I’m still in the process of recovering from a nasty cold/stomach bug that I’ve had since the night after I sent in my last column for publication. Combined with the return of heavy rains that haven’t relented in five days, finding adventure has been difficult. Forgive me while I use this space to go off on several tangents as I try to work out the differences in Spanish and North American culture.
Everything here happens late. I’ve met very few Spaniards who possess a sense of urgency about life. You’d imagine it would be relaxing, not needing to worry about time or missing appointments. Coming from Maine, where things generally run on schedule, I’ve ended up exasperated and lost on more than one occasion. My classes are scheduled to start at the top of every hour, but showing up earlier than five minutes past has resulted in soul-withering glares from professors teaching the class preceding mine, which without exception runs several minutes late. It’s rare that my professors walk into class earlier than 10 minutes past.
This flexible relationship with time flows into all aspects of everyday life. Meals are postponed by two hours or more, dinner is rarely eaten before 9 p.m. and no one goes to bed before midnight, any night of the week. I feel like a senior citizen just writing this. I don’t know how anything gets done here, considering that the work day seems to go from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the entire city, except the bars, shuts down on Sundays. I can’t buy groceries, but I can get a beer at 11 in the morning.
All the time spent away from work allows for plenty of political involvement. Every Sunday there has been a different political protest in the streets. I live a block from the town square which allows me a front row seat for these demonstrations. Last week the issue at hand was that nurses were not receiving equal pay; the week before, that retirement pensions were not high enough. These protests, or marches maybe, because they’re always peaceful from what I’ve seen, are so common that they never make it beyond local news. The streets will be full of demonstrators, well beyond a couple thousand people, and finding any information on what people are upset about is impossible without directly asking a participant. Even then, there are a fair amount who aren’t entirely sure, just happy to be out marching on a rare sunny day.
I’ve been here for long enough now that it’s started to feel less like a grand adventure and more like any other semester of college. I know that sounds ungrateful, considering that traveling through Spain is an opportunity that very few people have. I hope that that feeling is coming from me being stuck in my coughing until my head hurts. I need these rains to let up, or to figure out how to be my own tour guide.