Saturday, September 30, 2006

Do you know how to squat?

Whilst doing some bedtime reading, came across this article - made me laugh; especially being Indian, who has grown up without the luxury of toilet paper. Today, there is a book on it "How to shit around the world" and even technique lessons. What to do, how to do, what not to do, pre-doing, advance squatting. My my.

Languages open doors

"Translators needed: Pakistani/Hindu to Spanish", read the ad on a notice board in town. I pick up the phone to call the number, if nothing else but to explain to these dudes that Pakistani is not a language; Pakistani's speak Urdu. Hindu is not a language, it is a religion - the language is Hindi. Hindi and Urdu are spoken similarly, but the script is completely different. I speak Urdu/Hindi but cannot read Urdu. (Now I must have said something very unclearly because on my way out of the interview, I was still given a Urdu-Spanish dictionary)

Anyway. All excited about visiting an interpretor office (yes the movie The Interpretor was flashing infront of my eyes), I went for an interview to be a translator. Thinking I'd be writing or translating for business/tourism purposes, I was a little set aback when I was told that I would be the official translator in a criminal court of law.


"You need to understand the laws of the Spanish court, and be able to communicate them to the detainee," they said. "You will narrate the story of the detainee to the court and be the mouthpiece of the court to the detainee."

What? After only 4 months in Spain, am I competent to do this?

" Si si si si!, hablas muy bien" - No problem at all , it's easy. Right.

"Here is a book (in Spanish) you need to know in and out. It explains your job and your rights. There are 300 legal Spanish words you need to know in Pakistani (HINDI!!por favor)
and since you seem to have good English, I'm putting you down for English detainees too."

My confidence and pride was escalating like a rocket in this room. I could see myself being important, doing something that made a difference (no shit, what I translate could make a difference on whether this dude goes to prision or not), without me, the courtroom practically cannot function. I was exhilarated.

After a 3 hour interview/briefing, all set to hear my working hours and pay - everything seemed to go the wrong way. "We pay Euro 12 an hour. Does not count travel time."

Thats it? Surely interpretors get paid more. Anyway, money not being the prime reason for me excepting this job - I wasn't going to contest that. It's about 50% more than the average pay of an Espanol my age, so that's pretty good.

"You have to be on call 24 hours"


"You might have to go to court, to the police station, to the scene of an accident, to the hospital, to the detention centre. There is no fixed time. We pay Euro 15 any time after 10pm".

Ok.. So if I'm out salsa dancing and you call, I need to be there?


How inconvenient! and what if I can't come? "Say you can't, but the more you say you can't the less we will call you."

Ok. So I have school 1-7pm, I dance 3 nights a week. I see myself saying no alot. But then what's the point? And, if I am out dancing and they call, and I say no, am I going to be able to enjoy the rest of the night thinking that I have taken up a job that I probably am never going to show up at ?

Anyway, I was told I have till Monday to think about it. Being in two minds, I was happy to hear that. My mind was saying: try it for a bit, and if it's a pain in the ass, forget about it - how many times do you get such an opportunity? And I saw myself beginning to nurture my competency in a language and translating, felt good. But it was also saying, do you really want to spend your last month in Spain doing this? Do you really want to get phone calls at any hour asking you to drop everything to go help the Spanish courts? Will your conscious allow you to say 'no' when you have to choose dinner/dancing/movie over helping bring justice?

4 days to think...lets see.

Was in class the next day when my phone rang 3 times and I received 2 messages. Panic messages from the lady wondering if I could go to court tonight for a job.

What? I don't even know how to say "Rights" in Hindi yet! My heart was racing.

After a coffee and a long conversation with my dad, I called back and refused the job.
Perhaps another time, if I return to Spain, I might dare to take it up, it would certainly be a fabulous experience. For the moment I'm just happy and relieved that I'm blogging it. Who knows what other doors language learning will open.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

'Pipa' Culture

In Spain, people eat pipas - sunflower seeds. They have a cover that you need to crack open to get to the seed; the seed is miniscule and tastes like...umm...nothing.

Seeing them being sold extensively both in supermarkets and on the streets, by companies both local and international, I decided to buy some. Not knowing much about this snack that Spaniards seem to be munching on all the time, I decided not to be boring and bought barbeque flavour.

