The end of another week has come and gone and I can't believe how fast the time is flying. On Wednesday I will have been here for a month already, with only one month left to go. This weekend was...interesting. Not as crazy as last weekend going out in Madrid, but maybe it's a different kind of crazy? I will let you be the judge.
Friday night, another language assistant who lives in Madrid sent me an e-mail and invited me to meet up with her and another girl at 7 in the Plaza Mayor, which is basically just a big square that seems to attract a lot of tourists. We were supposed to meet at the statue right in the center. Well, we had some communication issues because I had thought I wouldn't get there until 8 and said I would call them when I got there. But, of course I got there just after 7 and, hoping that they just hadn't gotten there yet, I decided to sit on a bench, people watch until they came, and if I didn't find them, go home. It was prime people watching hour since there were a ton of tourists groups, several of them American high school students. I got a kick out of watching them wander around and at one point a few boys sat near me and since I have a bad habit of eavesdropping, caught some of their conversation. "What do you want to do?" "I dunno...I'm confused" "I think there's like some big market thing over there *pointing in the wrong direction*" "I thought it was over there *pointing in another wrong direction*" "Man...I don't know....I'm so confused." I smiled at myself for not feeling like such a tourist anymore.
I had been sitting for about 3 minutes when in my right peripheral vision I saw an old Spanish man approaching the area holding a newspaper. I would guess he was probably in his late 60's. He stopped, looked towards my direction, then made a bee-line for the bench and sat RIGHT next to me. Unnecessarily close since there was an entire circle of hot cement bench he could have sat on. Oh, yeah that's the other thing. This "bench" is basically just a circle of stone around a light pole made to sit on, however it was so hot. I thought my ass was going to start on fire. Anyway, I continued to scan the square watching for Amanda and this other girl, hoping my obvious attempts to be looking for someone else would discourage this old man from trying to talk to me, but could feel him staring at me. He started talking to me anyway. He had one of those "I've been smoking for most of my adult life" voices. I was immediately reminded of those terrifying movies they showed us in D.A.R.E. of people who have to breathe through a hole in their neck. I felt a little bad ignoring him, so I said hello but tried to use body language to get my point across that I wasn't about to have a conversation. He kept talking to me, but I basically just answered whenever there was a pause with "si si" and didn't really engage or listen. Then at one point he said something and then was looking at me as if waiting for a response, so I said 'I'm sorry what?' to which he replied 'Do you want to go? With me for a tea, coffee, just a little place over there.' I had to think twice if he was really, actually asking me to go with him to get a tea, coffee and quickly rejected this odd offer with 'No no thank you I am waiting for some people.' Then he kept telling me something about he was going to leave and go for a walk. I just kept nodding, thinking to myself 'Good for you...I am not going with you, Grandpa Weirdo'. But he just kept staaring at me. That's when I realized it was because he was trying to see my eyes because I was wearing sunglasses. Finally he asked if he could see them so I pushed them up for a quick second. After saying something about blue, skies, angels and some other weird stuff, he said he was leaving. After awkwardly lingering, still staring, he finally got up and left. At that point, I thought I should probably just go before things got weirder. But, I still was hoping to find the girls so I told myself I'd wait a little longer and leave at 10 to 8. All this time in the square there are character people, like the people on Hollywood Blvd dressed like celebrities, taking pictures with tourists. Near me was a Jack Sparrow impersonator who was going around bothering the little high school girls, taking pictures for and with people. Not 5 minutes after Grandpa Weirdo left, he came and asked if he could sit down in the open spot next to me. I nodded yes, and tried the scanning tactic that didn't work with Gramps in hopes that maybe this guy wouldn't talk to me. Do I have to say that it failed? However, he was less creepy (not hard to be) and seemed to just want to chat while he took a little break from prancing around in the sun. We had a nice casual chat, but he too kept staring at me. Then, just like the old guy, asked what my eyes looked like since I was still wearing my sunglasses. So I took them off but immediately felt weird. There's something about wearing sunglasses that makes you feel like people can't actually see you. Is there some book that teaches Spanish-speaking men phrases to say to women with blue eyes? Because he basically said the same things about blue as the sky, angels, heaven blah blah just like Grandpa Tea, Coffee. But, then he got up and went back to his Jack Sparrow antics and we said farewell. After a few minutes I decided enough was enough and I should get out of there while I could. As I was leaving, Jack Sparrow yelled after me and came and said "You're leaving? If you wait a little while we can go get a cup" I definitely did not want to be in that Plaza anymore so I said "Oh that would be nice but I should really get going. I live kind of far away," so then he said "Well let's get lunch tomorrow! Why not?" I paused. Did one of those quick evaluations of the situation and my curiosity of this person who makes a living as a Jack Sparrow character got the best of me, so I said "Yeah..why not?" and agreed. I promise he was not nearly as creepy as the old man. Once I got home, I began to think "What the hell? Why did I agree to that?" But I couldn't bring myself to ditch out the next day and afterall, I wanted to meet some interesting people while I was here. Just in case, I planned out some retorts in the event that things took a turn for the worst: "Excuse me Mr. Sparrow, but do I look like a bottle of rum to you?!?" "*Face slap* You scallywag! I'm no bar maid!"
So I went back yesterday at 1 and there I found the Jack Sparrow man, not dressed as Jack Sparrow. We went to a little restaurant he knew and had a nice lunch. He's actually a pretty interesting person. I learned his story, that he's actually from Colombia and came to Madrid 6 years ago, a few months after his girlfriend/wife came, only to find that she had gotten with another man. They have 2 daughters in Colombia and now the woman has 2 children with this new man. A few days before had been his daughter's birthday, he said, and it was painfully obvious how hard it was for him that in order to try to make a better life for them he had to be so far away. We talked a lot about what the U.S. is like, Colombia, a little politics (Che, because I said if he ever gets bored of Jack Sparrow he could probably pull off a Che Guevara), how he ended up as Jack Sparrow, music, among other things. He was very nice, a little too liberal with the compliments but I decided to chalk it up to him being Latino. When we parted, he gave me his phone number, but I still haven't decided if I will contact him again.
Then last night the neighbors, Ibana and German, had a party. Another language assistant, Kyle, just got to the area last week so they wanted to introduce him to me and Daniel, their tutor. Kyle is from Minnesota and has been out of school 3 years teaching 3rd grade in South Dakota. Poor fellow doesn't speak a lick of Spanish so he was glad for the English break with Daniel and I. He was very nice -unfortunately, though, a Vikings fan. At about 12, where most parents would be calling it a night, Ibana put on some music and everyone started yelling at the "Americanos" to get up and dance. They started putting people into a line-dancing sort of formation, the men in a line on one side and the women on the other, paired up with a partner. I was partnered up with Kyle who had less of an idea than I did as to what was happening. Next thing we knew, everyone was doing some sort of Flamenco dance and randomly yelling "Ole". But for the most part, it looked like no one really knew what they were doing, or there had been a few too many vinos consumed by the masses. So we created our own dance, a mix of "Flamenco", the Macarena, and Cotton-Eyed Joe. After a while, the line-dance broke up, the Dads went to the table of liquor and the Moms continued to dance in a circle to some Spanish 80's pop, music from "their time" they kept saying. By 1:30 a lot of the kids were begging their moms to go home. Most people didn't leave until about 2:30, including me, at which time most of the kids were still up running around.
I'm off to the pool now. It's a heat wave here, although I didn't know it could get hotter!
Hasta la proxima!