Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Different Kind of Adventure…

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I was all ready to hit publish on this post and Mike, who thankfully is my editor said that it was boring and it needed more if I wanted to expand my audience.  “More what?” I asked. “Well you could start with some gross pictures!”  Read on…

I was a little scared

I was a little scared…

For the past 3 months I have been watching a ganglion cyst on my left wrist grow. As a gynecologist the wrist is pretty far from my specialty but I recognized the cyst and knew it was nothing dangerous. Nevertheless, a growth on the body is a bit disconcerting. It started the size of a small pea on my inner wrist and grew into a large lump that got in the way of my watch. It also hurt.

A Ganglion Cyst that looks just like mine (from google images) Stupidly I didn't think of taking a picture of mine until it was gone!

A Ganglion Cyst that looks just like mine (from google images) I didn’t think of taking a picture of mine until it was gone!

I had initially intended to just leave it alone until we got back to California but in the end it became too bothersome to ignore. As I moaned and groaned more and more Mike finally said, “Do you want me to be your doctor or do you want me to just continue to be an empathetic husband?” I finally agreed that if he could come up with a solution I would agree to be a compliant patient.

UnknownA ganglion cyst is a cyst of the tendon of the hand or foot. They are relatively common and when I showed it to 2 running friends in Spain they both told me that they each had also had one but in both cases the cysts had eventually gone away spontaneously. Doctors refer to ganglion cysts jokingly as “Bible cysts”. Years ago people would just smack them with the biggest book that they had around. Presumably they also said a little prayer and wham, the cyst was history. Mike had been offering to whack my cyst for months. We do have private medical insurance here so I could go to a Spanish doctor but I was willing to let Dr. Mike come up with a plan first. Like most patients of the 21st century we looked to Google for our ideas. First we found a hysterical website called “imperfectlyhealthy.com” that recommends that one eat red clay to dissolve the cysts.  No joke, I cut and pasted this from their website!

Is there a refund / guarantee if my cyst does not dissolve?
The clay is beautiful for all that it does for the body – and we are always hopeful that you will have the same results as many others – and be able to avoid surgery.  We are unable to refund open containers and there is no guarantee your ganglion cyst will dissolve. 

Red clay

Red clay. Encyclopedias are beautiful too!

We then found one guy who cured himself with an Ace Bandage and an eraser (or a “rubber” as our English friends say).

Bandage and an eraser

Bandage and an eraser

He placed an eraser (roughly the size of the cyst) over the cyst and then wrapped an Ace Bandage around his wrist. He was able to sleep with this contraption on his wrist and voila, in the morning his cyst was gone.  I wasn’t interested in eating any beautiful red clay so I borrowed an eraser from the girls and bought a wrist wrap from the local farmacia. Last night I placed the eraser over my growth and wrapped it as tightly as I could. I am not sure what the guy on the internet drugged himself with, but an eraser pressing on a tender cyst is hard to ignore.  I probably tolerated it for an hour before I took it off. In the morning Mike said he was disappointed that I couldn’t be more compliant and I agreed to move to plan B.  

We also read that we could aspirate my cyst…

ouch!

ouch!

Surgery, of course was also an option.

YIkes!

Yikes! Mike said gross pictures are popular…

...

eww! Are surgeons allowed to say that?  Yes, if they are on a year long vacation!

eww! Are surgeons allowed to say that? Yes, if they are on a year long vacation!

So what if Mike had never operated on the wrist before and we didn’t have a scalpel? We did have some non-sterile stuff and we could  buy some betadine and steri strips!

The Bible is looking better and better!

How hard could it be?                                       The Bible was looking better and better!

 I pressed on my bump all day hoping that I could just make it disappear with some gentle pressure but I only managed to make it more sore. By evening I was ready to be done.  Strangely, our apartment came with a set of Spanish Encyclopedias but no Bible. Mike selected “N” which was good sized.

Bye-bye cyst!

Bye-bye cyst!

We bent my wrist over the edge of an armchair. Savvy held my fingers down and I looked away. One quick smack and wow! It deflated. I wrapped it back in the Ace Bandage and as I type this blog it seems to be gone.  Thanks to my dear husband, the gynecologist with an encyclopedia, I am now cyst free.

And now since I paid to upgrade my blog to include videos here is a random Savvy video for your entertainment!

