FREE Ebook This Weekend Only!

Just a quickie to let everyone know that this weekend only, I’m GIVING AWAY my latest ebook, “I Love Him, He Loves Me Not: How I Left a Codependent Relationship” FOR FREE.

How I Left a Codependent Relationship

Now, it’s not really my intention to start up a new and thriving career writing ebooks, so it will probably be a looong time before I ever have another ebook up for free. (Or even put this one up for free again – which I will probably never do again!)

You can get all the details on the Amazon page by clicking here.

Well, won’t get into the sales pitch and all that or anything here. You know if this is a subject that interests you. If it doesn’t, I’d still love it if you’d continue browsing through the rest of this blog. I’ve got lots of posts in it hehe!

And if you ARE interested, well, grab the day! Take advantage of this moment and snatch up your copy of “I Love Him, He Loves Me Not: How I Left a Codependent Relationship” for free. Before this promotion ends forever!

Once again here is the link.

How I Left a Codependent Relationship

Voting In Spain

We just had some big elections here in southern Spain. Well, I say big. I mean, typical. Governments in, governments out. Do we really care who’s in charge?

Political Parties of SpainWell, but anyways, apolitical though I am, I do care up to a teentsy tiny point who’s in charge. So I decided to do something unusual and go and vote.

Now, I don’t know what it’s like to vote in other countries, since I’ve only voted in Spain and Canada. And I don’t know whether the process in Canada is normal either.

In Canada, you don’t just sign up to vote whenever you want to. Every four years someone comes around to your door and asks you who in your family is eligible to vote. You probably have to provide some sort of proof that the people you name are eligible to vote, like a passport or birth certificate or something, that proves the person is old enough to vote. I wouldn’t know, my parents always took care of all that.

This is called “Census Day” in Canada, and during the days leading up to this all important date, there are ads in all the media reminding people to stay at home that day so that they can get onto the Census List and receive the right to vote.

I always wondered what happened to people who didn’t or couldn’t stay at home on Census Day and couldn’t get onto the Census List. Did that mean that they couldn’t vote?

And what about people who moved after Census Day, but before the next one four years hence? Did that mean that they couldn’t vote after they moved, until the next Census Day swung around?

But since those were never concerns of mine anyways, I never discovered the answers.

Now, here in Spain, the process is completely different. I like it here more, because it’s much more within your control.

Here in Spain there are Censal Offices. There’s an office in every neighbourhood, town and village. So it doesn’t matter where you live, even if you live way out in the outback or on a farm, you can sign up to the Census List.

People won’t come to your door here. Nope. It’s YOUR responsibility here to go to your nearest Censal Office and sign up for yourself. You should sign up your family members too.

Once you are signed up, your name will automatically be sent to your Poling Station every time there is an election, and you can vote.

It’s as simple as that. Easy peasey.

On the day of the election, all you have to do is wiggle your way down to your Poling Station, well equipped with your ID, of course.

When you get to your Poling Station you will find a few police officers hanging around, usually looking a bit bored, in order to keep order. I live in a quiet neighbourhood, so manning a Poling Station is a rather boring task round here.

Inside the Poling Station you will see a couple of tables with a candidate from each of the main political parties sitting around eyeing each other rather suspiciously. They are there to make sure that there is no monkey business by members of opposing political parties.

It also saves trying to round up volunteers on the street who would be willing to sacrifice a beautiful Sunday hanging around in a Poling Station.

You have to present your ID and when they find your name on their lists, you can vote.

In Canada, the way to vote was, you went into a little private cubicle where you could pick up a sheet of paper. The names of all the candidates and their political parties were printed on the paper, and you had to choose just one. I don’t remember whether you chose your candidate by circling them, or making a tick mark next to them or making an X next to their name. But the point is, you had to read the instructions and make the correct type of marking, or your vote would be invalid.

Then you would slide the paper inside an envelope, which you would then seal and put inside the voting box.

Here in Spain, you also get to go into a private cubicle. But you don’t get a piece of paper with the names of all the candidates. Here, in the private cubicle, you will see piles of flyers in holders on the wall. There is a flyer for every candidate and their political party.

