Thursday, March 18, 2010

FLASHBACK: Just before Christmas

Just to give you some background info since this post is a little out of place and context...I wrote this directly after the meet-and-greet luncheon with my co-workers at school. They put off scheduling it for so long that it ended up being a pre-Christmas luncheon instead. It lasted from 3pm until about 6:30 or 7pm and consisted of 3 courses, a few midday rounds of wine, and was topped off with a shot. Knowing the context it's in, it can still be a little confusing because of the references to the book I was reading at the time, the Spanish poet Garcia Lorca, and just my generally disconnected, stream-of-consciousness tone. Regardless, it's a memorable piece for me because I wrote it in the moment and it marks one of my "checkpoints" in my Spanish experience where I felt significantly more immersed and successful within this foreign language and culture.

Spain’s “Three Cups of Tea”: Copa de vino, café, chupito.

“Here (In Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything…”

Quote from Haji Ali in Greg Mortenson’s book “Three Cups of Tea”

We’ll say it a little more relaxed for the Spanish version: Here in Spain, we drink así to get to know one another better; after a glass of wine you are an acquaintance, after a cup of coffee you are a friend, and after the post-luncheon shot, I guess, you are drinking buddies. Anyway, this is how the lunch with my fellow teachers went down.

We Americans have this idea that, with a glass of wine it is a little easier to speak Spanish. Therefore, with the growing friendship between my coworkers and I and the extra confidence boost that the ‘riojita’ offered, my Spanish was very good at lunch today, and that fact was confirmed by the rest of the teachers and is not just a figment of my imagination.

What’s more, I am that much closer to being a part of Spain. I don’t mean as a Spaniard, but as an essential part, nonetheless. I ate typical jerezano food and I enjoyed the beautiful sunset across the Spanish plains from the punto de vista of a viña, that is to say, the Spanish plains. It is the sight that Federico García Lorca epitomized in his poetry.

From now on, I will not avoid addressing teachers because I don’t know their names. I will no longer be intimidated in the teacher’s lounge when they are making announcements and I have no clue whether they apply to me or not. Because now I am, officially, a drinking buddy amongst my fellow teachers.

Spanglish translations:
Así- so, like this
Riojita- rioja (type of Spanish red wine) + -ita (diminutive)
Jerezano- typical of Jerez de la Frontera, the city I live in
Punto de vista- vantage point
Viña- vineyard

Monday, March 1, 2010

Carnaval: The Best of Both Worlds

Hamburgers, hot dogs, cotton candy, candied apples, and fried yumminess…sound familiar?

Carnaval in Cádiz had all the food, bright lights, and silly toys that American fairs have! So, on the surface, it was somewhat familiar. Walking around and diving into the Sunday afternoon festivities, though, brought out the Spanish in it. The cabalgatas, or parades, were not huge floats of Egyptian sphinxes like in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. Rather, they were just mini-bleachers on floats full of silly-clad people singing silly Spanish tunes. Also, in addition to the typical draught of beer, Spaniards love to carry around bottles of sherry during Carnaval…I think that would make me sick, but more power to you if that’s your flavor!

Carnaval, as opposed to Halloween in the U.S., is when all the Spanish people use their creativity for costumes! I saw lots of Avatars (maybe not so creative), Stewy from Family Guy, various insects (butterflies, bumblebees, ladybugs), various food items, green tea bags, and a complete bathroom. Yes, I’m still talking about people dressed up!
Among our group there were a couple of chickens, a mime, a superhero, Elvis, pink-wig chicas, and me, the fortune-teller. It was less creative thinking and more just an excuse to wear Mifalda…my beloved skirt.

So, we dressed up Saturday night, the following weekend from our Sunday day-time trip, and planned to stay in Cádiz until the last train back and maybe have a few drinks in Jerez. Well, we missed the 10pm train and the next one was at…8am! What’s more, it started raining around midnight. Very few of the bars were letting people inside, so we were stuck in the streets, no way out. With a little bit of luck, my roomie Monica, Emma, and I found a nice, warm Irish bar to hide out in until morning. Thank goodness bars in Spain stay open until 6am!

When we boarded the train 45 minutes early, it was dark and already full of sleeping pirates and beasts and inanimate objects. We each found a nook and nestled down with the rest of them. An absurd ending to what turned out to be a pretty normal night. That is…if all-night drinks with Elvis and a chicken could ever be considered ‘normal’.