A Grown Man Crying

We bumped into some friends in one of the new vintage-style hipster bars in the city centre, three friends grew to five, and five to seven, laughing and chatting and enjoying the music and some continental beers on one of the first sunny afternoons of the year. The road is full of new little bars attracting the late 20s to early 30s crowd, a craft beer pub, a sheesha lounge, a Caribbean restaurant and our vintage café-cum-bar. but it still hasn’t quite shaken off the seedy reputation from just two or three years ago when all these places were strip clubs.

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One man catches my eye, in among all the men with perfectly kept beards chatting about the football savouring the newest craft beers in the rotation, the women in over-sized cardigans and miniskirts swapping tips for the newest baking fashions, and the stag party and the hen, I see a tall blond man in an Adidas tracksuit. He stands out with a short beard and a tiny sports bag. And he’s crying. I grab my purse and search out what coins I can find. I run out of the café using the open floor length window rather than the door, it’s too urgent for the door. But he’s gone. My friend follows – we find him standing slumped against the black-painted door of a disused office building, crying. I ask if he’s OK, he tells me that he’s just looking for something but everyone is refusing him. His accent and use ofrefusing rather than rejecting tells me he’s Eastern European. He reaches out with a dirty hand, his fingernails are yellow and brown and torn. I drop my three gold coins in his hand and go back to my friends and the beer and the music and the laughter, passing back through the café window again to my world.

A beggar is seen on a street in central AthensAs far as I remember I have believed that you shouldn’t give money to street beggars – they will only spend it on booze or drugs or something else that “doesn’t help them”, but this grown man is walking in the street and he is crying. Yes back in the boom years there were some people on the street who are there by choice, but since the economic crisis there are more and more people who are there by circumstance alone. I saw a documentary once that included a British business man who had been hugely profitable in Spain but made some bad decisions and left his family desolate, he scraped together the money for a flight to the UK, and returned with only the suit on his back and a small bag. He had nowhere to go, no family and no friends, I don’t remember if it was he or they that were too ashamed. And my friend told me about a father, left penniless through divorce, who was living on the streets begging for enough to buy his kids a McDonald’s every Saturday so they would never know his real situation. There’s a lady that reads a book outside the train station, I keep meaning to take her something but never think when I walk out of my house. Everyone on the street has their story and their own circumstances for being there.

coinAnd so what if they are going to buy booze? Their lives must be pretty tough if they’re on the streets in the first place, nowhere to sleep, being ignored in the street, people looking away, pretending they don’t see. If I what I give them buys two cans of lager, then for me that’s fine, it will either keep them a little bit warmer tonight, or they drink to forget their troubles for an hour or two. If what I give them buys a minuscule bag of poor-quality whatever, then that’s not really fine by me but once that money has left my hand I have no say, it becomes their decision and if that hit will make Sunday-afternoon-Adidas-man stop crying and feel better for a little bit then that’s fine by me.. If it brings them comfort in their hours, weeks, months of need, then so be it – I’d rather be the person that gives them that tiny comfort in a life of despair than the person that makes them feel like they don’t deserve to walk on this Earth. They deserve to be here just as much as me and that is why they are crying.

#100happydays Days 90 – 100

Day 91 – Another afternoon of playing cards in the hospital with my Mom and Daniel.

Day 92 – My first day of Garden Leave turns into Balcony Leave on the eighth floor. Enjoying the quiet and the sunshine in the flat.

Day 93 – I’m staying with my Mom for a few days after her operation, and my early morning run takes me right into the countryside around Wythall (Worcestershire).

Day 94 – Reteaching my grandmother how to play some of the card games she taught me as a child is both very sad but I spent a lovely lunchtime with her.

Day 95 – Daniel had to do some paperwork with the Mexican Embassy so we took a daytrip down to London. Then while he’s in the embassy I took the opportunity to catch up with a friend from university before she gets married in a few weeks and won’t have time for anything!

Day 96 – Daniel makes me happy every single day. I love the little conversations that we have, the Spanglish and the gestures are our own little language. And he’s been wonderful during this period of redundancy. Now that I’m hope properly from my Mom’s house it’s back to a lovely little normality.

Day 97 – I’d forgotten I had this skirt. Found it in a bag that my Mom brought round a few weeks ago, it was too big but having put on about 5kg it should fit again now.

Day 98 – Waiting for some very stressful news at the hospital, we finally got a call from my cousin at 20h05 to say that everything is OK.

Day 99 – My Guides again, one of the Brownies made me a heart-shaped something out of pipecleaners. It went straight in my hair, naturally.

Day 100 – Having a look through the photos at my grandmother’s house. Then seeing her face light up when she sees them in hospital.