You must choose the one flyer corresponding to the one candidate and political party that you want, and you must slip that one flyer inside an envelope.

Then you seal the envelope, so no one can see which flyer you had chosen, and put the envelope into a voting box.

After that you can leave, pass the bored police officers, and hang out in the nearby bars, where you can observe all the people venting their passions and adrenalin with heated debates about politics.

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Blood Is Thicker Than Water

I was feeling quite sad because there are always things all over the place to remind me of what I had and don’t have anymore. Right now father’s day is coming up (here in Spain), so I am reminded all the time that I don’t really have a father anymore. The same thing when mother’s day comes around. Everywhere people seem to have so many people around them, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and husbands and wives.

I know we choose our lives and the people who are going to be in our lives before we’re born. And I always say, one day I’m going to have a psychic reading and ask why I chose to have no family in this lifetime.

But I also think, there are always people who are worse off. I think of Louise Hay, who had to face what I think is one of the most terrible things a person can have to face: having cancer. And she had to face it all alone. She had no family either, to help her or take care of her or support her as she fought cancer. She had to deal with her cancer all alone.

And then there’s Lazarillo de Tormes. You might not know who Lazarillo de Tormes is. He’s a fictional character, written about 5 centuries ago here in Spain. No one knows who the author is or, obviously, what the author’s life was like. But going on the premise that most novels are at least semi-autobiographical, we can assume that some of the things about Lazarillo would be true about his author too.

Lazarillo was an orphan. He had a terrible life as a child. He would be taken in by families who would abuse him and force him to work hard and beat him if he didn’t work hard. He finally “made it” by getting into petty crime and doing things like stealing. I don’t remember the ending.

They say some things you can look for if you don’t have them in your life. You can look for friends. You can look for causes, or organizations to belong to. But you can’t ACQUIRE a family, if you weren’t born with one.

Some people say, yes you can. You can get adopted into a family, or adopt one. But the fact of the matter is, not anyone can become your family and in fact, at least here in Spain, blood IS thicker than water. Here in Spain you can’t ACQUIRE a family. A family is something you are born with. And if you weren’t born with one, you will never have one. Because blood is blood and you will never share blood with anyone if you weren’t born into their family.

That’s just the way it is here. I had a best friend (we’re still really good friends, but maybe not best friends anymore because we live in different cities) and often she would wish that she could spend big occasions, like Christmas or summer holidays, with me instead of with her family. But she couldn’t. Her family wouldn’t let her, and she couldn’t be disloyal to her family.

Here in Spain, family ALWAYS comes first. And you can’t acquire a family or get adopted into a family. You just can’t. It’s just not done. No matter how close you are to someone, they might even love you more than they love their family. But you will never form a part of their family. And if they have to choose between you or their family, they will always choose their family.

I do see how blood is thicker than water. I often think it’s such an irony that to see what genes I have, I have to look at my kids, because they are the only people who share genes with me. I find it so curious how so many things that you think are just individual quirks, are actually genetically programmed.

My son has so many of the same gestures and expressions as his father. He’s never seen his father make these gestures (because he hardly ever sees his father), and they are not common gestures. So I know he didn’t pick them up by observing other people. He was just born with these gestures and tendencies, apparently they are in his genes.

And I can see how when you grow up surrounded by people who share your genes, you feel a certain affinity with them, that you don’t feel with people who are genetically different from you. Even if the people who are genetically different from you are supposed to be your parents.

When you grow up with people who share your genes, you look at them and you think, I’ve got the same expression as my mother. Or, look at that face that my father makes in X situation, I do exactly the same thing in that situation!

Have you noticed similarities with your family members that go far deeper than just a loving relationship, or interests in common? Please leave me your comments below. As usual, I LURRVE to receive (positive, non-spammy) comments!

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Canada vs. US vs. Spain

3 flags3 flags3 flags + knot

I was just reading through expat blogs by Americans in Spain, and one of the things that most struck me, unbelievable though it might seem, was the differences between Americans and Canadians!

Now, you might find that a bit weird, considering that, you would expect, the differences between Spain and Canada should be far greater than those between the two North American countries which, when you come right down to it, still share a continent and have a common history and ancestry.

