badminton? I mean, are you any good?” Because she is actually very good. It’s been years since I’ve played, but I enjoyed it. Damn, I really need to get back into some kind of shape.

The gathering was comforting in a way I’d all but forgotten. There’s been so much distance in my life lately, it was nice to get close to something for a change.

But I had petty things to do. Always, the petty things.

posted by Poagao at 11:33 am  
Jun 12 2017

Enter Post Here

It’s been a weird spring. Lots of rain after the Dragonboat festival, which is strange enough. The whole world seems to have gone awry. Or maybe it’s just me. Maybe things are normal for everyone else.

Chenbl and I led a photowalk on Saturday along Dihua Street, a kind of warm-up to this fall’s event. The students have become a large, friendly group, though they still have some bad shooting habits I’ve been trying to wean them out of. Still, lots of improvement. We looked at some promising exhibition/workshop locations there. The photography scene here is still so underdeveloped, it’s difficult to get people to see the value in such activities; baby steps are still steps. The gentrification of the area is spreading apace, into the alleys and northward towards the less-developed sections. This is a much better sign than these old buildings being torn down. As is usually the case in Taiwan, a bunch of people had to do it first, prove it was profitable, before anyone else joined in.

After the photowalk we went to City Hall, where the Stage show was being held. The Ramblers were mostly assembled in our tent behind the stage, awaiting our Red man as usual. The sky had been darkening into a threatening grey-black all afternoon. Chenbl got a message on his phone that our friend Chi Bo-lin had died in a helicopter crash. We told another mutual friend, Shen Chao-liang, who said he’d also just heard. The Stage show is Chao-liang’s idea, along with his schoolmate. The skies got darker still as the half-naked women mounted the jeeps and swung around on metal poles as lightning flashed, tempting fate.

The rain began as we waited for the other bands to finish, pelting down in large drops and creating a small river running through the tent. The downpour made it through our dual-stage stage as we went through the soundcheck, spraying us and the instruments and the electrical wiring. The world was water. So we waited for it to stop.

It took its damn time. I sat back in the tent, my feet up on a chair as the water rushed underneath, halfway listening to everyone around me talking about things I didn’t care anything about. I was already tired from the hot sun of the morning.

Eventually the rain let up a little, and we went on the stage to salvage our gear and play. The audience was enthusiastic. The people who would dance to anything danced to us; a conga line infiltrated the crowd. I was in the middle of a solo when I saw stage crew running towards something to my left, but I couldn’t turn from the mic to see what it was. Was someone trying to rush the stage? Was Sandman doing something untowardly? But when I could turn, I saw smoke and fire as the crew pulled a heavy electrical cord from the wet ground.

Fortunately it was our last number. No encores. I heard that they were planning to light up all the stages at once at 7 p.m. but this turned out to be a lie. Chenbl and I waited in front of city hall until after 8 p.m. before deciding to leave the thumping, soggy scene. We found refuge from the humidity and our hunger at the ancient McDonalds near Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, wolfing down salty burgers and pseudo-chicken.

I wanted to rest on Sunday, but I had to get my hair cut. It’s past time. I could have just shaved my head, as I tend to do in the summer anyway, but instead we decided to splurge, going up to Shilin to pay for Auntie #2 to massage our heads for half an hour amid the various forbidden delicacies on display. Lunch was Vietnamese, served by the boy we’d seen grow up over years that seemed like minutes.

The skies were threatening rain again as we went back to Chenbl’s to pick up my instruments, so I took a nap on the sofa. The news of Chi Bo-lin’s untimely demise had taken over the news, on repeat, with all the grisly, awful details, including suspicions of shenanigans. He exposed huge corporations’ constant and continuous rape of the land, and he was making a sequel. But yeah, it was probably just an accident.

I wanted to take the subway over the the music hall where we were practicing, but Chenbl said a bus would be quicker. I hate buses. I hate that I have to wait and hail one down, haul my stuff on board and be jerked around with abrupt starts and stops. I hate people looking at me flailing around on the bars. I hate the smell of fresh piss on the floor.

But I did get there on time. Practice was enlivened by the presence of a traditional Chinese instrument player. He could recreate the Mario theme on his sheng. I was playing too softly, and had to break out that awful marching-band blare, which left me vented and somewhat empty; I just wanted to go home, but what would I do there? Sleep has been uneasy lately. The whole world is a water curtain cave.

posted by Poagao at 12:52 pm  
Apr 30 2017

To Fukuoka

I’m sitting in a small room in a hotel in Fukuoka. Though the flight was at 5:15 p.m., getting here was an all-day affair. Of course I left all of my preparations to the last minute, so the morning was spent frantically throwing things into a backpack before meeting up with Chenbl at the new Airport MRT station.

Finally! We have an airport metro line. It was the first time I’d taken the “express” train to the airport, and I was disappointed to find not only that the seats were less than comfortable, but it wasn’t terribly fast. For some reason, even though eating, drinking and smoking are prohibited on board, small trays with round indents in them that could have been either for very low drinks or ashtrays were installed in the walls of the train. But all in all it’s a huge leap from that dirty old bus.

