Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Salamanca: First day of school

Up at 7.30 to walk Bondi (back with Los Jesuitas of disorder of Graffiti), breakfast and race off to school for the 9am start. I am told by my fellow student boarder that lunch will be ready at 2.30pm. Now I know what “half-board” comprises.

First class is with Consuelo and nine fellow students, mostly Dutch (holandés), a Swede(sueca), a German (alemana) and an Irish girl (irlandesa). I’m the second oldest in the class – and at the end of the week will be the oldest by a margin of 15yrs or so. Some students (like the oldest fellow this week) are only here for a week, others for up to 3 months and still others who are moving their classes from city to city.

We’re straight into the lesson, all carried out in español, with rarely a foray into the English lingua franca. I gather that an eclipse has occurred or is occurring while this lesson is on. (I catch glimpses on TV at lunch time.) After a 10 minute break, our second teacher Juan Ramon takes us up to 12.30 lesson conclusion. Some visitors to the class inform us (theoretically, as it’s all in español) that there is a Tapas Tour at 8pm and a later welcome at somewhere called Camelot. I would have thought Man of La Mancha would have been more appropriate, but maybe such consistency is an impossible dream.

On the way back to the apartment, I notice that a huge pre-siesta traffic jam is brewing. Perhaps it would be easier if everyone just turned off their engines and napped at the wheel. Bondi is thrilled to see me, and from my hosts I catch fragments of a description of his placidness, friendliness and – I may be mistaken here – ability to quote long sections of Don Quixote. Halfway through lunch, Jorge into a three cornered discussion between Maria, Jorge, and Jorge's mother (on phone) about the merits of soup consumption. I just wish that I could follow more than a word per minute of what was going on.

At 4pm, I took Bondi out for a longer walk, hoping that he can manage after I gave him the last dose from his trial allotment of Metacam anti-inflammatory. I’m mainly trying to get a sense of the town layout, so after reaching the Plaza Mayor (Platha Ma-yore), I stop for café con leche and the opening chapters of Gore Vidal’s Palimpsest.

Heading slightly south we come to one of the two big cathedrals (which is a humdinger), circumnavigate it and after some wandering reach the Mester school. Bondi is introduced to the receptionist, who knew of him from my application (housing requirements ….). She calls up to her colleagues, who query back “from the internet?”…“Si”… “muy grande perro”. I had learnt earlier in the day to roll my r’s for perro (male dog, female perra) so I didn’t tell people that I didn’t have a pera gigante (giant pear).

(Aside: Word 2003 is giving me the sh*ts again, because even though my keyboard language is English(Australia) and my document default language is English(Australia), it keeps labelling all my non-Spanish text as English(US) and auto-correcting the text to the wrong spelling (e.g. labelling -> labeling). This is the sort of thing that testers at Microsoft repeatedly fail to pick up because failing to English(US) is invisible. And when the bug is reported, nothing is done about it, because non-English(US) is invisible.)

The Tapas Tour is a bit of a disappointment. Although I hook up with a quartet of English ladies, we get mostly paltry serves of cheese on bread or luncheon-club snacks which don’t really soak up the grog ( weak sangria or “clareta”) . I hope to make some better choices over the coming weeks.

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