Now, since the cover of these pipas is well 'barbequed', it didn't occur to me that I had to break past the delicious BBQ flavoured shell to eat the thing, that, has no flavour.

So here I am, eating these pipas with their cover, 100% sure that I know what I'm doing and thinking how on earth do people swallow these things? Don't they choke?

Yeah ok. Really dumb. But why would you want to bother flavouring the cover of something you don't eat!?

I spent a few days wondering if I was more retarded than the concept.

Anyway, today there is a phrase in Spanish 'pasando pipa' that originates (apparently) from the whole process of friends getting together, having fun and eating pipas. This was done so that it's never awkward when there is nothing to say, everyone is always occupied eating (or trying to eat) pipas, so never an awkward silence. Today this phrase means 'having a good time'!

So chicos, hope you are 'enjoying the sunflower seeds.' :P

Always one!

No matter where you live or what you do, there is almost always one person around who gets under your skin. Who you want to punch, every time he speaks.

You cannot stand anything he says, does, wears, writes or breathes. He thinks he is smart, but he is an idiot. He thinks he is funny, but he is an idiot. He thinks he rocks the world of every girl around him, but he is an idiot. You cringe when he smirks.

He has been learning a language since he can remember, yet when constructing a sentence he speaks like this.
And still gets it wrong! He asks questions like 'so when you are driving in Norway, if a rhino happens to come in your way, who has the right to pass first?' (HUH?)

His hobbie is visiting libraries. He has visited almost every one in the city, but has not bought a single book. From the 865,980 odd books in the 11 libraries he has been to, he likes none.

He doesn't like Spanish food - cooked or raw. Says the meat has an odd flavour, the fish smells, the pure Spanish virgin olive oil just tampers the original taste of food, and the fruit tastes different.

Everyday he has a weird story to narrate where everyone seems to want to pick a fight with him. (Hmmm I wonder why?)


Okkkk. He doesn't mean bad and was probably neglected as a child or something like that, but I generally have a tremendous level of tolerance for people and always give them the benefit of the doubt, but this dude crawls on my nerves like a giant spider who's cobwebs stick.

I have another 6 weeks with him. Mierda.

Will let you know if I ever punch him.

Monday, September 25, 2006


I have a guy in my Spanish class from a country called 'Suriname' . He said I should be ashamed not knowing of this country, as a majority of the population is Indian!

Located in the very North of South America, it shares borders with Brazil and 37% of the 450,000 population is from Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh! Do you think Laloo Prasad knows of this country?! A former Dutch colony (known in the past as Dutch Guiana), the first official language is Dutch, but the second is Sarnami Hindustani, which apparently is a Bihari dialect!

It seems like Indians landed up there to serve as labourers through a special arrangement between the English and the Dutch.

*sigh* The world is full of surprises.

Spanish Spit

Spanish spit is the last thing I thought I'd be writing about Spanish men. As much as I think they are very sexy, it all goes down the drain when your face gets repeatedly sprinkled with spit in conversation. Ugh.

Every time for the last 4 months, I have let it pass - thinking, nah it's just this dude- he has a lisp, or ah this dude has lived in Germany, or ah he's old - old men spit. But no. Spanish men spit when they talk. To which I must add, their sense of personal space is half of what you would be comfortable with, so there is no place else for the spit to go but your face.

These days I stand as normal when I'm talking, but my head is a good 45 degrees acute angle away from Juan, Carlos, Jose, David, Raul, Ricardo, Javier, Miguel, Toni, Ivan and Mario. Don't they realise when they do it? How can you not realise? The fact that 'g' is pronounced 'khhhhhhe' and 'j' - 'khhhhhho'' is not good enough of an excuse. ' And, just to clarify - not Latin Americans, just the Spanish.

I'd be interested to have a spitting competition between Arab and Spanish men, it would be a tough one.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Salvador: * *

Today I saw Salvador, my first Spanish film. And I understood 99% of it! It felt great and was much needed, specially after the time I went to watch Spanish theatre (La Mujer De Negro) and understood squat. Anyone learning a language will know the joy you feel the first time you can listen without strain, confusion or frustration. AND, despite the fact that alot of the film is in Catalan with Spanish subtitles, wasn't a problem at all. *sigh* what bliss! (Ok, I did read the story of the film before I went. But that doesn't count).

