10 FEET IN THE PYRENEES & QUITE COMFORTABLE...THANK YOU FOR ASKING!
27.10.2007 - 03.11.2007
October 27, 2007 to … November 3, 2007
~Man, or as they say here, a lot, “Hombre”! I’m in the mood to write! Three and a half months into this venture and I’ve got the urge. 4 months generally seems to be my comfort mark in a new living situation. I’m ahead of schedule! My home and work are set up and I have routines now, thus, more free time and a clearer head. Clutter, especially of the brain, creates chaos! The simplicity of my world could present itself as boring to some. But for me, I have found a freedom from the weight of stress. The kind of stress associated with my living situation abroad is really different from yours, well, you’ve been reading all about my dilemmas. Very gentle really. I don’t lose sleep over lack of language or confusion of culture, these issues actually make me sleep better because I tend to be exhausted at the end of a day. It’s somehow more OK to make mistakes in another country than in your own, easier and funnier. The stresses in people with normal lives seem more serious. Really they’re not, they just feel that way. If only we could replicate the way of thinking of a traveller into a normal lifestyle, wouldn’t we all be much happier?
~Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are back on the menu again! Thanks for caring, Laureen and Joe of Thunder Bay, and for keeping me fixed! Evidently Rhonda’s parcel is taking the scenic route to Jaca, but the unplanned staggering of peanut butter packages is strategic. Prohibits me from overindulging!
~Carb and Gas received a taste of their heritage too! “There’s nothin’ like Temptations”, would say Gas if he could say! Carb will, and has been, eating anything, the pig, but Temptations make him DROOL, the pig!
~The neighbours, across the street, are actually my entire Gypsy neighbourhood! ... which assembles, nightly, in the vacant, dilapidated building directly across from my living room window, 2 metres across, where live, loud concerts are performed, 7 nights a week, more frequently on holidays! How lucky was I to move into the front row apartment of this nightly assembly!? Actually, it is loud but it’s quite cool! The music is traditional Spanish Flamenco, a very intense sound, and it religiously adjourns, by 9:30 PM. And I don’t have to pay to hear it! And should I decide not to want to hear it, I simply crank my music and turn on my “teacher ears”, which instinctively tune out any unwanted noise on demand!
~How apropos I should be living amongst the Gypsies (Dictionary definition: gyp . sy n somebody who has a nomadic or unconventional lifestyle.)! But these Gypsies have been described to me by Castellanos/Spaniards as a Tribe of people. They don’t live in stereotypic caravans, but in apartments, thus, are not nomads. And this adjacent building, as I just learned last night while out on the town (sorry to report, no good garbage), is actually their church! Seems their music has religious undertones which I somehow overlooked. So who needs to go to church when your neighbouring church is amplified through your living room window Monday through Sunday, twice on holidays!
~ I live on the most “happening” street of Jaca. The most interesting part about my neighbourhood is “the morning after”! Every morning is a “morning after” I have discovered! If I happen to venture out of my apartment before the street cleaners have done their daily deeds, I get to walk through a minefield of vomit and broken beer bottles! (The reason I remove my shoes inside my house, how unSpanish of me!) You see, half a block from my door are the best fiesta bars for Jaca’s youth, one place is fittingly named Obsession, another Amnesia! And this being a Spanish town, well, it’s OK to drink on the street and all the aftermath that goes with drinking. It was a little intimidating walking home at night through the entourage of dreadlocks and teenage hormones when I first moved in, but I’ve learned that these kids are quite friendly and harmless, just drunk. And the winds must be in my favour because when I’m home, I never hear any of their drinking noises (over the music blaring from the neighbourhood church)!
~OK, so I’ve made my living arrangements out to be a tad hideous, but they’re not really. I love where I live! It offers an excitement that Little Current did not, not even living at the Anchor was this exciting!
~Carb has now eaten a total of 5 doormats in 2 ½ months. For Christmas I think I’ll buy him wall to wall carpeting!
~Payday has a whole new meaning for me in Jaca. I actually really appreciate it and notice it! My trivial number of work hours pays for my monthly roof and the contents within, despite the quirks. Living simply is not expensive. I always have money to share vino y comidas with people or to travel and experience but besides these necessities I have no other needs! I don’t crave extravagance meaning “stuff” and my scant wardrobe is sufficient. I don’t need to keep up with the Martinez’. For example, yesterday I contemplated buying a 1 euro oven mitt, but concluded my non-water absorbent tea towel works well enough. I’d rather put that euro to better use. I can buy an avocado, a pound of coffee or take a bus to a hike-able mountain for one euro. 4 oven mitts will buy me a 26-er of Amaretto!
