September 1, 2013

Blog Birthday 2: The Underappreciated Posts

This is my most popular picture so far on Instagram.
It's my blog's 2-year anniversary! Two years ago today, my blog went live and my quest to counterbalance all the sappy sentimentalism "Hemingway paradigm" began.

Since the great slow down of March 2012, my posts have been more infrequent. (This blog, after all, is just a hobby. I make no money from it... sin ánimo de lucro, indeed.) I now have a personal commitment of posting at least one blog entry a month… which given how long my entries are is probably plenty of reading material for most of you. (Even my wife struggles to keep up!) At some point last fall I discovered Instagram, which has been my great obsession/distraction ever since. I did two more interviews: one with Expat Arrivals and the other for Young Adventuress's blog. I particularly enjoyed the odd challenge of Young Adventuress's question, to describe Spain in three words: "Please come visit!"... no wait, "Mostly harmless fun."... "Mmm. Yum. Delicious." or "What the heck?!?" Go ahead and read the interviews, you know you're curious. (¡Marujos!) That said, the most autobiographical moment on the blog this year was this past July, me getting Spanish citizenship. (Just last night my Spanish friends were oohing and aahing over my new DNI, which I whipped out right after one of them mistakenly joked about me being a guiri like all the other guiris hanging out in El Carmen on a Saturday night.)

My life is not all Spain. This last year I spent some time in Vienna,
enjoying its incredible coffee scene. Chic Soufflé wrote some excellent
entries detailing coffee culture there.

You may be wondering, what have people been reading on the blog? Well, here it is. The all-time top two posts are: "That Perfect Gift: Spanish Footwear" and "Don Ernesto: Ernest Hemingway in Spain". They are both many thousands of page hits higher than all other entries, and both neck in neck for the top entry. There is something funny about the way in which the Hemingway post has been duking it out with the shoe post for the number 1 spot… It speaks to a kind of schizophrenia people have about Spain: are they coming here for hedonistic indulging or deep, introspective self-discovery? (Or maybe it's a marketing opportunity – who wants to join me in a startup shoe company: Hemingway shoes?) I'm pleased to see that sometimes substance does drive readership. So, for example, my three Teaching English entries have performed well. I've noticed regular download traffic for my ready-made PDF lessons. It is gratifying to think that my work on those is paying off in some small way for other TEFL teachers or learners out there.

Last year for my blog birthday I did a conventional anniversary post, sharing with you what were the most popular blog entries for the year. But the truth is, that just encourages you to read the posts that everyone is already reading. So this year I thought I would highlight those posts that, for whatever reason —posted before my blog was "discovered" by google the public; posted at the wrong time of day when nobody was reading; didn't have a catchy title or sexy pictures of some famous actress— didn't ever get much traffic or visitors, but are personally some of my favorites. So here it goes, here are…

10 Underappreciated Blog Posts:

I've grouped them into three genres, in no particular order... 


I love movies! I've written a few entries about them, but I really should write more. What a wonderful way to get to know a culture! Especially Spanish cinema! (Oh yeah, and it is also a good way to practice the language.) At some point in the near future I'm considering doing a self-taught class on Spanish cinema. There's so much more than Almodóvar, and I admit that I've only barely scratched the surface.

Somehow this entry got skipped by my readers, which is a shame because this movie should be required viewing for all Americans coming to Spain. In my opinion, Berlanga is still possibly the greatest Spanish director in terms of capturing truly Spanish Spanishness, and this movie is specifically about cash-strapped Spaniards getting their hopes up about American investment money coming in to save the day. (Still sounds relevant today, no?)

Another film entry skipped over by my readers. This movie just happens to be my favorite Spanish movie of all time. I won't presume to say that it is the definitive best, but it is my personal favorite. And there is a certain dynamic in this comunidad that just does seem to resonate with some of the quirkier characteristics and attitudes of Spaniards today. So if you haven't seen it yet, go download it rent it now.

It's the Economy, Stupid:

Perhaps it is only fair that my posts about the economic crisis don't get a lot of traffic. If you're looking for an expert opinion, you should visit Ibex Salad, a much more thoughtful and informed blog on the market and Spain's place in it. In general, I try my best to avoid talking about the crisis on my platform, because I think it gets too much attention in a way that is repetitive and self-defeating. Still, I've written a couple of entries that I would hope my readers took a look at, which seek to cut through the bulls**t hot air that you will hear about it on even serious news outlets.

We're four years into this economic crisis and sadly this entry is just as relevant now as it was back when I wrote it. Why northern Europeans, and particularly the British, tend to generalize about the problems in Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal as if they were all of one cloth, I do not understand. Suffice it to say that its not true, but also that it's flat out obnoxious and insulting, too.

If I've got one complaint about Spaniards, it's that many can be really negative. This is a glass-half-empty kind of culture. Even without horrible economic statistics and the world's lamest government, Spaniards wouldn't need much to get them talking about how backward their economy can be, and how the grass is so much greener over there in America. I wrote this entry, and put some thought into it, at a moment when I was particularly fed up with all the negativity about Spain and its economic future. Recently, perhaps I've also succumbed a bit to the despair. (Rajoy, por favor, no rompas mas mi pobre corazón.) But I still think the message in this entry is sound. The self-fulfilling prophecy can be a virtuous cycle, too. Positive thinking, anyone?

The reason I like this underappreciated entry is because it's about one of the central culture battles in Spain: public servants, are you with them or are you against them? If you don't understand the funcionario system, then chances are you are not understanding half of the political battles and arm-chair political rants that you've overheard in Spain. This entry will get you started on that, though it has taken me years to appreciate all the viewpoints and contradictions in this debate.

