spain

Lessons from a month abroad

Me in park Guell

I arrived back home yesterday afternoon. I did not expect to get giddy while walking through Immigration, or getting on the subway, or putting my key in the door, but all those things reminded me that I’m coming home. And I was excited to do so. As much as love to travel, I am always surprised by how happy I am to come back home. To have clean clothes. To see my kitties. To plug in electronics without first having to find the stupid adapter that always gets lost in my suitcase. I know I’m weird, but no matter how many showers I take while on vacation, I never feel as clean as that first shower when you get home.

I came home 5 pounds heavier. I would like to think those pounds are filled with wisdom. So here are some very wise things I learned while traveling for a month:

a window in Salamanca

1. No one says it better than my boy, Bill Bryson, “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” This quote was etched into the bathroom stall in one of the restaurants I ate in in Barcelona. Although I’ve read it many times and have appreciated it, I’ve never read it while actually traveling , nor while on the toilet.  As much as I loved seeing all the sights from the tour books, the real joy is in finding a cup of coffee exciting again. Or taking a picture of a window. I mean seriously when do you take pictures of windows when you’re at home? Travel reinvigorates your enthusiasm for life. By the way, can you imagine how long it took to etch that quote into the bathroom stall?

2. An oldie, but a goodie: try new things. I didn’t want to see flamenco, but it blew me away.

Me trying out new water

While dining out, the worst food I had was when I was feeling homesick and ordered what was familiar to me. Pizza and hamburgers just don’t cut it in Spain. The best food I had was when Mike and I decided to order the strangest sounding thing on the menu. Duck ham (seriously that’s what it said) on top of duck liver pate was out of this world. I can’t believe I almost passed that up for french fries. Other great treats were bull tail ( YUM!), and onion jelly with sheep cheese and walnuts. While walking back to the hotel every day, we knew the fastest way to get back, but we always made a conscious effort to go down a different street, and for that we saw some amazing views, beautiful graffiti, hidden gardens, and old churches. If we only followed the path we knew we would have missed out on a lot.

3. Spanish is hard.

4. A lot can be done while sitting at a cafe drinking coffee. You can’t help but reflect on your life, how it’s going, and where you want it to go. I don’t know if it’s those little tables, or if it’s using a saucer, but you start to ask yourself the big questions. How do I want to spend my money? How do I want to raise my kids? What kind of lifestyle do I want? Do I really want the noise and chaos of NYC? Maybe I should live on a boat for year. Waiter, one more cup please.

5. Ok, because I love Bill so much I’m going to include one more quote. “I mused for a few moments on the question of which was worse, to lead a life so boring that you are easily enchanted, or a life so full of stimulus that you are easily bored.” Here’s one of the catches of traveling a lot – you become jaded start to compare countries. Instead of appreciating each place you visit you say “oh, the Hermitage was far superior,” “this doesn’t hold a candle to the canals in Venice,” or ” It’s no Kathmandu.” This is a horribly pompous attitude to have and I know I’m guilty of it sometimes. I was reminded of how much I hated it when I met a one-upper in Salamanca. When I said I liked the bread, he said, “Really??? You have to try the bread in Paris.” When I said I loved the Cathedral, he said, “Really??? You have to see the Hagia Sofia, in Istanbul.” When I told him that I had seen it and that you really can’t compare the two, he then said, “Well it’s no Notre Dame.” I’m not quite sure how to prevent that snobby attitude, but maybe just being of aware of it is the first step.

6. People can be extremely self-conscious. While on our way to a restaurant we saw a toddler running around a fountain. He was having so much fun that we decided to sit on a bench and watch him. He ran around the fountain maybe five hundred times. It was super slippery and he must have fallen an equal number of times. Each time he fell he would crack up laughing. and then start over again. He was insanely adorable, and we could not stop laughing. Eventually his dad picked him up to leave and when he walked past us he asked with an accent that sounded like the Terminator, “You find something funny?” At first I expected him to laugh like it was a joke, but he looked like he was about to kill us. I was shocked and really I couldn’t get it out of my head for days. How could he be so offended by us laughing? I thought it was obvious that we were sharing in the kid’s joy. My only guess is that he thought we thought his son was stupid, or that we thought he was stupid for letting his kid fall down so much. Either way, why was his first assumption so negative? It makes me think, did I ever get self-conscious because I thought someone was laughing at me, but perhaps that were laughing with me?

