So there I was, staying with my new acquaintances in Orense, the capital of Galicia. It was Country Boy #1, The Roommate, and me, in a small 2 bedroom apartment that felt awfully familiar.
It seems guys in Spain, aside from the siesta, have a lot in common with guys in the United States:
How to Be a Spanish Bachelor:
Live in a cramped, lightly cluttered apartment with your best friend from high school. Have posters of your band and your favorite liquor – in this case, Jack Daniels – hung on the wall with Scotch tape. Sleep in a darkened bedroom with clothes on the couch, the closet doors open, a still-unpacked suitcase on the ground and piles of papers stacked precariously on the desk.
Get up at 7 am, hit snooze 5 times, shower quickly, put on a sharp suit and rimmed glasses, morphing into an illusion of the person who actually lives in this apartment. Eat a yogurt standing over the sink, hustle off to a café and down a shot of Espresso in .04 seconds, then disappear into bankerdom or lawyerdom or whatever crazy dichotomy appears to be taking place.
The afternoon is where the comparison differs, but I’m willing to bet any unmarried – and probably married – American guy in his 30s would salivate at the thought of the siesta. This takes place at approximately 3:00 pm, whereupon the banker or lawyer orouthu candlestick maker comes home, puts on a ratty t-shirt, oversized board shorts and slippers, turns on the TV and plops down on the couch. He flips through channels, switching between variety-type talk shows with unbearably cute, youthful bantering hosts and the highlights of some motorcycle race or soccer game. At some point, one of the roommates will grunt out some kind of “OK, time to eat” comment and heat up some incredibly delicious food his mom made in the microwave, then eat it on the couch in front of the television.
Next: nap. Then, wiping crust from the eyes, re-morph into the banker / lawyer / candlestick maker at about 5:30 pm, return at 8, and once again put on standard dude uniform of flip-flops and comfy T, hunker down on the couch and put on some TV shows that seem remarkably similar to the ones we watched at lunch. Most likely there’ll be some news thrown in, or, if you’re lucky, a dubbed version of Snakes on a Plane instead.
The TV news in Spain, just like in the US, seems to simply repeat the same fear-mongering stories over and over and over, only the Spaniards actually show the dead bodies. Over and over and over. Luckily, or perhaps unluckily, I was staying during the Festival de San Fermin — aka the “Running of the Bulls” – and so the news was more focused on showing repeated slow-motion video of people getting gored in the tuchas and other uncomfortable places than actual gunshot wounds and vehicular homicides. The newscasters even kindly drew circles on the screen so we’d be sure not to miss exactly where the goring took place. It was actually kind of amusing in that horror-filled “OK, here’s a cultural custom I really can’t understand” kind of way.
At 10:00 pm, it’s again time to eat—and again in front of the television — but for the evening it’s a salad of standard Spanish iceburgy-type lettuce, onion and tuna, all drenched in a particularly delicious home-made red-wine vinegar, eaten out of a communal bowl. This is thankfully accompanied by a large variety of processed pork products: rich salami (”salchichon”), chorizo, mortadella, pepperoni, and, of course, Jamón Serrano, the delicious cured ham that’s sliced straight off the bone. Eat with bread and beer. Wash, rinse, repeat. For 3 ½ days. (Or ad infinitum, if you happen to be a Spanish bachelor…)
Really, the only true difference I can see between Spanish bachelors and their American counterparts is the huge pig leg – complete with hoof – that sits underneath a dishtowel in every kitchen and provides the household with jamón Serrano from Christmas straight through the summer. Well, that and tinto de verano, i.e. red wine mixed with ice cubes and Sprite. (My Italian-American family has been known to make similar concoctions using Coca-Cola, so that wasn’t quite as weird to me as the giant preserved hog thigh just hanging out in the kitchen for your snacking pleasure.)
So. Normally, for me all of this sitting around and watching TV would’ve been intolerable after the first half-day, but my new friend was hopelessly cute and I was both a bit smitten and quite pleased to have non-Pellegrino company. And so, somehow, like traveling girls all around the world, I managed to trick myself into believing I was learning lots of Spanish, relaxing, soaking up European culture and forging a “real connection”with an exotic camposinowith whom I could barely communicate.
It’s still unclear if I was in the middle of a “Summer Lovin” story, á la Grease, where someday the wide-eyed tourist would return to rekindle the fiery, unspoken passion forged while watching motorcross on the téle, or if it was just an example of another gross cultural misunderstanding where the Spanish don’t say what they’re really thinking (“Get the fuck off my couch!”) and instead smile voraciously and act as if you’ve lived there forever, and, once you’ve left, shake their head in bewilderment and ask the roommate what the hell that was all about.
But enough about my doomed (if somewhat ridiculous) fantasy love-life, and back to reality. Next up? Back to your regularly-scheduled, and more frequent, transportation dramas…