The Sister(and Brother)hood of the Traveling Shirt

Although I am not thrilled to post current photos of myself and do so rarely, I am happy to share a few photos today. It’s not that I mind that I’m not as young as I used to be. I just hate photos of myself. I hated looking at photos of myself at 15 when I was 15, at 30 when I was 30, at 40 when I was 40. Now I don’t mind those. So, maybe when I’m 90, I’ll like looking at photos of myself at 50… OK, 50-plus. OK, OK, 50 and a lot of pluses.
But these photos are for a good cause. The shirt (also know as the Spo Shirt, Shirt of Shirts, and Traveling Shirt) was created by a talented and generous American blogger, Ur-spo, who at the suggestion of another blogger, Cubby, sent this handmade shirt on a world tour in late 2010. Ur-spo is donating money to charity for each person who wears the shirt and shares a photo. A number of charity options were provided; my choice was Doctors Without Borders.

MEETING FOR A DRINK IN PLAZA DEL SALVADOR TUESDAY AFTERNOON.

As you may remember, my camera died (well, I killed it) recently, so photos from my phone are the best I can do while I wait for my new camera to arrive. My gratitude goes to Lola for doing such a good job with a limited resource and a difficult model. From the two shots I’ve included, you’d think all I do is wander the sunny streets going from bar to bar. Definitely not the case. Really. The shirt has almost completed its world tour; I think it’s got four-or-so more stops before it is handed over to Cubby, the mastermind of the charity tour. I am number 29 on the list of lucky recipients and I am honored to participate.

A BREAK… FROM A BEER BREAK… AT LA PERLITA FRIDAY. NEAR THE CHURCH OF LA MAGDALENA.

The shirt came to me after a stop in Derbyshire in the UK. Next stop is somewhere in Australia, New Zealand, California, or Texas. I await my instructions. And, if Ur-spo ever decides he’s had enough of his work as a psychiatrist, he can take up tailoring for a living. The shirt is beautifully made. 

A Day at the Beach

A GOOD PLACE TO SPEND AN AFTERNOON.

Monday morning, Jerry and I were awakened by the alarm clock at the crack of dawn. It was 7:45 a.m. here but I’m sure it was the crack of dawn somewhere. We rarely see 7:45 a.m. We met Teré at the bus station (the bus we needed did actually leave from there this time) and the three of us headed down to the beach for the day. Teré is very proud of her upbringing in Conil de la Frontera, a small pueblo on the Atlantic Ocean just east of the city of Cádiz. It’s about a 1-3/4-hour drive south from Sevilla.

WHERE TERÉ WAS CHRISTENED AND BAPTIZED.

MUNICIPAL OFFICES (SINCE THE 1700s) TO THE RIGHT OF THE CHAPEL IN PART OF THE OLD MONASTERY.

The area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, but Conil’s origins go back to the Phoenicians (some time around 900 BC, give or take 100 years), who established a new way of tuna fishing called “almadraba.” I won’t go into the details of almadraba except to explain that it’s a net maze that traps the fish in a central pool. It’s used less and less now because it’s tough on fish populations. By 711 AD, the Moors reached Conil and ruled until the “reconquest” by the Christians in 1265. The words “de la Frontera” were added to the name at that time.

MONUMENT TO THE ALMADRABA FORM OF FISHING.

Jerry and I arrived with Teré late morning 2012 AD, nearly 800 years after the Christians and more than 1,300 years after the Moors. We went and had breakfast (#2) at a little café in town where we got to spend some time with Teré’s father and brother, who were (no surprise) kind, warm, fun, and gracious, and made us feel immediately welcome. We three then headed with Teré’s brother to another café across the street from the beach for a drink. I was looking forward to some vino dulce (sweet wine made with raisins), but the café was all out. So, instead, I had a soda and we all enjoyed the warm sunshine.

THE ARCH IN THE BACKGROUND SEPARATES THE OLD FROM THE NEW PART OF TOWN.

We took a walk around town, bumping into Teré’s extended family and childhood friends everywhere we went. The entire town was tranquil with few people about. It was much larger in area than we expected and has a population of about 21,000. We were told in summer the population increases to well over 100,000. I can’t imagine it. Although I would enjoy browsing the shops and street markets that thrive in summer (and are mostly closed in winter), I have no desire to compete for space with the mobs and am really glad we got to explore on a quiet winter’s day.

SIXTEENTH-CENTURY CHURCH OF SANTA CATALINA,
WITH MODERN “RESTORATION” IN THE LATE 19TH CENTURY AND RENOVATIONS IN 2008.

We had an unbelievably good seafood lunch beginning with delicious small sandwiches of “marrajo,” which turned out to be what we knew as mako shark. I didn’t get a picture of the sandwiches because we ate them too fast. I did, however, get one picture of our delectable fried seafood sampler plate before knocking my camera off the tall table and onto the marble floor. The camera did not survive the plunge. My smart phone will have to do until I buy a new camera — and it “did” for many of the photos shown here.

A FRIED SEAFOOD SAMPLER FOR LUNCH. MOMENTS BEFORE I BROKE MY CAMERA.

