Books and Brew: A Literary Pub Crawl with Local Travel Author

I’ve been doing a series of monthly talks at Hosteling International Boston with the above title, which is about as perfect a title as could be.  I love literature.  It’s the whole reason I’ve spent so long developing my career as a writer.  I also love pub crawls and have often used them as a way to get to know a city.  Five years ago when I arrived in Boston, I was doing roughly one a month to explore new places and to meet new people.

So combining two of my favorite things to help promote my book couldn’t be more ideal.  The format of these talks has been phenomenal:  we gather for about twenty minutes in the hostel’s meeting room and I discuss my story and writing process – how I took my journals from a scattered collection of events to a polished piece of literature.  Being that this development took nine years, I’ve got plenty of material to entertain a crowd and can vary it a bit each month to keep those repeat attendees as entertained as those who are there for the first time.  After this fast-paced presentation, books are available for sale, I answer questions, and then we all go out for some beers.  It’s a pretty great concept.

Special thanks to Hosteling International Boston and Paige Gunning for this wonderful opportunity.  It’s been an absolute blast thus far and I eagerly anticipate it more each month.

Finding the Story within the Experiences, Part III

In the summer of 2012, I finally finished my second full draft, which was really a complete rewrite of my story.  I’d removed superfluous details and the rambling add-ons of journal entries.  Originally, I’d wanted to keep the minutest of moments captured within the book thinking that they opened my head for the reader.  While they did in ways, those entries and tidbits mostly distracted from the chapters at hand and led my original proofreaders to wonder where my story was actually going.  But none of this is to say that my second completed copy did not have its ramblings or excesses because it certainly did.

As I read to educate myself over those years of writing, I often looked to find out more about my favorite authors and, while doing this, stumbled upon some very insightful advice from F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The gist of it was that I, as an amateur, needed to tear open my heart and soul, and pour out the most impactful experiences of my life.  By writing about these things and these things alone, could I then find the manner in which to convey other stories that would captivate my readers’ interest.  (I’ll copy the extended quote below.)

So this is what I did for the first one hundred and forty pages of my second draft: first love, running with bulls, getting cut from a team, getting trapped on a boat, and more.  And with every story, I broke open my intense desire to get a Fulbright scholarship to Taiwan, along with my hopes and aspirations for the experience.  In doing this, I spent a full year siphoning my emotion and learning how to poignantly craft it into engaging text with consistent tone, style, and voice.  As I finished that first section, I realized I’d done what I set out to do: I’d poured my soul onto the paper.

 

“…The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming — the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.

That, anyhow, is the price of admission. Whether you are prepared to pay it or, whether it coincides or conflicts with your attitude on what is ‘nice’ is something for you to decide. But literature, even light literature, will accept nothing less from the neophyte. It is one of those professions that wants the ‘works.’ You wouldn’t be interested in a soldier who was only a little brave…”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Chapter 2: Lost in Extremadura

Here’s an excerpt from an earlier version of Cheers, Beers, and Eastern Promise.  Originally, I had a very long introduction full of stories that created the basis of who I was when I chose to move to Taiwan.  I hope you enjoy it:

The more I travel, the more I never, ever want to stop.  There’s so much out there.  So much to learn.  So much to experience.  So much to discover about life and living.  Traveling refocuses essentials of my life and teaches me new imperatives for living.  And the most meaningful lessons I’ve ever experienced have always come from the least likely sources, in the least likely places, and, many times, as a result of some of the stupidest things I’ve ever done.

I got lost in Extremadura, a region that’s a few hours north of Seville.  We went there on a school trip during my study abroad.  School sponsored trips were amazing – our tuition was all-inclusive: buses, hotels, tours, dinners, everything.  This was important – we were all poor; it was college.  No one had any money.  Even people from money didn’t have money.  We scraped, we saved, we bargained.  We did without.  We made friends.

We thrived on the adventures that came from being young, poor, and irresponsible because we were bold, adroit, and carefree.