Traysaurous

7. I learned that when I’m tired, hot and hungry I become Traysaurous. It’s not pretty. I think I scared off I few kids – and maybe Mike too. No, actually he was brave enough to take this up close picture. On a serious note, I’m tired of always feeling tired. This trip has not only prompted me to take flamenco classes, but I’ve also decided to go to a sleep clinic. For years I suffered with insomnia, restless sleep, and sleep walking/talking. My roommate in Salamanca told me I stood up in the middle of the night and said, “this tent is filled with bees,” and then I tried to open an imaginary tent zipper. My brother told me that I woke up one night and asked if I could pay for the bus ticket with American cheese. One of the most annoying parts of this trip was that I was sleepy almost every day. I wanted to wake up fresh and ready to see the sites, but instead Traysaurous came out a little too often. I think my quality of life would greatly improve if I could get 8 hours of fantastic, uninterrupted sleep. With no bees or American cheese.

Flamenco changed my life

From Photobucket

I came to Spain to learn Spanish, eat Paella, see some Gaudi, and drink Sangria. I did not plan to see Flamenco. I thought is would be really cheesy. Women in frilly, red dresses dancing around and snapping to over-enthusiastic guitar strumming. Count me out. But Mike kept saying he needed to see some authentic flamenco, so we asked around and heard about  a great underground flamenco club. There were plenty of signs all around Madrid, Barcelona, and Granada for the “authentic” flamenco experience- 40 Euros for dinner and dancing. For some reason I couldn’t imagine the original flamenco dancers performing in front of dining tourists.

The place we found was in Granada, on Carrera del Darro  called Le Chien Andalou. It was only 6 euros, and it blew me away.

We walked in and it was a brightly lit, white-washed cave, about forty feet deep, ten feet wide. The stage was only about 8 by 10 feet. We were told to get there an hour early to get a seat. When I walked in, I was skeptical. It was almost empty. We sat next to a guy from Colorado, and I thought, oh great this is a tourist trap. By 10 o’clock the place was jam packed. All of a sudden the lights went down and a chubby, balding, blond haired guy walked on to the stage with his guitar. When he began strumming, the room fell silent. If you closed your eyes it sounded like two or three people were playing. When I opened my eyes I was captivated by the faces he made. He looked evil, almost possessed by his guitar. His name is Josele de la Rosa.

Next the singer and dancer joined the stage. The singer was a young, pretty blond. From what I read about Flamenco singing, the singer is supposed to be old, haggard, and lived through a lot. I didn’t think this young girl could cut it, but the second she opened her mouth I got goosebumps. Her voice was so rich, deep and raw. Most songs were just one line sang over and over again. It became hypnotic, but the subtle changes each time were heart-wrenching. After the second song I realized I was crying. I did not expect to be overwhelmed by singing in a dive bar. The singer’s name was Fita Heredia.

While Fita was singing, the dancer, Almudena Romero, was sitting in the corner in the standard, frilly, red dress. She seemed antsy, like she couldn’t hold back her dance moves, but she wanted to let the singer have the lime light. Then, when she couldn’t take it anymore, she stood up and if people weren’t crying at that point they didn’t stand a chance. She transfromed from a smiling, laughing young woman to a powerful, intense, fiery vixen. The look she gave the audience was something I had never seen before. Something like, “if you ever hurt me I will rip each one of your fingers off and feed them to you.”

