January 2, 2012

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes: New directions in the blog

Blogger fuel
New years are supposed to be about taking new directions, right? Well, I'm going to be making a couple of changes to the blog and thought I would give my few loyal readers a heads up.

But first a quick thank you to many of you other expat bloggers who've helped to make the blogging about Spain feel like being part of a virtual imagined community. I can't do proper justice to those of you who were so kind as to specifically feature me on your blogs, but I list your names/sites here so that you know I'm digging reading you... Aw heck, confessions: many of you even featured heavily in my day-to-day conversations in real non-blogger life – Mr Grumpy at Tumbit SpainChic Soufflé, Lauren at Spanish Sabores and Recetas Americanas, Nieves at Sangría Sol y Siesta, Nancy and Regina at The Spain Scoop, Kaley y mucho más, Kirstie at entre flores, fandanguillos, y alegríasLiz en España, Erin at Tortuga Viajera, Ibex Salad, Liz at Memoirs of a Young Adventuress, Cassandra at Gee, Casandra, Luís at PerroFlauteandoFamily Life in Spain, Christine in Spain, Elizabeth at Fighting the Flat Life, Christina the Gazpacho Girl, Becoming Sevillana, Will at My Spanish Adventure, Stephanie at the Viatrix, and Kirsty at Books on Spain.

If I didn't mention you here, it's not because you aren't important. (Ah, the ugly underside of community: exclusion.) Many of you are now on my radar and are likely to be on my 'thank you' list next year. But the bloggers mentioned here above, through tweets or online comments, have been an integral part of my digital second self these last few months and have helped to show me what sociologists meant when they talk of the virtual "third spaces" that social networks and online tools can create for expat communities.

Buñuelos de calabaza, Valencian blogger fuel
So the changes to the blog won't be dramatic, but for starters I will be posting a little less often than I did this fall. One of my new year's resolutions was to "blog less, and professionalize more." The fact is I don't bring in money writing these entries, and I've probably been spending too much time on them, time I could be spending on other activities that will have a greater payoff for me in my professional aspirations as potential historian and educator. So starting last week I've reduced my goal of frequency of posts down to just twice-a-week (Mondays and Fridays) instead of three-times-a-week (bye-bye Wednesdays). Eventually, I'll probably reduce it further to just one post a week. I mean, really, how many of you were _actually_ able to read all those ridiculously long posts anyway? (I'm hoping the page-count, web traffic gods won't punish me. How do those of you who post so infrequently get so much traffic!?!)

The other change is only temporary. Starting next week and running up through March I'm going to be featuring Valencia. Over the long run I still intend this to be a blog about Spain, as a whole, and about rupturing the Hemingway paradigm. But let's face it, Valencia is _way underrated_, probably one of the principal victims of the Hemingway distortion effect in America. (I'm so tired of having to tell my American friends and family that Valencia is a city three hours south of Barcelona along the Mediterranean coast... and yet they always know where Pamplona is, or have visited Sevilla. Hemingway, Lorca, arggh!) What with Lonely Planet listing Valencia as a top ten destination for 2011, the cat is probably already out of the bag. But this city's moment has come and I want to do my part to make sure that Valencia matches the Barcelona miracle of the 1990s in its ascent to world renown.

Valencia, a rising cosmopolitan city. (Seriously, few Americans visited Barcelona
back in the 1980s, that is until the 1992 Olympics launched its profile internationally;
and Bilbao was just an industrial town until the Guggenheim conversion of the 1990s.)

But the actual motivation for the blog refocus, other than that Valencia is my home and my central point of local knowledge and authority, is that March 15th – 19th is Fallas, the biggest fiesta in the world Spain and the brief moment when Valencia is the center of the universe attention. So for the next couple of months I'm running a one-man campaign to promote Valencia as an incredible place to live and must-visit for all who pass through Spain. (Fun game: check in regularly to watch how large the label "Valencia" grows in the left margin of the blog.)

Though outdated on a few recommendations, this website/blog continues to be
a great first stop for information on Valencia's festivals, culture and street life.

To make this Valencia feature possible, I'll be leaning on my usual sources of local knowledge: my wife and my in-laws. But I also plan to draw from a wonderful, if momentarily dormant website created a while back by some friends of mine: Hola Valencia City Blog. While Mike and Jürgen have moved on to greener blogging pastures, it was their Hola Valencia blog that first got me interested in blogging, and is still to date, in my opinion, one of the best documentations of this city by an expat.

So with that final recommendation, I leave you with this Fallas season teaser, a video that Hola Valencia recorded of a New Year's mascletà last year...

This year's (2011) New Year mascletà was cancelled due to the crisis :-(
I encourage you to surf through the many videos posted by Hola Valencia here.


Lauren of Spanish Sabores said...

I'm so excited to read more about Valencia! And I'd love to make it to Las Fallas this year... we'll have to wait and see. I think your blog is so unique and well written so I'm sad you'll be posting less, but happy you'll be focusing more on what you need to be at the moment! I wish you all the best in 2012 and look forward to keeping up with your posts. Feliz año!!

Cassandra said...

Thanks so much for the mention! I agree that the community is a valuable resource in this home-away-from home.

You've got such detailed info on your blog and I'm looking forward to well-informed posts on Valencia. Suerte for your resolutions and Ch-ch-ch-cheers for the new year!

Kaley [Y Mucho Más] said...

Thanks! I'll be glad to hear more about Valencia. But believe me when I say almost no one's heard of Zamora (or even Ávila or León). Some have heard of Salamanca, but I feel like Valencia they would be more likely to have heard of.

Jeff Broman said...