But I suppose perhaps I’ve just gotten used to the differences between Canada and Spain, since it has become quite customary to me to compare the two all the time. In fact, I’ve written another post in the past comparing life and customs in Canada vs. Spain.

The United States, on the other hand, is not a place I think about a whole lot. So it did strike me how different the United States really is from Canada.

Now, do take into account that perhaps my experiences might not be representative, and I’m sure another Canadian would probably have different views from me. I’m also not a “typical” Canadian (if there is such a thing).

I grew up in a small town in French Canada. The English language and culture that prevailed there were more British in many ways than American. So I think there are many things that I do that are more “British” than perhaps would happen with the average Canadian.

I write many, but not all, words the British way, and I use some British terms more than their American equivalent. And then there are some words that I use that are just, simply, Canadian, lol.

So I will write “realize” and “criticize”, but “favourite” and “colour”.

Now, having said that, it’s also true that that doesn’t make us “Brits” or British in any way. I don’t speak with a British accent. I’ve been told I don’t have an American accent either, however, but rather, an “unidentifiable” but fairly neutral one. Maybe, if anything, perhaps slightly “Scottish”, since there is a strong Scottish influence in Canada.

In fact once, in London, a wonderfully friendly gentleman told me he was sure I must be from Scotland, and he was flabbergasted when I told him I wasn’t. He said I had such a typical Scottish accent!

So now, these were the differences, in no particular order, that caught my attention the most.

Words

I will say torch and rubber, and I had no idea that in the States, rubber is a “bad” word hehe. But I also say pants, car trunk and running shoes (rather than trainers or tennis shoes). And in my particular part of the world, we would say patio, the same as in Spain, and métro rather than subway, tube or underground.

Place Names

I am used to places being called “Place” (as in Place Bonaventure, a place that really exists in Montreal), which is the equivalent of the Spanish plaza. It took me a long time to find out what English speaking people call a “Place” (ie. Square).

It didn’t make much sense to me when I found it out. As far as I could tell, although it’s true that some “places” (with silent “e”) are square, such as the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, as far as I could tell, most were round. So I really couldn’t fathom why they are called “squares” in English language areas of the world.

We also call very wide avenues “boulevards”. And as I mentioned before, we take the “métro” rather than the subway or underground.

Sovereignty and Imperialism

The great majority of Canadians enjoy being a monarchy and having Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. I dunno, we just do. We think it’s pretty cool, to have a queen and a royal family. It’s quaint and fun. What’s more, the British royal family have always been quite crazy about Canada and have always treated the country well.

Customs and Names

In Canada we hang out at the shopping centre rather than the mall. We can do our shopping at both a grocery store or a supermarket. A grocery store usually refers to a small food shop while supermarkets are very large.

Like Americans, we go to elementary school and high school. But after graduation, we don’t head off to a college but rather, to a university. A college, as far as I was ever able to discern, was a sort of élite school where children from wealthy families could attend for a year or so after high school but before entering university. In that sense, I suppose you could sort of refer to a college as a “preparatory school”.

Colleges were also vocational schools where you could study a “métier” or a trade, if you didn’t want to go to university or undertake academic studies.

What You Can Buy

Canadians always go crazy when we go to visit the United States and we walk into a store, like Walmart or a supermarket. It is like going to the Mecca! There are sooo many things to buy in the United States! Such a variety of brands and such a humungous number of goods is never available at a shop in Canada!

Now, it is true that there are some things that we have more of in Canada than in Spain. We have instant flavoured oatmeal and cream of wheat. We have more cookie flavours than in Spain.

But the cheese selection is really, really poor. Basically, from what I remember, about the only cheese you could buy was cottage cheese and the plastic-flavoured Kraft cheddar cheese cut into little square slices and wrapped in plastic.

In fact, there seemed to be a dearth of milk and dairy products in general in Canada. We only had one, maybe at the most two, brands of milk. You could get it in whole fat, semi and skimmed varieties. But there were only one or two brands.

I remember going to the supermarket for the first time in Spain. I nearly fell over when I beheld the gigantic range of choices in brands of milk. Puleva, Pascual, Covap, Asturiana…… Just the brands of milk you could buy in Spain occupied one entire aisle!