There were fifty-five of us.  Fifty-five young kids.  Twenty and twenty-one year old kids in Spain.  Having left Seville early in the morning, most of us were slightly drunk from the night before – we rarely came home before 5am.  The bus ride acted as our recovery, our rest.  In the late morning, we arrived in what was once Lusitania, an integral piece of the Roman Empire.

We slowly disembarked from the bus, shielded our eyes from the sun, and staggered through the first steps.  But once we had our balance back, it was on to exploration.  Roman ruins.  Ancient amphitheaters.  Crumbling stones that once housed an empire that ruled the earth.

A tour guide led us through history, a brief lunch, and more history.  It was educational to say the least.  We were looking at a Roman theatre that was over 2000 years old – built before the start of our modern calendar.  A decade and a half before Jesus Christ was born.  And the building was still standing.

Not only was it still standing, it was still used; the annual Festival of Classical Drama is held there.  We wandered, quietly chatted, and took in the air, the scent of the place – it was thick, humid, heavy.  The smells were many.  Circling winds carried dewy grasses, fragrant trees, mixed lunches of varied bocadillos, which were Spain’s version of hoagies.  They held eggs, potatoes, cheeses, meats, fresh bread and more.

Onward we went.  The tour continued but nothing else was so captivating as the amphitheater that was so alive.  The other ruins were broken down, lost to time.

The day finished and the hotel awaited.

Living in Spain was amazing.  I couldn’t ever say anything bad about living in Spain.  But I can tell you that hot showers were a rarity.  And we arrived in the midst one of the coldest winters Spain had ever seen; it snowed.  Not in Seville.  But it snowed.  Madrid, Barcelona, northern Spain – they had snow.  Everyone reacted like it was the end of the world as the streets resounded with “Hace frio, hace tan frio!”  It’s cold, it’s so cold!

It was certainly cold, but coming from the Northeastern United States made it not seem so bad, except for one thing: the lack of indoor heating.  The houses didn’t have heat.  No heat.  At all.  At best, some people had small space heaters that helped only slightly.  Slightly.  The homes in Seville were not built to keep out the cold; the homes in Seville were built to seal it in against the 50-degree centigrade summers.  Stepping outside in the summertime was like walking into a furnace.  An all-encompassing, inescapable furnace that burned to the core.  It was suffocating.  But that was the summer.

In the winters with minimal to no hot water, showering was difficult: turn it on, get wet, turn it off, soap up, turn it on, rinse, turn it off again, done.  That was it.

I’m an indulgent American – I like my showers.  In fact, I love my showers.  I love hot water; it’s relaxing.  I can sit back and rinse away the dirt of the day.  It’s peaceful.  It’s refreshing.  It’s something I need.  I think it’s something many people need.  And many people were on my program.

The discussion on the bus to the hotel raged over what the showers would be like.  Were they hot?  Were they roomy?  Would there be a sprayer?  Would the pressure be good?  Or would it be a trickle?  I hope they’re hot!  They have to be hot!  Endlessly hot!  And it continued…

After two hours of settling into our rooms and freshening up for dinner, everywhere was a stir over the showers.  Great water pressure, great heat, great space – they were…great.  And so, the night started off well.  A day of learning, the great showers, and on to a succulent dinner – everything was perfect, everything was good.  The world was in order.

Being a town of 91,000, Caceres offered some nightlife, and we found it.  The night was typical.  We gathered, we pre-gamed, we bar-hopped, we danced.  We wandered the streets and eventually returned home.

The morning came all too quickly.  Sharing my room with a random person from an adjoined program for this trip, I heard his alarm going off well before it was time to awake.  I rolled over.  This strange kid got up, mumbled something incoherent, packed his bags, and was gone within ten minutes.

Good riddance.  I had an hour more to sleep.

Eventually, the alarm went off, it was still too early, and I hit snooze.  Just once.  Jumping up, I took a quick shower, got dressed, and gathered the few things I had with me.  Looking back, I saw nothing left behind and continued through the door.

Vacuums.  Every room.  Every room had vacuums.  Why did every room have vacuums?

