Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It's my last full day in Madrid

FIRST AND FOREMOST: If you'd like to leave me a comment or say hi, I'd highly encourage it. I like writing for an audience and enjoy knowing who my readers are. :)

Leaving this city always makes me sad, tanto por la gente como por la ciudad en sí (1). I have no doubt that I could stay here (working) for quite a long time and be happy. I have a certain level of comfort here that I don't have in any other "foreign" location, and perhaps that is why I love to return so much. It's fun for me to feel like I fit somewhere where I don't actually belong.

(There are numbered footnotes at the bottom of the post... because I like footnotes.)

I am not leaving with quite the same level of expertise in spoken Spanish that I was hoping for, and here's why:
  1. The focus of this vacation was much more on it being a vacation, on experience, on travel, and on spending time with good people, no matter what language they were speaking.
  2. I didn't have a job like I did years ago that forced me out of the house and into an all-Spanish, sink-or-swim environment. That's what I would want next time I'm here... something to do daily that requires me to get up and go somewhere, and grab a newspaper en route.
  3. Because I had no job, large chunks of the day were spent either at home, watching dubbed TV, or out, meandering the streets by myself. Neither of those situations is particularly good for practicing speech unless I happened to be very inclined to talk to myself outloud in Spanish for hours on end (and correcting myself) or extremely adept at engaging strangers in conversation. I actually happen to be pretty good at both of those things, but for some reason, it really wasn't a great avenue to take this trip.
  4. I was not here long enough or consistently enough to conseguir a Spanish-speaking novio (2), which I know from primary sources and a tad bit of personal experience is the number one way to buy myself a one-way ticket to Fluentville. So since that was not the reality of things this time, Boston it is then. Any takers? I'll be accepting applications for the position upon my return. Persons with low threshold for human error need not apply.
Why not all hope is lost: Strangely enough, I might wind up getting better at my Spanish while traveling through Germany. Say what?! you ask. Well, as it turns out, the chica I will be visiting is the very same girl that I lived with three summers ago in Madrid. She lived for years in Spain, and has since become fluent. I suspect that she speaks rather accurately (and at the very least, much better than me) since she spent quite a while studying Spanish grammar as part of a degree she earned in Spain. Her default language with me is Spanish because it is easier for her than English. I plan to use that to my advantage.

That said, I would like to liven this post up with a couple of pictures and stories.

Story 1: I went to El Rastro after not having been there for years, and mulled around, looking for this and that and hoping to find a few bargains (which I did). In my meanderings, I came across this man. He was playing the guitar with one hand.

I watched for a while at first and then started to walk away, but then I thought, "Geez, this sort of thing doesn't happen too often. I've gotta talk to the guy." So I waited until he was done with song two, marched myself right over, and introduced myself. "I'm really impressed," I told him in Spanish. "You play well." Then I showed him that I too had only one hand and he nearly jumped back in surprise. "No way!" So we talked awhile, I bought his CD, and before leaving, I shook his left hand with my right, and was back on my merry way with a smile.

Story 2: I was hanging out with some good friends of mine (an American guy and a Spanish gal) who were giving a tour of Madrid to a girl from Finland. This was another day of nearly all English, but fantastic nonetheless, because of the wicked (3) awesome people I was hanging out with. Here are a couple funny signs:

This sign should read: "[Red do-not-enter symbol] Excepto vehiculos autorizados (except authorized vehicles)"
Instead it reads: "[Red do-not-enter symbol] Excepto culos autorizados (except authorized butts/asses)"

I love word-play vandalism.
This Plaza de España sign comes first in Spanish. Then underneath, the Spanish is translated to English. Can you see the difference? No? Look. Look harder. Still no? Keep looking (4).

Story 3: While hanging out with aforementioned group of wicked awesome individuals, we stopped for some food. Below, you can see Los pimientos de Padrón, a famous Spanish dish in which the saying goes unos pican y otros no (some bite and some do not). According to this website that I am linking to here about Los pimientos de Padrón, about ten percent of the peppers "bite" or you could also say "are spicy." This was not my experience. I kept a running tally (see below).

As you can see, early on in the game, I was not encountering any spicy ones. Now, according to the approximate 10 percent, one would expect a spicy one somewhere in the next three. Perhaps my standards for what I considered to picar and what I considered to not picar were too high. Perhaps my tastebuds are made of steel. However it went, though, of the forty-one peppers on my plate (forty-one!!!), my friend Vanessa claims that the one she tried did, in fact, picar. That would be my luck. She seemed like she had to think about it a bit before reporting that it was spicy. Was it, then, actually that spicy, or did the spiciness not hit her until a few seconds later? I will never know.

The interesting thing about these peppers, is that they naturally occur this way. Some are naturally hot when you eat them. Neither the color, the form, nor the size tell you whether it will have bite. Interesting. Veeeeeeery interesting.

Story 4: If you will please note below that I have taken a picture of ice cream and some signs:

This is not just any ice cream, though. Oh no. This is the ONE PLACE IN ALL OF MADRID that I have EVER found that SELLS SOY ICE CREAM!!!!! Sorry to assault you with caps. Soja sin azucar is "soy without sugar." Now, I don't care much for the "no sugar" aspect. Really, me da igual (5). But I looked at the guy with a suspicious smile and asked, "Seriously? Is this ice cream made without milk?" And he answered, "Yes, and all of these as well," with a sweeping motion of his hand, indicating nearly half of the flavor selection. "The cinnamon, too?!!" I asked, barely able to comprehend what I was hearing. "Yep, the cinnamon, too." For a few seconds, I was without words. He asked me if I was okay. "Yes, it's just... it's like a half-miracle. I... I almost can't believe it. I haven't found soy ice cream anywhere else in Madrid. Heck, I can't even find it in ice cream places in the US usually." He looked at me and smiled, "Pues, chica... aprovéchalo (6). What flavors can I get you?"

The best part of this conversation was that I got to use my new favorite language construction: medio + noun/adjective. It makes me feel like I know what I'm talking about. Medio milagro = half-miracle.

"I can't even find ice cream places that sell soy ice cream in Boston!" I exclaimed to my friends when I made it outside. "Well, I guess you'll just have to move to Madrid, then," one told me. I guess that's as good a reason as any.

Ha. Just kidding, Mom. Juuuuuust kidding.

Kristy Spanglish/Other Translation Guide
(1) "as much because of the people as because of the city itself." Is it weird that I can't figure out how to accurately phrase that in English?
(2) conseguir = find, obtain; novio = boyfriend
(3) I've been teaching the entirety of the non-English-speaking world about the word wicked and our love affair with it in Boston/New England.
(4) There is no difference.
(5) I couldn't care less.
(6) Well, girl... take advantage of this.


  1. Yeeees! I'm famous!! wicked nice writing... ;)

  2. This was my favorite blog/post/whatever you kids are calling it. You're too funny. I like how you made us scroll down a couple of times just to read things like "There is no difference" Oh, and what flavor soy ice cream did you end up with (and did it also have no sugar...can't say I would be too psyched, but good for you, hehe)? See you in a week (but sorry, not interested in the novio position at this time)!