I agree with you about Valencia. I visited Valencia on my first trip to Spain 5 years ago and really liked it. It was not really in many of the guidebooks so there was not a lot of information on it. The reason that I wanted to go there was to see the Calatrava buildings. Once I got there I found a very enjoyable city to spend some time in. I am sure that I will visit again soon.

An American Spaniard said...

Lauren, Cassandra and Kaley, very glad to have you here commenting. The thanks to you all were sincere. I look forward to following your blogs this new year. And I'll be feeling the pressure, double-time, on getting the posts on Valencia just right. So I'll try to meet your high standards and expectations.

Kaley, I'm fighting back an urge to really rant on the Zamora, Ávila, León, Salamanca comment. So I'll start by sharing sympathy... yes, it can be frustrating for expats living anywhere on the peninsula to have to grapple with Americans' poor geography on Spain. But the comparisons to the other towns you mention is not fair (e.g., populations 66,000; 59,000; 134,000; 154,000 respectively). Valencia (pop. 800,000... 1.5 million+ for the metro area) is Spain's third largest city. So when I gripe that people have heard of Sevilla (pop. 700,000) and even Pamplona (198,000), I'm complaining about the distorting effects of the limited cultural exposure (Lorca, Hemingway) that Americans have to Spain, not about some small cities/towns which fall off the radar of those who don't live, breathe and eat Spain. Oh, darn. Did I rant? Sorry about that. I promise this was a condensed version of a much longer rant developed over more than a decade of such rants.

Jeff, thanks for reading and thanks for the support. I think guidebooks have now discovered Valencia (though you are probably right to only date this back to the last five years), but there is still a ways to go for Valencia to be a recognized city (outside of Europe) beyond the more travel-savvy visitors.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the shout-out :) Excited to see what you'll come up with in the coming year, mucha suerte!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it will be rude to comment in spanish, but I trust in http://translate.google.com to help anyone to understand it.

Gracias por la mención!. Insisto en que tu blog me parece una pasada y que es un gran aporte, para extranjeros y, sin duda, para nativos.

Con respecto a Valencia se da la curiosa casualidad de que cuando Lonely Planet eligió las 5 fiestas más importantes (o destacables) del planeta, dos de ellas fueron la tomatina y las fallas. Por supuesto que hay muchos otros sitios para estar, pero este merece la pena, sin duda.

Yo que soy valenciano nativo pero criado fuera (en Cuenca, concretamente) y reenganchado en mi ciudad hace 27 años, siempre se la presento a los demás comparandola con Barcelona. Para mi Barcelona es como una Top-Model: espectacular, deslumbrante. Valencia sin embargo es como tu pareja: no llama tanto la atención pero está llena de belleza doméstica, de rincones entrañables, de sitios para sentirte a gusto.
Me alegro mucho que nos hayamos conocido, y espero que este año te sea muy propicio. Abrazos!

An American Spaniard said...

Liz, my pleasure! You keep posting, too!

Luís, siempre invito a cualquier persona hacer comentarios o en inglés o en español y sobre todo en su idioma preferido entre los dos. Lo ideal es que este blog sea un intercambio, y así que sus lectores (angloparlantes) probar un poco la lengua nativa de España... Y dado que tu te expresas muy bien en castellano, todavía mejor. Me encanta la metáfora muy acertada entre la Top-Model (Barcelona) y la pareja (Valencia). Una está bien para visitar o disfrutar de paso, pero la otra es la que quieres vivir y siempre tener al lado.

Unknown said...


I am the Content Editor for BlogExpat and truly enjoy your blog. We have a series of
expat interviews and I was hoping you would be interested. It would entail questions
about being an expat, a few
pictures, and it would link back to your blog.

If you are interested, just let me know and I will send the questionnaire. In any
case, keep up the great work.

Erin Porter

An American Spaniard said...

Hi Erin (of BlogExpat), thanks for expressing your interest and support! I've sent you an email saying, more or less, yes, and I very much appreciate the offer.

Reg of The Spain Scoop said...

Very nice round-up! Ch-ch-changes are good!

Anonymous said...

I greatly appreciate your approach to writing with substance about the place in which you live. For me, once the novelty wears off, that's when the real discoveries begin. There isn't a much better homage to a place than to make efforts to celebrate the small episodes that happen there, in the undercurrent, its cultural peculiarities, and thereby exposing the banality of cursory tourist guides and lazy misconceptions.
I look forward to learning about the real Valencia from you. Good luck in 2012!

An American Spaniard said...

Dear A Casual Notebook, coming from you I take this comment as a very high compliment, since I think your blog reveals a masterful authorial voice with hardly "a casual" pen stroke.

They say that one's first book always ends up turning into an autobiography. As I hope to eventually write a book (not remotely about me) for professional purposes unrelated to this blog, maybe I hope the blog will help me get that out of my system. It seems to me, the real danger in all these (expat) blog posts isn't just triteness, but also vanity.

I'll try to do justice to Valencia. Best of luck to you, too!

Tumbit - Mr Grumpy said...

After almost 8 years of living in the Valencia Region, I will be making my very first trip to the city next week. I can't belive I have left it so long - I'd better do some revising.

An American Spaniard said...

Mr. Grumpy, shoot me an email if you'd like to meet up while you're in town. We could get cañas somewhere in the center.

Tumbit - Mr Grumpy said...

Can't believe I overlooked your kind offer Sr Hemmingway. Maybe next time?
- Or if you are doing one of your daily ventures down this way ( Jalon Valley ) pop into Hicksville and I will shout you a Creme de Menthe Frappe

An American Spaniard said...

Don't worry, Mr. Grumpy, I'm sure I'll catch you the next time you come to Valencia... in another 8 or so years. I'll be here. Though now that I have a frappe invite, I'll have to figure out where in the world is Jalon Valley... and you said that there's no train connection there. Geez!

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