I stopped and thought.  I was running a little late – maybe the maids here are really on the ball.  I sprinted downstairs, went outside, and looked around.  I didn’t see anyone.  At all.  Not one person.  Anywhere.  But they couldn’t have left me behind.  Impossible.  I grabbed my phone.  There were missed calls.  Five missed calls.  Why were there five missed calls?

My buddy Christina – I called her back.  They have to be around here somewhere.  “Hey, what’s up?”

“Umm, where are you guys?”

“On the bus.”

“Where’s the bus?”

“What?  We’re on the first bus.”

“Okay where’s the second bus?”

“Behind us.”

“Christina, I don’t see the buses.”

“What do you mean you don’t see the buses?  You’re on the second bus.”

“Uh, no, I am most certainly not on the second bus.”

“Are you serious?”

“Uh, yes, I am 100% serious.  Did you guys leave?”

Her laughter blasted through the phone.  “Yeah, we left.”

I couldn’t help but laugh along.  “Oh, Jesus.  How long ago did you leave?”

“Like an hour and a half.”

“An hour and a half ago!?  How the hell did you leave an hour and a half ago?”

“We left at nine like the schedule said.”

“No Christina, you guys must have left at eight.  It’s 9:30 now.”

“No, it’s 10:30, Gerry.”  She paused.  “Oh my God!  Dude, they rolled the clocks back last night!  Didn’t anyone tell you!?”

“No, Christina, no one told me.  I’m standing outside the hotel.  They turned the clocks back?  I didn’t know they did that here.  Isn’t it next week anyway?”

“Yeah, in the US it’s next week.  In Spain, it’s this weekend.  Uh-oh, looks like you’re in some trouble.  Here let me pass you off to Louisa.”

“Hey, Louisa, Esta Gerry.  Estoy perdido.”

“Hello?”

“Hi Lucia, I’m at the hotel.”

“What?  Oh no – the hotel?”

“Yes, the hotel.  What should I do.”

“Get a bus.”

“Okay.  Where are you going?”

“Merida.  We will sightsee, have dinner, and return to Seville.”

“Okay, so I have to hurry.”

“Yes, Gerry, this will be an early dinner.  Please hurry or you will have to find your own way back to Seville.”

“Okay, I’m…”

The phone died.  Dead.  Nothing.  Dead.  I had no numbers and no charger.  Carrying the charger for the weekend didn’t work out – I’d forgotten it at home.  It didn’t seem to matter.  I was going to be with the tour the whole time.  With all my friends.  With both the buses.

But now everyone was gone.  I had no means of communication.  And my only hope for meeting up was to find the tour group in Merida, a city of 56,000.  It couldn’t be that hard, right?

The hotel assisted me with finding the bus station.  They gave me a map, and I walked.  It wasn’t too far.  Maybe a twenty-minute walk.  I started out and arrived quickly.

It was desolate.  It didn’t look like buses ever ran through there.  No matter, the hotel had assured me there were buses to Merida that would get me there in time.  One bus, at 3 o’clock.  That was the bus.  That was my bus.

I walked up to the window, asked for the ticket, and pulled out my wallet.  “Tres y cincuenta.”  3.50 Euro.

“Vale.”  Okay.

I opened my wallet.  I looked deeply into my wallet.  I looked longingly into my wallet.  It was empty.  I had nothing and no one was around.  Anywhere.   Yet again, I’d gotten myself into a ridiculous and unnecessary predicament.  How?  How did things like this always happen to me?  With no money and no plan,  I sat, I read, and I waited.  Someone had to come at some point.  And finally someone did.

An old man.  A very old man.  A man who had the look of having lived through difficult Franco years.  A farm worn man who had struggled through every year since.  Knobby hands, tattered overalls, a shirt that used to be white, a mild beard that matched the rest of his haggard appearance.

This was the only person I’d seen in three hours.  Three hours?  Not a soul.  It was a quiet Sunday – no one was around.

