If we’ve met in real life it’s more than likely that I’ve told you of the time I felt the most Spanish. For the sake of brevity (and knowing that damn few who haven’t already med me in real life read this palimpsestic drivel) I’ll just tell you that it involved 2007, afternoon tea, a walk to an across-town art exhibit, a trip to the gym and the same baguette under my arm the whole time. Except, that is, when I was working out–then the bread hung out in a very clean locker. I mean, I mean, anything else’d be just a little too unhygienic–even for a Mediterranean culture. (Jejeje)
Flash forward to today, August 26th, 2009, or what will otherwise go down in history as the day I felt the very least Spanish of my entire life. Why? Four letters encapsulate it. Four letters that spell IKEA.
In the past five days I’ve made three pilgrimages to Ikea Este (an hour away by metro, which I’ve taken all three times): once to buy furniture for my almost-piso, once to return all of said items in a panic when my almost-piso fell through, and then once today, in stubborn defiance of paying an Ikea home-delivery fee and armed with backpack and a fine, fine battery of reusable Yuppie plastic totebags. After roughly 30 minutes in the store (I already knew that joint like the back of my own hand having woven through its labyrinthine shopper-trap twice before) and a good 50 in line (gotta love the crisis and lack of employees), I exited Ikea bearing a) a North Face backpack full to bursting, b) a heavily laden Ikea tarp-tote that appears as though it missed its calling as a wee rugged tent for outdoorsy schnauzers, and c) a gigantic squashable plastic reusable totebag I took from the US, also bursting with goods. Did I mention I was also wearing a mini skirt with a tendency to hike up and that this is always, ALWAYS a bad idea? No? Well I was. Such a thing is unadvisable at home and everywhere else, really, when trucking large, heavy bags over each shoulder and a backpack.
So there I was, hiking through the suburban Spanish mall La Gavia and then outside into the 98 degree sunshine, weighed down by about 30 lbs of relatively disposable, mass produced homeware. As I huffed, counting every step it took to get closer to the metro that’s about 10 minutes by unladen foot away, indelicate rivers of sweat sluiced down the sides of my face. I only belatedly picked up on the appalled stares I incurred from Spanish passers-by who were bound for the mall. At first I was perplexed, then I chalked it up to the sweat. And then it struck me: a Spaniard would NEVER have undertaken so idiotically herculean a feat as I had. A Spaniard would have begged, borrowed or stolen a friend’s car, would have ponied up the pavos for delivery service, or at the very least, would have had the decency to roll.
The Spanish are all about ease, comfort, tranquility and, above all, minimal physical exertion. I’m not sure what happened to the industrious conquistador strain that once pulsed through Iberian veins, but I’m reasonably certain that it’s been all but diluted to extinction by equal parts time and delicious light beer. As such, everyone from grandmothers to small children totes their belongings across town, in the metro, (down stairs SANS lifting, producing a horribly punctuated “slap/crack” sound with every passing step), and up in what are essentially rolling suitcases. To roll or to lift? Ask a Spaniard and he would disgustedly proffer you–free of charge and for your own silly good–a wheeled bag purchased from a local Chino for approximately 7 euros, disappointed you even posed such a ludicrous question. I swear it’s a cultural thing: Spaniards to not lift cumbersome shit. They just don’t. Which is why I, large, Teutonic-looking, and laden like a fabulously bipedal packhorse with all manner of storage goodies provided quite the afternoon spectacle. With mounting horror, I imagined what they were thinking, each cutting stare elaborating a new reproof. “We thought you were one of us. You wear stylish scarves! Your accent even fooled us. We believed you. We believed in you, Caitlin, despite your odd name! But oh, were we wrong!” Not even the time that I couldn’t figure out how to unlock the strange Spanish door to my new apartment (whoops! that was this morning) have I felt so foreign and strange. And sweaty.
BUT! I’m here now, seated in the living room of my swankytown new pad, about which I’ll write more tomorrow. It’s late here–twenty of one, to be exact, so I’m about to retire to my creakily swaying loft bed and turn in for a night of well-deserved shut eye in a place I know I won’t have to vacate imminently. I’m here, I’m happy, and despite being an awkward foreigner today, all is so very well. In fact, I think it was a good thing. Thank you, universe, for giving me Spain but keeping me American enough to be able to look at it from the outside and still marvel.