Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunset Boulevard

Lyrics from "As If We Never Said Goodbye"


"M" is for Musicals - this is tragic name that I came up with for an as-yet non-existent blog in which I present what I've learnt about one musical per week and practice various singing techniques from the trickiest songs. Ambitious, much, and all because I can't get too of the loveliest songs I've heard out of my mind - "Send In The Clowns" and "As If We Never Said Goodbye". So far, all that has been invented is earworms for everyone around me. Sorry about that!

So far I've learnt that "Send In The Clowns" was written by Stephen Sondheim and featured in "A Little Night Music", a film I'm eagerly waiting to see. "As If We Never Said Goodbye" I only came across when on holiday in Sitges a few months ago. In a tiny bar in the backstreets, we all huddled in to watch Ria Jones' interpretation of the lead character, Norma Desmond, and her tragic hit from Sunset Boulevard. The film, made in 1950 and now a musical, is now considered one of the greatest American films of all time. My list of classics is getting longer and, alas, another Sunday has passed without me having struck any from the list.

This weekend, I've mostly found myself harassing the eardrums of my family at their lovely apartment near Murcia as I take a much-needed break from work. I've been at Sunseed now for a mostly-blissful 6 months but as the nights draw in and the sun creeps ever lower behind the looming mountains, the valley's becoming increasingly hostile to the near-nakedness I managed the whole summer; I've worn no socks and barely done any washing as it has mostly been too hot for anything other than dreams of ice cubes and gelato.

With my shrinking comfort (and warmth) zone, I'm working extra hard to remember my intentions, my values, my beliefs and my actual self. Learning songs from musicals, learning dances from the latest R&B videos and Indian Head Massages are definitely some key ingredients. Another important constant in the crazy equation of [{J(oy) & Ex(citement) 4 Everything} = N0thing D0ne] is a fruit and vegetable fast at the weekend. I've done it for most of the weeks I've been away and missed it terribly when I haven't. Even today when hot churros were tantalizing my nostrils, I found the strength in grapes, cucumber and dates to keep me going until 24 hours was up. During the fast, I find a supreme calmness in my thoughts, a steadiness in my mood and my mind feels as if it's been unplugged for a bit. Helping me on the way in the hotel complex is a sauna, a steam room, a pool as well as a private shower and bath (this may all sound quite normal to non-Sunseeders - apologies!) and in all of them, a very content version of me.

I've challenged many aspects of myself this year, some of which may seem miniscule to some - I have barely washed, and when I have it's been without soap in a very cold (and beautiful) river; I have eaten vast amounts of aubergines without complaining (I have never been so cosy with the Deadly Nightshade family and I still don't know what the fuss is about); I have never listened to the radio or any music when driving the van (except maybe once); I have squatted for every loo trip; my hair hasn't been washed for nearly 2 months (with a very nasty-looking comb to prove it); recently I've slept in the fleece that also keeps me toasty during the day (Grossville, Population 1 - You'll Never Leave!) and I brushed off from my shoulder the biggest spider on earth* (*unofficial measurement). Oh, and I haven't been to the cinema since January and I'm a complete film buff (I hear you - First World Problems).

So, this afternoon, not only was my microbiome was in for an extreme makeover but my dormant Westernised self was awoken from its quilted cinematic pupa to the sound of BBC Prom and Judy Dench's "Send In The Clowns". I have neglected small but gem-like parts of my personality that can still have a place in a low-impact project and sustainable lifestyle. I will never be the scruffy peak oil renouncing hippy who rejects all possessions in the name of the Great Mother - as a child, nothing would delight me more than flailing around to Motown, finding matching trousers or polished shoes and riding on trains. No amount of goji berry and chia seed smoothies will change these facts. I love the world in every one of its qualities and each one is defined by the eyes through which I see - there are no solid truths and right or wrong ways of appreciation. We are who we always were and will be... and when we remember that - everything's as if we never said goodbye.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Prime Time



Ain't Nobody Peeking But The Stars Above
titles and lyrics from Janelle Monaé's ''Primetime'' feat. Miguel

07h30 Breakfast: Fresh figs and blackberries from the garden, local honey, porridge (!), local watermelon and ginger tea
10h30 Tomato salad with caperberries (grown here)
14h00 Almond and chocolate triangle freshly baked from the local panaderia
20h00 More figs, soft cheese with garlic, salad, polenta, courgettes


