Archive | August 2011


Hello everyone! Well I thought I’d take a little break from Barcelona and report a bit about some neat places to visit and some fun things to do right here in good old Malaga.

But if anyone out there happens to be eager to learn more about Barcelona or see more sights from that city, don’t worry. I’ll be getting back to Barcelona and its mysterious bush (you can check out a pic of Barcelona’s mysterious palm bush in the following post, if you haven’t already done so) again in the near future!

Today I felt like talking about wildlife safari parks. There’s an on-going heated debate about how ethical zoos are. Well, I personally don’t feel that safari parks belong in the same category as zoos, because most animals are roaming (relatively) free in a safari park, as opposed to zoos where they are in cages.

Also, I find that safari parks tend to be quite dedicated to the task of taking care of endangered species and bringing up orphaned babies that would otherwise have died.

You can see an example of some cute little animals that Selwo safari park, right here in our own Estepona near Malaga, has rescued here in these photos:
In case the text is not too clear here, the sign says that these are the Barbary Macaques – small, tailless monkeys from North Africa that are famous for living wild on the Rock of Gibraltar – that were rescued from private individuals who had smuggled them into Spain from North Africa, where they live wild, and were keeping them as pets. They are an endangered species and as such should be taken special care of.

This is one of the Barbary macaques living at Selwo safari park.

At Selwo you can take a jeep, similar to the ones used in real safaris in Africa, that will carry you on a tour of the entire park. It’s not only strongly recommended that you take the jeep rides, the park is so large that it would cost you a great deal of effort to cover it all on foot, and take several hours.

Another reason for riding on the jeeps is because there are areas which can only be entered by jeep. The animals that inhabit these zones are living there quite peacefully and happily, and the continuous presence of a bunch of confused tourists gaping and meandering about would be most upsetting!

We go to the safari park every year. We like to ride on the jeeps all around the park to the furthest corner, and then walk back to the entrance.

If you don’t feel up to the hike, which takes around perhaps 3 hours, depending on how long you like to stop to admire the animals, you can always ride the jeeps back to the entrance too.

But walking back is a lot more fun!

Part of the path on the return trip involves crossing over 3 fairly extensive hanging bridges, similar to the ones you can see in Indiana Jones movies.

They might look a bit creaky, and I know they do freak some people out. A guy who went with us on the jeep, a strong, young, hip, macho type, nonetheless refused to get onto the bridge and turned around and hitched a ride back to the entrance on another jeep.

But if you do that you will miss out on so much.

My oldest son likes to ride on the camel every year. The irascible guy that trains the camels is always kicking on the poor dromedaries to get them to rise while they are deeply absorbed in a much-deserved rest.

I tell him he should be nice to the camels and caress them, but he just snorts at me. I feel sad for these camels. Personally, I think that the park should get rid of the camel rides, or at least get a nicer fellow to take care of them.

But I guess that wouldn’t make any money for the park.

We come to Selwo every summer for our annual safari pilgrimage. This was the newborn baby elephant last year.

This is the baby elephant this year. As you can see he’s bigger now, older, and he isn’t babied, coddled or cooed over as much by his elders anymore.

Baby elephants are very precious, because mother elephants can only have one baby at a time, and she lives her private communing with her baby during her pregnancy for 22 months.

Selwo safari park holds Europe’s largest wild aviary housing hundreds of birds of every species you can imagine. Here are a few of its inhabitants:

















Although it might seem like a simple, easy task to photograph these plumed friends, especially considering how large some of them are, really, it isn’t. It depends on their mood and your luck. Mostly they prefer to hide way out in the trees or bush.

This big guy was literally drooling over my son’s food.Drooling bird

Hungry bird












And this one actually succeeded in snatching part of his meal right out of his poor little hand.

Not the first time birds steal his food, however. He reports to me that sometimes while he is eating breakfast at school in the yard, the local seagulls will swoop down lovingly to accompany him, bearing away his sandwich in the process.


The Barcelona That Tourists Never See, Part I

Well, it appears that I’ve been sort of absent for quite a bit of time now. But that is because we have been busy travelling around. You know, it’s summertime, everyone’s on vacation.

So I expect that at this time of the year, lots of blogspots pop out with all sorts of travel tidbits and enviable descriptions of the most exciting holidays you can imagine. Postcard-perfect photos of exotic beaches in the Caribbean (or in the Seychelles, or in the south Pacific), cultural tours around venerable European capitals.

So I’m just going to pile on yet another such post to the list of travel posts popping up lately on blogspots around the world. But well, I’ll try and give it a twist. So I won’t be putting up the same old photos of the same old tourist sites that you can dig up in about a thousand travel guides already or find dotted around all over the internet.

Instead, I’ll try and put up photos of places that tourists won’t see and will never go to.

So here is the first such post (more coming up later I hope teehee!):

“The Barcelona That Tourists Never See, Part I.”