The day was brilliant…if I hadn’t been traveling I would have liked to have taken a bike ride by the river or something. We got the airport and breezed through the almost completely automated process. The only thing that remains a pain is the security line, but it wasn’t too bad. I’m thankful that it’s not as barbaric as it is in the U.S., though.

Though we had a leisurely lunch and took our sweet time about it, we still got to our gate so early the last flight hadn’t left yet. So we occupied a couple of lounge chairs and waited, Chenbl snoring and me posting random images to Instagram, before our flight was at last ready to board. I got a brief talking-to on the subject of photographing the stewardesses (mainly, don’t do that), but the sunset was lovely.

As it turns out, there is no metro station at Fukuoka’s international airport (haha, take THAT Japan!), so we had to take a bus to the domestic airport to get on the metro into town. I had to supress a small squeal of glee when we got on the metro, because I’ve always loved Japanese metro cars, with their comfy carpet seats, heating vents and the general 60’s vibe. It’s been a while (three years, actually) and I’d missed them.

Since we’ve got a small portable wifi network with us this time, it was a snap to find the hotel via Google Maps, and after putting our things away and marveling at the small size of the room, we went out to make our way through the drunken mobs of Tenjin to have some dinner at one of the little portable food stands. It was delicious, and we talked with a group of Koreans who spoke Mandarin. In fact, it seems that most of the people around here speak Mandarin; it’s a little disconcerting.

We have no idea what we’re going to do tomorrow. I guess we’ll figure something out.

posted by Poagao at 12:13 am  
Oct 27 2016

From Granada to Sevilla

A couple of good nights’ sleep has me feeling better, or perhaps I just like Granada. Despite the sub-par Alhambra experience, I still have warm fuzzy feelings for this city. Even though I can’t claim I really know it at all.

The weather was a bit cloudy as we checked our bags at the hotel and set out in search of breakfast. We ended up at the cafe where Ray, Gordon and I ate seven years ago, just as the sun broke out in full, blasting our table with lovely light and making the meal full of wincing, and not just because the waiter accidentally spilled Ewan’s coffee all over the table. Another waiter rushed over to help, but the first one just shouted at him. I assume there’s some kind of ongoing argument between them. The food was good when it came, however, and I managed to take a panorama without anyone having two heads for once.

After breakfast we split up, the girls and Ewan going shopping or something, while Carlos, Chenbl and I caught a bus up the hill opposite Alhambra. We got off halfway up and walked the rest of the way up to the observation deck, where a small band was playing and a group of schoolchildren were lined up on a wall, reading. Alhambra lay across the valley, shrouded in mist so that little more than its silhouette was visible. We bought some castanuelas and got instructions back down the hill.

The stream that runs down the valley is lovely indeed, and if I were to move to Granada, I’d definitely consider something in that area. We got some pomegranate juice and met up with the others in front of the cathedral before settling down in one of the many squares in the belltower’s shadow for some delicious paella. The restaurant was called “El Doseo” and the manager couldn’t have been nicer.

The walk back to the hotel helped some with our digestion, and I found myself, as I usually do when I’m about to leave Granada, that I’d like to stay. Perhaps someday I will.

But not this time. Instead, I got on a bus with the others and went to the bus station, where we switched to a long-haul vehicle for the trip to Sevilla. This was a surprisingly strict process, and I wondered if they have a serious problem with people getting on buses they haven’t bought tickets for.

On our way through the town, I could see that Granada is not just the old town, the suburbs are far less entertaining, which is no suprise. I passed the time taking photos of the truck drivers we passed on the highway and looking out at the scenery, rough landscapes gradually becoming tamer as we went. The driver had neglected to tell us what the wifi password was, and there was a sign over him that read “Do Not Talk To Driver,” so we were stuck enjoying the trip the old-fashioned way, something that was made more difficult due to the nonstop static-y radio that played the whole time.

When we arrived in Sevilla, we were first told there was no bus from the bus station to the train station except for the airport bus, which makes no sense at all. Then we found that there was a bus, but it went a bit out of the way. None of this constituted a good first impression.

When we finally got to the area where our hotel is located, I was reminded more of southern China than Spain: Blocks of apartments, tiled sidewalks…I even caught a whiff of stinky tofu, but I think I might have simply walked through someone’s sneeze.

We took a bus into the old part of town, but we hadn’t gone far when the driver pulled over, hopped out and ran over to a police van. He brought the cops over, and they escorted a guy off the bus. After talking with him for a while, they told us to go get another bus, so I assume the bus itself was guilty of some crime and needed to be interrogated. Carlos said that this kind of thing was a common occurance in his native Guatemala. When we got to the old part of town, we went in search of a restaurant someone had heard of online, but when we found it, the waiter/manager yelled at Carlos to get the hell out. I suppose they really must be making too much money, and we decided to help them out of this predicament by not only not eating there, but leaving our impressions on various online sites as well. We did manage to find a decent place in yet another square. We’d gotten halfway though our meal when a cello and guitar group set up on the sidewalk, played a tune rather badly, and then the guitarist went around with a hat for donations. When he came to our table Chenbl just stared at him. “No? Fine,” the guitarists said in a huff as the cellist struggled through arpeggios.

When we told the restaurant manager out our troubles at the previous place, he actually gave us free drinks. So there’s that.

 

 

posted by Poagao at 7:07 am  
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