Mid-August, almost 3 months into my new role here in a unique and beautiful wetland region of the semi-arid environment of Almería and all is... lovely. The Full Moon last weekend was a great chance for my pimped Forest School class (currently entitled Nature Dance but a work in progress!) to take place, bathed in the briny-yellow light of the moon at the mirador here in Los Molinos dancing around to Bjork's Moon. I was delighted that so many took part and enjoyed it so much. It shows me how necessary that time together and alone is with the natural world is because it's just soooooo endlessly beautiful. Some nights, I can't stop staring, attempting to somehow photographically imprint the memory in my mind although I doubt I'll easily forget it. How ridiculous! I've no doubt the sun will sear all these things in my brain.

The soap we made almost 6 weeks ago is ready on Thursday and I can't wait to see if it works. We have grand plans with other oils we've infused with herbs and flowers from the garden - we have to perfect the process first. A second batch is also curing so the workshop stinks of soap! The process is so simple so all my family will be getting soap for Christmas. Sorry!

I spent last weekend visiting Las Salinas in Cabo de Gata to see the flamingoes who visit there briefly. Shortly after, we headed to the beach and I went snorkelling, discovering all kinds of crazy coloured fish and underwater forests. Despite the super saltiness of the water and its dissolving my eyes, I had a wondrous time! This Friday is Bank Holiday in Spain and so far I've heard rumours that it's an excuse to throw pastries at each other. It sounds hilarious, if a little wasteful. I have so much forest school work to complete for the hand-in on Monday so I might have to give it a miss.

This is probably one of the dullest posts I've written so I'm sorry if you've read up til this far! Maybe this way of life has chilled me out far too much - the struggle to get somewhere has disintegrated and left the simple pleasure of enjoying the moment. I'm in unique circumstances and I'm determined to make the most of it, learning, growing, rolling with the, er, siestas.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Saltwater Taffy: The Triumph of A Heart


''A man's greatness likes not in wealth and station, as the vulgar believe, nor yet in his intellectual capacity, which is often associated with the meanest moral character...and arrogance to the poor and lowly....but a man's true greatness lies in the consciousness of an honest purpose in life, founded on a just estimate of himself and everything else, on frequent self-examination, and a steady obedience to the rule which he knows to be right without troubling himself...about what others may think or say, or whether they do or do not that which he thinks and says and does.''                - ''Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius'' (Kindle edition, 8%)


If you've not been naked in the sea, whip your clothes off and head for the coast immediately. It feels like birth - slippery, brutal and a bit bloody (if you're doing it right). Today on yet another sunkissed afternoon shared with friends (who saw way too much)... after being scratched, bashed and scraped along the seabed... after having my nasal cavity filled with small pebbles that immediately gushed from my mouth... my mind surfaced from this oceanic spin-cycle of frenzied frothy crests with the dazzling clarity of freshly-washed sheets. 

My adventure began last year one night in Autumn when I found myself bored in the tedium of my life...scratching an itch to get away ... to inhabit a part of myself that wasn't being reflected by my environment. I needed a new place to sculpt and excavate parts of me that the cold damp of West Yorkshire was never going to reveal. I wanted an adventure! I wasn't sure what I was looking for, or whether it was my imagination or my rational mind that was urging me towards this peculiar something that evaded words, the texture of which changed like the glassy surface of a bubble, like shape-shifting clouds that drift over the sky... but in the spine of the feeling, there was an urgency. My life in a small town in North West provided a steady routine, a part-time job that was enough to support me financially, my leisure time filled with sports, voluntary work and studies that kept me ticking over; I could present the whole picture to myself with a positive slant, become dizzy by flicking through a diary busting with all manner of things. But it wasn't enough - I was bored with the mechanism of it, exasperated with the grey grey rain that looms like bad breath over the Pennines. I was trapped by the safe routine as my spirit was getting stale. I was restless and and my life wasn't boasting the freedom that I'd daydreamed about while at my school desk, with all the glittery magic that I remembered so clearly from childhood days.

I needed time to think. I found a cheap holiday to North Africa and booked. I've never been away alone before and there I found myself in November, in a foreign country, a hotel room on the coast, a view of a flat dusty landscape that old horses and carts trotted along. An online course and the mealtimes of the hotel were providing a loose structure of the day... but now what? I took a few trips to local towns where mocha-skinned locals got uncomfortably close, some drawing me in to their cavernous shops with over-familiar handshakes and forced smiles that revealed yellow teeth. Whatever I was looking for, I wouldn't find it amongst goat-skin lamps and leather moccasins.