Team Kezmoh meets Los Tres Reyes Magos

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Los tres Reyes Magos on top of Alhama's castle wall

Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Wise Men) on top of Alhama’s castle wall

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Christmas lights in Alhama. See the Christmas tree in the background?

We returned from our holiday travels to Paris and London just in time to join in the Spanish Christmas fun.  Lucky for us Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are celebrated with family and are special, but the difference in Spanish Christmas is that the bigger celebration occurs on El Día de Los Tres Reyes. The festivities begin on the evening of January 5th with the Cabalgata de Reyes. The cabalgata in Alhama de Granada is a parade that consists of 3 floats, one for each rey (king).  In Alhama the Jameños (slang for locals in Alhama) have the tradition that each year the Reyes are chosen from a specific profession.  This year they were all local carpinteros (carpenters) while last year they were peluqueros (hair stylists).

Getting ready to leave from city hall.

Getting ready to leave from city hall. Note the John Deere tractor pulling the float.

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The cabalgata begins in the Plaza de Cisne about a 1/2 block from our apartment.  The entire town comes out for the festivities.  We gathered with friends and neighbors to await the parade.  A large John Deere tractor pulled each of the gaudily decorated floats that were carrying Baltazar, Gaspar and Melchor.  I have read that in other parts of Spain the parade might have 30 floats.  In tiny Alhama 3 were enough. The Jameños follow the kings for the length of the parade route.  The floats were well patrolled by locals in orange vests who were careful to keep stray children away from the giant tractor wheels. Tragically, last year, in the larger neighboring city of Malaga a child was killed by one of the tractors.  With that memory fresh, everyone was very careful. IMG_7051 IMG_7038

The floats stopped at designated parks and plazas throughout our village. The kings throw loads of candy at the crowds. One mother joked that she was going to carry an inverted umbrella.  It would serve 2 purposes one to protect her from the barrage of candies and also to collect the candy.  Their majesties and their many assistants on board their carriages had strong arms and we were pelted with sweets.  Despite the bruises we enjoyed the candy! The parade symbolizes the coming of the 3 Wise Men to Bethlehem.  It is a special night analogous to our Christmas Eve as the 3 Reyes Magos will deliver gifts in the night.  However, in Spain they leave the gifts in shoes that are left by the window. On January 6, Epiphany the gifts are opened.IMG_7322

The cabalgata in Alhama wove through town finishing at the Pabillion, the local sports pavilion.  Nearly the entire population of Alhama’s families with children followed the Reyes to the pavilion for the gran finale, the “Espectáculo”. The espectáculo is a show that is put on by none other than Sky and Savannah’s rhythmic gymnastics team.  Their coach Patrice selects the theme and choreographs the show.  This year they performed Peter Pan. Sky and Savvy were cast as indians.

Savannah and Sky as Indians in the Peter Pan show.

Savannah and Sky as Indians in the Peter Pan show.

Extra bleachers were set up in the gym so that it would accommodate the crowd.  Every spot on the bleachers, seats and steps were filled and the rest of the audience stood in the back.  There were easily over 1000 people there! (Town of 6000- not much nightlife!)

Sky and Savvy performed with the other little Indians. Here is a short clip. See if you can find them!

The show was a delight with Patrice and the older gymnasts performing as fairies suspended from a giant ring in the middle of the gym.

Not the best picture. This is the older gymnasts doing ariel tricks suspended from a ring in the middle of the gym

Not the best picture. These are the older gymnasts doing aerial tricks suspended from a ring in the middle of the gym

After the “espectáculo” (I just love calling it that!) the mayor spoke and the 3 Reyes Magos reappeared to throw gifts to/at the crowd.

The kings throwing gifts into the crowd

The kings throwing gifts into the crowd

We caught some plastic scissors, a ball and 2 books.  We added this to our already huge stash of candy from the parade (which as I write, in March, still sits in a bag in the kitchen cabinet) .

Rey, Patrice (gymnastics coach, rey, rey, mayor, tinker bell.

Rey, Patrice (gymnastics coach), rey, rey, mayor, tinker bell.

