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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lost, Found; Insider, Outsider

After two weeks I feel like I can get around fairly well. I fought my way up to the counter of a butcher stall yesterday at the crowded central market. Saturday is probably the busiest day because almost everything is closed on Sunday. I bought some magro which is very lean pork loin. I had the woman slice into thin cutlets. I also bought a couple of dried chorizo links just to try them out. I made a pork loin sandwich for lunch when I got home but I haven’t decided what to do with the rest. It just looked too good not to buy it. I think that is the point of daily shopping: you can buy whatever it is that looks the best that day. I also bought a couple of beautiful red peppers.

Like almost everyone else walking through the downtown carrying shopping bags from the market, I stop at a café to have a beer before I get on the bus back home. I’m nothing if not a follower.

I’m still pretty lost in the dog-eat-dog world of the crowded central market; it will take a lot of shopping trips before I will feel like anything other than a dumb tourist. For anyone who enjoys cooking, the Mercado Central in Valencia is about as good as it gets. All you have to do is take it home and do something with it. I don’t know which part I like better: the shopping or the cooking. The eating and drinking part rates way up there as well.

I have at least three maps of Valencia. I carry a small compass on my keychain. I have been walking tirelessly (and sometimes not so tirelessly) all over town these past two weeks, and there are things that I only seem to find by accident. When you are in the old part of town walking around in circles, and feeling embarrassed about it, you quickly notice that a lot of other people are also walking in the same circles. Little by little I am beginning to actually find my way around this labyrinthine historic section. I still carry a map but I only consult it clandestinely. I know it sounds ridiculous but I think consulting a map in public is totally dorky. I think it has something to do with everyone’s desire to be an insider, not an outsider; a local, not a tourist; found, not lost.

I am still lost when it comes to how the whole European football league is structured. To the outsider, it is more of a maze than Valencia’s old city. With one win over Athens’ Olympiakos squad, Valencia CF went from desperation to first place in their division. It is still very early in the season so I am not panicking just yet. I have actually been paying closer attention to the news and arts section of the newspapers instead of the sports.

It is in learning Spanish that I am the most impatient to find my way. If I am at home, I have the television turned on. I’ve noticed that I am beginning to pick up more and more. Not just when I am paying close attention to a television program I am watching or a conversation I have with another person. I understand more of the background noise of the Spanish being spoken around me. Without really meaning to eavesdrop I heard some people bitching about how crowded the buses have been compared to years past.

The thing about learning a new language is that there is no finish line. It never ends. You can always learn more. No matter how many new words I write down in my little notebook, no matter how many TV shows I force myself to watch, I’ll always be an outsider when it comes to Spanish. And then there is Catalan or Valenciano—I can’t even tell the difference between the two languages at this point.

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