One regular night after completing my usual online lecture, I started browsing jobs and immediately came upon an internship opportunity in Spain. Within a few weeks, I had handed my notice in at work and was on my way to stay with a family, start a new job and learn a new language. This was the start of 2014!

Fast-forward to 7 May and my last night in the most beautiful little village on the coast in Southern Andalusía feeling like the luckiest person alive. Soon after the internship finished, I was invited to an interview at a desert technology project in Alméria and, while waiting for post-Easter flights back to the UK to complete some studies, found paid work at a hostel further down the coast in Nerja. My days have unfolded like this - yoga on the terrace (from 9am, it's already 18-19 degrees), work 11am-4pm, online study of Art History for an hour then I hit the beach with my friends until sunrise, shower before a long lazy meal, then drinks on the beach under a star-drenched night-sky sometimes with an international crowd made up of travellers, workers, holiday-makers, musicians. This is what I dreamed about at school; the ''Cinderella'' moment where the shoe of life fits (more cheese below).

This has begun one of the best years of my life. I'm learning the power of following a dream that is populated with nothing tangible but strongly propelled by curiosity and the force of will to be the best version of myself. Taking the first step into an unknown situation has been empowering, terrifying, life-affirming and rejuvenating. It has taught me the value of forgetting about the guilt and shame of feeling selfish in pursuit of something that couldn't be articulated; it's only when I'm inhabiting that powerful (yet vague) feeling that I can give back a confident and true version of myself.

I've often been met with criticism for my romantic way of seeing the world, the idealism that I have striven to live up to and the million dreams I've wanted to realise. Fortunately the stubbornness of my inner voice has not allowed doubt and the many depressing facts of the world to destroy my inquisitive nature. For all the sad stuff that happens, there are an equal amount of majestic and life-affirming things so what is better to focus on? How many of us forget our power to choose. The lazy cynicism of adulthood can threaten our ability to see clearly. As an adult, I continue to be inspired by the arts, by music, films, poetry, cartoons, imagery, stories and dare to not dismiss their messages as cliches; I dare to celebrate the beauty that surrounds us because life is short and suffering is brutal.

20 years ago, in a film called Muriel's Wedding, one of my favourite scenes is where Muriel (the main character played by the wonderful Toni Collette) says that she knows her life will be right when it is as good as an ABBA song. This year, my life is teaching me the cheesiest 80s power ballad lesson of all - that believing is the key to a kind of super-joy (and accompanying power hair with optional hair-dryer) that lives in all of us. When I attend to it relentlessly, surrender to it, swim in it, delight in it...life becomes the best film with the greatest soundtrack, best visual effects and the fabulous supporting actors.









Saturday, 5 April 2014

Project B.A.M.B.I. and the Joymakers





video



Click the link to hear ''Sweet Talk''

XXIII
Bipolar Express

Tonight, me and a handful of BAMBIs went to the Cruz Rojo festival at the Hospital de Santiago. It was absolute rubbish and we left, twice. We really didn't want to believe it. Initially, I was blaming my friend's migraine. We felt compelled to return because our fits of schoolchildren giggles at the haze of recorders, terrible outfits and a death march of trumpets were all a tonic to his headache. 

My ability to reason is gradually leaving me, erased by the heady Romance / bonkers quality of not ever really understanding what's going on. Sometimes, a smile isn't even my ticket out of the bewilderment so then a visit to the loo saves the day. Since my stomach rules my life, I've been trying to understand what everyone eats (because, of course, everyone, in every terracotta pot-punctuated arid pocket of Spain, eats the same). It intrigues me so much because I like to think of my comestible nature as chameleonic so I will adapt to whatever's around me - even a wild foraged Snickers is fair game. I began with the cloudy subject of olive oil - I totally convinced myself that cooking in high quality olive oil was the way forward since I imagined that all the folk at the office had reassured me of this, until, on my mention of it, my boss recoiled in horror. NO (international 'no')...you must use the poorer quality oil so it doesn't burn. Hang on. Didn't you tell me a month ago that you fill the deep fat fryer with the purest juice of those pesky black ovals? One moment, later his face lights up as he rejoices in his favourite smell - burnt olive oil. Spain's burnt toast?

