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    Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - (K) Humorous and thorough history and science behind ultrarunners and long-distance running
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    Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela - (K) An autobiography covering his childhood, years as a freedom fighter and incarceration. Inspiring and informative
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    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón - (K&T) A mystery set in Barcelona involving an old book, a failed writer and murder
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    Lush Life by Richard Price - A Lower East Side tale of cops, drugs and drinking
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    The Chinese by Jesper Becker - (K&T) Modern history of my peeps, from the cultural revolution to the many failed economic and social attempts to move the country forward
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    Setting the Table by Danny Meyer - A "how-to" on hospitality and business acumen by the restaurateur behind such NY institutions as the Shake Shack and Union Square Grill
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    The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama - Obama lays out what is wrong with the current government and how, vaguely, to change it.
    **

Hi from Barcelona

I can’t believe we’ve already been here for four full days. It has gone by very fast. We haven’t had much luck getting our travel computer (which I meant to tell you about earlier) on wifi, but have been checking email and facebook via other computers. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try harder to find a better connection and even contemplate paying for one (right now I’m on some network called Jazztell and it isn’t strong enough to upload any of the great pictures we have taken since we arrived on Friday morning). We were connected last night to a network from our rented apartment but it mysteriously changed form unsecure to secure about an hour after jumping on it…

A little bit about what we’ve been up to.. On friday morning we arrived on the nonstop AA flight pretty tired as we only managed 4 hours or so of sleep. It was pretty easy to find the train station across the street from the airport despite their attempts to hide it by placing the directional signs at the far end of the airport and behind numerous businesses.

A quick 30 min/5 dollar train ride by renfe and you are in the heart of Barcelona. We were staying with Kelly’s friend Anna for the first couple nights in Barceloneta, which is a little beach section of Barcelona, and due to our combination of exhaustion and excitement, we made a quick stop for cafe con leche and a chorrizo bocadillo. Even though it was only 10:30am, it didn’t stop the old men around us from ordering a couple beers and smoking up a storm. We had forgotten what it was like to live in a city where smoking is still permitted in restaurants and bars…

After meeting Anna (and taking an hour long nap, myself), we chatted for a bit and then headed out for lunch. We jumped right into tapas, though mediocre, with a tortilla patata (basically layered, sliced potatos and cheese), abondigas (meatbballs in tomato sauce), mussels in tomato sauce, potatos, etc. Nothing special but it all came out to 9 euros for a three course meal and a carafe of wine.

Afterwards, Kelly and I headed back to Anna’s and took a 3 hour nap. When we awoke, we were hungry again and so we stumbled down the street to a little place that seemed to be doing a pretty brisk business, despite it only being 7:30pm (super early for dinner here in Spain). We went in and were not disappointed by our little meal in the flourescent white light bleached bar. It was packed and so we took a space at the stand up bar, ordering bombas (little croquettas of uh, something), sepia (cuttlefish) that was thrown on the flattop and finished in the Spanish favorite sauce of olive oil, parsley, garlic and lemon. I’m not sure I’ve had cuttlefish before but this hooked me on it. Very similar to calamari.

We also took down some croquettas. The best part of the dinner was running into a young English girl, so excited about finding and getting into this bar that was apparently in her guidebook that she lost all ability to communicate with the owner. Instead of ordering off the menu, she started asking the guy things like “pollo? conjeho?” and then finally asked the guy what was supposed to be “What do you recommend?” I’m guessing it was not perfect Spanish, but he smiled enthusiatically and mentioned the bombas. He next asked in a way that even I understood as “How many do you want?” to which she replied “El Senohor! I am very hungry!” as she rubbed her belly. I was thinking “he just wants to know a number”, but somehow she finally conveyed through mixed languages that she wanted other things too. She ended up with shrimp/gambas and I don’t know what else, but she did end up happy.

The best part of the night was what happened next. Anna took K & myself to her normal Friday night activity: Gospel Choir Practice! Yes, we spent the next two hours playing games and singing English gospel songs. I can’t believe I had to go to Spain to sing gospel, but there we were singing “No more auction block for me!” with 75 other white people. The conductor even spent a good 20 minutes talking about Obama and what his election meant to the civil rights movement in America, not knowing that there were two Americans in the audience, trying to get them to put more heart into the singing. I still have the images in my head of all these white Spanish people of ages 14 to 75 raising their hearts, voices and arms to belt out this song. I even met two new friends here who helped me translate what was going on after I got separated into the “bass” section. One girl, I didn’t even get her name, but the other was Shanghi, which they nicknamed her because she was from Shanghai. She has since added me to her facebook. Hi Shanghi!

We slept well that night but the next night wasn’t so good. I didn’t get to sleep until 5am, though K seems to sleep just fine. Sat we walked around the marina, bought a few things and headed to Sitges, a small coastal town about 45 minutes from Barcelona by train where we met a friend of Anna. The town is beautiful and we arrived just in time to catch sunset. I have an amazing photograph that I will upload as soon as I get that stable connection.

We spent Sunday on the beach, reading our ebooks in the sun and finally settling down to a big lunch of Arroz Negre and Razor Clams before checking into our new apartment near Parc Montjuic. The apartment is very nice and we’re happy to have our own place and not have to worry about intruding any longer on Anna. We spent today at Parc Quell, which was just packed with tourists before walking a couple ks to a hospital that was sort of designed by Gaudi and finally La Sagrada Familia, which is still a good 15 years away from being completed, but amazing nontheless.

Craving a homemade meal, we headed to Barcelona’s largest market and bought some veggies, seafood and chicken to cook up later tonight but because we were so hungry, we stopped for a small bite to eat and had some amazing sepia and fedua. Now we’re sitting in a bar at 9:20pm about to head home and cook up our dinner…

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