Last Thursday in Spain (E13 – Part 1)

As I mentioned in my last post, Thursday night was to be our farewell dinner. We had been told that there wasn’t even going to be a farewell dinner because there wasn’t enough money left, but as it turned out, our professors found a place to use whatever money was leftover. The name of the restaurant was Riazor and it was a little south of Plaza Mayor. We were to meet at 9:30 pm to walk there and we would have tapas and sangria at 10 pm. We also had a “town meeting” at 5:30 in the Barradas dining room, at which we were given surveys to fill out about the program, everything from rating our Spanish classes, the excursions we took, and the directors of the program.

Barradas dining room

Thursday was the last day of class for one of my fellow students, Miriam. She is a beautiful, soft-spoken German of African descent who is married to a very handsome young man and they are expecting their first child, a daughter to be named Sofia, in November. While many of the students in my class had been in and out, she had been there the entire time I was there. So I took a couple of pictures of her with Mer and Alicia, the two teachers.

It was also the day that I was taken out of the class to take an oral test. During Alicia’s class, we were having a laugh looking for a “novio” for one of our young students, a Chinese girl named Xixi (pronounced Cici). Birgit, a middle aged German woman who joined the class only last week and I were pulling up pictures of our sons to show around. The picture I pulled up of my son on Facebook was passed around and he was pronounced “guapo” (handsome) and that he didn’t look anything like me! However, he does look very Spanish – with his name and appearance he would blend in well in Madrid. He wasn’t right for Xixi, though, because “tiene gafas” (he has glasses).

The oral test was a bit hard – Mer asked me what I thought about the news that the region of Catalonia has banned bullfighting. I felt that I didn’t express myself very well and there were words I couldn’t think of so I had to resort to either repeating something or saying something more simplistic. Even so, I scored well on the test, so perhaps I am too hard on myself.

After lunch, because of the heat, I didn’t want to do much, but Dale, KF and I went out to do some shopping. K and I were sort of on a mission to find cheap dresses that we liked (and that fit, since there are few choices in my size). Most Spanish women are thin and stores are filled with a variety of cute styles that look as though they would fit nicely on someone who is about 6 inches wide! My size in Spain is 50 or 52, or XL. Large is more like a U.S. medium, Medium is like our small, and you can imagine who can fit into a Small or Extra Small!! There are very few obese people in Spain.

After the town meeting, I took a shower and got cleaned up for the dinner. Everyone showed up wearing nice dresses (except for the two guys, of course!) and some wore heels, which I thought would make it difficult to walk on some of the streets.  On the way, I looked at the places we passed with nostalgia, knowing it would be my last time. Plus, the weather by that time was absolutely gorgeous – it had cooled off considerably after sunset and there was a refreshing breeze!

The restaurant has hosted some famous people, including Salvador Dali, whose picture was framed on the wall, among others. We went upstairs and were seated at a long table set up with white tablecloth, cloth napkins and two cups for each person. One was for cold mineral water served in liter bottles, and the other for sangria, served in glass jars. The tapas began arriving and there was plenty for everyone – Iberian ham, sharp cheese slices, ham and cheese croquettes, tortilla española, calamari slices, asparagus spears, potatoes in tomato sauce….soon I was stuffed!! We also got a piece of chocolate and whipped cream cake for dessert. It was a wonderful meal and we had a great time.

Afterwards, everyone split up into their usual subgroups, and we “older” adults (me, the professors, and KF, – only 24, but mature for her age!) headed to a Cuban restaurant called “Cuando Sali de Cuba” to listen to live music and have one more drink. On the way there, we encountered a group of Galician bagpipers playing in the street! I got closer to take pictures and to see if they had a CD for sale, but they didn’t. A man who was not part of the group, but associated with them, saw me and asked me if I was Galician. Scottish, I told him. He then began talking in very fast Spanish or Galician about our common Celtic heritage and what else I am not sure, but something about “alegría.” He asked the band between songs if they had a CD for sale – they did but not on hand. I have always wanted to get some Galician “gaita” music, but I guess I’ll have to look for it on Amazon!

This has nothing to do with where we were going; I just saw the sign and thought it was, uh, interesting!

At the Cuban restaurant, there was a duo singing traditional Cuban favorites and playing guitar and bass with accented percussion and (KF’s favorite) cowbell! Most ordered wine or sangria, but Dale and I ordered mojitos, the famous Cuban drink with rum, mint, sugar and water. It was strong! We sat behind the musicians at the only small tables in the place, on stools. Twice vendors came in from the street with bouquets of roses, trying to sell Dale roses (presumably to give to one or more of us!). Dale was the only male in our group, surrounded by five women! The musicians sang “Guantanamera” and improvised on each verse, to sing about people in the bar: Este señor, rodeado de rosas, they sang, and then went on to say something about although he (Dale) was surrounded by women, he declined to buy roses for each of them!

By the time we had finished our drinks, some of us were ready to dance a little – Prof. A and I, and at the very end, I got KF to join us! We had a good time and I am glad we went – between the cool breeze surrounding us as we walked the streets of Madrid at night, the tapas at Riazor, the Galician gaita band, and finally the Cuban bar, it was a very satisfying evening. We arrived back at Barradas at 1 am and collapsed into bed!

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