The father of my household is still recovering from the horror of watching the amount of vegetables that I eat, or maybe the lack of pork therein. To make matters worse, when I attempted to explain that I'd parboiled the potatoes for my tortilla, he became all animated and adopted the Darwinian dictionary face of universal disgust and promptly left the kitchen. I can't imagine my being here is helping improve the dreadful tea-stained myth of English food. The lovely mum of the house, who's health régime beams from the fridge door, reminds me as she tucks into quotidian spongecake, that her sweet tooth she just won't indulge. Madre mía!

I had to have it out with my boss, once and for all. So, after being asked to work the afternoon shift since there was so many tasks to complete, I was dismissed after a vague mist of 54 Twitter-drenched minutes... so took the opportunity to pin his culinary habits down. The low-down - cereals are a big no-no, especially the refined stuff, as is anything containing chlorophyll. Dairy is wretched. Go easy on the meat so as not to stress the bowel. Which then all transposed through the cruel veil of reality as toast in the morning, fish stew with baguette for lunch and a nightly gnawing on a pork leg. 

My dreams are littered with trolley-fulls of sprouted superfood quinoa cloudberry salads from M&S.


XXII
Flat Attack! 

Will The World Ever Be 3D Again?
He wasn't sure.



My art homework (missed the deadline, damn) in response to an introduction to the beautiful, inspiring world of Renaissance painting, Baroque and the artist Mondrian.

I arranged a still life, took a picture from several angles and nested them within one another then superimposed onto a picture of the 'natural world'. Our lectures are about line, perspective and world-making. I was fascinated with bareness of Maurice Denis' approach to painting - being just colours and lines arranged on a surface. I responded in photography (at its most essential, pixels arranged on a page) in a relatively abstract way; even though elements of the picture are definitely identifiable, it's not a picture that you would see out of the window. And yet, our brain decodes it and knows exactly what it is. 

XXI
Digital Úbeda


XX
The Animals Within, 2014






XIX

Once Again, With Feeling

What can look so dreadful and dreary can be and often is utterly transformed by the generous yellow fingers of sun, glorious sun! The BAMBIs and I scampered (feebly) along the winding roads to the hitherto-Siberian Cazorla, now boasting in glorious Hollywood Technicolor. It was the 'Death of the Sardine' the previous night in Úbeda so we had all partied hard to mourn the giant toxic puff of a PET sardine. Despite early talk of a 'cap' on the hour, a 5am bedtime was about the size of it. 

So, the Day of Rest found us all endrenched in the deathstench of hangover / lack of sleep but we cheerfully dragged our bones into the mountains to delight and pronk (weakly) in the most beautiful place in the world. The BAMBIs toddled off to do half of the recommended walk but, even in sunshine, my boots / suede loafers aren't made for walking. I sauntered and frolicked on the spot with the most delicately painted butterflies and my heart sang as the cutest tiny lilac varieties clumsily danced in pairs then settled next to each other on the ground (and I imagined, fell in love). The clear waters of the river (Rio Borosa) tumble and crash around, accompanying you throughout the walk. The mountains provide the backdrop and growing in abundance is rosemary so I brought lots back home, some for drying, some for dressings with what else but olive oil?

Friends, a dark shadow was cast across this enchanted scene. I was struck with a call of the wild in a non-metaphorical sense. No, no...I'll wait until we reach a café, I thought. The walk was 3.5 hours, my insides protested. It was time. After studying the bedazzling gastrointestinal benefits of  the squat during my ''Sustainability, Society and You'' course, it was now time to step up for bowel baptism, my first Nature Poo.

It was a most elaborate affair - after finding a tucked away spot (up hill or down hill?), I built a little throne of stones on which I could sturdily balance, holding the crown jewels in preparation for the deed. How I could have forgotten that a wee usually precedes the act is beyond me so Act I found me urinating all over myself while Act II was accompanied by a soundtrack of children's voices from the path below as I clenched in terror, wet and half-naked. All I could think of was that if I was discovered, I would be accused of lurking perversely in the woods and carted away, covered in my own urine. 
Fortunately, Act III was a success that evaded discovery and incarceration.

This will never be spoken about again.