Pastelón – Caribbean Cooking

I’ve been dying to try this recipe since Christmas! My sister-in-law is from Dominican Republic and cooked this Pastelón de Plátanos Amarillos for Daniel’s parents a few days before we arrived. So while I only tried the left-overs, it was heavenly! Here our idea of Caribbean cooking is spicy Jamaican with peri peri and chicken and goat and pork – big punchy flavours – but the essence of cocina dominicana seems more delicate, balance and contra-balance, a mix of Spanish, African and indigenous dishes.

The pastelón basically a banana lasagna or even a beef sponge-cake, cook your beef with onion, peppers and tomatoes, mash your plantains and fit it together like a sweet and savoury lasagna that really surprises your taste buds. Being fairly easy to make, it’s perfect dinner-party food. On Friday the weather was beautiful so, channelling my inner Latina, we had some European friends round to enjoy Pimms and pâté on the balcony, followed by pastelón and Cuban dominoes.

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Pastelón de Plátanos Amarillos

My recipe comes from Cocina Dominicana, ¡muchísimas gracias! And this post is written for Fiesta Friday.

#100happydays Days 56 – 62

Day 56 – A lovely walk through town to take photos for our wedding invitations.

Day 57 – Tidying up the Guide cupboard at the Church, three hours and eight bin bags later, done!

Day 58 – Daniel put petrol in the car. It really is the little things that make you smile.

Day 59 – Car2Go, take it, park it anywhere, great stuff! (Since this the scheme has been taken out of the UK – bastards!)

Day 60 – Reunion, friends back from Australia for their wedding, a delicious family curry.

Day 61 – So the biscuits were a bit of a disaster, but regressing to childhood and licking the icing off the mixers was brilliant!

Day 62 – Tidying up in the spare room I found the “banner” that my Erasmus girls made me when I left Spain, nostalgia!

10 Statements on Most Common Assumptions about Mexico

From my good friend Miguel, cycling from Canada to Chile on a big eco-tourism, heritage, sustainable development, community, conservation project!

SUR LA ROUTE DU PATRIMOINE

When traveling, we all have, thankfully or unfortunately, predispositions and expectations. We have heard a lot about Mexico. Before our departure from France, but mostly here in the American continent, from the medias, from people, before entering in the country, here in the country from people talking about neighbouring areas…

Experience It Yourself!

Most of the time, unconsciousness and lack of knowledge drive to fear of the neighbourhood, that make new rumors, incorrect or partial information. Thanks to or because of bad information the TV and other medias, supported by governments.

Also, talking to people and informing about the country you are visiting is well worthy when traveling, in order to prepare your journey, immerse yourself in the culture, understand some traditions, situations, conflicts, problems that you will face soon, or not. It is all about learning from your virtual or living experience, keeping your critical abilities.

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#100happydays Days 35 – 41

Day 35 – After nine days in New York I needed some healthy food, so a full fruit bowl made me very optimistic about the Summer coming up!

Day 36 – One of my Guides does Gardening Club at school and gave me a leek as a thank you. Cooked it up with a chicken and bacon and potato mess the following day.

Day 37 –  An invitation to my friend’s hen night. She’s been living in Australia for three years now so I can’t wait!

Day 38 – Our Spanglish got a bit out of hand when we invented some new words, on top of tidyupear, the versatility of this language made me happy on Thursday!

Day 39 – A big catch-up with my friend and a healthy walk in the park on a sunny Friday evening.

Day 40 – There’s this new loyalty card and our first use at The Warehouse Café was both our first use and their first customer to present it!

Day 41 – A surprise phone call from my friend to finalise our travel plans for a different friends hen party.

Prospero Año Nuevo 2014

It’s that time of year again, I’m off to Mexico and all the presents are bought and wrapped. I had a few more days left at work and still had to tidy the whole house. This year’s been manic busy, here’s a short list of what has made this 2013 the best year ever :

  1. Turned 30 years old – big party!
  2. Got a new job – so happy!
  3. Bought a brand new car – about time!
  4. My sister asked me to be witness at her wedding – honoured!
  5. Daniel got the permanent UK visa – best thing in the world!
  6. Got engaged – absolute best thing in the world!
  7. Bought a house – absolutely bloody best thing in the world!
Happy New Year!

Happy New Year in the Zócalo!

The New Year is normally a time for reflection and anticipation, in the UK you make new resolutions about what you want to do in the coming year. One nice thing about coming into contact with other cultures is that you see what they all do. In Mexico you eat grapes, on every bong of the bell, and you make 12 wishes for the coming year. In France you toast to what you want to happen that year, your hopes. So here are just a few of mine :

  1. That the actual move is not too stressful and that Daniel might concede to hiring a man-in-a-van
  2. That Aimee has the most wonderful wedding day, and honeymoon and rest of their lives together
  3. That I can get more experienced in my job, put myself forward for training and everything
  4. That my Mom continues to get happier, the last few months have been lovely and I hope it continues
  5. That I can plan our wedding with minimal stress, minimal convention and minimal money

Happy New Year to all!