Correspondence from Spain

by Sally Sorte

Portugal is appropriately located on the West Coast of the Iberian Peninsula in relation to the Spanish East Coast, which fits the laid-back attitude of its inhabitants. Lisbon is to San Francisco as Madrid is to NYC—Lisbon even has its own golden gate bridge.

In Portugal, without Halloween or Thanksgiving to splice the holiday season, Christmas lights and decorations are already being hung over the streets and sweet steam billows upwards from carts of roasted chestnuts in cobblestone intersections.

We struck gold with our hostel, which had Internet, comfy beds, a wide selection of DVDs in various languages, videogames, and 24-hour check-in and came with breakfast. The temperature was in the 70s as Lisbon is Europe’s hottest capitol, so we were wearing flip-flops and tank tops in the middle of fall. Our luck continued when we went to the train station and learned that the company was celebrating its 150th birthday so we got to ride for free. We went to the quaint, gingerbread town of Sintra and climbed ancient towers while a minstrel played “Green Sleeves” in the castle courtyard, looked up the palace’s double chimneys that were shaped like kerosene lamps at circles of blue sky, and explored the village that was straight out of Belle’s provincial life.

The nightlife in Portugal was equally impressive. The streets in the clubbing district were full of revellers that preferred ‘aire libre’ to smoky bars. We sampled local cuisine, collaborated with a graffiti artist and free-styled with some Portuguese gangsters.

One thing I don’t understand is why we call the capitol of Portugal “Lisbon” when its populace and all the street signs refer to it as “Lisboa.” Like when I tell people from which of the 50 states I spawn and they take a few seconds and then say, “Ohhh, you mean Oregoooooan.” No, I mean Oregon, like I was mining and uncovered ore again; I wouldn’t say ore all gone. My Spanish friends understand; they do not live in Spain, they live in España. Names shouldn’t translate. Of course, on the good days when my Señora remembers his name, she calls my Bostonian roommate, Andrew, “Andrés.” People also get confused with my name since phonetically it’s a Spanish verb conjugated in the preterite ‘yo’ form. I guess in Facebook terms, I should just take “whatever I can get.”

Another befuddler is that in Madrid I could dress for the Space Party and be ignored on the metro, but if I eat an apple on the way to class people will stop and stare. I can’t masticate fruit, but Spanish couples are allowed to eat each other’s faces all the time? “Pay Day Ah” occurs in the elevator (“ascensor” yourself!), on the street (you “calle” that a goodnight kiss?), in the park (the “césped” is becoming a cesspool!), in the car (“coche” her another time), in the promenade (go inside and then make a “paseo” at your crush), on the bench (put that in the “banco” and let it gain interest until tonight), and everywhere in between (“entre” yourself indoors, por FAVOR!). Hey, at least I’m left without an appetite.

From a broad.


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