United Nations of Malaga

This blog entry about the events of Saturday, August 26, 2006 was originally posted on August 27, 2006.

DAY 2:  “So most people don’t go out until midnight around here?” I asked my buddy Jack as we walked from Malaga’s airport to the train that would take us to his apartment by the beach.

“People don’t go out until one,” he told me.  “This is actually pretty early.”  My watch read about 11 p.m. local time.

“I got here just in time then.”

MOST OF MY DAY before this conversation transpired was a crazy continuation of my long, yet cost effective journey to get from New York to Malaga in the Andalucia province of southern Spain.  It was fairly exhausting going a roundabout way, traveling from terminal to terminal, waiting on line after line — and I mean all of this within Paris’ ass-backwards Charles de Gaulle airport.

Eventually I went from Paris to Munich where I wandered around for six hours like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, until I got on the check-in line for my Air Berlin flight to Spain, a cheap domestic flight in the fashion of America’s Jet Blue.

“Dutch or German?” an old Bavarian man asked to figure out how to address me.


“Oh.  You go ahead.  There are twenty of us here.”  He pointed out that he was one of a big group of old senior types, and that I might as well cut the line before their group.  Each of them would have taken longer to check-in as each and every one of them had a traveling set of golf clubs.

Malaga is known these days as a beach vacation resort type of city for many European foreigners, mostly Germans and British.  In the past decade, they’ve “discovered” its warm, summer weather, its balmy but breezy nights, its good food and drink, and its laid back atmosphere.  The Spanish, of course, resent it to an extent; it is a sort of modern colonization with British ex-pat neighborhoods popping up all over southern Spain, the way New Yorkers colonized Florida and Costa Rica.

But there isn’t much tension; the Spanish of the region are so laid back, that it barely phases them anymore, at least in the eyes of Jack, who said the phrase, “Everyone’s so laid back here” about a hundred times on the train ride to his apartment when he wasn’t being interrupted by his mobile phone ring of the Spider-man cartoon theme song.

Fans of this blog might remember Jack from my travels on my big RTW trip, when he met up with me in Spain in July 2004.  A Uruguayan-American childhood friend from New Jersey, he had moved with his parents back to Uruguay when we were in the fifth grade, and eventually moved back to the USA (Miami) with them after college.  We’d kept in touch, and made our visits to each other through the years, and in 2004 he traveled with me in Spain for a while — a time when, on our last night in Barcelona, he met Sylvina, who eventually became his Uruguayan girlfriend that he moved to Malaga with.

“Hello!  How are you?” Sylvina greeted me with a hug when I entered their small, but very nice apartment — emphasis on the “very” as it was across the street from the beach, within walking distance of historical Malaga, near an internet cafe and right above El Mercader, the bar where Sylvina had been working since they arrived seven months prior.  She was sort of the breadwinner of the household, waitressing and eventually running the bar with her E.U. passport status, while American passport-holding Jack looked for work — and working papers — as a local veterinarian.  To make a really long story short, it was more complicated to get work legally than he thought, and after numerous attempts of figuring out a decent work situation and/or a possible marriage with Sylvina amongst other things, the two decided that their time in Spain was over — conveniently right at the end of summer.  My visit to them actually sparked their exodus after trying to work it out in Spain for seven months; they would travel with me for a bit before relocating back in the States.

“This is it,” Jack said, not referring to their last days in Spain, but something far more important to him:  a green bottle of Alhambra Reserve 1925, a Spanish beer so fancy it had no paper label — just an embossed logo.  “This is the best Spanish beer,” he told me.  In his time in Spain, he had become a pseudo-beer afficionado, trying as many diverse international beers coming from the different foreigners in town.  He started collecting beer bottles as trophies and put them on his shelf, and I completely busted his bubble when I told him that most of his “trophy beers” were sold right at my corner grocery in New York.  Not that stopped us from drinking welcome beers that night, or what was left of the beer in the fridge since he was already in packing mode, trying to get rid of stuff before moving out.  We sat out on the balcony overlooking the beach and a small courtyard below, catching up on old times while Sylvina served us tapas-sized portions of snacks they were trying to get rid of in the fridge.

“It’s hard when you live with someone,” Sylvina told me in English, for moving in with Jack was a test in their relationship — one that was passing with flying colors despite the occasional arguments of any couple.  The other “test” involved was Sylvina and her English, a language she had wanted to perfect since their visit to me in New York before they moved to Spain.  That was also passing with flying colors — plus she had picked up some German and French from serving all the ex-pats and tourists in port from one the of the cruise ships.  On top of that, she became good friends with a Bulgarian co-worker.

Despite the opportunity to work in a bar in such a laid back international scene, she was getting tired of it, and definitely didn’t mind leaving it behind.  “I work there, then get the money, and I go.”  Jack on the other hand, just went there, got some beers and coffees, and lazily hung out while waiting for calls for interviews.  He’d tutor her in English whenever she’d get stuck, trying to explain something to a British customer.

