Tequila!

This was the week of Feria del Virgen del Rosario (the fair of the Virgin of the Rosary), which culminates tomorrow with a procession if the weather cooperates. We’ve had rain and sun, with here and there a downpour, these last few days. Wednesday night (glorious weather), San Geraldo and I walked over to the fair.

OUR FIRST VIEW OF THE FAIR AS WE STROLLED OVER FROM THE BEACH.

Often, when we have friends visiting from the United States, they’re surprised by sales booths they spot at fairs and outside movie theaters. Invariably, someone will look dumb-founded and say, “They’re selling shots of tequila?!?”

TAH-KEY-YA!!!

OK, so the thought crossed my mind the first time I saw a booth, too. But then I realized it’s not spelled the same. It’s “taquilla” (pronounced tah-KEY-ya”) and not “tequila.” It’s a ticket booth. Given my one experience with tequila shots when I was 20 years old (sharing an entire bottle with one other person), I’m even a little afraid to approach the ticket booth.

Wednesday was Children’s Day at the fair. Well, every day is children’s day (and adults’ day) at the fair. But Wednesday, is the most popular day for children to dress in traditional costume.

THIS YEAR’S LIGHTS.
WAITING FOR THE PARTY TO START AT ONE OF THE CASETAS.
BUMPER BOATS! A BOY IN TRADITIONAL COSTUME.
HE LOOKS LIKE A BOWERY BOY TO ME.
SAN GERALDO LOVES SWEET CORN (CORN ON THE COB).
HE COMMENTED THAT HE NEVER SAW ANY AT THE FAIR THIS TIME.
I HADN’T EITHER… UNTIL I LOOKED AT MY PHOTOS THURSDAY MORNING.
ABOUT TO HEAD BACK THROUGH THE GATES.

Tequila!!!

Confusing Camisetas

Camiseta is the Spanish word for T-shirt. Especially popular here are T-shirts displaying the names of American destinations, universities, and teams.

Most of the T-shirts are made in China. Printed in English. For a Spanish audience.

New York City — Manhattan, Brooklyn, [The] Bronx, and Staten Island are commonly featured. But rarely correctly. (The fifth borough, Queens, doesn’t get much play.) 

(Click the images. Some will get bigger. None will make more sense.)

WHOA. THIS MUST HAVE BEEN A REALLY TOUGH GANG…
THEY HAD THEIR OWN 100% COTTON, PRE-SHRUNK T-SHIRTS. (I WONDER WHAT THE CITY CREW DID.)

Just the other day I passed someone wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the name of that great American university, New York City State. Although I myself have never heard of it, I’m sure it must be huge. After all, someone made T-shirts.

THERE’S AN ADDRESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS “1978 BROOKLYN” SHIRT,
I DON’T KNOW WHAT WAS AT 235 MYRTLE AVENUE IN 1978,
BUT IT’S NOT THERE NOW.

One morning, while Judyshannonstreetwhat (click here for that post) was still here, we were having coffee downstairs at Cafe El Noventa when a little boy walked by with his mother. As you may remember, Judy is from Seattle, Washington, and so, apparently, was the little boy’s T-shirt.

JUDY HAD NEVER HEARD OF A ROAD NAMED ROUTE 306,
I QUICKLY GOOGLED IT;  IT’S NOT A ROAD BUT A CITY TRANSIT BUS LINE.
AND IT DEFINITELY WON’T TAKE YOU TO LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA,
WHICH IS 1,828 KM (1,136 MILES) SOUTH.
A VISITOR FROM MOROCCO, WITH HIS PARENTS AND BROTHER.
THEY HAD NO IDEA WHAT “CONEY ISLA ND BEA CH” WAS.
(NOR HAVE I EVER SEEN PALM TREES AND AGAVES GROWING THERE.)

