Sunday, 2 September 2012

Big City Life - Madrid

It is difficult to have lived in Mexico, and then come to Spain and NOT make comparisons. There are so many contrasts. It's a bit more difficult to understand people here, they tend to slur words together a bit. And they have different words for things, especially modern things that get named something different when they come into existence.

And it's difficult, too, to compare essentially urban people with the more rural Mexicans that I came to know, even though they lived in a city. It wasn't a very big city, so they retained much of their rural culture. It would be like comparing Longmont, Colorado with London, England. They speak the same language, and eat many of the same foods, but otherwise, are quite different in social outlook and interests.

It's been fun mastering the Metro. Especially when I discovered the metro station for Cartagena street is several blocks closer than the one I'd been walking to. It turns out that once you're "in" the metro, you can go anywhere you want. In other cities, the money on your metro ticket isn't deducted until you leave the station by putting your ticket through the machine. If there's enough money on the ticket, it lets you out, if not, you're stuck until you add money to it. But here, I was able to purchase a 10 ticket pass for 12 Euros. So far I've used 4 of them. And each trip has been down two or even three different lines. It makes getting places fun, fast, and very easy. And knowing "my" lines, I can't really get lost in this city for long. A metro station will be someplace nearby and I can always get home.

Old trick from India
Home is a very nice apartment, a condo really. It's new construction, about six years old. The rooms are all pretty small, but there are built-in drawers in the closets, and lots of storage floor to ceiling, so it feels clean and organized. I rent a room and bath from a woman who advertised on AirBnB. Eva is a very nice person who speaks English quite well. She enjoys watching American TV programs like The Simpsons. She produces the nightly news for a Madrid TV station. She sleeps till about 10am then works till well after 8pm. I get the impression she can be quite the partier, as are many Madrilenos. So many of them stay out all night long that they are called "cats" (gatos). Renting from a local is such a good thing for me. Eva told me how to get around, where to go, what the "hot" spots are, what museums and sights are really worthwhile, which are merely tourist traps. It's also good to know that someone would know, and possibly care, if I didn't show up some evening.

Live sculptures - miners.
Of course, this is a super-tourist city. I must have heard fifteen different languages today, from eastern European to Chinese. Many signs and menus are in Spanish and English. And like many places inundated with tourists, the service people are a bit cool and unfriendly, though there hasn't been any overt hostility. There are a lot of little rip-offs, like not giving back the change after a transaction, like 30 cents doesn't matter.

And people love dogs! I've not seen a single cat as they probably stay indoors all the time, but dogs are out with their owners who even carry food and water for them in their bags.

A little cutie pie.

A lot of people earn a living performing on the street, and the buskers are quite creative. One pair uses an old trick from India where the support holding the "floating" man's seat is disguised in the sleeve of the man holding him up. Others dress up and act as mannequins, usually with some political purpose on top of the "performance". Many play instruments. In the metro, I heard what I thought was a live quartet playing Baroque music. Came around the corner to see a man "playing" one violin but the music included a coronet. Turned out, his whole deal was an act, the music came from an iPod put through an amplifier!! While walking down one of the traffic-free streets, lilting harp music was coming from a man wearing blue jeans and a big rodeo belt buckle . Turns out he was from Ecuador and once rode the bulls. Now that's a contrast of professions, from bull rider to street harpist. 

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