Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My First Competitive Race

I'm quite well known in Ubrique for my "active" schedule. I'm always running around town doing errands, hiking on Sundays, and running/speed walking every evening (rain or shine). Apparently, that's not too normal in this quiet Spanish it draws quite a bit of attention. As such, when preparations began for the 16th annual Ubrique Nutrias Panteneros 11,3 km Run, people immediately assumed I would be doing it. For about a week prior to the race, I was repeatedly asked if I was participating. I said, "no way, are you crazy?! I've never run competitively nor have I ever run 11,3 km in my life." I usually max out at 5 miles (or about 8 km). However, everyone eventually convinced me that I should participate in the race, so I finally signed up.

The Race: I woke up nervous as heck, ate breakfast at 8:00 am, and reported to check in at 9:00 am. The idea of the entire town watching me run was slightly intimidating. By 10:00 am, the horn sounded, and about 450 people took off running, ready for the 11,3 km route throughout Ubrique (which, I need to add is in the middle of the mountains, and thus is quite hilly!). I started at the very end of the pack, as I didn't see the need to be trampled to death. Several hills later, and 01:01:42 after the horn, I crossed the finish line!!! I had maintained a pretty constant rhythm, but towards the very end, found myself pretty tired. 11,3 km is no easy run. All in all, I came in 401st (but was ALMOST 398th)out of over 430 runners. Not bad for my first race (and being one of only about 40 women).

After the Race: After showering, I decided to stay and watch the awards ceremony. I wasn't paying much attention, but immediatly perked up when I heard a botched pronunciation of "Ashley Beck." I asked the people next to me what they were calling names for, and was told they were listing the winners of the race and the various categories. Thirty minutes later, I was standing on a podium, receiving a trophy from the mayor of Ubrique! I came in third place in my category (women ages 18 - 34). It was quite the experience. :)

The Next Day:(1) My students -- ASHLEY! We saw you! You ran in the race, didn't you?! (2) My coworkers -- ASHLEY! Great Job! Congratulations! We heard you won a trophy! (3) Friends -- ASHLEY! We saw you running! Nice job! (4) Strangers -- You're not too bad a runner, you know?! Congratulations on your race! In other words, the whole town saw me running; students, parents of students, coworkers, friends, and everyone else. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, but coming in 401st doesn't exactly give me bragging rights. But hey, now I'm even more famous for being the "odd foreigner that always runs." And, apparently I'm "not too bad." :)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Natural DaNgErS

As you all already know, I love to be outdoors. I love to walk, and I love to run - especially in a place as beautiful as Ubrique. So, I've been running my usual route, along the "highway" that leads out of Ubrique and winds through the mountains. When Mom visited last year, she made it quite apparent she didn't approve of my route along the road. She noted that it was quite dangerous as there was no sidewalk, no shoulder, and quite a bit of traffic. I disagreed, but have recently come to believe it is fairly dangerous...but not for the aforementioned reasons. Within the last week, I've come across (a) two huge mice (admittedly, they were quite adorable), (b) a massive preying mantis that landed on my shoulder (but quickly departed as I spazzed out and shrieked), (c) a caterpillar about 6 inches long and as thick as your thumb, and (d) been chased by bees the size of your big toe!! So yes, I've decided it is slightly more dangerous than I previously thought. However, I'm learning to cope with all the strange creatures that continue to cross my path. ;)

I continued my dangerous outdoor escapades today on my first hike of the year (well, of the new scholastic year). It was a beautiful morning (it is still averaging about 75/80 degrees here), so I put on some shorts, a shirt, and a lightweight jacket, and took off at 7:50 am to meet my usual hiking group at the bar at 8:00 am. However, I apparently forgot about the Spanishh foliage. I have never seen so many spiky, spiny, prickly plants in my life as I have in the hills and mountains surrounding Ubrique. Needless to say, my legs by the end of the day were quite scratched up and bloody. Lesson learned: never go hiking (in Spain) in shorts.

Aside from the painful spikes, spines, and prickly leaves torturing my legs, it was a beautiful hike. We saw four deer running about and a couple wild horses. We also went to Benaluz, an incredible finca (country home/farm) run by a sweet little 80 year old man. We ate breakfast in his home - basically a country cabin/shack with nothing more than a table, a small sink, a fireplace (no electricity), a bedroom (with a mattress on the floor), and a small room dedicated solely to making cheese. I must say, after seeing the flies, spider webs, and massive spiders hanging around the cheese room...I'm not sure when I will eat cheese next. I think I will take a break from it for a while. Haha. In all honesty though, it was quite a beautiful site, and I felt as if I had stepped back into the early 19th century.