Ok now the movie. Hmmmmm. Not as good as expected. Revolving around Salvador Puig Antich, a young Spanish revolutionary who fought against dictator Franco and was sentenced to death by the regime, I imagined it would be a good summary and depiction of life in Spain during Franco. But it turned out to be an emotional, melodramatic tribute to the guy, with no substance as to how he and his team fought, why they fought, or the Franco regime. 50% of the film is him in jail playing basketball with the guards and the last half-hour is him waiting to die, with a good 10 minutes of him being killed.

Very emotional, but the emotion is generated primarily from the natural heart wrench you feel watching anyone good, sentenced and waiting to die (even the Franco's police guards in the film don't want him to die!).

How did the Franco regime treat people? What was life in Spain like then? Apart from robbing banks and using money to buy weapons, what else did these young revolutionaries do? What political and social activity lead to the formation of the youth revolutionary organisation? What happened after his death? Did he inspire some sort of movement?
The film doesn't give you anything to imagine.

However, I must say - German actor Daniel Bruhl is great in the film, and speaks super Spanish and Catalan for a German.

Another thing that I couldn't decipher was the end of the film when they show credits. You'd think they would show real footage from the Franco regime, but instead there were snippets of Osama Bin Laden and Yasser Arafat!??? No entiendo.

Comparing this film to that of Indian films like Bhagat Singh, and Mangal Pandey - Spanish cinema has alot of catching up to do.

A review found online couldn't have summed it up better:
"We are served up a slick, commercial soap opera – a rear tear-jerker of a movie. A laughable fictional melodrama, run-of-the-mill stuff."

Friday, September 22, 2006

One of those days

Have you ever had one of those days when: you want to go out, but you also don't want to go out; when you feel like ringing someone to take a walk or have a beer, but you can't really make-up your mind who exactly you want to ring, and the one person who rings you - you don't wanna go out with; you feel lazy and useless, but with the option of doing something else right in front of you, you still rather be lazy; when you really don't want to eat at Burger King, but you do anyway; when you want to read a book, but you don't seem to have THE book you want to read; when you want to watch a movie, but nothing on tele and video club is closed;when you want to blog, but you don't have THE topic you want to blog about, clear in your head.


Saturday, September 16, 2006


When you travel, needless to say, you learn alot about yourself. What you can handle, what you can't. What you think you can handle, and also what you think you can't handle.

Formentera was my first-time proper exposure to nudist beaches. Seeing topless girls on a beach here and there is quite different to being on a beach where everyone is naked. And as open minded and I think (well, thought) I did bother me.

People of many countries, all ages, all sexualities, all types, all sizes, all shapes, all shades, all shaves were most happily (bless them) struting their stuff. And the rest I will leave to your imagination. Because you know what? sometimes it is really better that things are left to ones imagination. Healthier.

Please remember that people in general, in real life, on the beach, do not look like people in Baywatch. 60 year olds, 300 pounders,transvestites - do I need to elaborate? And yes, guys still scratch their balls.

What was interesting, was that it is so normal in Formentera to be naked. When we arrived, our host J took us straight to the beach (since there wasn't much we could do in his garage!) - and before we could even get our bikini's out, midst conversation, all of a sudden he was standing with us, stark naked. And talking.

I didn't know where to look, or rather, where not to look. I had known this guy a whole 10 minutes and already crossed boundaries that I have not crossed (and will probably never cross) with people I have known for years!

My friend M who went with me had a slightly different attitude towards it all. 'The human body is beautiful and how liberating it is to be able to just be in our natural forms' types. However, it took her 4 years to get comfortable with the idea. I truly thought I'd get used to it in 5 days, but nope. It was too odd.

It was interesting to note certain things on these nudist beaches. Like, you could tell if people had been there for ages - if they had a tan, but didn't have bikini lines. You could tell that some probably were apprehensive of stripping when they first arrived, but now they are into the groove of it - again because they had swim suit marks.

All in all, yes the human body is beautiful. But too many naked human bodies at one time, is a whole different story.

Yeah...ok, I bet you are asking - so did you get naked?

What do you think.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Squatting on Spanish islands

"We've got the house!" said my friend M with whom I was going to Formentera/Ibiza. M has a friend, who has a friend - who lives in Formentera, and the darling that he is, is willing to let two people stay there for 5 days. YEEEHAAA. So we no longer need to pay for accomodation. Money saved: Euro 200, yippee!

