Días de festivo here in Spain mean two things: one, that there is some sort of religious celebration or holiday going down, which means no work or school, excessive merry-making and usually some sort of pastry treat tailored to the particular holiday. The second thing that a festival day means is that everything–and I do mean EVERYTHING–will be closed, and sometimes for more than one day. For those of you not in the know, el día de los reyes magos (also known as Three Kings’ Day) falls on the morrow and everybody, in preparation for shit to be closed down, is at the grocery store buying holiday foods such as the resplendent roscón de reyes seen below:
Because everyone needs a Three Kings’ Bread (and other comestibles with which to sustain their family for two days), Carrefour was as packed with an assortment of grumpy and loudly complaining souls as I’d imagine the first layer of the underworld would be. I could have been one of them, but instead had a really interesting, enjoyable conversation with a 60-something Spanish woman who decided I looked friendly. Decked in an orange scarf, mid-length black coat and bright blue earrings that matched the bright blue eyeliner hovering in surprise about an inch above her actual eyelids, she looked a bit like a toucan transported to the Arctic Circle.
“This bread used to be 40 cents, you know” she told me, proffering her bag of melba toast in my direction, “they’ve raised the price to 60 cents!”
“That’s a shame,” I answered. “Everything’s getting more expensive, eh?”
“Oh yes,” she told me. “Much more expensive. I don’t know how we’re going to live soon.”
“I believe it,” I told her, “It’s like that in the United States–where I’m from–as well.”
Her eyes widened–the levitating blue eyeliner pulling back to reveal an even more shocked looking countenance–and she smiled with dawning glee. “You’re American?” she asked. I nodded. “Well you’re very pretty,” she said, looking my sweatpanted, unmakeupped self up and down as if she were impressed that Americans could, in fact, BE pretty, “and your Spanish is very good! What are you doing here?”
I told her I teach English at a bilingual school in Madrid, to which she clapped her hands and said, “delightful!” She then asked me how I feel about the primaries and who I wanted to win. I told her “Obama,” without hesitation, and she grinned.
“Oh, so do I! I read the newspaper this morning and it had an article on Barack. What an interesting background!” She proceeded, then, to tell me the story of Obama’s lineage and then to expostulate upon how she believed Obama would be the best thing for the United States. She then summarized Obama’s political platform and expressed her general approval. Overall, she was very, very knowledgeable and very, very friendly.
“You must vote, you know” she said to me gravely as I placed my items on the belt, “it’s important.”
“I know,” I told her, smiling, “I will. Don’t worry,” to which she only stared at me and grinned, nodding in approval as I handed the cashier my eleven euros.
“I’m from Madrid,” she said by way of leave-taking, “But I feel more like a world citizen. It’s important to keep an open mind to all of the people you meet. You might learn something new! It’s been very nice to talk to you. Good luck with everything!”
We parted ways wishing happy Three Kings’ Day to one another and I smiled my way back to Chueca. Usually, discussing the United States with an older Spaniard means nothing but a headache and a constant defense of a country to which you may have pledged plenty of allegiance but hadn’t realize you loved. Because I had to defend nothing–just listen to contented approval–my interaction with this woman was a really welcome change. I hope I run into her at Carrefour again someday. I’ll be looking for the zany bright blue eyeliner.
In other news, there is… well… no other news. I’ve been painfully boring. There’s been some gymming and grocery shopping. Internet movies and phone calls via Skype have rounded out my days. I’ve been walking around Madrid missing Greg, but I suppose that’s to be expected. Day-to-day existence just isn’t the same (and, dare I say, isn’t quite as enjoyable?) without him holding my hand.