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Wednesday, August 28, 2019 6 comments

And Now, For Some Good News...


So, like I was thinking the other day that I've written several posts about the "bad" adventures I've had over here, but I haven't shared enough of the good experiences. That's not fair and must be rectified forthwith!

The main thing I've come to love about life in Spain, at least here in Andalucia, is that it's a simpler, slower pace than in the States. No matter what the "it" is (paperwork, cup of coffee, opening times, etc.) it will either happen on time - or it won't - and if it doesn't, it may happen on time tomorrow.

Which translates to "it depends," and is normally accompanied with a shrug of the shoulders and sometimes a smile. At first, getting a depende was head-scratchingly difficult, but now I factor it into my expected timeline and all is good with the world.

There's even a song about Depende by singer Jarabe de Palo!

Now, all this, is of course, my humble opinion, but after more than 22 years living and working around the U.S., the difference in "life-speed" is remarkable. Here's a few, little things that bring a smile to my face.

For example, my bus home is never on time. I mean never. Instead, it's always 11-13 minutes late, so now I get there at least 5 minutes late so I don't have too wait too long. Bizarre, but it works everytime.

Credit: Nexotrans.com
The same driver normally works the afternoon shift and we share a "hola" and a manly, half-nod of the head, but the other day, I had my back turned to traffic and I heard a horn beep. I turned and saw the bus was there, with the door opening. That driver could easily have driven on by, but he didn't, which was very, very cool of him.

On one of my first days at my office job, I asked how to access my internal email from home so I could do some work in the evening. My colleague looked at me and shook his head.

"Work is work, and home is home. We focus on quality of life here, so keep the two apart." I couldn't speak for a few seconds, as it was quite a surprise to hear that. I thought he was joking, but he was serious and it's lovely to leave work and not worry/think about it until the next morning.

The vast majority of individual stores, bars and restaurants close between 2-5 p.m., mainly because it's way too hot, and there isn't much foot traffic anyway. I've no idea if many people still take an official siesta, but it's good to know I can run errands in the morning or early evening when it's not baking hot. (But make sure you run those errands Mon-Fri, because businesses tend to close Saturday afternoon by 2 p.m. and won't be open again until Monday at 9 a.m.-ish.)

I walk to the Metro early and every morning I pass an old man (who scared the crap out of me the first time he appeared ghost-like out of the dark!) I got a gruff grunt out of him (possibly in reaction to my high-pitched girly-girl squeal) that time, but now his stick goes up in the air, my hand lifts up and we share a "buenos dias." (The funniest thing is I ever saw him in the light of day, I probably wouldn't recognize him as I've never really seen his face!!)

Local Townhall at 7 a.m. (and no fiestas going on :)

My favorite is when I drive a 2+ lane freeway/dual carriageway, and the left lane, which is meant for overtaking, is actually used for this purpose. It's fascinating to see!
Someone will zoom up behind me, I indicate and pull into the right lane, the driver goes by and the next car indicates and goes right, too. And, EVERYBODY does it. Cars, vans, buses whatever pull over to let me speed on by, too, when needed, so there are never any slow cars in the fast lane. Pure driving bliss.

Oh. And the weather is nice here, too.

Monday, August 26, 2019 8 comments

Name Change & Nothing Happened :)


When my last post dropped Wednesday and I shared another of my interesting adventures, a few comments (thank you Alex and Chris!!) suggested I should change the blog name, because things are always happening to me. (It's not my fault!)

I thought this was a fun idea, so thanks to Carrie, the blog name has changed to Mark Koopmans: Only Happens To Me.

Of course, nothing has happened since the name change, but I have to say I'm enjoying the peace and quiet, but you know I'm going to trip over a chicken, walk into an olive tree or do something wonderful-ish  in no time at all!

This guy sits outside the town hall, quietly relaxing as we all should!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019 8 comments

Of Bikes and Men....


And here we go with another wonderful Koopmans adventure!