I have never seen such raw emotion before in my life. With each movement of her pinky, with a flick of her hair, with a hip pop she was able to say a thousand words. At this point I was a mess. Not only was I crying but my nose was running uncontrollably. I wasn’t even sad, just so overcome with emotion. She was able to show such vulnerability in her face, yet her movements had the strength and bravado of a bullfighter. The dance got faster, and more erratic, and almost violent, until the stopped suddenly and the lights came on. I looked around and to my relief I wasn’t the only one reduced to tears. Nearly everyone was dabbing their eyes with napkins. Even the guy from Colorado. He said it was far better than Eric Clapton, a performer he’s followed his whole life. Mike was speechless. He’s a musician, and even he was blown away by the performance.

It was something so pure, so vulnerable, and so beautiful. If I lived in Spain I would become their groupie. They made me want to take flamenco classes. A strange desire for someone who can’t clap in rhythm.

Work Ethic

I’m sorry for not posting for so long. I’m in Barcelona with my boyfriend, so you know, not hangin’ around the computer much. But I did feel guilty not posting. Since I’m unemployed, blogging kind of feels like a mini job. A job that I love doing (in fact, while on a bus ride between Salamanca and Segovia I was thinking about how much I wanted to blog. Strange? If only I could get paid to ramble.) So since I wasn’t doing my mini-job, it got me thinking about work ethic.

While in Madrid I was staying at the Cat Hostel (yes, I picked it for the name, and a part of me was hoping there would be a resident cat, but that part of me was disappointed) and I decided to extend my stay for an extra night. I went to the reception desk at 11:30 and asked the guy if I could extend my reservation. He looked at me and politely asked if I would mind coming back at12 to do that. I said sure, but asked him why. He said that he was changing shifts at 12 and he’d prefer not to do a reservation during his last half hour of work. Well that just shut me up. How can you argue with that logic? I had no idea that Bartleby, the Scrivener, could get a job in this modern day.

The next day I had a leisurly lunch outside the Museum Lazarious. When I got there there was a business lunch happening between a boss and three employees. From what I could understand (they were speaking in Spanish) they talked about art, politics, philosophy, their families, vacation plans, and everything else but work. Well that´s not true. After about an hour I heard the boss suggest that they work a half day on one of the many Saint´s days that they usually have off. The three employees agreed that that was out of line and they wouldn’t do it. At that point one of the employess laughed and said they would soon start working like Americans.

I am continually getting hit over the head by how much American´s work, and how we are the laughing stuck of the rest of the World. While I was at the Language school, Don Quijote, and I told them that most Americans only get 2 weeks of vacations, their jaws droped. When my Spanish teacher complained about how in Spain people only have 4 months of maternity leave, one person from Switzerland was outraged. They apparently get 2 years of maternity leave. Yes 2 years.

It seems like everywhere else personal time is considered sacred, and no boss, no schedule, no responsibilities get in the way of it. If you’re in a store at 1:30 in Spain and you are about to buy something it doesn’t matter, the clerk will kick you out so that she can take her two hour break. There doesn’t seem like there’s any hurry to get things done. No drive, no work ethic.

And here’s where I feel torn. I’m not sure if this extreme is a good thing. I like this attitude while on vacation, but I remember it driving me crazy while living in Mozambique. I remember waiting weeks before having a meeting with my boss. Everyday he would say “manana.” It would take months for a short fence to go up, because the workers were taking breaks every five minutes. Dinners at restaurants would take hours, not because you were enjoying the food, but because you were waiting for the waiter. I would hear every foreigner say, “Mozambican’s are just so damn lazy.” And these were usually European foreigners saying this.

I’ve done a lot of traveling through Southern and Eastern Europe, and I’m always amazed by how little people work. But in Europe, they’re not seen as lazy, it somehow seems like the people are defending their rights, like their refusal to work on small holidays is a political stance. “WE WILL NOT BECOME AMERICA!” Is this hypocrisy just a symptom of Post-colonialism?Will laziness in former Colonies always be viewed as a negative, but laziness in post-imperialist countries always be viewed as an inalienable right? 

