December…..first week

I’ve been here two months already, the time has flown past and two weeks today I’ll be boarding a plane in Madrid to head back to Darwin for Christmas where I’ll no doubt swelter and instead of the heaters will be lazing about in the pool to try and keep cool.

I’m very pleased to be able to say that this week I finally managed to become registered on the Spanish health care system. Only two trips to the Health Centre and one to Social Security and my task was accomplished. I’m definitely getting the hang of this local run around system that involves several visits and many photocopies of all paperwork.

I’ve also got a few thousand more words down on paper, enjoyed two social nights of informal conversation groups which was a mix of Spanish and English speakers, met new people and discovered a little cultural centre I had no idea existed before. The chap who runs it, Juan Manuel Luna Fuentes, presented me with copy of his book “Viaje A Nueva Icaria” all in Spanish I might add so on winter nights I guess it’ll be me and my dictionary trying to wade through it. I also learnt all sorts of fascinating stuff about flamenco which will be the subject of another post.

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Cobbled street just after midnight –  lit by the soft glow of the street lights

Temperatures have suddenly dropped to between 4 and 6 degrees each morning and late at night but I still love walking home in the dark as the city takes on another dimension in the glow of the lamp light. Don’t get me wrong, I am always offered a lift but it’s so much better to walk and after a night of chatter I enjoy the solitude. The streets are quieter and it’s as though I’ve stepped back in time as I walk the cobbled streets towards my apartment. It’s perfectly safe to walk at night and it burns the calories too!

The cooler weather means bundling up in more clothes, and I’ve taken to wearing several layers (which gives a Michelin Man appearance at times) although when the sun comes out it is lovely to bask in its warming rays and then I feel hot so need to peel off a layer! In my apartment I have two heaters going in the sitting room so I don’t turn into a popsicle overnight and, as I write this, I recall the days of typing in London wearing fingerless gloves – if it gets much colder I might just have to invest in a pair once again!

This week an ice-rink has appeared in the main square which is officially called Plaza Espana but the locals refer to it as the Salon and the Christmas decorations have been hung across the streets. I’m heading out now to explore the town and see what delights I can find at the market that I saw springing up in the Salon yesterday.

Michelle

Paper…..such precious stuff

I suspect we take paper f1528657_625843537472168_378676817_nor granted most of the time but since I have been here in Spain I am rediscovering what a wonderful commodity it is and what an important role it plays in our lives.

Thursday saw me return to Seville again in the hope of securing my identity card. This week it was much colder and there were about 25 people ahead of me in the queue and no friendly American to chat to. I spent the time jiggling from one foot to the other as I tried to keep myself warm for 45 minutes waiting for the sun to come up and the doors to open.

The tall thin chap from last week, who I’ve now named Scruffy, was at the desk all rugged up with a bright yellow scarf round his neck and a sweatshirt that had seen better days. I did notice he’d managed to have a hair cut since last week. Very pleasantly he gave me a number and shooed me into an enormous waiting room complete with toilets. It was a different one to last week with only a couple of people in front of me and desks with loads of staff so I thought it boded well for fast processing or maybe the fact that there were loos there meant things were going to take a lot longer!

My number flashed onto the board so I approached the nearest desk where I was told to go into the next room. I found myself back where I started last week faced with the same woman who’d told me I needed more paperwork. A glance at my papers and she still didn’t seem happy, told me to wait and left the room to consult with Scruffy, who seemingly must be fairly senior. Sour Puss returned, and without a word to me, bashed something into her computer, loaded paper into a printer and then looked up, smiled and handed me the precious identity card. I beamed at her and skipped out the door!

I made a quick dash to find the International Bookshop which my American friend told me about last week. Pushing open the door I inhaled deeply, allowing the smell of new books to permeate my senses as I walked through the store in search of the English section. The selection wasn’t huge but for someone starved it was like manna from heaven! I delighted in browsing through the shelves and came away with 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction, The Goldfinch, which is a lovely thick 864 page book.

At the bus station I grab my English newspaper which is providing not only news for me but is proving to be a source of great interest for several students who have never seen an English paper before.

Paper is definitely a most valuable commodity (not only in the form of my precious ID card), but because the sight, feel and smell evoke our senses stimulating our brains into absorbing, scribbling down our thoughts or simply escaping into the depths of a great read.

Michelle

The joys of a real book

I love a real book. Whilst an e-book may be very eco-friendly and handy for travellers who need to save space it simply cannot provide the same experiential value of a real hard copy book.  I am known for travelling often and travelling light but I have yet to succumb to a Kindle or similar. Why?

We humans are sensory creatures and, to my mind at least, reading a book is an experience that is enhanced by being able to utilise our senses.  Some of the feelings I experience are:

  • delight at being in possession of a brand new book that tantalises with its pristine pages waiting to be devoured
  • reverence to be in the possession of an old volume, whose well-thumbed pages, offer whispers of bygone era’s and other readers who have clearly respected the tome now in my hands
  • a wonderful feeling of escapism regardless of whether I am stretched out in the sun, curled up on my bed or squished into an airplane seat. Through my book I am able to be transported to exotic destinations or bygone eras depending on what I am reading.
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Studying before Google

I also find that when studying I have a much better retention rate when reading a hard copy – something about the touch of the paper in my hands helps to cement the facts into my brain. To simply look up on the internet just does not have the same effect as searching through manually and reading what those long ago academics took the time to record and put down on paper.   Encyclopaedias are to be commended, they were the tools of my education as a child, no need to worry about fast downloads, power outages or anything else, the books were always there as welcoming friends. Googling just makes it all too easy to look things up as one does not even need to be able to spell properly! Is there any wonder spelling is going down the tubes!

Love to hear your opinions on which you prefer?  real book.