While the crowd filed out we climbed down to the floor to congratulate the girls and take some photos.  I asked one of the kings to pose with the girls. His face was painted and he was in full king-garb so he surprised me when he said “No me conoces? (Don’t you recognize me?)”.  I looked closer and recognized his voice and realized that he was the same carpenter who had repaired our window and hung up Mike’s pull-up bar! “Ah, Miguel, eres tú!” He smiled, gave me the normal two beso greeting and gladly posed with the girls.

Sky, Miguel the carpenter, Savannah

Sky, Miguel the carpenter, Savannah

After the show we walked our little indians home to put their shoes under the Christmas tree.  In the morning we celebrated and opened the gifts that Los Tres Reyes Magos left for us.

January 6 is a Spanish holiday so all of the schools and shops are closed and families spend the day together much like Christmas day back home in the USA. Our adopted grandfather, Juan invited us to spend the afternoon with him to share the tradition of the Roscón de Reyes.  Juan lives next door with Elva who is his caretaker and companion.  He is the father of Manolo who owns our apartment. Elva is just lovely, she is from Paraguay and has been very dear to us this year. Juan and Elva greeted us like family with big hugs and kisses.

The tradition of the roscón was something completely new to us.  The roscón is a large 2 layer bunt cake filled with whipped cream. Most people order their roscón from the local bakery.  Hidden inside the cream layer are little wrapped treasures. There is always a king and an haba (bean). If you find the king in your piece then you get to wear the paper crown that comes with the cake and be king for the evening. If you find the bean then you will have to pay for the cake the next year.  Mike got the bean and jokingly pulled out some money but, of course they wouldn’t accept it.

Mike and the Haba (bean)

Mike and the Haba (bean)

Juan found the king and was delighted to wear the crown for the girls.

Juan gets the king and the crown!

Juan gets the king and the crown!

Sky and Savannah were thrilled to each find a little ceramic hippopotamus in their pieces.  I don’t think there is any significance to the hippos.

Mike with his bean, Sky and Savannah with their Christmas Hippos, Juan with his King and Elva

Mike with his bean, Sky and Savannah with their Christmas Hippos, Juan with his King and Elva

I am not a lover of cake but I found the roscón delicious. The filling was sweet and light while the cake was more of a sweet bread with dried fruits hidden inside.  I had 2 servings.IMG_7167

We thanked Juan and Elva for sharing their family tradition with us. They hugged and kissed us warmly and we went home to bed, our hearts and bellies warm with Spanish hospitality.

Candelaria in Alhama de Granada, 2014

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Sky on a "merceor.."

Sky on a “merceor”

La Fiesta de la Candelaria is a holiday celebrated around the world on February 2.  It also known as: One of the 12 Great Feasts, Candlemas, the Purification of the Virgin, the Festival of Lights or the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.  Here in Alhama the “Jameños” have their own traditions which I am pretty sure are unique.  From my observations, Candelaria in Alhama is less of a religious holiday and more of a good excuse to throw a party in the streets that involves eating food with your neighbors, building big bonfires and constructing  “merceores” (actually the proper word in Spanish is  mecedor, but here in Alhama they are “merceores” or huge swings).   It was a new festival for Team Kezmoh and I like to understand the origins of these sorts of things so I did a little research on the significance of Candelaria.  This is it in a nutshell:  Candelaria occurs on February 2 which is 40 days after the birth of Jesus.  Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth and to present the child to the temple.  This was associated with the lighting of candles by the faithful.  Different cultures have come up with various celebrations around the world.  I have to say that the celebration in Alhama is very lovely and enjoyable.

February 2 this year fell on a Sunday but the festivities at school began on Friday.  We were delighted that we were asked to join a group of parents who would be making tortitas (fried dough) and chocolate (hot chocolate) for the children.  We set up tables behind the school and got to work as soon as the kids started class.  We had 30 kilograms of bread dough from the panaderia. That is a lot of dough!  We rolled out the dough into thin sheets and then cut it into little squares.

Mike and Juan Jo cutting dough

Mike and Juan Jo rolling and cutting dough

Making squares

Making squares. Leslie with Fina and Esther

The other mothers and fathers set up 2 gas burners. One to make hot chocolate and another to fry the dough.