So we arrive on this island, and again, the darling that this guy is, he comes to pick us up at the port. Life is gooooood. People are wonderfulllll. He seems decent, talks sense, doesn't seem to want anything in return for us staying with him. Hmm. Too good to be true huh.

Well..anyway..he tells us while we are in his battered station wagon, that he doesn't exactly have a house, and is not sure if we know where he really lives. Not being too picky about our beds, we listen with a smile. We reach his house, that has been home to him for 5 years. It's a garage.
Literally. A shed, with a small window, a curtain, no electricity, no running water, no plug point, no bathroom. Hmmm.


Ok, it's free and everything else is booked out. It's not like we had many options. No worries.
Rules of the ummm...garage: Do not make noise in the morning, do not be in sight around 4-6pm. OK.

Oh, did I mention, sure he didn't have a bathroom, but he had a laptop and a fridge. Hmmm.

Anyway, we dump our stuff and decide to just chill and call the other 2 remote friends of friends of friends, who might just remember us - to see if we can crash with them. This dude didn't want us around more than two days, another thing nobody bothered to tell us before hand. No worries.

We meet our other friends.
a) B, Valenciano turned hippy, lives in a pine forest. Cool! house in the mountains! hehhe nooooooo. Just a sleeping bag and a tree as shelter. Wow.

b) V, Nepali, lives in a hut in the forest. Four walls made of wood, a roof made of leaves. No electricity or water either. Great.

Conclusion: Our garage is luxury.

But we only have it for 2 nights, we need to find a place to be for another 2.

Easy: Night 3 - we stay with a friend of B in an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere. It has a roof and a well! So we have access to fresh water. Not bad.

Night 4 -

Almost as if feeling our plight...V tells us he has a mate who has a beautiful house (real house) in the mountains with everything - light/water/bed/4 walls/chairs/TV...and he would be happy to shelter us for a night, for 10 Euros each. YAAAAAAAY. We can have a shower and perhaps sleep in a bed!

(NB the 3 nights without real accomodation were really good. Quite comfortable, quiet and really got us into the 'being with nature mode'. But we hadn't walked through a real door, or had a shower, or used a bathroom for 3 days - a house sounded great. And for 10 Euros - ooffff jackpot!)

So we go to this house on our last night, in the middle of nowwhere. We hung out with out host I for the evening. But he landed up drinking alot. No - thats an understatement. He probably couldn't distinguish a man from a tree - thats how drunk he was. Anyway, fingers crossed - we go with him, he seemed harmless.

The house was beautiful, and we go into our room with the biggest smiles on our faces. We shut the door, get ready to sleep. And we hear him put his stereo on FULL volume and him singing from the top of his lungs. MAN.

Ok...10 minutes later, seems like he has passes out. We creep out, turn off the stereo and the TV and slip back into out rooms.

5 mins later - he is up, TV is on, music is on, he is singing again. MAAAAAN!

Ok...10 minutes later, we decide to talk to him and request him to reduce the noise.
We see him passed out, butt naked on the sofa. Yikes. We don't dare to leave our rooms.

We try to sleep. But all we can hear is noises him singing, talking, banging into things, things falling down and other strange noises I rather not describe. He banged into our room a few times. He even opened our door and put in a cactus plant? aaaaaahhh...freaky!

With no lock inside, we do whatever we can to jam the door from inside. And we fall asleep, freaked out, listening to terrible and loud noises.

8 am - he seems to be still awake. Yikes.

10 am - we sneak out of the window of our room, and make a run for it.

Night 5: Ibiza

The last boat from Formentera to Ibiza is at 8:30pm, our flight to Valencia was at 7am the next day. Plan? party all night and go to the airport around 6am.

Starving, we decide to eat first. Find this decent and not expensive pizzeria - and go in for a pizza and an extra large jug of Sangria. Comes time to pay, I give them my bank card. Lo and behold, it doesn't work. In wallet - Euro 35; bill - Euro 27.

Now 2 chicas in Ibiza, with 8 Euros and no friends. Thats not enough to get a taxi to the airport. Buses have stopped running. No battery in phone, no money in phone. Phone cards don't work in Ibiza. YAAY. So much for our plan to party.

