Monday, January 07, 2008

Adventures in España

I was soon speeding to Paris for my flight to Sevilla. Check-in is supposed to start two hours before the flight, but it was half an hour later before the woman in her "welcome aboard" pumps arrived at the desk. And when I say "welcome aboard" pumps, I mean just that. Those shoes went way beyond the traditional "Fuck Me" pumps. I am sure they carried a group discount, or at least came with their own frequent flier program. Bit pumps aside, I was soon on the plane and heading south to sunny Spain where I landed under grey skies. I was the first one to check in at the airport and for that was rewarded by my suitcase being the very last one onto the baggage belt. Everyone else had left and the last few actually gave me a sad look that said my luggage was probably in a different geographic locale. Suddenly between the last people leaving and panic starting to set in, my bag came sluggishly onto the belt and I was soon in a taxi with Manuel and we were heading off to the hotel in Sevilla.

The first thing we did in Sevilla was grab a beer and a bite to eat. Something that has so far not stopped the entire time I have been in Spain. We walked from restaurant to restaurant passing by the cathedral, the city hall, the Torre de Oro (Tower of Gold), Plaza de España (better known to some as Queen Amadala´s palace in Star Wars Episode 1), and the Plaza de Toro (Bullring).

In spite of Manual finally eating himself sick and me feeding myself into the largest size I have ever been in my life, I have managed to get hooked on a few other activities in Spain. Namely¨the television shows "Se Llama Copla" which is an Idols like show for aspiring Flamenco singers and "Fama ¡A bailar!" an Idols like show for dancers. I have also become completely intrigued with bull fighting. Seriously.

I had always thought bullfighting was one matador "fought" the bull with his red cape. I knew that the bull was ultimately killed, but for the rest, the details I had were shaky. I have since learned through my visit to the Plaza de Toros and also via watchin bullfights on the television that I was very wrong. A bullfight is one in a few stages. First, a matador does his traditional dance with the bull and the cape. That lasts about 5 minutes. After that time, a picadore comes out on horseback who then stabs the bull on the muscle on the back of the neck - this is the first wounds the bull receives. After that, the bandillero has to place a total of 6 bandalerras, which are hooked and decorated sticks into the back of the bull - these further weaken and also excite the bull. Once those staged are completed, the matador enters the ring again with his cape and sword. He has to get the bull in just the right position so he can perform the estocada - thrusting the sword between the bulls shoulder blades and through his heart, killing him instantly. If the matador is good, he can do this in one go. If not, then the sword is removed and the bull is killed by either someone else cutting the back of his neck or the matador delivering another blow at the base of the neck. If the bull fights a good fight, the president of the association will pardon the bull, and he will be released into pasture, never to fight again. Oten the bulls ultimately die of the wounds inflicted during the fight. If they survive, they are used to breed. If a bull kills a matador then the bull and the mother of the bull are put to death. Depending on how good the matador is, he gets a prize at the end of the fight. Either one or both of the bulls ears and perhaps also it´s tail. After death, the bull ends up on tables across spain as food, his head most likely mounted on a wall someplace.

In between talent contests, eating and bullfights, Christmas arrived. Christmas in Spain in a simple affair with no gifts exchanging hands. Gift giving is done on January 6, the day of the Three Kings. I spent Christmas in a bit of a down an sad mood. After spending over a week in Spain, I was tired of being excluded from everything. I know only a few words and sentences in Spanish and here in Almonte, nobody - and I do mean NOBODY - speaks English. That means I am excluded from everything. If we are out with Manuel´s friends, I sit listening to music or watching TV I do not understand. I think that is why the Idols like shows have become faves for me to watch. I can laugh at bad singers and dancers and appreciate a good voice, even if I have no idea what is being said. There are no channels in Enlgish here, no CNN and no BBC. It may come as a bit of a surprise, but I like being the center of attention. Here I am not even on the radar screen. I can´t contribute to single conversation. The bookstores do not sell English books. It is a very lonely and isolating feeling. All of that combined with the holidays and being away from everything familiar, it was all a bit overwhelming. I just wanted to cry, to crawl under the covers and wait for it all to pass. On top of all of that, staying with Manuel´s family also takes a bit of a toll. I am not used to having no personal space of my own, no place to go to to just get away or to regroup. In India I can always camp out at home when things get to be too much. Here I do not have that luxury. I also can´t expect Manuel to keep translating everything to me.

Manuel and I finally decided to take a few days away and off we went to Granada. And what an amazing place that is, smashed against the foot of the Sierra Nevadas, with snowcapped peaks dwarfing the city. We spent the better part of a day at the Alhambra, which is just a spectacular place to see. For more information on Alhambra, click here. I will leave the historical details to the experts and just say that it is one of the most amazing places I have seen. So much so, that I was too busy taking in all the details and beauty around me that I stepped smack into a center of a small but incredibly cold fountain. I was lucky enough that it happened toward the end of the visit and had only to walk a relatively short distance with a numbing foot. Instead of offering me his dry shoes and socks, Manuel just laughed at me.

We arrived back at the hotel and upon exiting the elevator on our floor, we were immediately confronted with screams. And not just any screams, mind you, but the screams of a woman in the middle of what sounded like some pretty damn good sex. Her moans filled the halls and as we walked toward our room, they got louder and louder. Not because she was getting louder, but due to the fact that their room, number 301, was next to ours, 302, and we had to pass by their door. We couldn´t help but pause outside their door and giggle. Immature I know, but believe me, you would have done exactly the same thing. There are sounds you don´t really want to hear, but when you do, you just have to stop and listen. We went to our room where the insulation in our shared wall only managed to slightly muffle her moans. By now we had discerned a clear pattern coming from the woman which was sounding a bit like a sexual Morse Code, 2 medium, one long and five short. It went something like this: Aaaah, aaaah, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah... and then repeat. He was a little less predictable; Oh God... Oh... Oh... Oooooh yeeeaaaaahhhh... and on the chorus went. As if the sound quality wasn´t good enough, Manuel went into the bathroom, grabbed a glass and put it against the wall for an even finer level of detail. After what seemed like an unnatural length of time, we heard one final OOOH MYYYYY GOOOOOOOOOOOD and then it was all over. It made me want to say "Olé!" Manuel confirmed this by stepping away from the wall, setting down the glass and telling me he heard them kiss. Exhausted and relieved, I decided to take a bit of a nap only to be rudely interrupted by Act 2, which was soon followed by Act 3. Manuel and I debated knocking on the door and shaking the guys hand. Viagra or not, we were definately impressed, if not a bit jealous.

On our last night in Granada, it was the festival of the Three Kings. The whole city lines the street for the parade which features bands and floats loaded with people throwing candy in every possible direction while all the people that lined the route worked themselves into a frenzy trying to collect as much as possible. Some people came prepared with boxes, bags, umbrellas held upside down, anything is expand the possible catch territory. Being the uneducated gringo I am, I used only my hands before realising my jacket has a rather good sized pocket in the front center. That quickly became my candy catcher. The parade went on until the last of the Three Kings (the black one) rolled by followed by a Ronald McDonald who was kept company by the dancing fries and soft drink.

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