The same is true of yoghurts as well. In Canada, at least when I lived there, you had Sealtest, and that was it. True, there were many flavours you couldn’t find, like blueberry and raspberry, which were flavours that, until recently, seemed as foreign to Spanish people as Martian flavours.

But once again, the enormous number of brands of yoghurt available in Spain was overwhelming, to me.

In Canada, most people read about all the new products that come out in the US in magazines and drool over them. We count the years (yes, years) until they finally start getting imported to Canada.

And if we’re lucky and we live near the border, like I did, we get to take a road trip a couple of times a year to the US, where we bombard the stores and SNATCH UP aaalll those goodies that we just can’t find in Canada.

We’d drive back to the border with the car trunk loaded to the maximum. Usually the kind and understanding customs officers would just glance through our goods, which were probably enough to stock up a small shop, and wave us through with a sympathetic smile.

I remember when Carmex brand lip balm first came out in the States. A friend of mine who was a makeup artist dropped in to the south of the border and hoarded up a huge stash of little jars of Carmex, which she then doled out magnanimously among her friends back in Canada.

Canada doesn’t have its own car company either. They import all their cars, although several American companies, like Ford, do have factories in Canada, where they manufacture vehicles solely for use in this country.

So I was quite amazed when I arrived in Spain and discovered that Spain actually has its own car company, Seat.

The American Dream

As far as I’m aware, no such equivalent exists in Canada. If anything, perhaps the Canadian dream is to be able to emigrate to the United States haha!

How about you? If you are a Canadian, or an American who has ever visited Canada, or a Canadian or American living in Spain, what differences have you found?

Do leave me a comment if you’d like. I LURRVE receiving (positive, non-spammy) comments!

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One Sunday in February – Massacre on the Road to Almeria

One nefarious day in February 78 years ago, over half the population of Malaga fled to the countryside, down the long and difficult seaside road to Almeria that was their only escape route. Behind them, the invading troops of General Franco, already crowing victory. And on all sides, Italian, German and Franquist naval ships and war planes showering bombs down on the fleeing and defenceless civilians, in the forgotten Massacre of the Road to Almeria.

Malaga 1937

Most of this human column of fleeing refugees, over 150,000 souls, was made up of women, children and families, who had had nothing to do with the war. As happens in all wars, it’s the politicians and military men who make the decision to attack, and the civilian population – women, children and ordinary men just trying to make a living doing whatever they can – who pay the high price.

The Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939) was, like all wars, complicated and difficult to explain. Most people supported the Republicans. However, the opposition, led by Francisco Franco, enjoyed the support of the Fascist troops of Germany and Italy, and it wasn’t long before they began to conquer the entire country.

Wherever the Franquists went, people fled. Like all invaders, Franco’s troops were notorious for their savagery and barbarism. They looted, stole, raped, murdered, tortured and took whatever they wanted.

So it wasn’t surprising that as soon as the inhabitants of Malaga discovered that these invaders were at their doorstep, they took to the road and fled.

In those days the only unoccupied route out of Malaga was along the dangerous and sinuous road to Almeria. There was little place to hide along the road: it wound its way between the sheer cliffs that fell down towards the sea on one side, and the high mountains on the other. The distance from Malaga to Almeria: 219 km.

That ill-fated Sunday morning, people woke up to the sounds of the Franquist troops surrounding the city, grabbed their things and ran. Those who could climbed into cars, trucks or onto donkeys and mules. The rest had to make their way on foot.

16-year-old Ana María Jiménez woke up in her home in the Capuchinos neighbourhood, looked out the window and saw Francisco Franco’s troops on the mountains overlooking the city, with their cannons and their flags and their muskets.

Her family, like most other families living in Malaga, loaded their belongings onto a truck heading out of town and started on their way. In Rincon de la Victoria, on the outskirts of Malaga, they ran out of gasoline and continued the rest of the way on foot.

“I didn’t understand much about the war at that time,” recalls José Martos, who was only six back then, “but I had it clear that we were running from the Fascists.”