Luckily the dude in the resturant had a friend in the restuarant who agreed to drop us to the airport and even take us around town, if we felt like hanging with a big, African, non-English, non-Spanish speaking dude from Senegal for the rest of the evening.

Fingers crossed in our pocket, we agree. It was midnight, there was no way we were going to spend what would probably be our first and last night in Ibiza, at the airport.

So here we are with R from Senegal, who took us to Playa En Bossa, one of the most happening beaches. He seemed to know a few bouncers so we got into places for free. With E8 in our pockets, we couldn't even get a water.

After being silent observers in 6 bars and 2 clubs, we needed a strong drink. Went to the Mercado, got a litre of beer and sat on the beach till 3. R thought he was making great friends, and as nice as he was, we decided it was time to go to the airport.

So night 5: Airport.

Beer at night, breakfast later, we are in Valencia waiting at the bus stop for a bus to get home. 4 Euros 40 Cents in our pocket, we need 5 for the bus. Great. Luckily the girl next to us heard us furiously counting our change and gave us 60 Cents.

Yes people are wonderful in general. We were very lucky on this trip - we always had people helping us out of our stranded situation (s).

Definitly one of my most adventuras and unpredictable trips.

Now, anybody can top the level of adventure in sleeping arrangements?:)

Formentera: Life in a basket

Formentera was one of the most beautiful islands I have visited. Fresh air, crystal clear ocean, white sand, exclusive beaches, thick forests, haunting mountains and a sense of tranquility that you can only find on a relatively untouched island.

There were mainly 3 sorts of people we encountered on this trip. Valenciano's (yeah!), hippies, and Valenciano's turned into hippies.

(N.B: I don't like using classifications for people, for today especially, being a 'hippy' is being in fashion. Such people classifications follow modas and are superficial. Being a hippy to me is more a state of mind and way of living, with nothing to do with the way you look. To clarify: if you have dreadlocks, piercings, torn, dirty yet colourful and striped clothes and smoke pot, it doesn't make you a hippy. Just like wearing a suit and having a picket fence house, doesn't make you a yuppie.)

So what were these hippies? Perhaps the real kind. Although they did look stereotypically hippy, they also lived in the forest with no roof, electricity, or water. They were not quite sure where they would get their next meal from or where they would sleep if it would rain. They all carried their belongings in a basket or small rucksack. This normally included: a few clothes including a jumper and socks, soap, a book or two, a notepad, pen, and certain invaluable (pricewise) though sentimental, that they had gathered there, or when they had to get rid of most their stuff. Punto. This was their whole life, in a basket.

They made music on the street, sold handmade articrafts, smoked pot and were forever smiling. Some had come to Formentera for a week, and landed up staying a year and counting. Ex-bar tenders, painters, real estate agents now lived here in total abandonment of everything, not a care in the world and not a penny in the bank. This was about half of the island. What is everyone running away from?

Some said that Formentera has this effect on people. It is an island with the effect of a magnet. An island that takes you on a trip into yourself. Lets you just be. Hmm. I think it let me be too, for those 5 days I was there. I think it's the nature the island allows you to be in - without a million people around you. The island is quite undeveloped. Allows you to be in as natural a surrounding as possible.

We rented bicycles while we were there and went to 3 points of the 4, of the island. Rode up hills, through forests to a lighthouse. Effortlessing rode down at sunset, breathing in fresh air, not a soul in sight. Rode along the coastline, from beach to beach. Swam and bathed in the ocean, ate organic food and slept in the wilderness. Although I've done similar things in Thailand and Australia, it is not entirely the same. Thailand and Oz, both have their own charm, and so does this island.

At night we didn't have means of getting around. After riding a bicycle all day, it can get tiring to hop on again at night, and if you fancy a drink - it's not a good idea. No taxi's, no buses. You have to hitch-hike. And bless all those people who stopped to give us a ride. All those people who didn't - shame on you. One day when you need a ride, you won't get one. It's karma.

All in all, a great trip. A bit expensive - as everything is imported on the island, but well worth the trip if you fancy a simple get away in the heart of nature.

(ARGH: for once I have decent pics, can't upload them for some reason! :(
Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening? Locations of visitors to this page