Living and Learning in Málaga – Year 2, Renewal

Garden with arbor and a cat walking down center path


Man at a cafe table with computer in front of himOur renewal application for our Spanish residency was approved and in record time, according to our gestor, which is the intermediary for the administrative requirements for living in Spain. All thanks go to the diligent and detailed efforts of James who has managed our visa and residency paperwork from the start. So, kudos to James and lucky me, along for the ride. The next step is to obtain an appointment to be fingerprinted which requires us to bring our passports. That’s my cue to throw a wrench into the heretofore glitchless process. Young man with thumbs up sign next to older woman in a mall posing for camera

While aglow from the news of the approval of our residency renewal application, we went to pick up a related document at the police station which required our passports for identification. We walked the two miles there, and on the way back, I twice pulled my phone from my small crossbody bag to check the time. When we got home, I logged on to my computer for a Spanish lesson, and an Instagram message flashed at the bottom of my screen. Hola! Encontré tu pasaporte en la calle. It was from someone named Facundo whose profile pic was a smiling Tupac. My first reaction was, yeah, right, scammer dude. But then I ran to check my bag and my passport was indeed missing. Apparently on his way to the train station, Facundo found my passport in the street. When he messaged me, he was on his way to Madrid for a short stay. So, I messaged him back, thanking him profusely for contacting me and he promised to keep my passport safe. What a relief when two days later I met this lovely young man at the train station in Málaga, and he put my passport back in my hands and I put a well-deserved reward in his.


Spanish Acquisition Report

I have a strong commitment to using Spanish in all my encounters, determined to transition from proficient to fluent. However, in a recent incident, my opting to speak Spanish had an absurdly comic aspect. A proclivity for high blood pressure presented itself in both my pregnancies in my thirties and by the time I turned fifty, I was on a low dose of medication. Now twenty years later, I was starting to experience some elevated readings in the evenings, so the doctor I was seeing prescribed a second medication but that didn’t seem to be working.

One evening after I had monitored my pressure throughout the day and seen consistently high readings and had also begun to experience pressure in my chest and tingling in my hands, James and I got in a taxi to go to the emergency room. There the triage nurse took my blood pressure and declared rather brusquely, “No es tan alta,” and directed me back to the waiting area, where I alternated between wondering if I was having a heart attack or a stroke. After an hour and a half, during which time I saw people who had come in after me get called into one of the consulting rooms, I realized their ailments had been triaged ahead of mine.

Finally, my number was called and when I entered the consulting room, the doctor asked,” Español o inglés?” I answered, “Trato de hablar en español.” He exclaimed, “Muy bien,” in a congratulatory way as if I’d won a prize. So I proceeded to explain why I was there. He asked me questions, and I answered, though sometimes I had to ask him to repeat the question. They did an EKG, which was normal. Nice to know, but I still needed additional reassurance as in tell me I’m not going to die. “I just want to be told that I’m not on the verge of a heart attack or stroke,” I said. And that’s when I realized that had I been about to collapse from one of those conditions, I would not have spent the last fifteen minutes speaking in a language in which I was not facile.

In his report, the doctor described me as “consciente, orientado, colaborador, buen estado general, bien perfundido y bien coloreado, eupneico.” In other words, just fine. Wish he could’ve graded me on my Spanish as well.


What I’m Reading

Nocturno de Chile

Man with glasses and beard holding up a book with a woman in a black dress beside himWhen I gave Sebastián, my Spanish teacher, a bottle of wine to mark our one year of classes together, he countered with a gift of a book, one that he loves not just for the story and character, but for the poetic quality of the prose. Sebastián first learned of Nocturno de Chile by Roberto Bolaño while an adolescent in Chile. He happened to look up from whatever he was doing to catch Bolaño in an interview on TV. He was captivated, a response that did not go unnoticed by his father who bought him the book. Sebastian has read the book five times. When he gave me a copy, he read me his favorite passage. Literary heart-melt. To help me get through the Spanish version, I bought the English translation for my Kindle. I alternate reading a page or two in Spanish with the corresponding pages in English.

