Non incautus futuri

A Washington & Lee junior and Marine Officer Candidate in Spain

I’m Famous!

leave a comment »

My gastronomy class took a little trip to Alicante’s Central Market, and a reporter wrote a story about it for the local newspaper. I was interviewed, and there’s a little blurb with my name, a picture, and a quote. Surely, in such an important publication, my name will spread like wildfire throughout the Iberian Peninsula. I will be launched to fame and fly to worldly immortality on the wings of the Alicante Information.

I’ve scanned a copy of the article. You can click on it below to see the full version. For the non-Spanish speakers, I’m also including a translation. It’s a little clumsy, but that’s because sentences in Spanish are ridiculously long. I’ve actually noticed that Spanish has started deteriorating my English. The other day I told my friend that “the son of Pepa is very friendly,” because that’s the proper grammatical structure and literal translation in Spanish.

I have also included some photos I took on the visit below.

“A Trip Through the Roots of Gastronomy” by Tania Jiménez, Información Alicante

Visit to the Central Market of Alicante: The students of the Superior Language Center of the University of Alicante have opened up both their cultural horizons and their appetites with an extensive visit to the Central Market of Alicante.

The Central Market of Alicante had a new group of customers on Wednesday. A dozen American students from the Spanish and Alicantian Gastronomy class, which is taught in the Superior Language Center at the University of Alicante, went to the market to put into practice what they had previously learned in class and learn first-hand the typical Spanish — and especially Alicantian — ingredients.

From 12 in the afternoon until 2, the students, the director of the class, Pepa Vives, and the coordinator, Nacho Cervera, opened up their gastronomical horizons as the teacher, Antonio Lloréns, showed them the various parts of the market and explained the idiosyncrasies of Spanish cuisine. “The ingredients in almost all of the world are the same, or can be obtained easily, it’s how they’re combined that makes the difference between the gastronomic cultures of every country,” explained Lloréns, and used the potato tortilla as an example.

After moving through the area with fruits and vegetables, and stressing the importance of the seasons in the differences between foods, the students went to the area with salted meets. Here, they paid more attention and asked more questions. The students sampled a little bit of salted tuna with dates and, although there was little reluctance at first, they began asking how they could buy more. Also, they were amazed when they saw the huge pieces of fresh fish.

The last part of the tour was at the meat and sausage stands, and finished outside the Central Market, where Antonio Lloréns explained, “Markets always give a city its cultural character.”

This particular activity formed part of the practical coursework of the Spanish and Alicantian Gastronomy class, which also consists of eating tapas, a visit to a wine store, and cooking lessons in restaurants. Together with six theoretical lessons, these comprise the best way of transmitting the Spanish culture to the students.



Lee Brett: “Here people buy food every day, but I do it once a week.” (Lee likes Alicante a lot).

Jackie Newell: “Since I’ve arrived here I’ve eaten paella with lots of ingredients.” (Jackie has never been in a market).

Nacho Taylor: “The market is lively, it’s colorful, it’s nice to buy [food] like this.” (Nacho doesn’t like cheese at all).

Massive tuna head. The picture doesn't do it justice.

More animal heads!

Horse Meat!


Written by Lee

October 26, 2011 at 06:24

Posted in Spain

Weekend Trip to Granada

leave a comment »

I’ve just gotten back from a weekend trip to Granada…it was a bit cold and rainy, but apart from that I had a fantastic time. Nos pasábamos genial, as the Spaniards would say.

I could go on for a couple thousand words about all the things we did in Granada, but I think that’d be sort of boring to read. A quick laundry list:

– Saw a flamenco show: this was amazing, and way different than what I was expecting. I wish I had pictures of this — I tried to take a video with my phone, but it was just too dark inside.

– Ate great (and cheap!) tapas: In the south, you order a drink and you get a tapa free. Tapas are little morsels — you eat some here, some there, and you try a little of everything. This weekend I had jamón ibérico (Iberian ham), shellfish, Spanish tortilla (NOT like a tortilla in the United States — it’s basically a potato/egg cake), and a half dozen other delicious plates. I also tried a few types of vino tinto, or red wine. Before coming to Spain, I wasn’t much for wine, but it’s really growing on me.

– Toured the Alhambra: This ancient Moorish fortress defended the Islamic territories in Spain for centuries, until it finally fell to Christian forces in 1492. The whole place is beautiful: everything is intricately detailed with geometric patterns, and there are gardens, pools, and fountains everywhere.