I've decided that despite the various dangers occassionally associated with running around the Sierra de Ubrique, it is without a doubt, well worth the risk.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Next Time Don't Ask...

Friday, after spending the day in Cadiz at the police station (getting my Spanish identity card) and kicking around the beach with a friend I met along the Camino de Santiago, I headed back to Ubrique and got ready for a fun night out. I have to admit after waking up at 5:00 am to catch the 6:00 am bus to Cadiz, I was tired by 10:00 pm, but managed to liven up and stay out till about 2:00 am. As we were leaving one of the bars, the owner recognized me and came over to tell me to bring all the new auxiliares de conversacion to the bar tomorrow (Saturday) as the bar was hosting a lunch. I said, “ok, we’ll all head down.”

So…on Saturday my roommate and I headed down to Morgan’s Irish Pub, grabbed the only table left, got two drinks, and asked for a plate of whatever they were serving. It appeared to be carne con salsa (meat in broth) but as I started eating it I decided it tasted a little funny and had an unusual consistency. I asked my roommate if she thought it was meat, and she said “yes.” A few moments later, though, she mentioned she didn’t quite like the consistency. So, I decided to ask the server if it was in fact carne con salsa or if it was something different. With a smile stretching across his face, he said it’s a traditional recipe and was “higado.” I think my face probably turned white, and he asked me “what? It’s good isn’t it?” I have to admit I lied through my teeth…and said “yup, it’s delicious.” My roommate saw my face and asked me, “what’s higado?” “Liver,” I said, “we just ate liver.”

I had my suspicions from the first bite I took, but three or four pieces later, once it was confirmed that it was liver, I was mortified. I’m not a huge fan of the idea of eating an animal’s liver. Even with an open mind, it doesn’t taste good. I spent the rest of the day disgusted that I had just been tricked into eating liver, drinking a lot of Aquarius (an amazing sports drink that tastes like lemonade) to get rid of the taste, and wishing I had followed the age-old advice of “sometimes it’s just better not to ask.” This would definitely qualify as one of those times it would have been better not to ask. Next time I won’t.

At the rate I’m going, it looks like there will still be plenty of new things to write about this year.

Monday, October 5, 2009

I've Arrived Safe and Sound!

Greetings from Ubrique! You will all be glad to know that I successfully arrived to my little flat in Ubrique after a long 28 hours of travel. This year I took a slightly different route, flying from Denver – Toronto – Madrid, catching the train from Madrid to Sevilla, and then by car from Sevilla to Ubrique. I left Thursday morning and got in a little after 7:00 pm Friday evening…just in time to drop off my luggage and run to get some bed sheets before the stores closed (since I didn’t find a bare mattress that appealing). It was quite a challenge to get to the store, since it was Friday evening and the whole town was out on the Avenida wanting to talk to me! I eventually made it, however, and enjoyed a lovely 10 hours of sleep!

My new flat is much larger than the one I had the previous year, but the location is not quite as ideal. Needless to say, I still have a view of the mountains from my bedroom, so I am happy. It has three bedrooms, two complete bathrooms (which are important since three of us girls are living here), a huge kitchen, a lovely sitting room/salon, and lots of storage space (which I was severely lacking last year). My roommates this year are very nice, and it looks like we will get along well. All three of us are working at Fernando Gavilan; one is a teacher (from Sevilla) and the other is an auxiliar de conversacion (like me) and is from New Jersey. Both are very neat and organized, which is an automatic bonus!

To be honest, I haven’t done too much since I’ve been here, so I don’t have much more to repot. Over the weekend, I just unpacked, ran errands, and relaxed. I also went for a walk/run along my favorite route! I’m already getting a routine down…kind of. I'm also already frequenting the bars...multiple times a day! But not for the reason you're thinking... We don't have internet yet, so I've been heading down to my favorite hangout and using the free WiFi. So if you e-mail me and you don't get a timely response, the lack of internet in my flat is my excuse. And, as soon as I know my address, I will let you all know…just in case anyone wants to send me snail mail.

I’ll close for now but will keep you updated on my second year adventures in Ubrique.