After lunch, we walked some more and then headed back down to the water. We walked in the sand to a little beach café and sat and relaxed (over coffee and pastries) for about an hour. You can walk this stretch of beach for 17 km (10 miles). We, however, didn’t walk the entire length — going about 1/4 km (about 270 yards). We then headed back to the edge of town to catch the bus home.

LOOKING WEST FROM OUR CAFÉ ON THE BEACH.
KEEP GOING, VEER A BIT NORTH, AND YOU’LL EVENTUALLY REACH THE DOWAGER DUCHESS.

There was a pleasant and very typical café bar across from the bus stop. We arrived early for the bus, so headed inside where we found a group of locals sitting and playing cards at one of the tables. Of course, Teré and her father knew the owner/bartender. Her father also knew all the card players. I got to have my vino dulce. And Jerry was pleased to find a video gaming machine by the door. Teré’s father played along with him, showing Jerry what buttons to press at bonus time. Jerry never quite understood how it worked, but he managed to double his money before we left town. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for a new camera.

JERRY TRYING TO LEARN HOW TO MAKE SOME MONEY.

A Birthday Feast, Spanish Style

SOME OF JERRY’S FIRST SPANISH BIRTHDAY DINNER.

Saturday morning turned out just as I had hoped. Jerry went into the kitchen first thing in the morning to find his chocolatey chocolate-truffle birthday pastry. And, apparently, it was as delicious as had been promised by the man behind the counter at La Campana. Jerry then had his yogurt and fruit, and we finally went downstairs to El Sanedrín for desayuno #3.

LOS COCINEROS (THE CHEFS).

Teré then told me that she and Miguel wanted to cook us a typical Spanish birthday dinner at our house. So, they arrived around 9:30 that night loaded down with bags and bags of food. Jerry and I were hustled out of the room and “the caterers” went to work.

We had camarones (tiny shrimp), gambas (bigger shrimp), and large langoustines. The teeny, tiny camarones were to be eaten in their entirety, we were instructed by Teré. (After all, how does one peel a shrimp smaller than the tip of one’s pinky?) I figured it was like eating soft-shell crab — which, to be honest, I have never enjoyed. It was — and I enjoyed it just as little! As Teré popped a handful in her mouth, Jerry and I each tried one. I mumbled, “I’ve got shrimp shell on my tongue.” What was left over after dinner went home with Teré. Everything else induced moans of pleasure. There were meats and rolls and flatbreads and crisps. Delicious slices of fish roe (called huevas). Three different patés. Cheeses, including a cubed cheese laced with orange marmalade and mango. Wine with dinner. Champagne with dessert. And what a dessert. A beautiful cake (tarta) filled with more incredibly delicious chocolate truffle. (Jerry and I had smartly decided to forego chocolate y churros in the afternoon.) We had the remaining tarta Sunday for dessert after both lunch and dinner. By Monday morning, we realized we would have to wait a good long time before eating sweets again. We stood firm. We didn’t have any chocolate pastries until very late in the afternoon.

I don’t have the words — in Spanish or English — to fully express our gratitude for the friendship, the kindness, the generosity, and the joy that Miguel and Teré have brought into our lives these past months. After shopping for this feast of traditional Spanish dishes, hauling it all to our house, working feverishly (and joyfully) in our kitchen for an hour or more, and then serving it all up beautifully, they actually insisted on cleaning up afterward. But I was equally insistent and I won the battle. It was the least I could do (yes, the absolute least).

ONE CANDLE FOR JERRY’S FIRST BIRTHDAY IN SPAIN.

Feliz Cumpleaños, Geraldo

Today is Jerry’s birthday. I don’t know exactly what the day has in store. I know it starts with a chocolatey chocolate-truffle pastry surprise I picked up yesterday evening from La Campana. I asked for the most chocolatey chocolate pastry they had. I then had it wrapped so it would stay fresh, snuck it into the house, and hid it away until morning.

We will eventually go downstairs to El Sanedrín for desayuno (breakfast) #2 of tostados and café con leche, which will probably really be desayuno #3 for Jerry, since, in addition to the chocolatey chocolate-truffle pastry, I’m sure he’ll have had his Greek yogurt and fruit.

This afternoon we’ll go for a walk together, perhaps, and enjoy some churros and chocolate. Unless of course this morning’s chocolatey chocolate-truffle pastry makes that a chocolate overload. (But it’s not likely.) However, Jerry did devour the remainder of a dark chocolate bar after dinner last night. And instead of lunch yesterday, I finished off a box of chocolate truffles. It’s been that kind of week… especially for me.

I guess we’ll have dinner out somewhere, since Jerry shouldn’t have to cook on his birthday. We all know I won’t be slaving in the kitchen.

Jerry and I stopped buying each other birthday gifts years ago. We buy what we want when we want it and, now, when we can afford it. Once we began to plan our move to Spain, we stopped buying just for the sake of buying. Even so, I looked around town for something special and couldn’t come up with anything.

So today, a bit of chocolate will have to do. Along with my gratitude for this rich and wonderful life filled with joy, adventure, laughter, kindness, compassion, and love. In all my youthful dreaming, I never dreamed anyone as remarkable as Jerry.


THIS SONG SAYS IT ALL.