Our trip to Barcelona was fairly long, over a week. I lived in Barcelona for 6 years, so running around the typical tourist mill wasn’t really on our agenda.

Instead, I took the kids to see the places where they spent their earliest childhood years and sent them back on a nostalgic stroll through memory lane. My son re-visited his old pre-school. He said it looked a lot smaller than he remembered it!

These stained glass windows are perched on a fairly normal family home on a fairly normal street. You don’t need to be the proud proprietor of an architectural wonder in order to display something so beautiful and offer your family the possibility of enjoying such a delightful sight every day.

I wanted to take the kids to the countryside where they used to collect snails (after my son got over a major snail-slug-ant-and-every-other-bug-with-more-than-2-legs phobia), but surprise of surprises, we got thugged on the head by a freak summer storm (aka hurricane, cyclone, monsoon maybe?) that lasted for several hours. We took refuge at the local suburban train station:

Well, you can’t really make out the rain too much here, but then again it also wasn’t pouring cats and dogs yet. We thought the worst was about to pass. Well we could think again, the worst hadn’t even arrived yet at the time of this photo. But since I had no intention of spending an entire, precious day cooped up in a tiny little rural train station (quaint as that might sound), in the end I plunked a plastic bag over my youngest son’s head and we set off. My son felt a little ridiculous though, as he sort of looked like a walking white shopping bag.

So, what my kids remember most about their childhood home now is the lowly but spectacular train station.

This storm turned out to be of such a magnitude that apparently many localities got flooded and it made big headlines on the national news. We even got friends and acquaintances calling us up to find out if we were okay, or if by some chance a tidal wave had swept us all out to sea.

So, what does this photo have to do with The Barcelona That Tourists Never See? Well not much, actually, it’s just a lamp that’s hanging on the ceiling of a friend’s favourite dug-out.

But I can assure you that tourists never see it.

So, so much for our journey down memory lane.

However, there is so much more to do and so much more to see in Barcelona, that we weren’t put off by a little bit of unexpected climatic conditions.

The Palau Nacional de Montjuïc or National Palace of Montjuic. Well I said I wasn’t going to stick anything touristy onto this post, but this is such a beautiful location, the Plaza de España in the centre of Barcelona. Besides which I’ve been surfing around a bit on the net and no one else has made quite exactly the same photo of this monument.

No, actually, other people have uploaded much more beautiful, professional, slick photos of this monument onto the internet.

This palace sports a gigantic and stunning water fountain (called Fonts Màgiques or Magic Fountains), which nonetheless doesn’t show up here on this blog, because when we were there the fountains were dry and barren.

However, when the fountains are running, they are the centre of a most exquisite and magnificent light-and-music show, where the enormous sprays of water are displayed in all their glory reflecting a choreography of coloured spotlights that dance around in harmony following the melody of a musical soundtrack.

If you ever get the chance to pass through Barcelona just when they happen to be putting on one of these shows, I thoroughly recommend that you check it out. It’s free, and the show lasts for quite some time.

The only problem you might have is if you go there with a baby (like I did), and your baby is the crying, plaintive type, and gets bored and restless real easy.

The columns of the Palau Nacional at sunrise.

Barcelona likes to flaunt imitations of famous international landmarks. So here is Barcelona’s version of Venice’s Piazza San Marco:

Next week, I shall regale you with yet another monument wanna-be.

Well, The Barcelona That Tourists Never See, Part II should be coming up. In the meantime I’ll end this post with a couple of intriguing pics, of places tourists never gape over:

And in the next post I’ll reveal, what in the world exactly is that anyways? And where is it? (Hint: it’s sticking out of water. It’s just that the water is so murky it doesn’t look like water.)








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The Meaning of a Friendship

How important is friendship to you? What values would you, or wouldn’t you, compromise on in relation to your friends? What would a friend have to do to you for you to decide to break up with them, and what would you forgive them for or accept in them?

They say that when a person is about to die, because maybe they have a terrible, mortal illness, they start to realize what is really important in life. And then they become aware of what is truly important to them personally and what isn’t. That most things that people get so riled up about aren’t all that important, transcendental or life-altering.

Most of us, I think, if we stopped to think about it at all, would probably agree that the people that we care about, our friends and loved ones, are the most important things in the world and without them the world would be an insipid place devoid of any meaning.

If you were about to die, what would you prefer, a chance to hug your friends and loved ones one more time, or would that dollar, or even those 100 dollars, that your best friend or your brother owes you, make you so inflamed that you’d prefer to leave without seeing that friend or brother again, because when you catch a glimpse of them you remember that they still owe you $100?

$100 which you will never get the chance to use anyways. Because when you leave this world you won’t be able to take it with you.

I have a very prickly relationship with a friend who makes me question all these things. She makes me become aware of the fact that, in truth, most people don’t think too much about friendship or their friends, or value them overly much.

