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October 15, 2011     Times
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October 15, 2011

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By Scott 'rate Some people prefer chicken for dinner while others would choose beef every meal if price were no object. For beef lovers, even a constant diet of prime filet mignon tends to lose its appeal. Whereas a burned hot dog or a can of cold beans aren't a steak lover's first choice they jolt the senses into a different direction forcing the mind and body to react in new ways that would otherwise remain unstimulated with the same old meal of steak. And so it is that life here in our compound in Kabul is conflnkg and monotonous. The time away from home, the long hours and even the element of danger can all be dealt with overall. Ask anyone and they'll tell you it's the monotony of everyday being the same that one must learn to cope. Since the last newsletter, the days became a blur and through the hot days of summer nothing new came along to inspire new material. Like a mule with a plow, you learn to hit your stride and keep on going at the pace necessary to contain the work load while preserving your health and sanity knowing that at the end of the day more of the same will be waiting for you tomorrow. The security of the same routine lulls one into being a methodical creature of habit and staying within the safety of the routine that in turn prevents us from expending that extra effort to tap into our pool of creativity. It's why variety is truly the spice of life and why I had to have a vacation in order to come up with something new to talk about. Off to Europe I went to meet my wife. Europe is a good half way point between Afghanistan and the US. Furthermore, my wife likes a direct flight less than ten hours. Spain, with Barcelona as the des- ignated meeting place was the destina- tion. After all, September is still summer time and a beach along the Mediterra- nean will fix about anything if you are looking for a new perspective on life. Like many European cioties, Barcelona Along The Silk Road - Barcelona Spain is expensive and has a wide array of restaurants and shopping. We saw the main sites on a sunny day from the top deck of a roofless double decker bus. Buildings built for the '92 Olympics the city hosted; the marina and a building with mirrored panels in the shape of a fish were presented along with an arena where bullfights are still held. It is a clean picturesque city where buses, subways and scooters are the main sources of transportation. How- ever, most travel guides don't recom- mend the beach here due to the crime element. On the recommendation of a friend, we chose an area southwest of Barcelona where the prices are more rea- sonable and considered family safe. Upon arrival to Barcelona, we trav- eled by train to a small coastal city named Sitges. As expected the trip was a visual experience. Despite dry condi- tions, the area was relatively green and the frequent vineyards appeared robust. Overlooking the Mediterranean it is primarily an agricultural area with an ocean view, a contradiction to what is expected so near a centuries old city like Barcelona. Sitges exists for tourism and its 17 beaches are the centerpieces of its attraction. Along the main beach road are open-air restaurants with extensive menus including one of Spain's signa- ture dishes, paella - a rice dish with your choice of meat. In a coastal town such as this the seafood and fish are ideal due to the old fresh is best theory. One of my hometown buddies by the name of Jim Brown gave me education years ago on cribbage that included participatory seminars in food and beverages. It was Jim who informed me about the poor man's lobster aka monkfish. It was my daily meal of choice while in Sitges. If you like lobster and have never tried grilled monkfish then you are truly miss- ing out on one of life's finer offerings. Top it off with Spanish wine and it is a true culinary experience. In case you are wondering, yes the wine in Europe is clearly better than most in the US sans the traditional headache after partaking. As far as vacation spots, a beach is always my preference and this location is towards the top of my list thus far. Clean and laid back, it's the lazy type of place one expects along the sand and surf. Not only is the beach nice, but also the differ- ence here is the town itself. Go to most places and salesmen will hassle you at the beach. Most times it is best to stay in the resort since even more scares await you if you venture into the local city. Not Sitges. No hassling at the beach and no sidewalk con artists testing you for their next score. It's a diverse group of people whose lifestyles are each unique and are there to have fun without regard to what anyone else is doing. Women and chil- dren are shown continual respect and tattooed pregnant women are comfort- able tanning at the beach in their two- piece bikinis. They like their dogs here. The young to the elderly are all proud of their pooches and all appear to have just come from the groomer. Manners are impec- cable with no one raising their voice and holding doors for complete strangers. The main non-beach attraction is a side street off beach road. A continuum of shops and open air restaurants, it opens up into a courtyard where one night we wimessed a hefty female imper- sonator belt out a song with enough soul to take you along for the ride whether you wanted to buy the bus ticket or not. Like many overseas places, gelato is a healthier version of our ice cream and can be had in about any flavor imagin- able. Cappuccino, crepes, Cuban cigars and freshly made pastries could be had for the asking. One restaurant featured roasted chickens and hare along with grilled vegetables. Large upright stainless steel gas fired broilers masted the meat while vegetables had a slight smoked taste as did their pizza prepared with their wood fired grills and ovens. If you are into desserts, their crme brulee was not to be ignored. Every day here is a sort of party. Several months of the year they have festivals and celebrations non-stop. One day we were lucky to witness a parade of different drum corps. Each had their own unique acts of dancing, drum twirling and beating. Every group had a diversity of members from young girls to overweight teenagers to those old enough to be their grandparents. Gender and age was unimportant. The require- ment to belong to a drum corps was simple - have fun. The world is truly a big beautiful place. Unfortunately we all forget that with the wars and terrorism, the bad rears its ugly head and overshadows what is truly important. Look past cul- tures and religions and we all want the same things or maybe just the same thing - a good life. It's places like this where kids run free and you can walk unafraid at night that shows us there are still good things and good people left in the world. It's a living example where manners and respect illustrate that people can get along regardless of their beliefs. There is no substitute for good manners. Those and respect for others will get you a long way in this world and life regardless of the differences with people around you no matter where you are. 20 Things a Burglar Won't Tell Ycu 1. Of course I look familiar---I was hera ust last week cleaning your carpets! 2. Hey, thanks for letting me use the b,4hroom when I was working in your yard. While was in there, I unlatched the back window to rtake my retum a little easier. 3. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have. 4. Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer on your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it. 5. If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don't let your alarm company install the control 14 pad where I can see if it's set. That makes it too easy. 6. A good security company alarms the window over the sink, as well as second floor windows. 7. It's raining, you're fumbling with your umbrella and you forget to lock your door. Understandable. But understand this: I don't take a day off because of bad weather. 8. I always knock first. If you answer, I'll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gut- ters. 9. Do you really think I won't look in your sock drawer?. I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table and the medicine cabinet. 11. You're fight: I won't have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it's not bolted down, Ill take it with me. 12. A loud television or radio can be a better deter- rent than the best alarm system. Leave it on. 13. Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook. 14. The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors. 15. I'll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he'lt stop what he's doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn't hear it again, he'll go back to 10. Hera's a helpful hint: I almost never go into what he was doing. Call the police when you think kids' rooms. , you beard a window break! Mt, Pulaski Times 16. I'm not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it? 17. I love peeking into windows, looking for signs that you're home and for fiat screen TV's or gaming systems. I call this =window shopping for later," when I pick my targets. 18. Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It's easier than you think to look up your address. 19. To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it's an invitation. 20. If you don't answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in. Oct. 15, 2011