Southeast Spain

Since we've been expecting a baby I haven't been allowed to go anywhere far away by myself. I'm hoping this restriction is lifted at some point. However, a friend of Stefanie's came for a visit last weekend and somehow that meant I could leave for the weekend by myself. So I went to the southeast part of Spain to see a bunch of things I missed the last time I was there.

First stop was Torcal de Antequera nature reserve. This place is similar to Elbesandsteingebirge, except larger, much more accessible and with mountain goats! The entire park is basically part of a large mountain covered with stone pillars that look like stacks of rock pancakes. And with mountain goats climbing all over the place. I saw them do some pretty amazing climbing as they ran away from me. Like, some crazy Prince of Persia wall running type of stuff.

The next day I went to Fuente de Piedra, which is a shallow lake home to lots of birds, including two thirds of all the flamingos in the Mediterranean during baby-making season. So when I saw "flamenquin" on the menu of a local restaurant, I thought it might be flamingo, so I had to try it. Turns out this is actually a fried roll of pork with eggs inside. Now I know. It's too bad really. I was hankering for some pink bird.

Next I hiked to El Camino del Rey (the King's path) in Malaga's lake district (otherwise known as the most dangerous pathway in the world). This is a path on the side of a cliff built in 1905 and in desperate need of repair. I knew it was falling apart and would be hard to do before I got there, but I thought it was least possible to do. I made it all the way to a part with 3 inches of space to step onto while you hug the cliff wall, with no other way around. I'm pretty sure I could have made it, but it wasn't worth the risk of falling several hundred feet. So I turned back. Mother would be proud.

Next, I turned east and spent a day hiking through the Tabernas Desert, where hundreds of American westerns have been filmed. I even went to "Mini Hollywood", a mock up of a town from a typical western built for tourists. I even saw a wild west show where the good guy takes on two outlaws and everyone dies in the end. All in Spanish of course, just like the movies.

On the way back to the airport I stopped at the Alhambra near Granada. This started as a palace for a Muslim sultan back in the 1200's after the Muslim conquests, and the main palace is decorated as such. Actually, the decorations here are more numerous and extravagant then anything I saw in the Muslim countries that I've visited. Maybe this is because the palaces in these countries are still being used and not open to the public.

This trip marks my 3rd time in Spain, and there is still plenty more to see here. In fact, Spain has more UNESCO world heritage sites than any other country other than Italy and there are lots of natural parks and monuments. So I will probably be back again at some point. Maybe next time I'll really find flamingo on the menu.

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Last Month

Christmas time is always a busy time full of parties and meeting people, which is about all I did for a few weeks. After I found out that in fact my rib was not broken (it just hurt a lot), I spent Christmas at Stefanie's parent's place and ate goose. Then I worked a few days before leaving to Detroit with Stefanie. Our flight landed an hour early, but any time we gained was quickly lost again getting through customs.

The current policy is for all foreigners to get their picture and finger prints taken at the border. Well, the machine didn't like Stefanie very much because it said that her prints matched with someone who had been to jail in the past. Apparently this was a problem, since she spent the next half hour in the back room while they checked her prints manually, all the while keeping her in the dark about what was happening. Eventually they decided that she was in fact not a terrorist and we had the pleasure of entering the country.

During the week and a half we were in the Detroit area we had a complete schedule. We celebrated new years with my friends, had a second Christmas with my family, saw a play downtown, had our baby shower, went shopping a few times, went to Frankenmuth to laugh at how "Michigan's Little Bavaria" is their selling point but in fact the town has nothing to do with the real Bavaria, the girls had a spa day, my friends threw me a bachelor party, and a whole lot more.

The bachelor party was a total nerd fest, and the most fun I've had in a long time. First, we played whirly ball, which, in my opinion, is the best game ever invented, as long as you don't take it seriously. Then we went to the arcade, had wings and beer, and ended up playing laser tag against some Justin Bieber look-alikes. I guess there was a convention in town. We lost.

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Cracked Rib

So I cracked a rib the other day. I was go-kart racing at a place in town. It's a two story track in an old parking garage, fairly modern, nice place. It was pretty fun, even though I got hurt and my fingers and toes were frozen at the end of it.

I crashed all on my own...all three times. It was my first time go-karting, and nobody told me how I should take the turns. I thought it was a good idea to slide and skid around the turns, but it wasn't until half way through the 20 minute race that I realized that you can go faster and have more control if you don't do this. Well there was one 180 degree turn at the end of a straight section where you can get up to full speed before the turn. One of the first times I took this turn, I skidded too much and slammed the side of the kart into the wall, which stopped the kart, but not my body. The sides of the seat are only rib-high, which means my ribs are what stopped my body from coming out of the kart. The first time I did this it didn't hurt too bad, and I said to myself, "well I'm not doing that again". The second time it hurt much worse, but I could still move, so I thought it was just bruised. I kept going and said to myself, "I should be more careful". The third time it happened I was mad at myself for letting it happen again, but it still didn't hurt that bad. Then I finished the race and went home. I wasn't planning to go to the doctor. It didn't hurt that bad, and even if I did crack a rib there's nothing I can do about it. It wasn't until I stretched my arms up and heard a *pop* from my rib that I decided it was a good idea to get it checked.

My experience at the doctor was a bit strange from my viewpoint. In the states I would go to a doctor, who would examine it, do an x-ray and give me the results, all in the same trip. Here it takes two trips to two different places and a phone call; a process that takes 4 days before I can find out if there is really something wrong or not. The first doctor (the primary care physician) examined the bones and my lungs externally using his hands and a stethoscope. He thought it might be cracked, and that maybe the lung on that side is a little weaker than the other one (broken ribs are known to puncture lungs sometimes). So I got a referral from him to go to a radiologist. I got the x-rays the next day and when I was done the nurse said, "OK, you're done. Call your doctor in 2 days". I think should could tell from the confused look on my face and my speechlessness that I was expecting some answers. So she said, "Oh, the radiologist is looking at the x-rays now and she says everything is fine." Um, ok. I guess that means I don't have a hole in my lungs. I will find out for sure on Monday when I call the doctor. I thought this was a typical experience using the German health care system, but the German's I've talked also think it's a bit weird.

And so is the start of my holidays. For Christmas we're going to Stefanie's parent's in Göttingen to eat goose and red cabbage. Then we'll fly to Detroit for 10 days over new year's. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone and eating Taco Bell.

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