travel back in time

Monday 25th October, Madrid, Spain
*scroll down for the latest journal entry. It's at the bottom, mate*

Saturday night, Maria and I went to her Mum and Dad's to celebrate her Dad Manuel's brithday. I figured it was about time her family received their rightful place on The Savage Files, so here they are:

Madre looking over the brithday boy as he enjoys a table full of prawns and crabs..from right- Rocio (pronounced Rothio) her boyfriend and their friend.

La Madre had got in a plentiful supply of prawns and crabs for the accasion, but knowing that I don't like seafood, she had cooked roast pork as well. What a sweetaheart. Actually Maria's parents have been very kind to me, with her Mum only telling me once to stop touching her daughter! Whenever I visit, it seems Manuel's main aim is to make me drink as much as possible, while Maria's Mum concentrates on feeding me till I burst, and adding to my wardrobe. Manuella has outfitted me with loads of hand-me-down warm winter clothes, and the other night when we were visiting, Manuel produced a pair of wool-lined boots (slippers really!) for me, brand new! He works in a shoe store, and they were apparently surplus stock. I wear them all then time now in the house.

This Tio Pepe sign in Puerta del Sol is the first landmark I remember from my arrival in Madrid.

Maria's Mum and Dad speak almost no English (although her Mum did surprise me on Saturday night by greeting me with "How are you?") so I've been trying desperately to increase my Spanish vocabulary. The apartment is decorated with small stickers that remind me of the Spanish words for everyday items. For example, as I'm eating my scrambled eggs (huevos) for breakfast, the sticker on my fork is a constant reminder that I am eating with el tenedor. Right now I am sitting in my new oficina (office) that has been set up in the corner of la sala (the living room) with my desk facing la ventana (the window). Learning a new language is a slow, painful process when you've been mostly monolingual for almost thirty-six years *and when you're a bit thick*

The beatifu Plza Mayor on a perfectly clear warm autumn day.

Yesterday morning, Maria and I went for a wander around El Rastro street markets. There wasn't anything we really wanted, but it's a good excuse to get out and about, and you never know what sort of cool stuff you're missing out on if you don't go. It seemed that everyone in Madrid was making the most of the unusually warm autumn day though, and the streets of El Rastro were jam packed. In the end, it was almost impossible to stop and look at any stalls, just being swept along by the current of people.

..El Rastro Sunday markets were a sea of people.

Did I tell you that we're off to Russia in January? Well, we are! It seems we're going to fly to Berlin, then backtrack a bit to Prague, then make our way across Poland to Belarus (I'm looking forward to Chernobyl, where apparently if you swing your tackle around in the fresh air, you can save yourself the cost of a vascectomy) and up to Moscow and st Petersburg. St Petersburg is on the coast, so we should get a chance to work on our tans while we're there.

We've had invitations from people all along the way, so you should have the chance to meet some interesting locals instead of just 'seeing the sights'. Also, you'll have the chance to tell us where to go by setting us a challenge. So far, we have a few challenges for this trip, but I'm always happy to accept more. It will make the journey all the more fun if I have a mission to achieve in each place, and it will make you part of the project if you watch me attempting a challenge that you set. Also, most of you probably know that I started this trip with no money, and that completing challenges is one of the few ways I can support my travels, and afford the cost of sharing those travels with you. C'mon, you got someone you want me to visit? A special place you want me to photograph? You want me to buy you a souvenir and send it to you? The sky is the limit.....

I'll leave you with a selection of the challenges I've receievd for this journey to the frozen north-

Hey Steve: If you get to Prague, find the musician on the St.Charles Bridge who is playing the "glasses" (drinking glasses!), ask him to play "Stairway to Heaven" and get a picture....I'll send you $30.00. Heck, maybe I'll MEET you there and GIVE you $30! Hmmmm, now there's an idea!
Reward= thirty US dollars
Status= pending...

Hi Steve! Will you be going to Moscow? If so, I will have a challenge for you. Some years ago before the fall of the communist rule of Russia, I hosted a Russian athletic team, and befriended a woman athlete from Moscow. I've lost touch with her, and would love to have you go to the last address I had for her and see if you can locate her for me. It will be worth $100. I want to re-establish contact with her. Let me know if you will be going there, and I'll provide you with all the information. Thanks! Keep up the good work.
Reward= a hundred US dollars
Status= pending...

"Back in about 1970 or 71, I saw a movie starring Richard Chamberlin titled "The Music Lovers". He played Tchaikovsky in a loosely written biography. The movie has him performing his First Piano Concerto as his "senior thesis" of sorts for graduation there at the Conservatory of Music in St. Petersburg. Your challenge is in parts. First, you must perform part of this challenge before you ever depart for Russia. I will pay you $35 for each completed portion of this challenge.
1) You must rent/obtain the video of the movie The Music Lovers, and watch it with Maria. When you've scripted a brief outline of the movie in your journal with a photo of you holding the video box, I'll send the first $35.
2) Once in St. Petersburg, find the Conservatory of Music, post photos, see if you can get a tour of a little inside, especially the concert hall where he performed his 1st Piano Concerto. That will be worth another $35.
3) Attend a concert there and send me some sort of souvenir, and I'll pay another $35.
If it is his actual Piano Concerto No 1 you are able to attend at the conservatory, and you can send me proof (concert program/ticket)also shown online,then I'll DOUBLE THE WHOLE CHALLENGE! NO CHEATING 'cause I have Russian friends here who will tell me if you've sent me a metro ticket instead! Ha! Spaciba! It was this movie that opened my eyes, ears and heart to Classical music, made me drop out of dropping out with the hippies, and went back to college to study music. Oh yeah, I almost forgot: you must have Maria with you for each part of the challenge! Enjoy!"

Reward= thirty-five US dollars each part
Status= pending...

And that's not forgetting the two ongoing challenges, the COIN CHALLENGE and the CONDOM CHALLENGE!!

I have been racking my brain trying to think of a challenge I can afford to give you at this point in the all-time low of my employment cycle. Here is my idea. You are going to so many countries and each country has its own unique currency. Would you be able to mail me a few cents (or bills in places like Cambodia where one of their 100's is worth a few cents of American or Canadian money) of the different currencies that you come across, and for each different type of currency I will donate $10 American to your voyage? even worthless coins no longer in circulation (lots of Chinese coins like this, or so I found in Southeast Asia).
Reward= ten US dollars each time
Status= ONGOING! Currencies so far: Moroccan Dirham, Euros...

I really liked the coin challenge idea, but would prefer a condom from each country you visit where its obvious from the wrapper its from that country (oh yeah, unused and still in wrapper, please). I have collected a few on my travels and they take up way less room than snow globes! For each condom you send me from a different country, I will donate $10 USD. Thanks! Deb
Reward= ten US dollars each time
Status= ONGOING! Condoms sent so far: Portugese, Spanish, French...

You can post your own challenge on my interactive messageboard, and if you want to see the variety of challenges that I've received in the past, just click on the 'Challenge Steve' link in the top right hand corner of the journal page.

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