DAVID (Dah-VEED), AT CAFE EL NOVENTA,
WEARING ONE OF HIS FAVORITE OLD T-SHIRTS.
I ASKED DAVID WHAT “WATCHING UPPER” WAS (OTHER THAN AN “HONOUR”).
HIS RESPONSE: “NO TENGO IDEA.” (“I HAVE NO IDEA.”)  HE ASSUMED I WOULD KNOW.

I don’t get it…

Your Spanish Friend

A few weeks ago, I told you about my long weekend in Madrid staying with Guadalupe (click here for the last of several posts on that trip).

Guadalupe and a few of her friends can communicate fairly well in English. Other of her friends are fluent — and probably have a much better academic knowledge of English grammar than I do… than do I… than I… In addition, some are also fluent in French, German, and Italian. One friend is even fluent in Hebrew. All I could remember how to say in Hebrew was, “What’s this?,” “I go to Hebrew school,” and “Koopy is a good monkey.” Phonetically, that’s “Koopy cove tove,” if it ever comes up in conversation.

Putting Koopy aside… The core group of five professional women started a business together called “Your Spanish Friend.” They host people in their homes and offer a few days or more of immersion in Spanish conversation while sharing the city of Madrid from an insider’s view.

This all sounds like an advertisement and I don’t mean it to be that. I just thought I’d let you know about it in case you’re interested. Although Guadalupe and I had recently become friendly, we weren’t close friends and really didn’t know each other very well. I agreed to go up for a visit and was kind of nervous about staying in someone else’s home (not my favorite way to travel) and spending so much time in such close proximity to a fairly new acquaintance. I also love to travel independently, so didn’t know how I felt about being taken around Madrid by someone else.

The entire visit was a revelation. First, the homes are large and elegant. I had my own beautiful room and private bath. I know people with apartments smaller than that. So, staying in Guadalupe’s house was like staying in an elegant B&B — with the added benefit of feeling part of a family (and being able to eat whenever I wanted). We spent the entire weekend speaking only Spanish. At times, my Spanish was comical, but I can’t believe how much I improved, and how relaxed I was the entire time.

YOUR SPANISH FRIEND(s).

You may remember the photo I shared of Guadalupe and her friends. They are all gracious, fascinating, classy, relaxed, warm, kind, funny, knowledgable. I could go on an on. I fell in love. I told San Geraldo even he (yes, even he) would have had a great time.

This is not a shameless plug since it’s not about me. Check them out at www.YourSpanishFriend.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/YourSpanishFriend. (You may recognize some of the photos. I sent all of mine to Guadalupe.)

AND JUST THINK, AFTER YOUR TIME IN MADRID,
YOU CAN VISIT THE COSTA DEL SOL AND WAKE UP TO THIS.
CLICK THE IMAGES TO FILL THE SCREEN WITH SUNRISE (AND FRIENDS).

Koopy
During your next trip to Spain I know you’ll be asked about Koopy the monkey (he comes up all the time, as you can imagine): When asked, all you need to say is:“Koopy es un buen mono,” because Koopy is a good monkey.

Don’t Be A Bummer

In Spanish, there’s a saying, “No seas pestiño” (“Don’t be a bummer” or “Don’t get on my nerves“). But if you make some pestiños, I guarantee you won’t get on mine.

A PERFECT PESTIÑO.

In some parts of Andalucía, pestiños are a traditional Christmas pastry. In other parts of Andalucía (like Sevilla), they’re popular year-round. The basic composition: Dough, deep-fried in olive oil and glazed with honey or sugar. The dough is usually flavored with sesame. Sooooooo good. Teré and Miguel took some days for themselves last week and went up north a bit. They saw a dusting of snow, the second time in Teré’s life. She was so excited. We told her we’d send her to South Dakota for a winter and then see what she thinks. After seeing snow, they went to visit Teré’s mother who is already busy baking for the holidays. She sent home some pestiños for us, which we had with breakfast downstairs before finishing off the rest after lunch at home.

CALLE IMAGEN NEAR LA CAMPANA.
IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS… WITHOUT SNOW.