Now how did America, a former colony, escape the stereotype, and even become know as a country who works too hard? Well that must come from our Puritan background. Puritans, who were mostly Lutherans and Calvinists, believed that a certain number of people were pre-selected to be saved by God. Since it was impossible to know if you were pre-selected it was thought that a strong work ethic was a consequence of being God’s chosen one and therefore, if you worked hard enough, you were probably going to Heaven. It’s true. Wikipedia said so!

So take that Puritan background, and mix it up with Capitalism, and you end up with a country that has 24 hour Drug stores on every corner and a waitress who’s 8.5 months pregnant serving you coffee at midnight so you can finish your work reports. We are so tied to the capitalist identity that we sent secret troops into Nicaragua, and sold weapons to Iran, just to get back at Russia, our sworn enemy. And why was Russia so bad? It was presenting an alternative lifestyle to capitalism. Pure evil I tell you!

Geez! It’s not often I get to make references to Melville, Weber, and the Iran Contra affair within one conversation. I should be telling you about Gaudi’s awesome architecture (amazing) and the beach (amazing) and the old Gothic quarter (amazing), but one of the reasons I came to Spain was for the HeSo project. I’m doing the things I love, and trying to see if I can make a job out of it. So of course, work is on my mind. I’ve learned something very important about my work ethic while in Spain. I’ve realized that while I love the relaxed attitude of the Mediterranean, I also need to feel a sense of energy and accomplishment. In other words, I don’t want to work like an American, European, or Mozambican. Mmm I guess I need to travel some more to find the ideal work ethic 😉

The little Piper who couldn´t

That´s Paco on the left after getting the same note wrong 4 times in a row

There are some great street musicians here. But I´m not going to write about them. I´m going to tell you about the worst street musician I´ve ever seen. I´ve nicknamed him Paco. Paco plays the recorder. He wears brown tights and  a military vest every day. He has a mullet that´s shaved on the sides (business in the front, party in the back, army on the sides).

He plays one song, and he doesn´t play it well. He usually comes to the outdoor restaurants right after a great acordian player, or violinist is done. He walks around to every table playing three or four notes off key and then asks for money. Usually people cover their ears and ask him to leave.

I´ve watched him  since the day I arrived in Salamanca. I figured that was the first day he received the recorder and that eventually he would get better. Nope. He´s still just as bad. For all I know,  he´s been playing that song for years. I watch him at lunchtime. I´ve never seen him get paid once. However,  I have seen people offer him cigarettes or beer and ask to talk to him. They probably ask him why he plays the recorder.

So what is the point of telling you this? What sort of HeSo lesson can I glean from this? He obviously loves playing his recorder, and nothing is going to stop him. It doesn´t matter if no one pays him, and if no one likes him, he´s going to play his recorder. Can you imagine being that passionate about something? Can you imagine inspiring people not with your success, but with your perserverance? Let´s all try and be like Paco today. I´m going to go shave the sides of my head now.

Paco getting into a groove

Getting over fear

A wise man once said, (I´m paraphrasing here) ¨If you´re afraid of being poor, walk around for a day in threadbare clothes and only drink water and eat a crust of bread. At the end, say to yourself, is this what I´ve been so afraid of?¨

How many times have you done something that you were really afraid of and then laughed at yourself because it really wasn´t hard at all? It´s insane how much we let fear control our lives. If you think of all the things you´ve ever wanted to do, and then asked yourself why you didn´t do it the answer is probably fear.

Here are the three fears that have inhibited me the most:

Fear of poverty

Fear of criticism

Fear of being alone

In the past, I have prioritzed avoiding these fears over fully embracing life . For instance, I didn´t like my last job, but I worked there for three years because I made lots of money, and I wouldn´t have to face the fear of being poor. I have kept my mouth shut when I had something important to say, because I was afraid that I would sound stupid. I didn´t even want to have a blog because I was so afraid of exposing my terrible spelling and grammar to the world. Gasp what would they say! Since I´ve been in Spain, the computer I´ve been using doesn´t have spell check set up for English, so I have certainly had to get over my fear of criticism to write these posts. In High School and College I befriended people  who I didn´t like or respect because I didn´t want to sit alone.