Was I really going to ask this man for money?  I’m obviously wasn’t from there and I certainly didn’t look like someone who should be asking for money.  Though I made a sloppy appearance in clothing and hair, my clothes were in excellent condition, I was clean, and I was carrying a nice, new backpack.  How could it be that I didn’t have enough money for a bus ticket?

As I sat there and contemplated, he approached and sat down next to me.  “Hola,” he said in a raspy tone.

“Hola, que tal?”  Hello, how is it?

“Bien, bien, y tu?”  Well, well, and you?

“Good, good.”

“What brings you here stranger.”

“I was here with my language program, sightseeing the area.”

“Good.  And what do you think?”

“It’s beautiful.  Really beautiful.  The modern architecture, the ancient architecture – it’s very impressive.  I had no idea Extremadura was so rich in culture and art.”

“Extremadura – it has a rich history.  I’m glad you enjoyed.”

He paused.  “You look troubled my friend.”

“Oh, do I?  No, I’m okay.”

“Are you?  You look lost.”

“I’m lost.”

“And how did you get lost.”

I told him my story.

“That is quite a story.  But you are young and exuberant; these things happen.  I wouldn’t worry about it.”

“Really?”

“No, my friend, things will always work out.  You must trust in the good nature of humankind.  Though sometimes it fails, more often than not it will come through in fortunate ways.  People are innately good.  Trust in this.  If you believe and trust in this one simple thing, your world will be better.  You will see things differently.  Even when things are bad.  For example, some would call mine a hard life.  Granted, things did not always go my way.  But I would never change my life.  Life is a wonderful blessing.  Had I not had my experiences, I wouldn’t be me.  I would be someone else.  Appreciate those around you, even if you don’t know them, and believe.  This world holds more than you, my young friend, could ever imagine.  Believe.”

He stood up, grasped my shoulder, and looked in my eyes.  I didn’t know what to say.  His eyes locked with mine.  I saw in his eyes complete benevolence.  The purest, most radiant compassion and goodness beamed from his surprisingly youthful eyes.  He stepped away and I was left with my thoughts.

A minute later, he returned to the bench I was seated on, patted me on the knee, and held something out to me.  It was the ticket.  The ticket that I didn’t have enough money to buy.  The ticket that I omitted from my story.

“My friend at the window there said you couldn’t afford your ticket.  Here it is.”

As I started to thank him, he waved a hand to silence my bumbling words.

“Remember what I told you,” he said.  “And that will be thanks enough.  Remember.”

He stood up, walked away, and looked back with a wave one last time before turning a corner and vanishing from my life as quickly as he’d entered it.

Believe in the goodness of people?  I couldn’t believe more in anything else.

This wasn’t the first time, and it certainly wasn’t the last time, that I encountered such altruism as I’ve traveled.  That man saved my day.  Had I not been able to catch that bus, I would have been stuck in Merida with nowhere near the 11.90 Euro it cost to reach Seville.  That man was a godsend.  I made it back, reunited with the group, and traveled back to Seville with each and every word that man said engrained on my heart and mind forever.

Without traveling, I never would have had that experience.  Without traveling, I never would have had countless experiences that have changed my life, making it forever better.   And landing in San Francisco, I was traveling once more: to learn, to grow, to experience.

Fulbright Essays, Part I

Last week, I spoke about my book and writing process to a group of students, faculty, and alumni at Fairfield University.  It was great to be back on campus and catching up with my former teachers.  Over the last ten years, the university has changed a great deal and those changes appear to be for the better.

As I reflected on this, it made me examine how I’ve changed, and I took a look back at my Fulbright essays, which I’ve always credited as the main catalyst to being awarded the grant.  To that point in my life, they were by far the best pieces of writing I’d ever created and they set the foundation for how I write today.

Proposal for Teaching in Taiwan

The world can be affected through simple actions.  If we can teach people to build upon the simple, it will expand to the complexity of the world around us. This is a basic statement for understanding our world.  Through ordinary actions, there is the possibility of shaping it to be different.

