'NO HABLO INGLES'
Whether it's true or not, when someone says this, it means you have to start gesticulating a lot and trying to remember words from the phrase book that will eventually get you some lunch.
It's amazing what you can accomplish by pointing and throwing your arms around. The process gets me by, but I suspect there is a little amusement at my expense? Actually, considering the stuff I've accidentally said to people, I'm positive.
When you're hurdling the language and protocol solo, there is no time for shame. You lay yourself out on the slab and let them chop you up. I don't mind so much, having a laugh at yourself is good for the soul. It would be nice however to share the vulnerability with a good friend sometimes.
So here, I share.
'Cafe solo' does not mean 'No cake with the coffee thanks, just the coffee'. It means you want it black. When it comes out black and you ask for some milk, be ready for a good slap around the ears.
When you go into a bar and ask for a 'vino' and the bar man looks blankly at you, don't yell 'vino!' at his face. He can hear you. 'v' is pronounced 'b'
So now you've got the 'b' thing sorted, you can walk into a bar and ask for a 'bino'. Still not very helpful to anyone. You might as well walk into a restaurant and ask for 'food'.
Dont tell the waiter that the 'servicios' was great. You're talking about the toilet.
You can be very prepared and learn lots and lots of questions in the local language. You can mince about with a puffy sleeved blouse and your guitar flung over your shoulder, asking for 'the bill', 'the toilet', in what shop you might buy some bandaids, 'have you seen that handsome man I was kissing passionately just over there last night?'... But unless you also learn the answers to the questions, you will inevitably slide back into the charades routine.
The energy that it takes to communicate the simplest things can be exhausting, however apart from being a laugh most of the time, your efforts can take you to some nice places too.
I felt inclined to read my book all afternoon, it was going to be the closest thing I would get this week to a conversation with anyone. (Have you any idea what it's like to talk to yourself for five days solid? The conversations are starting to make it into the audible world).
Me and the book found a sidewalk bench overlooking an incoming tide at the mouth of the Maria Christina River. Very grey, very dramatic.
An old man sat down next to me and so we watched the huge swell break against the rocks together. I so badly wanted to have a chat but I suspected that wouldn't be likely. It must have been a good 15 minutes before he piped up and said something. He was so disappointed when I told him I couldn't understand what he was saying. Me too.
So we sat there for a little while longer and then we just started chatting.
Antonio lives at the end of the Maria Christina River, which travels inland for 10km. He comes to this place every day because it makes him feel calm. Antonio's whole body is shaking, so I think he has Parkinson's Disease. I ask him and he says yes.
He owns a taverna and pintxos bar in the old town but he can't work there anymore because of the shaking.
He has two children and three grandchildren, they are one, two and four.
Wednesday is a national festival but he's not so interested in celebrating this one because the roots of the celebration are South American. He!he!
We talked until it was dark, thanked each other for the chat and then we both left.
San Sebastian's a very beautiful city. It's stunning. I've loved walking around the narrow streets, watching how the Spanish spend their holidays, eating the most incredible food, drinking top shelf wines and backyard wines, trying on beautiful clothes, timing how long it takes for a croissant to completely dissolve in my mouth, following the dogs and their city life adventures and trying to stay up really late so I don't miss anything.
So a big fat 'grassy arse' to all you chefs, bakers, barmen and bitches! ...and a special adios to my new amigo, Antonio. It was lovely to have met you!
Now looking forward to the Guggenheim in Bilbao and then... the 'pizza resistance'! Paris!