Malaga 1937

The journey lasted a week. Along the way, as the naval ships drew up close to the shore and began pelting them with bombs and bullets, people started to fall. The Italian and German aviation added their two cents’ worth by riddling the straggling survivors with more bombs.

There was no reason for doing this, other than the cruelty, sadism and taste for innocent blood of the militants who ordered and carried out these attacks.

The people fleeing along the road weren’t Franco’s enemies. They were just families trying to make a living during hard times. They were carpenters and farmers and cooks and schoolteachers. Mothers with babies and little children.

Malaga 1937

A woman stops to feed her baby, surrounded by dead people, on the long road from Malaga to Almeria

The man who ordered this cowardly attack against the defenceless citizens, Gonzalo Queipo de Llano, explains it thus: “Those masses of people were fleeing, they were getting away. So I thought, why not make them run a little harder?”

The people who survived did so by hiding in holes, ducking down on the ground, rolling behind stones or anything that could shelter them.

Along the way, Ana María and the other refugee children met families who had lost loved ones. Parents burying children in holes in the ground. Entire families lying dead together.

The group found respite about halfway down the road: at Motril, the International Brigade succeeded in halting the enemy attacks and the people were free to continue their journey without death raining down from the sky. However, by then most were so exhausted they could hardly walk.

Suddenly, salvation surged up out of nowhere. Like a dashing white knight in shining armour at the head of a flaming cavalry, the Canadian doctor Norman Bethune arrived with a party of trucks to drive them the rest of the way to Almeria.

Norman Bethune was a Canadian doctor working the Republican frontlines bringing medical aid during the Spanish Civil War. He was in Valencia when he received news of the forced exodus from Malaga, and he hurried to Malaga as quickly as he could.

Malaga 1937

Norman Bethune with his ambulance

Over and over again, the trucks took off overflowing with people, then returned for more. Norman Bethune himself rode in a vehicle which he had converted into an ambulance, where he attended to the ill and the wounded.

The odyssey didn’t end in Almeria for most of the families on this trail. When they arrived in that remote city, most made their way out on ships and trains and travelled to Barcelona. Some of these families remained in Barcelona for the duration of the war while others journeyed into exile, returning only after the war had ended.

Photo credits: Norman Bethune

For more information:

El camino de los olvidados (Diario Sur)

La matanza de la carretera de Almería (El País)

La matanza de la carretera de Almería (Málaga en Blanco y Negro)

 

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Stronger Than Steel / Plus Fort Que L’Épée

I’m usually quite apolitical, to the point that I usually don’t even know who is in power anywhere at any given moment. But I wanted to say:

Perhaps we are only bloggers, and not many people read us. But I want to say to all bloggers out there:

Keep blogging. Keep exercising your right to freedom of expression, and putting down on paper (or rather, on the computer screen) whatever happens to be on your minds. As long as we don’t perpetrate hatred towards any individual or groups of people, or encourage people to kill or murder……

Those people who wish to silence us or oppress us through intimidation, terror, tyranny or cowardly acts of violence will never win.

Remember that the pen is always stronger than the sword.

And yes it’s also true as some once said: Love is stronger than hatred.

Ohé les blogueurs! Peut-être nous ne sommes que des petits pseudo-écrivains dans le monde, mais nous allons continuer à exprimer tous nos sentiments plus profonds publiquement à travers de nos blogues et de nos petits coins dans le cyberespace. Rien ne peut nous empêcher d’exercer notre droit à la liberté d’expression. Pourvu qu’on n’incite pas à la haine, à tuer……

Tous ceux qui essaient de nous opprimer, de nous étouffer, en utilisant l’intimidation, la terreur, la tyrannie ou la violence lâche, doivent savoir qu’ils ne gagneront jamais.

La plume sera toujours plus forte que l’épée.

Eh ouais c’est ben vrai aussi: l’amour est plus fort que la haine.

Je Suis Charlie

We are all Charlie.

Nous sommes tous Charlie.

(At least for one day! Au moins pendant un jour!)

(After that I want to go back to being ME haha……)

Malaga’s English Cemetery – Remembering Auld Lang Syne

Tombstones in the English Cemetery Malaga

Let me take you by the hand and accompany you on a walk through the English Cemetery of Malaga.