Before coming here I decided to face the fear of being alone head on. First of all I came here alone. Besides for the first day, I have had every lunch and dinner by myself. Don´t worry I´m making friends, but I made a conscious decision to grow comfortable with being alone. Before, even just the thought of eating alone in a restaurant  would have made my skin crawl. In the past if I went to a restaurant with a friend and they got up to go to the bathroom, I would immediately feel like everyone was looking at me, and thinking oh poor girl, she has no friends.

A funny thing starts to happen when you´re alone for so long.  Instead of feeling like everyone´s looking at you, you start to look at everyone else. I have become more observant. I noticed how the old men here have made an art out of stirring their coffee. They slip their spoons in and out of the cup very slowly, and they do this for 20 minutes or so. It´s almost like a meditation. I noticed how people touch their wine glasses differently when they´re talking to someone they like. I can predict if a couple´s going to have sex or a fight after dinner just by the way they drink their wine!

To be perfectly honest I don´t like being alone. I miss talking to my boyfriend/friends/family. I miss having common references and inside jokes. But I have met interesting people who I probably never would have met if I was with a friend. And I´ve had time to get lost in the streets and do exactly what I want to do. At the end of every meal I´ve made of point of saying, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨

The point is as soon as you face your fears they can no longer control you.  If you´re in a relationship with someone who isn´t right for you maybe you should spend the day alone and then ask yourself, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨ Sometimes when we face what we fear the most it´s better than what we´ve been accepting in the past.

So as a challenge, I ask you to do what scares you the most. Don´t go skydiving today. I´m talking about emotional fears. Face your emotional fears and then ask yourself, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨If you can laugh after asking yourself that question then it´s time to start changing.

The importance of being vulnerable

You can decide how a conversation will go. Seems obvious, but as a recovering introvert, I have slowly realized this fact. I never thought I had the power to control a conversation, I usually just add on to a subject someone else brings up. But since I am at a school, meeting lots of new people, I have had the opportunity to answer the same questions over and over again. Surprise suprise the more information I volunteer, the more interesting the conversation gets.

Everyone asks me what I do for a living (actually first they ask me if I´m in college which is really flattering, but then it just reminds me of how old I´m getting). At first I was answering,

¨I just quite my job.¨

And their  natural response would be, ¨What do you plan to do next?¨ And I would say, ¨I´m not sure, just looking around.¨

I figured if they were really interested they would ask further. Or I will tell them more when we get closer. Afterall, they´re strangers – they don´t really care.

Writing this blog has helped me realize that strangers really do care. I can´t believe how many strangers have subscribed, or sent me comments (I really appreciate it, by the way (and I really appreciate my friends subscribing too!)). And the reason why people are interested is because I´m sharing something interesting. If I had a blog that said ¨ I quit my job and I´m not sure what I´ll do next,¨ (insert shrug here) there wouldn´t be much to relate to.

This where I did my reflection before writing this post. The Casa del Sal

So recently when people ask me what I do for a living I answer, ¨I quit my job because it wasn´t making me happy and I wasn´t living up to my potential. Now I´m taking some time to reflect on what I want to do with my time on earth. How can I contribute to society, but also make my happiness a priority.¨ Well you can´t believe the difference that makes. People´s eyes just widen. They´ve been given so many hooks. The conversation has been layed out.

This felt like a risky thing to say at first. What if they shrug their shoulders and say, ¨well that´s nice,¨and move on to someone else? Or they can roll their eyes and say,  You must think you´re real special. Just get a job and pay your bills.¨ But no one says this. Usually they tell me how they completly understand what I´m going through. Then all of a sudden complete strangers are sharing with me about how they are unhappy with their job, but they are afraid of quiting, or how they were unhappy but were afraid to start over again, but they´re so glad they did.

