Finishing up the story of last weekend: Once I took the train to Venice, I took one of the canal boats to this island called Lido. That's where the beach tournament took place. As the Spaniards I hang out with already had all of the slots filled for their team, I was on the pick up team, which consisted of a couple of American (USA) girls, some dudes from France, a guy from Belgium, at least a couple of Italians, and probably someone else that I am forgetting. This was my team.
How we were able to communicate at all was semi-miraculous. It was largely thanks to the great lengths that Europeans go to to learn English. It makes me feel very fortunate, mostly. At first, we had to get used to each other. Then, little by little, we started feeling and playing like an actual team. The rest of the teams we played against had two main advantages: (1) the advantage of having played together for awhile for months or years and (2) the advantage of all speaking a common language. Cheers and instructions from our sideline came in many colors and languages. At the end of one of our games, our elected "speech giver" was asked to give the end-of-game speech in French. I understood about ten percent of it. Or less.
This is what Lido looked like (partly), with cute, windy roads:
Most of us rented bikes and rode around the island like that, ringing little bells. Of course, they were old 1950's-style bikes with giant baskets in the front and reaaaaaaally bad brakes. The good news about the bad brakes is that the bike rental did not come with the option of a helmet rental. Everytime a car passed me in transit, I held on tight to the handlebars and sucked my breath in a little bit. Here is me on a bike.
Below, you can see the gorgeous beach we played on. The sand was amazingly soft. Stepping in the sand was like walking through granulated silk. Scorching hot granulated silk.
Did I mention how suffocatingly hot it was in Venice last weekend? I don't believe I did. I just asked one of the guys I'm staying with how many degrees it was when we were there, and I really loved his answer: Ehhhhh... trienta y bastante. Which translates roughly to "thirty degrees and some unnecessarily high number in the ones place" or "dude, it was hotter than it needed to be." For the "metric impaired" (and I know I certainly am), thirty-five degrees Celcius is about ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit. Now, ninety-five degrees in Madrid is pretty tolerable, what with the air being very dry and all, but keep in mind that Venice is on the water. So the humidity "adds ten degrees" as my friend over here commented, but as he was talking in metric degrees, perhaps we can assume that it felt like it was one-hundred ten degrees. It did, I assure you. It was one of those lovely climates in which the only relief is a shower, a swim in the ocean, or a leisurely dip in a plastic kiddie pool with seven members of Madrid's ultimate team (true story). And once out of the shower/ocean/kiddie pool, there is never the luxury of drying off. Even if the water eventually evaporates, it is replaced by sweat.
So I spoke English most of the weekend, unfortunately... but I had some opportunities to utilize the Spanish at Saturday night's tournament dinner and after-party. I'd tell you what kind of nonsense my crazy Spaniard friends provoked at aforementioned party, but I'll leave you wondering. Because it's more fun that way. I will say, however, that the limbo was involved.
When all was said and done, I left Lido and returned to the Venice "mainland" I guess you could call it. I spent a full twenty-four hours with my new friend from Colombia, during which, I was babbling on and on in Spanish, and wishing it had been like that all vacation. We stayed in the house of a really sweet Spanish couple (also in their twenties) who were living for a year in Venice. This is a picture of the downstairs of their house.
There, we hung up all of our wet things to dry for the night, all sat down at the red and white checkered table cloth, and ate dinner. This was one of the precious times this trip when I have been "in the groove." I was following normal-speed, slang-filled, conversation with four native Spanish speakers. Not only was I understanding everything, but I was participating like a normal human being, and even joking around. And they were laughing! Not at me either, but with me. I love those moments. I wish I could bottle them and let them out the next time I trip all over a verb conjugation and feel bad about myself.
Okay, I think that's all. Tomorrow, I'll have to write about today.