I work only a 15-minute-drive from my place, which is fantastic, but I don't have a car, which is not so fantastic.

My first solution was/is to use public transportation, which is great as there's a metro/tram straight to my job in 30 minutes, but my nearest stop is a 40-minute walk away, which is totally doable and all the blisters are nearly gone now!

As travel time to work is currently +/- 80 minutes, what else could I try, one mulled the other day.

A bicycle!

I can get a bike. (Now, never mind I honestly haven't ridden a bike for 30+ years, but it's like every life skill, once you try something you haven't done for awhile it all comes back to you - like riding a bike:)

I found a sweet trail-style, 15-speed bike for a really good price, added the lock, puncture-repair kit and a pump.

Stoked, I went home, checked Google Maps and awesome, the trip will be +/- 40 minutes door-to-door. Half the time and a blister-free way of getting some exercise in.

(Now we get to the most traditional Koopmans question of all: What could go wrong?)

On Saturday, being smart, I decided to do a trial run on the work trail, and spent 30 minutes getting everything ready. With a push off from the right foot, off I wobbled down the street. Thankfully the first 100 yards was downhill, so by the time I got to the roundabout, I'd figured out the brakes ("right is for rear") and I was off to the races - and also thoroughly enjoying myself!

Fast forward 6 minutes later...

I was standing up going down a bit of a rough trail, and all was going well, so as I came to a left-hand turn, I sat down and...


The back tire blew out - and I said a bad word. A couple of times.

Either I have a big fat ass, or I ran over a sharp rock. Hopefully, it's the latter.

After huffing and puffing my way back to the apartment, I'll bring the back tire to a cycle shop and hopefully me and my svelte ass will be back on the bike soon!

Monday, August 19, 2019 7 comments

Of unknown festivals & newly discovered blisters!


Although I remain very sane in Spain, if there's one thing that drives me nuts is the bureaucracy and laissez-faire way of life over here.

(Hmmm... There must be a Spanish word for "the policy of leaving things to take their own course." The literal translation is dejar hacer, that's boring, so the nearest would be when people say "manana" or "depende.")

I moved into my new place the other week and had some paperwork waiting for me at the town hall, so I pulled a few errands together and planned to knock it all out Friday.

Currently car-less, there is a great public transportation system, but with no easy way to get from A-to-D, I mapped out what would be an 8-mile round trip. I can do that - and it'll be a nice way of seeing the local towns and checking places out.

El Camino de Stupido

Friday morning, I'm all set. Water in the backpack, a couple of snacks, my hat and suncream. Off to the town hall, and after a pleasant 40-min walk I end up in front of the old building, only to discover hundreds of kids and parents enjoying the beginning of their annual, local festival. I stood in front of the huge, brown doors for a few minutes, but they stayed closed.

*Not how the town square normally looks!

Darn. Ok, off to the bank as I need some info/paperwork from them. Only a 5-minute walk, but I felt the first stages of a few blisters forming. (In my silliness, I'd decided to use a pair of new insoles in my already comfortable shoes - because I was worried about the long walk and thought the insoles would be of some help...)

On the way to the cellphone store I see this... now you tell me :)

After confirming the blistering attack, I threw the insoles away and went to open the bank door, but it was shut.


Yes. While some shops and businesses were open for the local festival, the bank had decided it needed a holiday.

Ok, then. My last stop was the cellphone store. That was 40 minutes away and the reason for going there was I'd received a text the night before saying "part of my order was waiting at the store." As I was waiting to have Wifi installed, maybe this "part" was my router - and that would be well-worth the walk? (I'd called the store using the Google-found number, but the line was disconnected...)

I had a dilemma. I was walking to another town, so were they having a festival? Or were they part of this one? What if they were closed, too?

I was a shell of myself at this stage, and so was this old gas station...

Ah well, in for a penny, in for a pound. Let's go find out.

I stopped halfway and bought a beer from a guy selling fruit and vegetables on the side of the road. I was quite delighted that at least his stand was open, especially as the little beer that could tasted like the nectar of the gods.

