Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Rain in Spain....

Yesterday I returned from a fortnight stay in San Sebastian, Spain, That explains my protracted absence from this blog.

I did take a computer and a smart phone (of course), but did not use them for anything work related.
So, anyway, now I'm back.

I'm not a tourist at heart, nor am I one in fact (I would argue). We (I did not go to Spain alone) stayed with local families in their homes and every week-day morning until 1 pm attended a school for the Spanish language. After that, we lived similar to the locals, except that our work day in school was shorter than than the average worker.

We did take a day trip to Pamplona, the city made famous by Ernest Hemingway,  the city's annual running of the bulls, and bull fights -- although we didn't see even a single bull running, fighting, or just hanging out, for that matter. I did do a couple of touristy things there including visiting their cathedral and the four bars still extant where Hemingway would hang out.

In San Sebastian, which is right on the Atlantic Ocean, we did walk the beach and my daughter surfed on four of our days, but mostly we lived the life of a longer-term visitor to the city by eating their food and living their daily schedules, both of which are very different from my own in the U.S.

It is very difficult to be a real vegetarian in San Sebastian -- especially a vegan, and even more especially, a low-fat vegan; so very quickly I gave that up for the duration. They did have some excellent vegetarian restaurants and some others with "vegetarian" items on the menu, but in San Sebastian, vegetarians are often viewed as eating cheese and other dairy, eggs, and fish. For the most part, pork is king there, and many foods are fried. All of it was delicious, but much of it made me uncomfortable from a health perspective.

Perhaps unlike the rest of Spain (who knows? -- I didn't go to the rest) but certainly unlike the U.S., the women in San Sebastian are generally of healthy and attractive body weight -- even many, many older women. Most actually look good in their tight leggings or jeans as well as their light revealing summer dresses or beach wear. Oh, yeah, I should also mention that at the beach, women's swimwear is top optional, although the look was not particularly sexual. I felt no compulsion to gawk. I did enjoy simply walking the cities and seeing all the beautiful, slim women. It was only when we were at the departure gate for our plane headed directly back to Detroit -- which was mid-return journey in Amsterdam -- that I was once again uncomfortable with the obese women packed like gigantic sausages and hams in their tight leggings and the men with enormous bellies wearing their t-shirts hanging over like a tent.

The men in San Sebastian are similar to us in the U.S., being a bit overweight, though on average perhaps not quite as much. I pondered the possible reasons why those in San Sebastian -- especially the women, of course -- aren't as fat as us, and was somewhat stymied. Perhaps it is as simple as portion control; they likely don't eat as much, though their dishes are certainly as fattening.

The daily-life schedule there is very different from mine. I rise very early and go to bed early as well. There, the San Sebastians rise early enough to go to work, but then most stores close from about 1-4 pm, after which they open again for the evening. After work, the people have a busy family and social life, take their dinner (cena) at about 9 pm, and afterward are often up until very late in the night.

Importantly, the Spaniards are ecologically conscious -- much more so than here in the U.S.. Their culture expects one to be thrifty and efficient. They have timers on most light switches in public places such as rest rooms, which will automatically turn the light off after the appropriate time. Their public water faucets all have similar timed dispenser mechanisms. They have small clothes washers in most homes, but fewer have the accompanying all-in-one dryer option. Virtually all in Spain air dry their clothes. Sadly, in my neighborhood north of Detroit, a household drying their clothes on a line in the backyard is a small scandal and cause for a home-owners-association meeting -- pathetic and stupid!

I don't know where the rain in Spain falls, but during our first week there, it seemed to fall entirely on San Sebastian. This was a minor annoyance, however, because we had read the forecasts and packed accordingly. So not as mellifluous as the well-known rhyme, I would say, The rain in Spain falls mainly on San Sebastian -- at least at times.