The Christmas lights have been lit around town. They’re not the same ones that were used last year, which makes it even more fun to explore. Our friends Jim, Cindy, Celie, and Will had to leave Sevilla Sunday, so we were very pleased that the city decided to light the Christmas lights Saturday night, several days earlier than we or many others had expected. I’m sure the early lighting was in honor of Celie and Will, two of the sweetest kids one could ever meet — even if they are sometimes too smart for their own good. I talked about going to the beach when I was a kid and trying to dig to China. They explained to me that that was a scientific impossibility! They told me they had dug deep enough to reach water, but even if one had the capacity to dig further, you’d have to get through the entire crust, the mantle (which would melt your plastic shovel), the outer core, the inner core, and other such scientific mumbo jumbo. And these are the two who couldn’t stop giggling about cutting the cheese!

ENTRY TO CALLE O’DONNELL.
JIM, CELIE, AND WILL AT FAR LEFT, AND CHESTNUTS ROASTING RIGHT FOREGROUND.

CHRISTMAS CHANDELIERS ON CALLE SIERPES.
WOULD IT BE OVER THE TOP TO HANG ONE IN OUR DINING ROOM? JUST ONE?

EL AYUNTAMIENTO (CITY HALL) WITH ITS CUSTOM-MADE ARCHED WINDOW INSERTS.

THE TOP OF AVENIDA DE LA CONSTITUCIÓN LEADING TO THE CATHEDRAL.

Speaking the Language

I’m immersed in Rosetta Stone Spanish for Spain.  I studied Spanish for 7 years starting when I was 12.  You’d think I’d be passably fluent, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve used it beyond a very superficial level.

I was in Spain on business about four years ago.  During that trip I spent an hour in a taxi with a driver who spoke no English.  We spent the hour in conversation… in Spanish.  At the end of the hour, the cab driver told me I did really well.  I said, like a 2-year-old.  He said, no, 5.  Trust me, he was being extremely kind.  After completing Level 1 (of 5) of Rosetta Stone, I feel like I now speak and comprehend Spanish like an at times slow and at times gifted 2-year-old.

I look forward to fluency.  I’m not very patient.  I’m no perfectionist.  I’m quite good at slapping something together and saying, “That’ll do.”  But I don’t like not being able to do something perfectly immediately.  The big difference between me and a perfectionist–in those situations when I can’t immediately do something perfectly–is that I might just throw in the towel.

But I love languages and I do pick them up quickly (I hear them as music in my head).  So, although I’ll get frustrated with my lack of fluency I won’t stop working at it.

Jerry speaks Russian.  We don’t expect that to come in very handy in Spain.  So, he’s counting on me to be translator (everything is relative) when we visit Andalucia in January.  Jerry’s sister and her husband rented an apartment in Nerja on the Costa del Sol last summer.  One day when they were out for their regular morning stroll, they were greeted by the owner of the local grocery.  As they walked by, she waved and said, “Buenos dias!”  Our brother-in-law waved back and said, “Aloha!”  I don’t think he’s going to be of much help.

Once we move in May, we’ll both immediately enroll in language immersion programs.

In the meantime, we are also trying to understand everything (well, a lot) about Spanish history and culture.  Jerry is the academic in this household.  He can get himself lost in any, dry, non-fiction tome.  And he can then quote information and statistics for years after.  I barely got through one academic hard-cover on Spain and I returned two others to Jerry after the first chapter.

I keep hoping to find a historical novel to give me all I need to know in a format like Michener’s “Hawaii.”  Michener did actually produce one book on Spain. Unfortunately, it was a work of NON-fiction.  In the meantime, I’m reading every travel guide and have just found a book “The New Spaniards” that holds my attention.  Surfing the web provides an endless source of info in as small or as large a bite as I’m interested in at any given time.

So, now it’s off to Peet’s for a newspaper and a cup of coffee.