The longer I live in Spain, a country where tipping is not necessary, the more I find tipping culture in America not only backward, but down right medieval (okay, maybe bourgeois). Let's do everyone a favor. Let's encourage systems where workers get paid for their work, and where, on the bill, what you see is what you get.

Alternative Spanish tourism/geography:

For a little over a year now, when I write about places to see in Spain, I've heavily favored places in and near Valencia. What can I say, it's what I know. Many of those entries are getting traffic as my blog's ranking rises in the blogosphere as one of the few English language bloggers writing from Valencia. But there are a few hidden gems that I've written about that haven't got much traffic. (Unfortunately, people who run searches on google only find what they're looking for.) Trust me, these spots are all very much worth visiting. Maybe they are not secrets, but they're not nearly as appreciated as the Costas or big cities like Barcelona and Madrid. So take a look and consider a visit!

Everyone always talks about Rioja wine. I haven't been to La Rioja, so I can't compare, but Penedés was an incredible wine country to visit, and is easy to reach from Barcelona. It's also the place to go if you love Spanish cava. So why not add a wine/cava tour to your next visit to Cataluña? Trust me, you'll thank me.

This is an incredibly cool film festival! Not far from Barcelona, and taking place early to mid October, I would imagine if would be easy to combine it with a package tour of Barcelona, and maybe of the Penedés wine region right around the vendimia. If you like sci-fi and horror or film festivals, do not miss an opportunity to experience this sci-fi, horror, and fantasy film festival. I loved it, and definitely plan to go back.

Cute towns, nice hikes, great food, this region has it all and it's an easy day trip from Valencia. I won't pretend that Linares is better than dozens of other 'pueblos con encanto', but it is time that you foreign tourists break the Madrid-Barcelona-Sevilla mold, and do some traveling through Spain's charming smaller towns. In this entry I offer a cannot-lose formula for this highly popular kind of tourism with Spaniards.

This is an uncharacteristically short entry for my blog. It's really just a couple of videos. But whoa are these videos incredible. If you missed it, take a look. I return to these nature videos highlighting Spain's true wealth from time to time whenever I need to step back and look at the big picture. The visuals this film director has created are breathtaking, and Spain's natural parklands are magnificent.

– – – Birthday Epilogue – – –

I've done my best to hide on my blog that, in reality, this last year has been a particularly difficult one for me. Several important things have not gone my way and I'd be lying if I said that I'm not disappointed, and maybe even a bit morose about them. Fortunately, I've always had a game plan for periods in life like this. One of them is to pull out my list of "Lifetime Things To Do". (I've already done a couple of them… "One Year of Travel in Europe", check; "See an Opera at the Met", check.) It's not exactly a bucket list. I feel no obligation to do them before I die. Rather, it's a list of challenging, interesting things I have on hand to tackle whenever there's a lull in life, or I feel like I'm in a rut and need some activity to distract and uplift me.

Training for long runs is all about having the right equipment,
which is why I bought this toy for my marathon training!
This year I've chosen the "Run a Marathon" item on the list. Those of you following me on Instagram will note I post a lot of #running images in the Río Turia park. Well that's why. It's not that I love running or that I think running a marathon is the be all end all of life. It's more humble than that. Running is a simple, manageable challenge, something I can accomplish right now while my spirit is low and I feel like some things are out of my control. Exercise goals are great for moments of feeling low. No matter how miserable I am, after a painful hard run and refreshing shower, it is really, truly difficult to not feel positive. I've registered for Valencia's half marathon in October, and if I manage that then I'll register for the Valencia full marathon in November.

Another uplifting distraction on the horizon is a... West Coast Road Trip with my 'huckleberry friendChic Soufflé!!! Very shortly you will notice me tweeting and instagramming all about a Seattle to San Diego road trip, with many cool stops along the way. I'll say more about it here on the blog in October, but I'm already loading up my e-reader with books to get me in the spirit of it: Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Bryson's The Lost Continent, and Least Heat-Moon's Blue Highways. (Don't worry. I read Kerouac ages ago, and got California's Central Valley covered having read The Grapes of Wrath... even read anti-road trip novels like McCormac's The Road or Nabokov's Lolita.) I'm getting ready for my Rediscovering America Tour... or Road Trip Reboot 1.0!

So stay tuned. I hope you continue to enjoy reading the blog. Please know that your replies and thank yous are greatly appreciated.


Cat said...

Oleeee tú! My Spaniversary is in two weeks already - six years in Seville! My friends from Jets Like Taxis are going an American Road Trip right now, too - check them out!

Trevor Huxham said...

FELIZ CUMPLEAÑOS to da blag!!!

I just celebrated my first year of blogging two months ago and am looking forward to many more to come. I always enjoy reading your erudite reflections on life in Spain—keep 'em coming! :)

Sorokin said...

Happy blogniverssary! (I know, I know, it's a new word, but if you prefer I could say "blogbirthday"?)

Mr Grumpy said...

Happy 2nd Birthday, You should be due to start Potty training anytime around now. Keep them coming.

Anonymous said...

Let me say your blog is just super.
This is the spaniard who lives in Moscow and bought a flat in Nou Campanar 2 years ago. My daughter lives now in Valencia full time preparing to enter university.

You wrote about negativity of true...but I think the counry will come out of "la crisis" in 2014 and by 2015 the mood will start to change again.

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