Friday, October 14, 2005

El Rey in Spain

It’s been raining here off and on for several days. The Rain in Spain means one thing: many little people with big umbrellas. I’m not sure if there’s a Castilian golf craze I’ve missed, or it’s just handy to have a plain-sized brolly in case one is twirling through the rain in a flamenco skirt, but it’s undoubtedly difficult to move through some streets without getting jabbed in the head. As it happens I once made a light-hearted submission about similar urban peeves to a Sydney newspaper for their New Year’s resolution list. I was informed of its appearance on the main letters page, via an early morning call from a friend (let’s call him Mike Huntspinx) who grumbled “People dying of starvation and you’re complaining of dwarves with umbrellas!”. Shades of Gargamel siding with the Smurfs!

Some of my class-members took time out of lessons today to see the King, making an appearance in the Plaza Mayor. Not being a royalist in the tradition of Australia’s own Juan ‘Oward, I stuck to my irregular verbs. Test coming next week.

Lunchtime discussions this week – with my host family – have generally revolved around pop-culture preferences in movies, music etc. It’s interesting to hear familiar names from Hollywood rendered in a Spanish accent, and there’s often a bit of head-scratching as we try to decode each others references to film/song titles or actors and recording artists. I took some time to sort out something that sounded like “Don Juan”, which after various consonantal shifts and elisions is revealed to be “Tom (H)anks”. At least my prandial banter has been raised from “si” to “me (no) gusta _______”. There’s also some evaluation of the relative beauty of various stars – luckily I’d learnt all the terms for hair colours that morning, so was well on my way to conversational success in Hispanic society, especially if such society is mainly found in hair-dressing salons (peluquerias) or dentists’ waiting rooms.

Spent the afternoon with young American student whom I’d met earlier in the week. We walked through some of the northern parts of the city where neither of us had been before, musing on the general character of the city and its inhabitants: very conservative (a phrase I hear again and again); dominated by the Catholic Church; most common non-food shops are purveyors of shoes, eye-glasses and watches, plus hairdressers. I note later that the bookstores (which – unusually - don’t open late) seem to mainly supply more literary novels: apart from the odd translated Dan Brown volume, the population would appear not to read much fiction at a level between this and kiosk-supplied magazines and western/romance pulps.

Hunted down some tea-tree oil (ironically the only place I found it was in the herbal shop next door to my apartment block) but the price is ridiculous: 9 euro for a teeny-weeny little eye-dropper bottle, about four times the rate in Australia. Apparently the inflated price is mainly taken up by import duties.

Bondi decided to try to have a big poo under a flagpole in the Plaza Mayor. At the best of times, this looks like an elephant trying to back onto a beach ball, but with the combined military forces patrolling the streets during the summit, I was worried that if I didn´t have a poo-bag in my pocket, that we would have been shot at close range.

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