– Visited the Royal Chapel and the Cathedral of Granada: the Royal Chapel is the final resting place of the Reyes Católicos, King Ferdinand of Aragón and Queen Isabelle of Castile. The Chapel is a massive gothic structure with Renaissance decorations. It adjoins the city’s cathedral, which is even bigger and decorated with nearly decadent pomp and luxury.

– Went souvenir hunting: there are about a billion super touristy shops in the streets of Granada, and we probably went into about half of them. Most of them sell the same junk: T-shirts, hookah pipes, etc. But I picked up a few gifts for friends back in the States, and some post cards. I’m hoping to get a Tercio (Spanish Legion) keychain, and maybe a Spanish flag (although they aren’t actually very popular here in Spain).

– Had a few cups of tea at one of Granada’s tea shops: these places are famous — they have dozens of types of tea, chai, and the like. We tried an oriental blend that tasted strongly of honey, and nibbled on a few pieces of baklava. It was fantastic. Perhaps of lesser novelty, but certainly just as enjoyable, was our visit to a coffee shop. We had some pastries (coffee cake layered with raspberry sauce) and café con leche. The hot drinks were perfect for warding off the frigid temperatures.

Anyway, thanks for being patient and reading all that. The “laundry list” was way longer than I originally intended…and that isn’t even everything we did! Now for the good stuff — photos! The first one you can click on to see a panorama.

These figurines are for Semana Santa, a religious holiday...but man, they're creepy.

My friend Emma in the tea shop.

A few friends and I after trinket-hunting!

Written by Lee

October 24, 2011 at 08:22

Posted in Spain

Spain is Different: Part II (Big on the Pig)

leave a comment »

Spaniards are fond of pork. Very, very fond.

More like, "Pig in the Oven."

I could go on about all the pork dishes here, but I’ll just share two. Chorizo is a national delicacy, it’s a sort of sausage that is made by stuffing cured pork inside the pig’s own intestines. Mmmmm, que rico. I actually do like chorizo, though, so I won’t really bust on it. But morcilla is another matter. Morcilla is basically coagulated pig blood, shaped into a little black patty. Sometimes there are flecks of rice or something to give the dried blood sausage a little bit more texture.

Nom nom nom

Grossed out? You’re welcome.

Written by Lee

October 9, 2011 at 10:16

Posted in Spain


leave a comment »

In the midst of an otherwise uneventful weekend, I up and decided to go to Altea with my Dutch girlfriend.

Pictured: My Dutch girlfriend.

Altea is a small fishing village, located — like Alicante — on the Costa Blanca. Every Spaniard who told me about Altea gave glowing reviews: my host mother, my professors, and my intercambio speaking partner. So along with three buddies (the Amstel thing was a joke, I really do have friends!) I went to Altea. Our group consisted of a USC student named Josh, my Japanese host sister Yuki, a Russian postgrad student, Anastasia, and me.

Uh..."and I."

Anyhow, we got up early (well, for college students on a Sunday morning) and made our way to the tram station at Plaza Luceros. 7€  got us a round trip ticket, which wasn’t bad considering that the ride is an hour and a half long.

We made it to Altea without a hitch and had lunch on the beach. The “beach” was actually quite rocky, not at all like the soft sand that blankets Alicante’s beaches. The Mediterranean water was very blue, and when the waves broke you could hear the rocks getting picked up and rolled along the shore. That isn’t poetic hyperbole, you could actually hear them moving. Video proof:

What do you mean I can't bring my spear gun?!

As nice as the water and scenery was, at the end of a few hours I was thinking that perhaps a rocky beach was not worth the trouble of three hours’ travel. The whole group was tired — we were dragging butt all the way back to the tram station. Sometimes being in a foreign country is exhausting. You can love Spanish and you can love Spain, but there will still come a time that you get burned out. You don’t want to speak Spanish, you want English. And I think that’s how we were at this point in the trip. “Yeah, yeah. Cool beach. Let’s go home.”

At this point, my friend Josh came through for us. “¿Queréis ir a la iglesia que está en la colina?” “Do y’all want to go to the church on top of the hill?” He indicated a bell tower, some ways off. We had some time to kill before the next tram — no one wanted to go to some church, but no one wanted to be the killjoy who said so. So we dragged ourselves off the benches, and off we went.

At the top of the hill, we found — well, I’ll let y’all see for yourselves.

This last picture is a panoramic — click on it to see the full version.

Needless to say, this trip is just what I needed to kill some of that burnout. My new classes start tomorrow, and I will start them as motivated and enthusiastic as ever. ¡Nos vemos!

