Well, I got my work permit, finally. I had to go to Lisbon, in Portugal, to get it. It was quite a trip. I had to take a sleeper car, which I had done before, but not by myself. When you´re a single guy, they put you in the sleeper car with the other single guys. Single guys who have not figured out that you gotta scrub your feet once a month whether they need it or not. Yippee.
After I arrived, I went to the embassy (theirs, not ours), filled out the form, handed it in, and the guy behind the window told me to go get a cuppa joe, this is gonna take a while (well, not in those words). Half an hour later I was a legal Spanish worker.
I walked around and looked at stuff, got rained on, and once again had the strange sensation of being in a country where I couldn´t even ask for the location of the bathroom, as I speak no Portuguese. It´s hard to remember being like that in Spanish, but I did do this when I first went to Bolivia. Worse was Japan, where I didn´t learn a word in two years. Or maybe Scotland, where I thought I spoke the language but actually didn´t.
Lisbon was beautiful, and not at all like Barcelona. There was an even bigger rich to poor spread, some of it downright heartbreaking. Apparently the population of Lisbon exploded after the Portugeuse colonies in Africa were granted independence in the 70´s. About a million people came to Lisboa. Anyway, As I walked back to the train station to leave Lisbon I read the grafitti along the way: NATO FORA DOS BALCÃS (NATO out of the Balkans), then ten yards later, in perfect English, JOE IS A S.O.B. Surprisingly sophisticated. The next was written neatly on a hot pink building, again in perfect English: PORTUGAL IS CURSED BY GOD.
I got back to Spain to find that the magazine "Interviu" had recently headlined a story with pictures of the young duke Lecquio frolicking nakedly on his boat with his girlfriend. The pictures demonstrated in at least one small (well...) respect, the young duke is, um, better than the rest of us men. No one seems to tire of talking aobut this here. I went to the local Kentucky Fried Chicken and ordered a large coke. It was served in a cup with the message, "El tamaño SÍ importa": Size does matter.
On the way home I stopped off at the newstand to buy a chocolate Kit-Kat (you could live here for a year and never see an unfamiliar trademark). Newstands here are great, they sell everything. One thing they do that we don´t is to display what we would consider reasonably hard pornography in plain view. We don´t do this in the states for fear of corrupting the children. It´s a shame too, because the children here *are* corrupt. I sat down to eat my candy bar and noticed an eight year old positively coveting my Kit-Kat. Shame.
I continue to Run For President, though I´m in a country where no one can vote for me. "Run For President" is my term for Gripping & Grinning, trying to meet and make friends with everyone regardless of their race, creed, or level of pleasantness. Today as I walked into my building I saw the woman who ownd the clothing store next door. I´d been thinking about introducing myself ´cuz I´d seen her practically every day. So I entered the shop-- she immediately put on her you-just-made-a-big-mistake-this-is-a-woman´s-clothing-shop face, and I sputtered out in Spanish "You... I presenting to you... I..." (seven years of Spanish training down the drain). I finally managed to convey that I had seen her around there a lot and she replied, as if I were 2, yeah, that´s because I work here. I stuck my tail between my legs, said my name, shook her hand and rushed out. On the way out, a bird pooped on me. I´m not making this up, it was so bad I started to laugh. Oh yeah, her name was Vanessa.
People here say that it´s hard to make friends with the Catalans. It´s true, but doable. I have made a pretty good number of friends here.
You see dogs everywhere here, in the street, in restaurants, on the train. I figure dogs have it all together. You see two guys walking their dogs. The two guys stop to talk, and their dogs immediately freak out. "Hey man, I´ll kill you! Arf!" "Oh yeah? Hey yer gonna look funny when I bite yer tail off and shove it up yer ear! Grrr" and then "So, hey, ya wanna be friends?" "Okay". They smell each others´ butts and then they sit down and look around for a while. "Hey, this is my master. Pretty fat, huh?" "Oh, hey, yeah? Heh, heh, yeah, he´s huge. Oh hey, this guy´s *my* master." "Cool." "Yeah, it´s all real cool." Then they pant and watch butterflies. Of course, dogs don´t know jack about sharing. Just try to share something with a dog, you´ll come back with a stump. It´s either yours or the dog´s, but not both.
Okay, enough nonsense for a while. I´ve got ready access to email now, so I´ll try to shorten these letters up a little since I don´t have to do it all at once anymore. Take care, I miss you all. -Tim
Tuesday, June 1, 1999