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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Happy Holiday

Happy Holiday?

I remember going out to eat at a Chinese restaurant in Seattle’s International District a couple of years ago on Christmas day. All of the restaurant employees and most of the Chinese customers were carrying on as if this were just any other day of the year; and to them, people of a non-Christian heritage, it is just like any other day. We joked that no one had sent these people the memo that today was Christmas. Now I know exactly how they must feel.

Today is some damn Spanish holiday or other. I guess that I could find out but for today it is more fun to be completely ignorant. It is really quiet today, quieter than any day since I’ve been here. Just about everything is closed, the buses are running sporadically, and there are very few people out on the street. I could use a day off myself after moving.

Like the Chinese immigrants open on Christmas day in Seattle, about the only people not observing this holiday here in Spain are the immigrants. I bought a few things at an Indian market and next door I used the internet café, also run by Indians. The immigrants from the Indian subcontinent seem to run a lot of small grocery stores and kebab restaurants.

I was going to wait until tomorrow when things open up to do some shopping for things I need for the apartment until I came across a variety store run by some Chinese folks. They seem to have a monopoly on these stores. The place has just about every item that you need for the home all crammed into a space the size of about two dorm rooms. I bought some adapters for the plugs to my American electrical devices, some bathroom supplies, coat hangers (perchas is what they call them here), and a much bigger coffee maker than what is in the house.

This evening Real Madrid was playing Dynamo Kiev. I decided to check out a place I had walked by a few weeks ago when my brother was here called New York. I saw a couple days ago that they have a big screen TV and show all of the big football matches. I went there early in the first half and Madrid was already trailing 0-2. There were two female bartenders and about ten customers in the entire place. After being totally ignored for almost 15 minutes one of them finally took my order: a Heineken for 3.50E—the most expensive beer I think I’ve paid for in Spain. I won’t be back.

At the half-time break I walked closer to home and stopped in at La Ibérica, a café a half a block from home. I sat at the bar and ordered a caña. I was wearing an Argentine football jersey under my jacket. A waiter walked by and told me that I wasn’t allowed to wear that jersey in this establishment. I recognized his Argentine accent even before he told me that he was just kidding. He was from Buenos Aires and detested the club I was representing. I buttoned up my jacket to cover up the Club Athletic Boca Juniors jersey I had on just to be on the safe side.

La Ibérica was just beginning to fill up. I knew that Spaniards couldn’t spend the whole day at home. At the 84th minute of the match David Beckham made a brilliant corner kick and Ronaldo scored Madrid’s first goal. I turned to the African dude next to me at the bar and said that it was a little late in the game. He said that football was unpredictable and that it was always up for grabs. Sure enough, two minutes later Ronaldo was fouled and scored a beautiful penalty kick to tie the game.

When I asked the Argentine waiter what his favorite European team was and he said Barcelona, a round of hoots went up from the other people watching the game. When he asked me my favorite I was a lot more diplomatic in adamantly choosing Valencia CF. I may be from out of town but I am not stupid. I forgot to ask my new-found friends what the holiday was today.

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