XVIII
A Green & Pleasant Land

Last night was the BAMBIs chance to showcase England's finest cuisine to the host family. The pressure was on! Naturally, we chose Pancake Day and offered Nutella  and bananas and Emmental and Proscuitto. And I made the batter with the finest English ricemilk. I attempted to explain Ash Wednesday to my invités, too. What is Ash Wednesday?

XVII
My Stroll Into Stoicism

It's 03:28 and, instead of being swaddled in sheets of dreams in the arms of Morpheus, I'm continuing to study Stoicism. If you have never heard of it (except in the context of wirey haired jabberings from a W.I. jam-making session), check it out. Because I've only just discovered it, I have nothing constructive to say about it except it's AMAZING. The writings from Marcus Aurelius are free on Kindle, too. You have no excuse not to budge those brain cells out of their dreadful savagery. You know it's exactly what you, too, want to be doing at 3.30am.

''Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things that exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the structure of the web.''

—Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, iv. 40.



XVI
Bobbing Octopus

The BAMBIs continue to be amazed / left pale, enfeebled and trembling at the sights of a Spanish kitchen. Today, our lovely lovely housemum invited us for dinner. The kitchen was a cacophony of culinary delights, none of which have ever graced an English kitchen (I imagine?)...finely ground oat flour, mixed with water and olive oil, fried for hours in a giant pan, served with fried green peppers. Oil? Salt? Yum. Then there was something definitely pig-related sizzling away yummily in lots of olive oil. Then, bobbing away as if in its homeland, a whole octopus, boiling away in salt water with bay laurel: an inky pinky-grey bonkers beast imitating some demonic bath-toy from Little Shop of Horrors. Feed me!


We've extended the long welcoming arm of the BAMBI clan to the family next week because they want to steep their tastebuds in England's finest offerings. One suggestion for dinner was lasagne. Thanks. Fortunately, religion has saved us - Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday...my favourite day of the year! Cakes of the pan for everyone!

XV
HAY FIESTA!

The internet reached Spain, a million years ago, along with the rest of the world. The only difference was that nobody really uses it. Such was our bewilderment at the goings-on for Carnaval last weekend - where is the Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, PinIt, Flikr nonsense from which all our information cometh? From behind all our screens, the BAMBIs paws were thrashing relentlessly at the keys, demanding to each bewildered fawn, ''Que pasa?'' to no avail. It's like some peculiar jungle, a Hispanic voodoo force where intuition alone guides one to the where it's at. For me, that has mostly been in the direction of my mattress.

My favourite musical ever is My Fair Lady and since most of my knowledge originates from musicals, I continue to be agog at the falsity of that famous song's line ''the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plane''. Perhaps Úbeda just didn't really rhyme very well with that phrase. No-one has ever seen this amount of rain in February. No, UK, I am NOT sunbathing in my spare time.

Slosh! Slosh! Galesh! Golosh! as we walk around the streets on Friday and see a meagre peppering of people making shapes in the Plaza Del Torro where the Carnaval had hoped to gather. The sodden bouncers had no idea when the part-ay was starting. Hmph. We consoled ourselves with Tinto de Verano with ice (we can dream it's summer), cerveza and zumo de melocoton (peach juice) while I prattled on about the New Moon's deadening effect on the crowd. There are TWO New Moons in March...this must mean something. Pavement-sizzling egg-cooking BBQ-lighting OK, no.

The following day, the procession was cancelled because no chorizo-munching Spaniard ventures out in the rain. I think I have finally found my country match! If it rains, stay inside - only a lunatic would open his shop or café! It's bonking genius. Having said that, there must be another rule since, on that night, there were more fancy-dressed people than I have EVER seen partying away for €2.50 including drink...under the marquée in the old bull ring. True to their environmental biases, the BAMBIs stepped out as Robin Hood, Pocahontas, Mickey Mouse, a butterfly, a viking and Blue Man (note to self: eject Blue Man).

Fran Dobing

Fran Dobing

Fran Dobing

Fran Dobing

Fran Dobing

Fran Dobing

Fran Dobing


Fran Dobing


XIV

Sex With Dolphins

I didn't think that sounded like the most dreadful proposition. Fortunately, it was only an imaginary dilemma conjured up by the most warped BAMBI mind who, after committing this hitherto spoken-about conundrum to the written word, might have to be once and for all ejected from the innocent down-covered colostrum-consuming BAMBI clan.

However, since it inspired my new swimming move, which I will be presenting alongside butterfly as an Olympic sport, he will remain nameless and permitted to stay. 