I find that the more I share the more other´s feel comfortable sharing their fears, regrets and life lessons.  I always  hated small talk, but that´s because I was the one making it boring. You don´t have to play small when small talking.

The other night I sat down with an older woman from England. We struggled with small talk for a bit, finding that we really had nothing in common, but then she asked me what I do for a living. I gave her my new and improved response. Suddenly her eyes lit up. ¨I went through exactly the same thing after my divorce.¨ She then told me how she worked in HR for years, but after she got divorced she quit her job and had lots of time to do some self-reflection. That´s when she realized how much she liked art, and she began taking continuing education classes in art, until she got her masters, and now she has a studio, and is a quite successful sculptress. She told me she wished she had taken that break to look at her life when she was younger because she felt that she wasted years just going through the motions.

Me at the aqueduct of Segovia. Hope this wall never comes down!

In a matter of minutes we realized how similar we are, and I really appreciated hearing an older perspective on what I´m going through and hearing her afirmation of the HeSo project. None of this would have happened if I just shrugged my shoulders and said ¨I´m not sure what I´m doing next.¨ I´m giving the same information, but now I´m revealing my emotions about it, and that makes all the difference.

If you´re making small talk today I encourage you to share more than you normally would. You´ll be surprised how quickly the walls  come down!

Why learn another language?

Learning another language makes you a better person. Here´s why:

Years ago when I was living in Mozambique with Gerome, from France, and Flavia, from Brazil, we tried an experiment. We each spoke in our native tongue and then afterward tried to translate what we heard into English. Even though Gerome didn´t speak Portuguese and Flavia didn´t speak French they were able to catch almost everything the other said. I on the other hand couldn´t remember a word. Gerome said that ¡t´s because Americans don´t know how to listen. I got offended, but then he said it´s understandable because we are not surrounded by different languages. We can drive for ten hours and still only hear English, but in Europe or Latin America, you can drive one hour and hear an entirely different language. They have to learn to listen or else they could never get by.

In class, I´m realizing how little I listen. I catch myself tuning out my teacher all the time because I don´t understand her. But I´m making an huge effort to listen and it makes a world of difference. If I can take this concentration back with me to New York, imagine how much more I will hear. Maybe I´ll actually be able to quote a real fact from the news, instead of just estimating the figures. Maybe I´ll hear a friend´s hint for a good birthday present, when before it would have just passed over me. Perhaps I´ll hear someone´s complaint before coming up with my defense.

Last night there was a party at the school to welcome the new students. We spoke in Spanish for as long as we could, but after a while it became obvious that we were genuinely interested in each other and our knowledge of Spanish just wasn’t cutting it. There’s only so much you can learn about a person from questions like

How many brothers do you have?

What is your favorite color?

Do you like food?

So we gave up and started speaking English. The students are diverse. At my table, I was talking to people from Turkey, France, Germany, The Ukraine, Brazil and Belgium. And everyone was fluent in English. It made me realize how lucky I am to have English as my primary language, because it truly is universal. Then it made me realize how important it is to learn a second language. We could not have become friends if they hadn’t first made the effort to learn English. Imagine how many people am I excluding from friendship because I don´t speak their language and they don´t speak mine.

Besides for opening up doors to friendship, it´s also really fun to eavesdrop. Yesterday, I was at the grocery store, and there was an old woman ahead of me at the cashier. When she heard the total for her groceries she started yelling, in Spanish, ¨That´s too expensive. You can´t make an old woman pay that. I won´t do it!” and the cashier told her she could have a 20% discount. I thought that was pretty funny, and I would have missed it all if I didn´t understand any Spanish.

Nightlife in Salamanca

I went to a restaurant for dinner at 10pm. It was completely empty and I thought I had missed dinner time. Wrong. People didn´t start coming in for dinner until 11. And these were families with young children. I can´t imagine what time twenty somethings show up for dinner. The food was incredable. For 11 Euros you get half a liter of wine,  an appetizer, entree and dessert. For my appetizer I had mashed potatoes cooked in the fat of Chorizo and sprinkled with fried bits of pig spine on top.  Sounds disgusting – tasted amazing. Pretty much every meal dish has some part of a pig in it. Oink oink!