I found the people of San Sebastian and Pamplona to be charming, friendly, and generally very good-natured and patient with my pathetic command of Spanish. It was interacting with the people and appreciating their approach to life that was the highlight of the trip. Forget being a tourist; in my opinion, travel is only meaningful when it serves to help us recognize the common bond we have with them (those in countries that are not our own), in understanding the way they see the world in a different (but still reasonable) way, and in trying to borrow from them the things they see and do differently but which are an improvement over the way we see and do things. (If this idea of travel as a way to broaden one's perspective is interesting to you, I recommend a good book by Rick Steves called Travel as a Political Act (I believe that's the title).

Regarding shaving, I used my normal shaving kit for plane travel, which is simply a disposable plastic razor and shave soap, which is lathered with my fingers, not a brush. My daily shave was consistently very good. In the local stores, they are similar to U.S. stores offering modern cartridge-razor designs and shave creams and foams in a can. Different was the availability of shave soap in the form of a stick for face lathering, though I could only find a single brand -- previously unknown to me -- on any store shelves. I don't recall seeing any double-edged (DE) razors in stores, but DE blades were available in a very limited selection, but at a price. Like here in the U.S., DE blades can be purchased locally, but are stupidly expensive.

It's good to be back home, but also good to be slightly changed by my travels.

Adios, and happy shaving!


  1. Advice: stick to writing about shaving. This way you'll avoid sexist comments like "attractive body weight." Obviously, attractive to you...

    I really did not believe I would confront shadows of the our obsessive culture around women's weight and body shape in a men's shaving blog!

    1. Okay, anonymous Sheriff of PC County, here's the deal:

      1) I'm a health-care professional who specializes in treating diseases and other issues related to nutrition and dietary practices.

      2) Being overweight is a serious health care problem both for the individual and society. For the individual it causes and is related to emotional, psychological, and financial problems beyond the basic and very important physical-health issues. For society as a whole, it places an enormous burden on our health-care system.

      3) The causes of overweight -- and in the U.S. the problem is appallingly immense -- include ignorance, poverty, culture, emotional problems, overindulgence, and in some cases true medical issues such as medications or genetics (but these are not the larger causes).

      4) Maybe some people get off on overweight just like some, I guess, might be turned on by toe-nail fungus, or diabetes, or artery disease, or congestive heart failure. Whatever blows up your skirt is okay with me. But don't expect me to celebrate overweight, and don't expect me to lie and say that I find it attractive. Not me, brother. I find slim, athletic, healthy bodies attractive -- and especially those of the female persuasion. Similarly, I like tennis, and just because someone else likes soccer, I'm not going to say that soccer is a thrill for me. I find it not interesting and not appealing, and I'll stand by that. If you or anyone else is offended by my preferences, oh well....

      I am terribly sympathetic and supportive of those who acknowledge they have a weight problem and are doing their best to deal with it. I will do my best to support and encourage their efforts to optimize their health and avoid the completely-avoidable chronic diseases of lifestyle including overweight. I have no sympathy for those who think being "big" is okay and that I should love it; it's not okay for most, and I don't love it.

      5) If you keep this up, we're going to have to revoke your PC police badge, toy gun, and secret-decoder ring. :-D

      Oh, and one more thing, 6) I'll let you know when I need any more advice about the topics for my blog. It seems to me that you may have as big a problem with judgments and tolerance as those you might prefer to criticize. Just my opinion. Have a nice day. ;-)

  2. For me, one disadvantage of being obese is that you are a "no challenge" shaver. You know those who can shave from the top of their cheeks to the bottom of their necks without having to navigate the curve of the jaw! :-)

    In all seriousness, I had a friend who became disgusted with himself when he topped 350 on the scale. He started eating nothing but salads and tried to start running. At first he couldn't run to the end of his porch without gasping for breath. After a few weeks the weight fell off him so fast he became scared and went to his doctor fearful of a heart attack or worse. He kept it up and soon slimmed down to 175 lbs and was running in marathons. I admired him for his dedication and ability to keep it off. There is a lot to be said about eating right and good health. I really do not think he would be here today if he hadn't taken the initiative to do something about himself.

    Nothing wrong with admiring other peoples bodies. But the real admiration is in the effort they put forth in keeping it that way. That's one reason I admire my wife so much! :-)