Hey, I'm not talking bull. Any chance of a lift?

After 50 minutes, to my ongoing delight, the phone store was also open. I walked in, all sweaty and stood under the A/C, arms spread for a moment like I was about to give a sermon. Arms dropped to my side, I waited under the cold, luxurious air while the clerk dealt with her customer.

Ten minutes later, she smiled at me, remembering I'd been in there a couple of days earlier to arrange my order using my best Spanglish.

I told - and showed - her my text and waited expectantly for her to grab a router-sized box and make my day. Instead, she just went, "Ohhhhhh...no" after clacking on the keyboard for a minute or two.

My heart sank, and then she explained there was nothing here for me.

"But I have a text. It must be true."

She shrugged and said no, but said she'd call when the mysterious part came in.

"Do you know when? Tomorrow? Monday?"


"Vale, gracias," I said and left the final errandy place, as empty-handed as I'd began, while my feet had made out like bandits and picked up lots of new blisters.

Google Maps does lead one down interesting paths...

I had a 75-minute walk ahead of me, but turned it into a 90-minute trip by stopping at a bread store to get a LARGE beer. I sat on a bench musing about the wonders of Spain, and at the end all I could - and can - do is smile.

...And of all different types, too!

The way of living over here is way bigger than I am - and I love it - to be honest. It's so different to anything I've ever experienced, and it's never boring!

So, when am I going back to get my paperwork and the mysterious package?

Made it home! (Soon after this picture was taken, subject was found relaxing in a chair, with feet up and yet another adult beverage in his hand.)
Wednesday, August 14, 2019 6 comments

3 Boys in 30 Days: Part 4 - Land & Seascape of Peniche


On Monday, I shared how the boys and I ended up in Portugal and the fun we had. In this final part of my mini-series revolving around the adventures of the boys travelling to Europe for the first time together, I want to say cheerio to charming Peniche through some of the pictures I took of this wonderful, hidden (at least to me) area of Portugal.

We had a wonderful time and I hope we get to return there one day in the future.

We found this bay close to our place the first afternoon we got there, but there was so much seaweed...

See the 3 red chairs on the edge of the "cliff?" There's a bar 50 yards away, so some of the regulars relax on what is a unique seating area!

Our place was the open window, upper left. The snack bar was an interesting place, with an unusual (for the boys) smell wafting upwards most nights!

While it was windy, at least it was safe to swim in the ocean.       Oh. Wait...

The Bay of Rock Formations*                (*Possibly not its real name.)

Ok, I made one, too :) So much fun!

Peniche is such a cool place. In places, it's easy to see nothing has changed in hundreds of years.

...And then there's my second rock formation, which was made 3 weeks ago.

Some over-achievers really went all-in to make the coolest formations in the strangest places!

Top of the hill, overlooking the cold Atlantic ocean. I wondered what was he thinking about?

Part of an old fort in the foreground and an old windmill in the background.

At least I think it was an old windmill... in theory, it could also be a large, prototype Dalek?

Signs that the town (it's bigger than a village) still has fishing in its veins...

View from the fort toward the beach where we spent so many cloudy days!

That seaweed from earlier? This is one way the town gets rid of it all - and there's a lot!

I haven't used any special filters here, but what a difference when the sun came out!

One of the boys found this old Pepsi bottle cap... haven't seen this logo for donkey's years!

Sailing home after (I'm sure) another day's hard work...

#1 Son got a hold of my phone and changed some settings - and took this cool picture:)

A boy and his thoughts blend into the wild surroundings...

On our last full day, the sun returned and the low-tide revealed an "island" that we hadn't seen in all the other days on the beach.

Which meant, of course, the "island chain" had to be explored forthwith!

One of the walls of the old fort in the background...

A statue for some, a resting place for others...

When you go to the Peniche Tourist Office - know that you will be in safe hands!

(At least) one old fort gate is still in use and leads to a bridge...

...Same bridge from a different view on top of the fort's walls.

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