Maria, Juani and Maria José making hot chocolate

Maria, Juani and Maria José making hot chocolate

We must have made 1000 tortitas which were delicious little pockets of fried dough that can be dipped in sugar or miel de caña (a local favorite that tastes like molasses).  Savannah told me that the aroma of the sizzling dough and the hot chocolate traveled to her classroom.  The children paraded through our mini donut factory class by class starting with the 3 year olds. We demonstrated how we made the tortitas and the kids had fun playing with the left-over dough.  As each group came through, the parents sang traditional songs that all the Jameños know by heart. One of the teachers took the time to write out some of the most popular songs so we were able to join in.

“Si quieres que te quiera

cómprame un roscón

y cuando me lo coma

me compras otro”

Angela, Natalia, Paula (in the background), Eva Crespo

Angela, Natalia, Paula, Silvia and Eva C.

Sky's teacher, Paco with the tiny kids

Sky’s teacher, Paco with the tiny kids

Savvy's class

Savvy’s class: Back row left to right: Daniel, José, Isaac, Youseff, Mohammed, Juan Alberto, Carlos, Angel, Juan David, David, Samuel, Elena, and maestra Conchi. Front row: Eva Perez, Angela, Esther, Savannah/ME, Silvia, Eva Crespo, Natalia, Paula, Inma. 🙂

Sky's Class:  Back row: Paco Front row:

Sky’s Class:
Back row: Paco-Sky’s teacher, Silverio, Richard, Lidia, Carmen, Ana, Sky
Front row: Óscar, Eva

1st Grade!

1st Grade! Dipping the tortitas in sugar and miel de caña

The kids enjoying tortitas dipped in yummy miel de la caña

The kids enjoying fresh, hot tortitas

On Sunday the real Candelaria festival began.  In the morning we stood on our balcony and watched our neighbors on Calle Enciso set up one of the biggest merceores in town.  Sky excitedly ran up the hill because this swing was at her friend Ana’s grandmother’s house and her friends would all be there. Calle Enciso is a steep, narrow street.  The swing was set up between balconies with 2 strong ropes with a cloth seat rigged around the 2 thick cords.  I watched the men test it and was glad to see that it held their weight.

Ángela, Sky's buddy

Ángela, Sky’s buddy

Brave little Adrian

Brave little Adrián

Lovely Paula

At lunchtime, next to the merceor, Ana’s grandmother and her neighbors gave away free vino del terreno (homemade wine, moonshine Mike says) and sold steaming bowls of garbanzos with potatoes and chicken. For dessert one could buy pastries and muffins made by the grandmothers of the neighborhood.  All of the proceeds went to charity.

The Dads, Mike and Francisco with Savannah, Paula and Adrian

The Dads, Mike and Francisco with Savannah, Paula and Adrián

Sky, Savannah and their friends took turns on the swings.  Their laughter and smiles made me warm on the cool day.   I sent a video to my brother, Peter in the US. He commented that back home the children would need a parental consent form, a helmet and a safety belt to climb on board the homemade swings.  So true, I’m glad that there are still places in the world that worry less and live more.

Savvy swinging. Sky pulling the rope. Our neighbors in Alhama de Granada singing.

Mike and Francisco had a midday bike ride and on their way back into town stopped at Maria José’s house for some vino del terreno.

Mike coming home from his ride enjoying some moonshine!  On the left is Mari Carmen, Sky and Savvy's lovely Spanish  tutor.

Mike coming home from his bike ride enjoying some moonshine!
On the far left is Mari Carmen, Sky and Savvy’s lovely Spanish tutor.

 After nightfall Ana’s grandmother and her friends served hot chocolate and buñuelos.  We ordered buñuelos for 4 people which was more than enough for everyone in our group.  The buñuelos came tied on strings called espartos which are made from thin reeds.  We kept warm by the lumbre, dipped our steaming buñuelos (donuts actually) in hot chocolate and visited with friends and neighbors.

Buñuelos

Buñuelos

Making Buñuelos

Making Buñuelos

Late into the night the lumbres glowed on every street corner. It was a village-wide block party.   We spent most of our time near our local merceor with Team Aguilar, our good friends.

Team Aguilar Paula, Juani, Adrian, Francisco and Amparo

Team Aguilar
Paula, Juani, Adrián, Francisco and Amparo

Savvy Mike and Leslie by a lumbre

Savvy, Mike and Leslie by a lumbre

After La Fiesta de la Candelaria we felt a little bit more Jameño and we went to bed feeling happy to be in Alhama.