I know a lot of people, and I do mean a LOT, who don’t want friends. Who prefer to lock themselves away in their homes, even sometimes in homes that are as large and luxurious as castles, and turn their backs to the world. They’re afraid of bringing their friends into their homes because maybe their friends might break that antique Ming vase, get into their computer and steal money from their bank account or make too much noise.

So they hide themselves away in their mansions with the Ming vase, the bank account jam-packed with savings that could be stolen and their silence, unbroken by the merriment of happy children playing or loved ones pounding away at whatever their loved ones most enjoy pounding away at.

Well, I acknowledge that we’re all free to live our lives the way we want and fill our hours with whatever we prefer. And I respect that some people are happier living behind locked doors and walls surrounded by all the objects that attest to how successful and prosperous they are materially and financially.

But really, if you throw your friend or brother out because they owe you $100 and can’t pay it back to you, you’re telling them loud and clear that these people and their relationship to you are worth less than $100. That clearly you care more about your $100 than about your friend, or brother. That money is more important to you than a person, a person that you supposedly care about and feel at least some affection for.

Of course it doesn’t have to be $100. Maybe you threw your friend or brother out because they forgot to buy you something that you asked them to. Not because they didn’t care about you, maybe just because, like me, they have a memory full of holes like a sieve and can’t remember anything if they don’t write it down in 50 agendas.

Now, I do psychic readings (you can find out more about these readings if you’re interested here), I love doing them and enjoy them very much and would never ever miss a session with anyone for anything but you can be sure, even so, if I don’t write it down in about 50 places I would never ever remember when I have a session with whom. I’m not like this on purpose, I don’t forget things in order to mess up other people’s lives on purpose. I just simply have a memory with more holes than a sieve, naturally.

So, returning to the subject of my friend, she is a person who constantly gets angry about things that I consider trivial. (I won’t say what things specifically because then if she reads this post then she will know who she is, and I don’t want that. I’m not in the game of trying to “teach her a lesson” through this post or anything like that. I’m not her teacher, her mother or her mentor and I have no interest in teaching her anything.)

Obviously, these are things that she clearly doesn’t consider trivial. To her they are very important. And I respect that. I try to do what she wants me to do when I’m with her, because so many things offend her, but of course people are full of surprises and unless you live with a person for several years you can never completely guess what sorts of things will get to them. Especially when we’re talking about a person who gets offended by so many things.

So I don’t go out of my way to deliberately try and do things that I know would bother or offend her. But of course even though I do psychic readings that doesn’t make me a mind-reader, hence I don’t know and couldn’t possibly guess absolutely every little thing that could bother or offend her. So sometimes I do do things that bother her. Not on purpose, of course.

But as far as she is concerned, it doesn’t matter if I did it on purpose or not. She always assumes that I did it on purpose, and calls me a liar if I tell her otherwise.

So, we are still friends. Mostly because I value her friendship, because outside of these (admittedly irritable, I won’t deny) characteristics she is still a great and fantastic person.

And I suppose deep down she must also value our friendship, because I imagine otherwise I guess that she wouldn’t still want to continue being friends with someone like me who is always all the time going out of their way to “deliberately” do things that “I know” she hates.

But it does make me wonder, what is more important to her, really, and to people like her? Her friends? Or that her friends be perfect, never forget anything, always adapt themselves to her and to what she wants, etc.?

Okay so now I can hear maybe a couple of readers timidly (or maybe loudly) clamouring out: And what about boundaries?? What about boundaries? We can lend $100 to a friend or brother once, but what about that cousin who is always sneaking around snitching $100 from our pockets every time they lose at gambling? Or that friend who never stops doing things that we hate, on purpose?

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have boundaries. Boundaries are important. They’re an important aspect that help make us whole. (Well I’m not going to sermonize on about boundaries here, entire books have been written on that subject already.)

But if we lent money once to a friend and they haven’t paid it back to us yet, because they can’t, I don’t see that any boundaries have been violated. Our friend was in need, we helped them, now when they are able they will return the favour to us. If they can return the money to us, great. But maybe they are poor. Maybe instead of giving us money they could work for a week for us doing secretarial tasks, cleaning our house or taking care of our kids. Who says that trading and bartering no longer exist or are out of fashion?

Is that money worth more than your friendship? And what if it were your spouse, child or parent, someone you loved more than anyone? Would you still kick them out over $100? Do you love that $100 more than you love your friend or beloved one?

Remember, you can’t take it with you when you leave the earth.

But the memories of what you did when you lived will still be alive when you no longer are.

Do you want people who were close to you to remember that you were that friend who turned your back on them because they couldn’t return your money to you? Or because they did something silly – now I’m not saying something really “big” or important like cheating on you, I mean something really silly and trivial, like for example maybe they forgot to turn the light off in your home when they were there visiting and the two of you left the house together, thus resulting in an increase in $10 in your electricity bill for that month?