Written by Lee

October 5, 2011 at 08:10

Posted in Spain

Parents Visit, Homesickness Ensues

leave a comment »

My parents came to Spain!

This is no small feat, since Alicante is a little over 4,000 miles from my house in Raleigh, NC. My folks spent a few days in Madrid, and then took a train to Alicante. It was a really good time — we sipped coffee in el barrio, walked along the palm tree-lined explanada, went up to the medieval Santa Barbara castle, and generally just bummed around.

I have to say, the experience seemed a little surreal at some points. I think it’s natural for people to build little boxes that they place their lives in. People like order, and one of the best ways to create order is to compartmentalize. So people have personal lives and work lives. In my case, I’ve got my life in the United States and my life here in Alicante. I’ve got all my friends back home in the one box, and my friends over here in the other box. And along with people, I’ve got ideas and experiences — they go in the boxes too.

Having my parents in Spain completely shook up all those mental boxes. It was fun, but it wreaked havoc on my mind. Dinner with my host family and my actual family was particularly confusing: I had to transition from speaking/thinking in Spanish to speaking/thinking in English. My host mom would ask me something in Spanish. I would respond, and then recount the conversation in English to my real Mom. Then my dad would tell a story in Spanish, and my brain was forced right back into the other language mode. This went on for several hours.

Since coming to Spain, I’ve experienced a little bit of culture shock, but saying goodbye to my folks was really the first time that I felt a bit homesick. Still, it’s much better now — and I’m only in Spain for a few months. There’s no time to waste being homesick — hay que aprovechar mi tiempo aquí en Alicante. I’ve got to get the very most out of this incredible experience that I can.

Written by Lee

September 28, 2011 at 09:41

Posted in Spain

More Pictures from Spain

leave a comment »

At the suggestion of my friend Amanda, I’m posting more pictures! These are from all over the place — Madrid, Toledo, Alicante, and Valencia — but I never had a reason to post them before.





Written by Lee

September 21, 2011 at 05:06

Posted in Spain


leave a comment »

So, I’ve reached that part of the program where I get to take a real class, with real Spaniards!

TV informs me that my fellow students will all look like this.

Before I could sign up for my UA class, I had a weeklong observation period where I’d show up, audit the class, and figure out if it was going to work out. One particular day, I was auditing a class called “Analysis and Redaction of Spanish Texts.” I figured it was some sort of survey of Spanish literature. Anyway, here’s how it all went down:

5:20 PM: I successfully find the building and then the classroom. I feel accomplished. My successful use of the Campus Map has redeemed my navigational disgrace in Toledo. I go inside the classroom — I’m the first one there. Perfect. I pick a seat in the back.

5:25: People are drifting in. One girl, then a bunch of girls. Then more girls. I have a good feeling about “Analysis and Redaction of Spanish Texts.”

5:30: The classroom is FULL of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. There is one other guy in the class, but he appears to be with his girlfriend. Several of these women cast glances my way. I am not sure if it is because I am something of an oddity in this female-dominated room, or because I am extraordinarily handsome. I decide to believe the latter.

5:31: I like this class.

5:35: The class has begun. The professor gives a little slideshow and talks very quickly. I lean forward and listen as carefully as I possibly can. It takes a lot of energy, but I’m catching about 95 percent of what he says.

5:50: The professor has handed out worksheets. No big deal.

5:51: The worksheets are in valenciano. It’s a dialect of Catalán, a regional language quite different from Castilian Spanish. WHAT??!

5:55: The students around me are working busily. I stare at my paper and sound out the words, trying to find Castilian meanings for the Valencian sentences. Llengua de parlants o oients reales (pot haver-hi una certa abstracció). Presta atenció a l’oral colloquial.  I have no idea what this means.

6:15: The girl next to me is helping me read. I feel like Adam Sandler in “50 First Dates,” except I really can’t read. I am the classroom dunce.

6:16: I don’t like this class.

The other class I observed, Contemporary Hispanic-American Literature, went much better. There were about 80 students in the class (bigger than any W&L class I’ve ever had — there were people spilling out into the aisles!) and many of them were foreigners (several Italians, a couple Americans, some French, and a Belgian to my knowledge).

The entire two hours were spent with the professor lecturing. There was very little student input, which apparently is typical in Spanish universities. But the material was fascinating and the professor seemed really knowledgeable. She speaks really quickly, but I’m able to follow about 98 percent of it. I think I found my UA class…

Written by Lee

September 19, 2011 at 14:26

Posted in Spain