If you want to see a sight, close in its treachery to the unmentionable title of this blogette, tune in very soon for a demonstration of The Dolphin and a chance to glimpse a moistened version of myself doing potentially outlawed moves in AquaSports.
We recommend starting a new tab in a private session.





XIII

Elusive Yellow Creature
Makes Me Oh,
So Happy

Was it living in a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 6 fabulous friends that brought joy to my heart?
Was it the hot chocolate with cream and condensed milk that made my serotonin levels soar?
Was it the fact that my hours of work are Mon to Friday 10am - 2pm that put a skip in my step?
Was it my parents sending me waterproof boots and the prospect of not having to dry my feet after a 10 minute walk?

No. 

The sun came out.
ALL weekend!

Thank God this doesn't happen that regularly (please strike that from the record, God). I have no urge to work, to concentrate, to move, to exercise, to speak, to strive, to dance, to do anything but...
let the sun shine on me.

I am an Englishman.


XII
When Your Brain Isn't An Onion

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Your brain.
An onion?
No.

'Cebolla' does have similarities to 'cerebro', I protest feebly. 
Like the humble walnut.

XI

LAPTOP AS BFF

I super-heart my laptop. If men can marry donkeys and dolphins (or at least in Jerry Springer-land circa 2001?), then I shall marry my laptop. I am studying Sustainability, Society & You...and I have also just started studying 'Live! Art & Animation' as part of Coursera's wonderful offerings. Added to keeping up with my friend's updates on Facebook, Skypeing my best friends and family, checking HelpX's amazing opportunities for May, making remixes on VirtualDJ and checking out the latest sounds on SoundCloud...as well as obviously watching every documentary on TED and YouTube, I have no more need for the world that people say is the real one. 

I did see an opportunity on Guardian Jobs today that forced me to peak out from the oyster shell that is my Packard Bell - teaching English in China for the DisneyAcademy, all expenses paid. Japan, yes. Spain, yes. China, no. 

So, the one and only reason I would get a divorce is if:-

Someone, who preferably looked like Pocahontas, took me under her wing (made of the rarest and most exotic rainforest feathers) and showed me all the wonderful things you can do with turtle shells, dead tarantula's legs and bark from indigenous trees and showed me how to paint with all the voices of the mountain and sing with all the colours of the wind. There like a shot.

Although, unless they have WiFi in deepest darkest Columbian Rainforest. I suppose Pocahontas might be too wild, and female, to be tamed. 


Song 6: 5 On Colour (EP)





Bendiciones Alegres Magnificos Biológico y Internacionales

The blogposts hence and forthwith until mid-April will follow the adventures of 7 young joyful green-eyed idealistic interns on the Leonardo Da Vinci Programme on their rural ecomonic development programmes in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jaen in the beautiful region of Andalusia. They have been chosen by the fickle finger of fate to take part in the scheme which allows them to experience life and work in another culture and language for 3 months after which they will return to the UK busting at the seams with hard-earned wisdom and one step closer to world peace. They now live, study and work in Ubeda after a week of  gruelling sandwich-laden Spanish preparation in London. They are ready, eager to experience the Spanish way and unleash their environmental passions and curiosities on to the quiet town on Ubeda. The question is...is Andalusia ready for BAMBI and the Joymakers? 

Los artículos de blog a partir de ahora hasta mediados de abril seguirán las aventuras de 7 jóvenes pasantes en el programa Leonardo da Vinci en sus programas de desarrollo rural ecomonica en el Patrimonio de la Humanidad de Jaén, Andalucía. Ellos han sido seleccionados para participar en el esquema que les permite experimentar la vida y el trabajo en otra cultura y lengua. Ahora viven, estudian y trabajan en Ubeda después de una semana de preparación español en Londres. Ellos están listos, deseosos de experimentar el estilo español y dar rienda suelta a sus pasiones ambientales y curiosidades de la tranquila ciudad de Úbeda. La pregunta es ... está listo para ellos y sus BAMBIs Andalucía?