~My dish rack. Put up your hand if YOUR dish rack is located INSIDE your kitchen cupboard! I have a built in model with a drip pan below! I only knew the function of this specialized cupboard because we had one in Madrid…otherwise I’d probably still be trying to figure out it’s purpose. This invention was one of a cat owner I’m sure. Carb can have total custody of my 2 square metres of counter space and my dishes are less hairy!
~I’ve just experienced Spanish Daylight Savings. So that means I only got 11 hours of sleep last night! But after the copious amounts of vino tinto we consumed last night, just might have to contemplate a siesta soon! Spain, siesta and sleep all start with the letter “S”!
~Things I’m most glad I brought:
~Carb and Gas (even if the feelings aren’t mutual)
~10 pair of underwear, now I can go 20 days without laundering
~my man Mac (Wow, I just found a Euro symbol € on Mac!)
~50 “I am Canadian” lighters
~my bank card
~my international electrical adapter/converter
~my Spanish dictionary
~Carb and I have just discovered he likes red peppers…we didn’t know that till just now! His head is in my salad bowl! He also likes cantaloupe. He’s one weird cat.
~Operating my shower is like driving a standard vehicle! The handle is even stick shift-like. You have to constantly change gears so-to-speak to keep the water temperature consistent. Probably has a lot to do with the small size of the hot water tank affixed to my kitchen ceiling. The tank, incidentally, has finally stopped dripping on my kitchen floor…Teflon tape is an international cure for most bad plumbing jobs. Teflon in Spanish is Teflon!
~It appears Gasoline grew his winter coat overnight…mine’s in the mail. I brush the guy daily…except days with hangovers because it hurts to bend over and put your head lower than your heart…he’s thicker today than he was yesterday!
~The Spanish equivalent to our Dollar Store is called the “Chinese” Store, all owned by Asians, and this is politically OK here. Where most cheap Canadian products are now made in China (used to be Tiwan), here they’re made in Changchun! I need an atlas. And Spanish Chinese food tastes just like Canadian Chinese food, the same greasy-doughed chicken balls with the same fluorescent/neon orange, glutinous, skin-staining sauce! I had to investigate.
~So I took the plunge, stood out like a sore thumb more than usual, and dressed up for Hallowe’en! My costume cost me 60 centimos (Euro cents), the cost of a black permanent marker. I scrounged a large box that had contained “fresh flowers” and dug out my Canadian flag packing tape and Spanish dictionary. Know what I was? I was the only walking Parcel from Canada in Jaca…perhaps the only one who dressed in a costume in Jaca! But my students loved it or maybe it was the Hallowe’en chocolates I gave them they loved. Kids are kids, everywhere!
~Guess what I found? Salt and Vinegar chips! Flavours have immigrated!
~Spanish holidays keep popping up unbeknownst to me! I hate showing up to teach in a closed school, or running out of coffee on a national holiday! But I like the mentality of the Spanish with regards to holidays. Holidays here generally and strategically fall on Thursdays so they can then also call Friday a holiday because, really, what’s the point of working one day in between two days off! Those Fridays have been given the official name of “Puente”, and that’s why I know how to say “bridge” in Spanish, in a landlocked Spanish town!
~Simon and Garfunkle are still alive and green! I can’t say that they’ve grown at all, but the haven’t died! Christmas is looking promising!
~Vale, estoy bebiendo mucho vino tinto y ya las palabras son muy borrosas! Less the accents that I haven’t been able to locate on Mac, I sincerely thought my Spanish was improving, evolving from a vocabulary of about 10 words (when I first landed in Madrid) that I learned from childhood cartoons like Speedy Gonzalos, to the ability of carrying on a half human conversation of multiple concepts beyond name, occupation, place of birth etc. Immersed in a new language can make one appear stupid! Even if one is not really that stupid in one’s first language. Learning a language means reverting to basic speech like that of a young child, although with less grace and receiving less empathy from one’s audience. Using simple vocabulary, creating choppy imperfect sentences, accentuating incorrect syllables, speaking at a snails pace, constantly asking for repetition and clarification, utilizing body language making oneself look “challenged” or Italian, etcetera! So the word that I innocently have been using for “straw”, in colloquial terms, actually means “masturbation”! I didn’t know!
~Gas has been burping a lot lately…and I didn’t even know a cat could burp!
~I have a dead banana lying on my kitchen counter calling to me! Better go and make a cake! Adios mis amigos hasta la proxima carta, Dana and soon-to-be-on-a-diet cats (My Ecuadorian upstairs neighbours with the scrawny cat keep asking me what I feed Carb and Gas…wait till they meet my kid…she’s 2 Ecuadorians in height!) xoxo