Thursday, 22 August 2013

La casa de paja y livin' la viva loca

We left Sri Lanka over two weeks ago and have subsequently been livin' la viva loca in Spain. We arrived exhausted after 48 hours in transit- some very bad planning on our part- but spent our first 2 days in the country in style, staying with the rich family Iz was nannying for in a very fancy suburb of the northern city of Bilbao. We ate some churros (deep fried stcks of dough with sugar...the healthiest of snacks) with beer in the park, went for a spin in the family boat and ate paella and pastries.
Then it was time to leave and head for the country, where we would spend our next two weeks helping 2 hippies build a house out of straw.

The day we arrived happened to be the day of the town fiesta, which meant everybody in town had the day off and went to the park for a long lunch of shrimp, paella and wine. And bread, of course (I defy anybody to come to Spain and not put on weight from the sheer amount of bread that is eaten, at every meal). It was a little overwhelming as we didn't speak Spanish and not a lot of English was spoken at the rowdy luncheon table- and we had just met at least 15 people who's names we had to remember. But it was a very Spanish introduction to the least until a horrible DJ came on and started playing Gangnam Style.

After this first day of eating, playing squash and more eating, we got down to the real business of building a "casa de paja"...(house of straw). We, with the other volunteers comprising a few local Spaniards, an American who lived in Spain (and was fluent in Spanish so became our translator for the time he was there), a very Parisian Frenchman and an Italian vegetarian, were helping two lovely people finish their house built of straw, mud and a concrete mix which we are on intimate terms with now after spending two weeks smearing it on the walls trying to make them flat. And that was basically our whole job. So if you ever neeed anything smoothed into flatness, you know who to call. We are experts. It was very interesting though and gave Will another opportunity to refine his surfing skills- the guy we were working for was a very keen surfer and took every opportunity to head to the beach. I think he also ran a surf shop- it was a little hard to have complex conversations, everyone except us being fluent in Spanish and varying degrees of competent in English. Even though the waters of the Basque Country were freezing- I know, I swam in them without a wetsuit- the boys went out whenever they had a chance.

It was a lovely part of Spain to begin our journey in. A lot cooler than the rest of the country- I now know, as I am writing this from the stewpot that is Madrid at this time of year-, beautifully green and hilly, with a lot of lovely walks for us to do. And lots of blackberries to pick and munch on- they don't get sprayed here, much to our delight.

We left Basque Country- I think it is actually as separate as you can get from the rest of Spain without leaving the country; they have their own police force and all- two days ago and headed south to Madrid. It was a little sad saying goodbye to the lovely people we had spent 2 weeks getting to know and the house we were on such intimate terms with- the outside walls at least- and the wonderful coolth of northern Spain but we only have 3 months; the journey must go on.

So, as I said, we are now in Madrid. With my sister, on the last leg of her journey before she returns to Australia and her creature comforts and on nearly the last leg of what we have planned so far. As in, we have no idea what we are going to do when we have to leave Spain. It's very different from the down to earth vibe of where we were staying before. Everybody speaks English- in Artzentales (where we wwoofed) everyone spoke Spanish and some people even conversed in Basque, which is a whole other language we have no hope of comprehending-, everybody is well dressed and the city is host to a whole troupe of tourists. In comparison to the village we were just staying in where I think we were the only native English speakers. It did great things for our Spanish though.

Yesterday Will and I left Iz to her shopping and went to look at some really old paintings at the Museo Del Prado, which is, apparently, a must for all culture vultures in Madrid. Madrid is full of culture...chockers. We saw a lot of paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries, when people loved to paint pictures of Jesus it seems. Also there were a lot of paintings inspired by the mythological writings of the Roman poet Ovid, which we preferred.

Today we all went to the Caixa Forum, the centre of cinema and moving image in Madrid, and had a look at an exhibition celebrating the inspiration and genius of Georges Melies, an early master of the fantasy genre and cinematic tricks. We learnt about his inpsiration- some of which was phantasmorphia (I think), the precursor to the modern horror film and all about spooky drawings and scary noises. It was very cool, all the early "special effects" and tricks that were used to confound and amaze audiences. Actually far more amazing than the special effects we have today becauuse back then- in the late 19th century- it was all done by slight of hand and physical tricks. None of this computer business of today. Our introduction to Georges Melies was the film Hugo, so watch that for more in depth information of this cinematographer who started his creative life as a magician and later used these skills to amaze audiences with his films.

So we are being so totally cultured and educated. Totes. We still haven't managed to crack the 'legendary' night life of Madrid though- we all get a bit tired by 1am which is when everybody is just starting to head out. But it is our last night here tonight so we are going to give it our best shot. Wish us luck...

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