I am a teacher and I am a student.  This is how I will be for life.  All people are students and teachers of life whether they know it or not.  Every day there is the opportunity to learn something new, but many times this opportunity passes people by.  I have believed this all my life and, after traveling through Europe for 7 months, I believe it more than ever.  I can honestly say that every day I learned something new, whether it was a word of Spanish, a festival in Germany, or a part of the culture in Estonia, I learned.  But, I also taught.  Some of my friends knew the United States only through the eye of the news, and the news did not have a varied perspective to offer.  As I traveled, I surprised many people with my overall attitudes and values.  They were amazed to learn that the U.S. was not all the same as George Bush and that people existed in the U.S. that thought for themselves.  This may sound amusing, but it is quite true.  But, thankfully, there are many people out there that are open to conversation.  An open mind is the only way to approach people, cultures, and the world at large, and that is exactly how I approached every day and experience in not only my travels, but also my everyday life here on the East coast.

Now that I have traveled around a good portion of Europe and returned, I learned something else.  I need to experience more from other parts of the world, and I need to share more of myself with other parts of the world.  I am a dynamic person and will reflect this in the classroom and out of it.  I bring more than most to new environments, not only because of my experience, but also because of my attitude.

Teaching brings an aspect that doesn’t come with many other opportunities: the chance to make a clear difference in someone else’s day, week, and/or life.  In high school, I volunteered to tutor for disadvantaged students in Philadelphia and Camden when I had time between sports.  During these sessions, I learned the rewards of being a teacher.  These students were glad to have someone there interested.  Through the different perspective I brought to the students, they were able to see their material in a whole new light.  With this new understanding of the material, they could then respond to questions correctly and apply their new knowledge to other materials.

As a student of English and Education here at Fairfield University, I have studied many things.  From a class on Shakespeare, where we studied his poetry and prose, to a class on cultural studies, where we examined what societal pressures or influences caused a man like him to write, my classes have opposed and proposed many arguments and taught me to critically think and analyze.  I have a love for literature and great authors, but I also have a love of culture and what makes it work the way it does.  This produces the desire I have to analyze and critique the way that different cultures interact with each other.  I owe a great deal to literature because not only has it taught me to think critically, but has taught me to see the world from other people’s perspectives, which is invaluable.  There is no way to understand a person if you cannot open yourself to try and understand where their ideas come from.  And if you cannot do this, there is no hope in ever teaching them anything.

Of all this, the most invaluable tool, that I have only just recently learned, and will help me in Taiwan as a teacher, is that learning a new language is a struggle.  I went to Spain with a basic understanding of the language.  And when I say basic, I do mean it.  I was at a level below my peers in the classroom and I know what it feels like to struggle, and struggle hard.  But, I persevered and learned Spanish on a conversational level, while strengthening a new understanding of the term “work ethic”.  Now, I say this is the most invaluable tool because, through my personal learning difficulties, I came to realize the different ways language is interpreted, translated, and understood.  I feel that I have a great advantage for teaching English because I now see the language in a new light.  I analyzed the English language and all the different nuances that construct it.  I now have a better understanding of my own language and how to convey it to students of all levels.

Learning is the greatest part of life, whether it is learning a new word, a new name, a new place, a new way, etc.  To learn is to grow, and to grow is to understand.  This is an opportunity where learning will never stop for me.  I am looking forward to teaching in Taiwan and feel an insatiable appetite for more knowledge and new experiences.

Finding the Story within the Experiences, Part II

In 2009, I moved from Philadelphia to Boston to start a job as a cost of living surveyor at AIRINC.  The previous two years I’d applied to about two hundred jobs and had heard back from three companies.  It was the heart of the economic downturn and there was little to be found.  Luckily though, the job at AIRINC was by far and away my best fit and I landed in the right place, at the right time, and in the right setting to continue writing my memoir.

My new career took me out on quarterly surveys to collect cost of living data across the globe, including places like China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Colombia, Liberia, Australia, and many, many others.  These trips enlivened my sense of adventure, heightened my global knowledge, and enabled me the time to read and write both from the road and from the office as I began a new daily regimen.