It was at this bar that Sylvina and Jack befriended another nationality present in the Malagan melting pot, a group of Turkish exchange students, living and working in Malaga for the summer.  “I told these Turkish kids we’d hang out with them tonight,” he told me.  However, when we tried to meet up with them around 1:30 — half an hour later than we said we’d meet them because we lost track of time — they were no where to be found.  In fact, there was no one to be found anywhere near the town center; Jack had to revise his previous statement about going out in Malaga:  People usually go don’t go out until one — unless it’s a Sunday when it’s pretty dead.

We walked around anyway trying to bump into the Turkish kids (with no luck), checking out the sights on the way from the usually crowded Calle Larios, to the larger-than-life, usually lit cathedral (picture above), the old Roman amphitheatre, and City Hall.  There were a handful of people wandering around the medieval, Moorish-influenced alleys and plazas like us, and I overheard conversations in English, German, French, and of course, Spanish.

“I guess I’m not really out on a Sunday,” Jack apologized for the lack of activity.  I didn’t mind; I was still pretty tired and jet-lagged from my plane journey.  We ended the night back on the balcony with more beers until we called it a night around 3:30.

“Good night,” Sylvina said.

“Buenos noches,” I replied.

“Guten nacht,” Jack added.

Malaga wasn’t just the city were Jack and I were reunited, but it was the place where different countries came together for summer relaxation and the occasional beer — even if you could just get them at home.

Next entry: Breaking Up With Spain

Previous entry: Liquids On A Plane

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “United Nations of Malaga”

  • There you go… something other than pee humor. Sorry, it??s a little
    dry, but I JUST got here. More to come, the more I do and see.

    I’ll going to be packing stuff in for the next two days, from packing up
    the apartment to driving to Valencia to getting to Tomatina, so I may be
    late on the next couple of entries…

    Sit tight!

    Posted by Erik TGT

  • i had to republish the post since your link to united nations of malaga
    was 404’d

    it’s working now

    Posted by markyt  on  08/27  at  11:47 PM

  • So aside from helping them pack, will you actually be there for the
    tomato festival?—Christy

    Posted by Anonymous  on  08/28  at  01:07 AM

  • That amphitheatre looks rad. As does the cathedral - does it look as
    neato in the daylight?

    Glad you arrived safely, aside from imitating Tom Hanks.

    Posted by tallgirl

  • I’ll never tire of looking down into those oh-so-common spanish
    courtyards. I miss Barcelona. The mediterranean air must have been
    really nice. You look like a hop, skip and a biiiig leap from Gibraltar!

    Posted by oogy  on  08/28  at  05:49 AM

  • some new photos of malaga are up for the meantime… i’m off now for the
    7 hour drive to valencia and tomatina…

    Posted by Erik TGT

  • Glad you’re there safe - looks like things are off to a good start.
    Looking forward to next entry! - LV

    Posted by Anonymous  on  08/28  at  06:06 PM

  • Hurray - lovely pics of Spain smile Can’t wait to go myself. Thanks for
    giving me something to dream about while I’m grumbling about stupid
    work… beaches… cathedrals… bull fights…

    Posted by Liz  on  08/28  at  07:35 PM

  • <http://www.blogger.com/profile/05087591227757317086>
    Erik…are you remembering any of the Spanish you picked up in S.
    America on TGT2004? Or have you even needed it? Great pics…apparently
    lots to look up at.

    Posted by Dave and Melody  on  08/29  at  02:40 AM

  • nice to know you’re blogging, & traveling again. take care, erik!

    Posted by ravissant  on  08/29  at  09:42 AM

  • Speaking French on your last trip….using Spanish on this one..and
    possibly Greek and German!? Geez, Mr. Glass, you’re so continental! wink

    Posted by los pedazos de reese  on  08/29  at  05:25 PM

  • GREETINGS FROM VALENCIA. There was so many tomatoes at the fight this
    morning it was coming out of my ears…

    Sorry I’m behind; I’m sort of rushing around with Jack and Sylvina
    before we part ways on Friday. I hope to have the next two entries up by
    tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve put up the remainder of my Malaga
    pictures on Flickr.

    DAVE AND MELODY: Yes… my Spanish is all coming back; although I don’t
    blend in like I do in South America here; they think I’m Japanese.

    Posted by Erik TGT

  • <http://www.blogger.com/profile/05087591227757317086>
    Well, the solution is simple to that…next trip come visit us in Japan
    and speak Spanish. Everything will be back to normal.

    Posted by Dave and Melody  on  08/30  at  02:21 AM

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This blog post is one of twenty-five travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Tomatoes, Grease & Beer" (originally hosted by Blogger.com), which chronicled a trip to Spain's wild Tomatina festival, Greece's awe-inspiring islands, and Munich's world-renowned Oktoberfest in August/September 2006.

Next entry:
Breaking Up With Spain

Previous entry:
Liquids On A Plane


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