Between the fun and light-hearted presentation of the progress of the interns, there will be some reflective posts on sustainability and what it means during this journey to a new and unknown culture. The blog will be punctuated with comments about sustainability as prompted by the OU online course by The University of Nottingham, Sustainability, Society and You. You are warmly invited to take part in the discussion by telling us what sustainability means to you by leaving your comments below.
To learn more or follow on Twitter and Tumblr, please use the hashtag #flsustain 

I
The Joymakers Visit The Local Market
Bitchin': The Power of Being On A Roll


Sadly, even Joymakers are flawed. And the venomous arrow to their celestial bubble can be as simple as one 'r' too many.


What I Intended To Buy
'peras'

What lovely wholesome green friendly fruits that will delight our mouths and noses with divine scents and top us up with stupid amounts of vitamins that will help us all become better people. Believe it.


What I Asked For
'perras'

Oh, dear. 

Moving on.

II
The Superheroes Make Paella. Kind of.

Right, so...the team is here, the vision is in place and the joy is high. We all know that you're asking yourselves, "Hey, Brain Dude, how do the best Joymakers in the world spend their time?". The answer, my Earthling friends, is making paella. 

They had a pan. They had langoustines. They had saffron. They also had an induction hob, which some say is the equivalent of the best camp fire in the world, reversed and hand-delivered by the veiny sinister claws of  Satan himself. 

The mirepoix was in the pancetta juices...sizzling joyfully in a delightful blend of aceite and mantequilla...the saffron threads were infused to perfection and patiently waiting, the thyme eagerly sat ready, rice rinsed and drained, a friendly gathering of the BAMBI-pronkers at the table, supping on the cheapest red wine that you can imagine. Before you release your judgements like a thousand vultures to my carcass of a story, dear readers, the booze isn't cheap because we are skinflints (hello, we use saffron, langoustines and squid/pig's anuses*) but simply because every organically-grown sun-ripened rioja in Spain is the equivalent to the cost of a can of Coca-Cola in King's Cross St. Pancras. Back to the paella.

The moral of this Joymaker's installment is that despite having a perfect circle of black encrusted rice sitting innocently like a tadpole in Spring awaiting its transformation into a beautiful green croaking frog, the sweet gentle heart of the Joymaker relishes such risotto roadkill and delights the chef with stories of how he has travelled extensively in his gliterring dancing slippers in search of the exquisite balance of rotten chipotle tobacco-infused chalky rice with over-'al dente' carrots and on this fateful night, dear blog-eyed reader, he found it. With an expression of complete disgust that only a newborn baby can muster and a genuine Joymaker's glee, he crunches and agonises through every mouthful in the name of nothing other than the power, the glory and the Joy. Now that is true love. Suck it up.

*Footnote - can someone in the know please confirm or deny the hideous rumour that calamari rings are not, in fact, the skilfully sliced body of the squid but the perfectly spherical anus rings of the pig? Thank you.

III
Invasion of Cazorla
One Man Down, One Fawn Up

Our first bus trip took us to the beautiful village of Cazorla, which any member of the BAMBIs is yet to pronounce. Despite it being mid-Winter, the BAMBIs expectations are soaring about the type of weather to expect and are sorely disappointed and confused when out of the window, we see not glorious sunshine that everyone expects with any mention of the word 'Spain' (regardless of the season!) but rain, fog, and more rain. Earthlings call it a poor show, the Heavens just call it Winter. So we chose the best day according to Spain's online Met office but it seemed that their editor was also suffering from a bout of Earthling-itis in that it was bloody freezing (the chart said sun, how my heart yearns). We started the day in the traditional way (churros con chocolate) and then hit the streets. 

IV
Marcus Volunteers...
at the pastelería!

Henceforth, I'm spending my Saturday mornings with the delightful Jesús and his grandfather (not the Holy Duo...Jesús is a popular Spanish name) at their pastelria in Úbeda. God knows how I bungled my way into their lives, the poor devils. Today was my first day and I dipped ''Jesus'' pastries in sugar syrup, painted palmiers with dark chocolate (I snapped one, damn it!), dipped delicate choux pastry tops in a chocolate bath and squirted a ridiculous amount of cream and lemon curd into various vol-au-vent style ''hollow booming'' cavities (for some reason, the dictionary gave us this definition at Spanish class when we were filling in the 'gaps').
Roughly the same calories as dust
Er, what's Spanish for '...et voila'?!






V
One Paella To Rule Them All:
La Paella de Josè

There was a list.
There was a shopping trip.
There were some very tardy BAMBIs.
Then...there was the magical pan of saffron-y crustacean-studded chicken thigh-embellished cerveza and vino blanco-infused *catches breath* rice. Phew!