Though I’ve always been a night owl, jetlag and the desire to begin the day with my book helped changed me into a morning person.  I started waking up at five a.m. – both on the road and at home – so that I could write for the first few hours of the day.  As I did this, I took my first draft along with the criticism I’d received from those professionals who’d read it, and I began again with a fresh start.

Ten, twenty, and sometimes thirty hours a week I wrote.  I reconstructed my story and followed a much more balanced and sequential timeline.  I divided my story into four parts so that I could focus on one stage at a time to properly develop the ideas and experiences so that the reader could easily follow along with full engagement.

In this process of rewriting, I experimented with the different writing styles I’d been studying from the varied reading syllabus I’d created.  This helped me to extract my own writing style in a consistent and formulaic way, rather than the inconsistent and often changing style I’d applied to my first draft.  Though difficult at first, this consistency of attention to detail kept me on track and focused my ideas into fast-paced stories that flowed evenly from beginning to end.

My writing improved and my story took shape.  I began to see the picture I’d envisioned from the outset but hadn’t understood how to construct.  I pushed forward.

Press Release for March 5th Talk at Fairfield University

Author Gerald Abbey to read from his latest book at Fairfield University

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (February 19, 2014) – Fairfield alumnus Gerald Abbey ’04, author of “Cheers, Beers & Eastern Promise,” his memoir of his Fulbright Scholar year in Taiwan, will read from his work on Wednesday, March 5, at the University’s Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J. Center Presentation Room. Abbey’s talk begins at 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

“Cheers, Beers & Eastern Promise” is a funny and illuminating look at a young American man who journeyed to a small village on the other side of the globe in 2004. He spent a year teaching English as a foreign language, then moved to Taipei and continued teaching for a second year before returning to America. “I landed in Taiwan as an ignorant and incapable foreigner from Philadelphia armed with optimism, hope and a willingness to fail,” he wrote on his website. “But in the rubble I found my fresh start, ready to tackle new obstacles on the way to learning lessons about life that I still carry with me nine years later.”

Abbey holds a degree in English education from Fairfield University. He worked on his book for eight years before it was published in December 2013.

“Gerry has a keen intellect and a strong inquisitive spirit – these abstract adjectives came through with concrete specificity in his writing – lucid, logical argument structures, clear prose, and excellent wit in his papers,” said Gita Rajan, Ph.D., professor of English, who has successfully mentored five Fulbright students at Fairfield University. “It is no surprise then to see these qualities expressed in his book, and his provocative title.”

 

Abbey’s Fairfield appearance is sponsored by the University’s Department of English, JUHAN, Student Programs and Leadership Development.

For more information on this event, contact Elizabeth Hastings, ehastings@fairfield.edu or (203) 254-4000, ext. 2688.

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Vol. 46, No. 177

Fairfield University is a Jesuit University, rooted in one of the world’s oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from 36 states, 47 foreign countries, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are enrolled in the University’s five schools.  In the spirit of rigorous and sympathetic inquiry into all dimensions of human experience, Fairfield welcomes students from diverse backgrounds to share ideas and engage in open conversations. The University is located in the heart of a region where the future takes shape, on a stunning campus on the Connecticut coast just an hour from New York City.

Spring Break Special!

Starting now through March 7th, the Kindle version of Cheers, Beers, and Eastern Promise will be marked down from $8.99 to $3.99! Don’t hesitate – check out the reviews and pick up yours today. This is an incredible and limited time offer for the Five-Star Rated (Amazon.com and Goodreads.com) and soon-to-be bestseller Cheers, Beers, and Eastern Promise!

Check out some of the many Five-Star Amazon Reviews thus far:

“Cheers, Beers and Eastern Promise is a great read!”

“Cheers, Beers and Eastern Promise is a must read for anyone that likes to travel or enjoy an adventure.”

“A must read for anybody who has traveled to a foreign culture or somebody who is about to embark in such an adventure.”

“His thirst for life is contagious and refreshing.”

“It is charming and refreshing to come across a book in which the brain and the heart are equally represented – though the vocal cords and especially the liver play large supporting roles as well!”

