Simple Pleasures

I was talking to Jordan earlier and we agreed that probably one of the top ten activities for foreigners in Madrid is sweating.

From the moment I descend the stairs to the metro, well through second period, I am coated in a sheath of my own human dew. First it’s intolerably stuffy on the metros, to the point at which I often have little beads of sweat dripping down the side of my face (I know. I know that was appetizing. I AM the human salt lick. You’re welcome.) Then it’s either dank and close or ice cold in the tunnels, then windy as could be when I finally climb out of the metro. But then, if you’re me, you work up a sweat again hustling yourself to whatever your destination is for those ten to fifteen frantic minutes that you’re totally sure you’re going to be late. Yes. Sweating is certainly on Caitlin Schiller’s greatest hits list.

I may kvetch, but despite a now hour-fifteen long commute on moist and musty metros, today was a simple, good day.

Today in school I: 1) helped 3rd graders with English worksheets, 2) read a story called “Say Hello To Animals” to 25 rapt 5-year-olds, 3) showed my teacher blog (with games in the sidebar!) to my second graders. (If you care and want to see it it’s here.) At recess when they all lined up I was bumrushed by all of class 2B screaming my name and hugging me tightly around the middle. It was adorable. I’m won over. I don’t even care if they’re chatty and wipe mucous all over me.

When I got back I made myself what is becoming my cheap and delicious lunchtime special: whole wheat baguette, goat cheese, drizzle of olive oil and fresh spinach leaves. I then commenced to the gigantic balcony and read to my heart’s content, then stopped when my heart was content, which forcibly reminded me of how nice it is for book-reading to be non compulsory for the first time in four years. Mmm.

Also, Greg bought his tickets for winter break! He’s leaving on December 27th and staying through the 2nd. I’ll have my favorite boy around for immediately after Christmas and New Years! Needless to say, I’m elated.

After I fed myself some leftovers of the terrible, saltless dinner I cooked myself last night, Talia and I went on an adventure walk ’round the Palacio Real and Sol. On this adventure walk–pretty standard array of pretty buildings, tourists, and people smoking/pictures to come when I get the camera cord–I noticed three things (only two of which I now remember) that support my theory that Spain is a country preoccupied with appearances. Aside from the fact that most Spanish women (and even a vast majority of the men) walking down the street are dressed like fashion models, aside from the fact that every public building…well…looks good simply because it can, there’s this interesting thing that Spanish public works does to construction sites. Instead of creating an eyesore in the midst of an otherwise picturesque community, scaffolding is erected around the edifice under construction. Screens are then lashed to it, bearing a life-sized image of what the building will look like upon completion. The construction team then works behind that screen, avoiding pedestrians’ gaze and disrupting as little as possible the otherwise aesthetic perfection of the barrio.

The second reminder came when Talia and I stopped at Demontaditos for her to requisition herself some cheap, delicious supper. One of the women at the table beside us was smoking a cigarette and impetuously blasting it upwards into the air from between her perfectly rouged pink lips. As I glanced over, lungs aflame, my eye caught upon a warning on the back of the cigarette carton. “Warning: smoking ages the skin.” This is quite a different message from the US Surgeon general’s warning “Smoking causes lung cancer. Bitch, you gon’ die,” message borne on the sides of cigarette cartons I see at home. Why? I’m not sure.

Maybe appearances are paramount because Spain is a country with a history of concern for its dignity (and appearances, of course, support and promote (or defile) dignity)? Maybe appearances are important because for so long people survived struggling for independent thought and livelihood beneath a dictatorship by simply keeping up the charade that everything was “okay,” on the outside when it was everything but? (Spain is, after all, “la tierra de no hablar” (thanks, Professor Harrington). Could it be left over from Franco? The Potemkin village, “As long as it looks good on the outside, we don’t ask about the inside” mentality? Maybe I’m off my rocker? I’m not sure, but I do know that I should probably go to bed. Spanish level test on the morrow!

¡Hasta ahora, amigos! Voy a la cama por fín.


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