May 25, 2011

Spain Vignettes: Conversación, habitación

May 5, 2011. AVE (Cordoba-Sevilla).

We boarded the train after taking DDLJ style pictures, commemorating the many ‘near misses’ with catching the train throughout the trip. Without a male lead, however. The train stops in Cordoba for just about a minute. Most of the passengers in our compartment were sleeping. It was a few minutes to midnight, after all. Attu wanted the window seat, per usual. Neeto claimed it. I sat across them, next to a girl dressed in black. She had her headphones on, and seemed to be listening to one of the channels provided on the train. A crew member passed by, handing us our headphones. I decided to try using them, for a change. Without unwrapping the wire, I tried pulling on it to let it unwrap itself. It tore into two pieces. Attu burst out laughing, my neighbor tsk-ed, and Attu handed me her headphones. I was more careful this time.

Tomfoolery is always a great ice-breaker, isn’t it? We started chatting. She was traveling from Madrid to Sevilla, to go to the fair. She spoke in very tentative English, but well enough that I could understand what she was trying to say even when she forgot a few words or used the wrong word. She said she never got to practice her English because when she met up with her friends, all from Spain, they would invariably talk only in Spanish. She was going to be an English teacher, “so it’s good that I get to practice with you.” I said I didn’t mind at all.

She asked if we were going to the fair. Of course. She pulled up a pic on her iPhone. Two women dressed in flamenco dresses, with their backs to each other.

“That’s my sister in the red and black-polka dotted flamenco dress, I am going to meet her and her Andalucian boyfriend. His family lives in Sevilla. Do you like my dress better or hers?”

“Wow. Well one of my favorite combinations is red and black, but the plain red with white trimmings looks fabulous” refusing to pick one.

She seemed slightly disappointed that I took the wussy way out by not picking one.
She asked where we were from, while Neeto and Attu kept laughing in a giggle fest that lasted almost the entire, albeit short, journey. Later, I would find out that they were listening to Attu’s iPod, and when it featured Tamil songs, Neeto would mime expressions (not knowing a word of Tamil), or mime dance/Rajni moves. Which was probably a wonderful show, at least from Attu’s mirth.

Because the girl seemed concerned, and I couldn’t get Attu to tell me why they were laughing without her bursting into more peals of laughter, I signed that they were both ‘un poco loco’, that didn’t seem to allay her concern, disconcertingly.

I told her where we were from, where we lived, and she said she probably doesn’t have the courage to travel like we were doing, let alone live elsewhere. I said it really wasn’t a big deal, plus we love to travel.

She asked me the question most locals will ask of their tourists: “Which place did you like the best?”

“I had an unexpectedly great time in Granada, Barcelona was beautiful, but I think if
I were to pick a city to live in, it would be Madrid.”

“You are only saying that” she laughed (I am paraphrasing here), correctly guessing that she would get that reply given that she was from Madrid.

“No, I am a Real Madrid fan, so I will pick Madrid”

She was pleased that I had made the right choice. She obviously loved the city she was born and raised in. She added “Barca, not so good. I don’t like Cristiano, he is too selfish, but I support the team”

I am surprised fans of the club think that of him, and not just his detractors.
She asked if I had been to El Retiro in Madrid. I said we hadn’t had the time. She was nonplussed. “But you have to go there!” It was true then, that all madrilenos spend their weekends at El Retiro.

I asked her about the fair. Feria de Abril, held two weeks after Semana Santa (Holy Week), in Sevilla.

She said the grounds for the fair are huge, and there will be casetas. I had to ask her to spell out ‘caseta’ for me in my journal. A caseta is like a tent within which people have private parties.

“I would invite you to the caseta that I am going to, but I am a guest myself, so I can’t.”
She was sweet to even think it.

She asked if we were going to the fair that night. I asked Neeto and Attu, we figured we could decide once we reached the hostel. She wrote down her name and phone number in my book. Cristina.

“Call me if you are coming tonight, I will introduce you to my sister and her boyfriend too. i won’t be staying long tonight though, I am so very tired.”
I said I would call her if we went to the fair, if not that night, then the next day (to be precise, both were the same day).

The train reached Sevilla, we waved goodbye. We decided against going to the fair that night, we were so very tired too. When we did reach the fair the next day, it was too noisy to try calling. I didn’t get a reply to my text message. We didn’t see Cristina again.

Title: Conversación, habitación is a song by La Fuga.

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