This is the Plaza at night time. This is after midnight! On a monday!!

After dinner I walked around the plaza.  The plaza is lined with restaurants with outdoor sitting. In every other country I´ve visited, musicians wander around the restaurants playing for small change.  Not in Salamanca. At each restaurant a troup of musicians,  dressed in elaborate costumes, take over a bunch of tables and play for the whole night. People will give up their tables and hold their plates of food so that a musician can have more room to play. Crowds form around the restaurants to watch these musicions and they throw euros at them. It must be very lucrative for them.

That´s the girl in the middle

At one restaurant the musicians asked for the crowd to sacrifice a beautiful woman. The crowd pushed a woman forward and she had to stand on top of a table while they all serenaded her. She was beet red. But the most surprising thing was that once they were done she gave the conductor a big wet kiss on the lips!

The city is beautiful during the day, but it´s breathtaking at night. They really know how to light their buildings:

The astronaut carved into the new church fasçade

This morning I took a tour with the school. There´s a tradition that if you can find the frog on the fasçade of the old University you´ll get married in a year. I´ve been there twice already, and I still can´t find it.  However, I did find the astronaut carved into the fasçade of the new church! The new church was built in the 1700s (which gives you some perspective on how old these buildings are) but when they were restoring it in the 1970´s someone snuck in an astronaut holding an ice cream cone. I hope God has a sense of humor!

Classes seem really short. I signed up for 30 hours a week but we take 30 minute breaks every 2 hours and an hour and a half break for lunch so I feel like I´m barely ever in class. But the locals are really nice and love to talk to foreigners, so I´m still learning a lot. I´m off to get some mid-day sangria. It´s cheaper than water here!

Dancing in Salamanca

Well, I landed safely in Salamanca. I slept through the entire first day because I wasn´t able to sleep on the plane at all- I was sitting in the aisle seat next to an ancient couple who needed to go to the bathroom ever half hour. Even the flight attendent thanked me for my patience.

To sum up Salamanca in one word: golden. The buildings and streets are all made from this yellow sandstone that glistens in the sun light. The weather is perfect, hot but very dry and there´s always a warm breeze. The sun light is a warm orange hue. You can hear Spanish guitar playing all the time.

The whole town is centered around the Plaza Mayor. I was sitting and enjoying a cafe con leche in the plaza when all of a sudden 200-300 Brazilians came marching through the square. I know they were Brazilian because they were wearing Brazilian soccer jerseys and flags. They were chanting a song in unison and carrying giant golden crosses. They formed three concentric circles in the middle of the plaza and began to dance. They all had tamborines or guitars.

The song went something like “ya blah da da ma Israel” The last word is the only one I can say for sure. They sang the same song for over an hour and after a while I caught myself singing along. Halfway through they came to a cresendo and I thought it would be over, but then they kept going. Soon a group of people carrying the flag of Angola came marching through the opposit entrance. The craziest part was that all of the locals ignored it – which takes a lot of focus because the dancers were really loud. It was like the locals were thinking, “oh, there goes those crazy Brazilians again.”

About half an hour after the Brazilians left (and, yes, if you´re keeping track of time I´ve been sipping my coffee for almost 2 hours by this point) about 20 people wearing orange hats and orange backpacks, that said Tanzania, started up the same dance and song. They didn´t have nearly the same enthusiasm and endurance as the Brasilians and they quickly dissapated.

Today is a holiday for some Saint. My host mother didn´t remember which one. I can only assume this show was for the Saint. He must be the Saint of flash mobs.

Will post more later. Tomorrow´s my first day of Spanish class! I´m pretty nervous. Just talking to my host mom for ten minutes gives me a massive headache. I can feel the new synampsis forming. I´m going to get some Paella now!