English Cemetery Entrance Malaga

I didn’t know how to organize the photos. So in the end I decided I’d just put them in chronological order, showing you the same things you would see if you were actually to visit the cemetery for yourself, in the same order you would see them.

English Cemetery Guardhouse Malaga

This is the guardhouse, at the entrance, which as you can see was built in 1856.

Plants English Cemetery Malaga

The English Cemetery got started in 1830 when William Mark, the British consul in Malaga at the time, agonized while watching scenes of British citizens being buried on the seashore in the middle of the night because, at that time, only Catholic people were allowed holy burials on consecrated ground. He hustled and pleaded and was finally granted an extensive terrain which he could use as a cemetery.

Water Pump English Cemetery Malaga

This is a water pump at the entrance, just in front of the guardhouse. We’re not too sure why it is here, especially since it is rusted. I assume that it would have been used, in those days before modern plumbing and water hoses, to water the plants and flowers.

Path English Cemetery Malaga

This is the main path as you walk in, that leads right into the cemetery.

Benches English Cemetery Malaga

The English cemetery became very popular, because then as now, many Brits were living in Malaga, as well as non-Catholics from other countries, and the new English Cemetery soon became “home” to a large number of tombstones (as well as, of course, the people buried underneath these tombstones).

These are some of the larger tombstones for people whose families could afford large tombstones. I know that William Mark, the British consul, is of course also buried in this cemetery which he himself founded. I did take a photo of his (very large) tombstone. But I ended up with so many photos of large tombstones that I don’t know which one was his. I don’t believe it is any of these, however.

English Cemetery Malaga Panoramic View

The cemetery started growing and today, in addition to the burial grounds themselves, we can also enjoy the beauty of a guardhouse, an Anglican Church and a botanical garden with unusual species of plants.

Angel Tombstone English Cemetery Malaga

I have always loved angel tombstones and angel statues. However in this cemetery there was only one. It’s an unusual angel statue though, with an unusual pose.

These plaques are lovely, loving homages to the memories of loved ones. I’m not too sure what they are, though. I don’t know whether they are niches, or just commemorative plaques.

Tombstones English Cemetery Malaga

The English Cemetery is on Avenida Pries number 1. You have to take the road (the interior road, not the seaside road) as if going to El Palo, if you are driving from the centre of Malaga. It’s on that same road, on the left-hand side if you are facing El Palo. It’s not far after the bullring.

Or you can take a bus. Numbers 3 and 11 drop you off right in front.

War Heroes English Cemetery Malaga

This section of the cemetery is dedicated to war heroes who died in Spain, all of whom, of course, are young. Young men, in fact. In spite of women’s desires to help in war efforts, I didn’t see any women’s tombs in this section.

War Heroes Cemetery

The English Cemetery is only open to the public in the mornings, seven days a week (closes one hour earlier on Sundays). It used to be free to enter, although they welcomed donations, but now there is a small fee. I don’t remember exactly how much but it’s not expensive, perhaps 2 euros for children and 3 euros for adults.

Broken Tombstones English Cemetery Malaga

We’re not too sure what happened to these broken tombstones here. We can only assume that they aren’t cared for because the people who planted them here are themselves buried here now. (They’re almost two centuries old after all.)

German Plaque English Cemetery Malaga

English people aren’t the only ones buried here, since the cemetery opens its doors to all non-Catholics wishing a decent burial in Malaga.

“Blessed are the dead, they rest from their labour and their works (what they have accomplished in life) follow them.”

Chidren's Graves English Cemetery Malaga

I did want to save the saddest section for the end: the Children’s Cemetery. There were many tombstones here, especially since before the era of vaccinations and acetaminophen (paracetamol here in Spain) little ones died from common infectious illnesses and fevers that are easily treated today. I took photos of many of them, but in the end I’m only including these tombstones, belonging to twin babies, a boy and a girl, who died from an infectious illness. Fortunately, we don’t seem to need to grieve for the passing of Protestant children since the year 1831 (the date on the last children’s tombstone).

English Cemetery Malaga

What visit to a cemetery would be complete without a glimpse of the resident cat?

Cat English Cemetery Malaga

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