Simple Pleasures

If you expected 2022 to bring anything back to normal, I expect you have been disappointed. It’s been a strange year to write about. From our privileged perch in Spain the humorous complaints we have compiled seem petty. Sharing wonderful experiences while bombs fall in Ukraine feels like crowing. Writing about good deeds large or small feels like joining the virtue signaling competition. My typing finger has been idle.

We met with some fellow expats in Valencia to rearrange a garage that will become a makeshift distribution stop for Ukrainian refugees. Lots of hands made quick work of it. Afterwards the organizer, Graham, shared a few stories. One of them stuck with me.

Graham was visited by a woman who came to Spain as a refugee from Kazakhstan. When she met with Graham she brought a wad of cash, military grade night vision binoculars, and two pounds of rolling tobacco. It wasn’t a combination he expected.

The woman was a voice of experience. She found when a person has been displaced, is cold, hungry, and somewhat disoriented, rolling and lighting a smoke is a greatly appreciated pleasure. Graham added that kicking a tobacco habit during an armed invasion of your country probably doesn’t make much sense.

Thinking about those two pounds of tobacco reminded me that simple pleasures are often the best. El Cafe de l’abad is right around the corner from our bolt hole apartment in Valencia. They serve the best cortado I’ve ever had. In Central Market we bought clams that reminded us of the ones we gathered in Washington State. They made an incredible Bucatini Alle Vongole. That was washed down with a bottle of Merseguera wine.

The Merseguera was an unexpected pleasure. Plantings of this grape are few, and centered in the vineyards of Alicante, Valencia, and Jumilla. It was a grape we’d never heard of. One sip had Donna exclaiming Merseguera could turn her into a white wine fan. Two bottles are chilling in the fridge. Luxuries of course, even at 5 euros a bottle. The memory of that first sip will linger. Lingering memories are the point here.

The woman from Kazakhstan’s story reminded me that so many are denied simple pleasures. Necessities are denied as well. It seems that when a person is displaced, cold, hungry, and somewhat disoriented a simple pleasure would be a sweet reminder of better days. Not hope, but perhaps it would provide a moment of respite.

Simple pleasures…coffee, tobacco, chocolate, familiar foodstuffs. When the bus leaves El Carmen and heads to Poland with supplies for Ukrainians we’re going to ensure a few simple pleasures make the ride.

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