The Mango Tree

If it has a mango in it, I want it, which is why I read The Mango Tree: A Memoir of Fruit, Florida, and Felony as soon as it was available the first week in April. Author Annabelle Tometich is a food critic who learned journalism on the job after scuttling her plans to be a doctor. In her memoir, she writes about her fierce and indomitable Filipina mother, her easy-going, less ambitious, white father, their plate-throwing fights, and the responsibilities that fell on Annabelle’s small shoulders as the eldest of three children as she also struggled to find her identity as a mixed-race girl. It’s a thoroughly engrossing and entertaining read.


More on the Filipino-Spanish Connection

Given the 300 years of Spain’s colonization of the Philippines, it’s not surprising but always interesting to come across ways Filipinos figure in the art and culture of Spain. The Carmen Thyssen Museum is around the corner from where we live. It has a beautiful permanent collection of nineteenth-century Andalusian landscapes, still lifes (I love the Spanish term: naturaleza muerta), and depictions of daily life as well as festivities of Southern Spain. Two of the museum spaces are dedicated to temporary exhibits. One of the current ones is called “Modernidad Latente” and features work from Spanish artists who persisted in new, modern directions despite the creative inertia of the Franco years.Painting of cork trees by Spanish painter Ortega Muñoz

One of the paintings that caught my eye was Godofredo Ortega Muñoz’s “Alcornoques” (Cork Oaks). I like the starkness and the resemblance of the trees to human figures, arms beseechingly upraised. Ortega Muñoz was self-taught, spending hours copying the masters in the Prado in Madrid. He also spent time painting outdoors in Dehesa de la Villa, a Madrid park, along with other young painters, among them Fernando Amorsolo, considered one of the most important Filipino painters, particularly for his use of light. Here’s one of his most well-known works, “Planting Rice.”Painting of people planting rice by Fernando Amorsolo


Casa Ana

I’m spending ten days at a writing retreat in the La Alpujarra region of Andalucia, the southern slopes of Spain’s Sierra Nevada. The retreat is in the village of Ferreirola, population 64. I’m hoping to get through most of the revisions to my new novel. I’ll also work on an essay for an end-of-the-month submission deadline. The scenery is spectacular, the food delicious, and the company congenial. I have a lovely room to write in, so no excuses for not getting the job done. Unless the outdoors beckons too often.

Being here means I’m missing the Feria del Libro in Málaga, a week-long outdoor book fair with talks, lectures, and book signings, but I hope to make up for it by going to the Feria del Libro in Madrid in June.

Next month I’ll go to Madrid to see Seattle poet friend Susan Rich read from her new poetry collection Blue Atlas at Libreria Desperate Literature!


  1. Mary Drew on April 29, 2024 at 12:24 pm

    La riqueza de las pinturas, y tambien de tus photos, es tan impresionante. Aqui trato de communicar en espanol, pero me falta practica. Hay muchos anos que no he practicado.
    Tambien, no se hacer las marcas especiales en espanol.
    Que suerte tienes estar en Espana! Yo estudi en Mexico, Guatemala, y Costa Rica, pero he olvidado mucho. Gracias por esta oportunidad de practicar, y tambien, gracias por compartir sus experiencias tan bonitas.

    • Donna Miscolta on April 30, 2024 at 4:12 am

      Gracias, Mary, por tus comentarios y por expresarlos (muy bien) en español. Estoy de acuerdo contigo en que tengo mucha suerte de estar disfrutando de esta vida en España. Y que bueno que has estudiado en esos bonitos países. Gracias por haber leído mi blog!

  2. Autumn on April 30, 2024 at 9:04 am

    Your life is always the most fascinating! Love your updates!

    • Donna Miscolta on April 30, 2024 at 11:21 am

      It has its moments! I’ve very lucky to have this life. Thanks for reading the blog!

  3. Marcia Rutan on May 3, 2024 at 3:36 pm

    Hola, Donna. Que hermosa tu escribes tu historia que tu vida de Espana. Yo aprendo espanol via Duolingo, despues muchos anos y mis palabras son muy poquitas, pero quiero aprender mas! Gracias por tus attencion. ❤️

    Ha, ha, my attempt to practice my returning Spanish after decades of no use. I don’t know how to find the Spanish accents, etc on my computer but I so enjoy your observations, experiences, and humor, Donna. Thank you! Love, Marcia

    • Donna Miscolta on May 5, 2024 at 3:39 am

      Gracias por escribirme en español, Marcia. Y gracias por leer mi blog y por ser una buena amiga. Abrazos.

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