“This is an intoxicating tale of lessons learned; mishaps and success from a writer who I hope to see more of on my book shelf sometime in the near future.”

“I couldn’t put down this fast-paced, honest, young-at-heart memoir.”

“It’s hard to graduate college and find your place in a grown up world. It’s hard to move away from home. It’s hard to know yourself well enough to predict where you will be at the end of every road. This book is a story of teaching and partying in a small village in Taiwan, but it’s really a story of friendship, patience, and the best time ever.”

“Whether you are a soon to be or recent college grad, a 30 something looking to reminisce or reevaluate, or just looking for some great fun I highly recommend this book.”

“He (Abbey) takes those small, emotion packed moments in everyday life and makes you feel as though you are there experiencing it for yourself.”

“His reflections on traveling, food, meeting new people, and having new experiences are truly inspiring.”

“I highly recommend this book for anyone living abroad, future expats, and those looking for a change of perspective.”

And the Five-Star Reviews from Goodreads:

“Delightful read!”

“This book will take the reader on a fun adventure, and I’d recommend it in particular for younger people who might like some insight into the post-college experience!”

“A great mix of funny uplifting moments, the heartbreak of growing up and moving out and internal conflict.”

“The author is easy to relate to and provides an exciting and honest account of a life-changing experience abroad.”

“You really felt like you were struggling and partying with the author and pulling for him. Highly recommended!”

Edited: No Bull in Spain

I love editing; it makes manuscripts into cohesive stories.  And it certainly made my book immensely better and more appealing for a vast audience.  But in the process of editing, some really good stuff is throw to the floor for the greater good of the book.  Rather than let these edited bits, pieces, and complete stories go to waste, I’m going to periodically post them here for anyone interested in reading more of the back stories to CBEP.

Chapter 1: Taiwan, a Bullfight, and an Abbey uses other parts of the edited piece copied below:

We, fresh and clean, having come straight from San Sebastian on the 8 p.m. bus, were entering an atmosphere we’d savored many times before – Spanish festivals; it was nothing new.  Carnivale in Cadiz and Chipiona.  Las Fallas in Valencia.  Semana Santa and Feria in Seville.  Even the milder Cruces de Mayo in Cordoba.  We had and have always done our best to never miss a party or a cultural experience.  Thankfully Spain offered both at once.  And when we weren’t immersed in one of these extravagant expeditions, we filled our Seville nights with Flamenco, Bullfights, and Tapas crawls.

But here we were.  Approaching a festival muy diferente.  It had to be.  It was the festival of legends: La Fiesta de San Fermines, el encierro, corriendo con los toros en Pamplona.  We’d made it.  We had really made it.  After traveling the diagonal length of Europe in a week.  A twenty-seven hour bus from Riga to Berlin.  Two nights in Berlin.  Overnight train to Paris.  Two nights in Paris.  Then the train to San Sebastian.  Paris to San Sebastian?  Actually, there is no such single train – that would have been too easy.  An overnight from Paris to Bayonne.  A connection from Bayonne, France to Irun, Spain, right on the border.  And, finally, a commuter, slow-speed train from Irun to San Sebastian.  We had made it.

We had really made it.

We’d made it to San Sebastian, secured and boarded our bus to Pamplona, and arrived at the holy festival that invites attendees to drink all night before running in front of six crazily pissed-off bulls and two herds of bullocks, the castrated bulls.  They’re for calming their companions – possibly for guiding them also.  Regardless, that adds up to a dozen 1000-1500lb wild animals with foot-long, curved and pointed horns running at full speed.

Have you ever seen a bull run at full speed?  I know they’re enormous animals.  They look like they might not be that fast.  I thought this.  Even imagined that maybe it would be possible to outrun one.  This is a false and empty hope.  It is absolutely not possible to outrun one.  A bull running against a person, both running at full speed, will make that poor bastard look stationary.

The disadvantages to participating in such an event are clear from the outset.  And that’s without considering the racecourse.  I originally imagined a straightaway path.  Straight?  Oh, hell no.  This is Europe.  This is Spain.  Straight streets don’t exist.