VI
The BAMBIs pledge to ride to Buff Dom
Hello, AquaSports!

VII
The BAMBIs unite for...
 Matteo's Award-Winning Chili Con Carne!

VIII
The BAMBIs unite for...
 Marcus' Thai Green (sort of) Curry and Coconut Rice 
featuring
Fran's joyous Mocktail Chasers!

Looking for coconut milk (una lata de leche de coco) proved most provoking - then in failed attempts in at least 2 supermarkets (one called MasYMas ´´more and more´´...obviously not of curry ingredients), I was asked to remove my rucksack for inspection on exit. This deduction took about 12 attempts each time in front of a long queue of very patient Spanish people with my expression contorting from embarrassment and bewilderment, to finally understanding and more embarrassment with some shame thrown in. Finally, Carrefour came to the rescue. Hurrah for the French in Spain!

I already have a favourite greengrocer´s which seems so unfair since there are approximately 4,000 greengrocer´s (fruitería) within an avocado stone´s throw from home...but it´s soooo lovely and the vegetables are sooo beautiful (in a way that ´´veg´´ in an English greengrocer´s never is) and sooo cheap and the man behind the counter is sooo slow that you think that your transaction is the most important event of your day. I got the largest cauliflower you have ever seen for 1 Euro. I used about one-ninth of it for a curry for 8 people.

I am obstinate when it comes to consulting on new recipes. As much as I love to read cookery books, I have never followed a recipe. I have the male BBQ gene so it´s the equivalent of stopping a person on the street to ask for help when you´re lost. No. I must plough on. My panic and increasing bewilderment are signs that the destination is close. So I am wondering how they get a Thai curry green? All my ingredients are white, yellow and red. Without my trusty steed, Google, I randomly opt for (de-seeded) cucumber. Hurrah that everyone loved it even though it resembled a lemon that saw a latte with occasional bobbing green moons.

Thanks to Fran for liquid refreshment in the shape of  guava, passionfruit, lime, lemon and soda.
Who wouldn't?

Desertification

Despite the plumbing debacle (the dishes will have to be coconut milk encrusted until mañana...Jenny and I can´t imagine how our happiness can expand any more than today. It lead to me proposing, while brushing my teeth for the first time using a glass of water, that we may have died since these 2 weeks in Úbeda have culminated in waves of joy that we are surfing with Californian smiles that must be akin to Heaven. I´m not quite sure if this is still the café con leche and churros working their way out of my system, but who cares?

IX
Late Nights

When I imagined the many late nights in Spain, they would be spent parading around tapas bars (maybe less energtically because this is Spain), drinking and chatting, surrounded with that lovely orange haze of a spent day hanging in the air, infused with the ambiguous scent of a sun-kissed skin and exotic flowers that probably grow in England but that I would never order from the back of The Telegraph supplement, my mythology didn´t take into consider some crucial things...

1. It´s January and I can see snow on the mountains. Flowers don´t tend to like snow.

2. The English have one thing in common with the Spanish. Neither like the rain. The difference is that the Spanish have the most beautiful umbrellas and even men aren´t afraid to use them.

3. The orange glow is a whitish glow from the screen of my laptop as I watch the latest TED talk. Sorry, I mean revise Spanish.

4. I haven´t read The Telegraph supplement. Ever.

5. It is 1.24am yet again and I am STILL up. And I have a Spanish exam tomorrow.

Mañana, chicos!

X

C. LAP ALONG IF YOU FEEL LIKE HAPPINESS IS THE TRUTH

I am feeling tired and still yet super-inspired by Pharrell William's new track, ''Happy''...I danced around my bedroom to it before I left for work (at 09h52...I've managed to get my whizz there to 8 minutes, including seizing a Nutella-filled croissant from a baker who thinks I'm French. I cannot escape Disney wherever I go). Whenever I'm in a bad mood, it's 99.8% likely that I am missing music in a major way either creating it, singing or listening to favourite tracks and discovering new ones. An Egyptian guy on SoundCloud is remixing pop songs (like Rihanna and Miley Cyrus) to a background of Arabian-inspired instrumentation. It's bliss. Here's my latest offering, complete with image...both remixes and both fresh off the BAMBI press.

Song 9: Deep Belief






Tune in soon for more Joyful Broadcasts from Joy HQ!