snapshot

Friday. We’re headed into Semana Santa, which should prove to be interesting if not downright strange. There’s a concentration of Catholics in the United States but they lack the…Latin-ness…and Latin party-stamina necessary to undergo a week-long holiday celebrating their faith. I’ve heard stories that the most florid celebration happens in Sevilla, and when it’s rained out the people go full-tilt into beating their breasts, weeping and carrying on and tearing their hair for their love of Christ and apparent disappointment that the devil would so punish them with his galactic water-gun.We’ll be staying in Zafra but may journey to Jerez de Caballero, or Jerez de la Frontera, where sherry is made. After much deliberation and study our researchers have determined passing such a holy week sober doesn’t fall within the bounds of what can be considered healthy, for us or them.

Today, I have prepared a lesson and have been working at a side project (a music video) and have been listening only to Bombino, a Nigerian guitarist. His skills are mesmerizing and sublime, and at the moment I can’t think of a contemporary guitarist more original than this guy. His album is streaming at NPR right now. The sun is shining and we’ve discarded a bottle of rum, and will move on to Erdinger after my classes. For €8 we’ve found a 5-pack with a free glass included, of the 1L variety made to accommodate those huge German bottles. It is summer here; the doors are thrown open and the Germans and English have descended onto the Iberian peninsula, trying to glean some respite from their respective climates. The people here call them (and us) guiris (pronounced “giddies”). A true guiri must have:

  1. chanclas con calcetínes: flip-flops with socks
  2. una camera: a camera slung around their neck
  3. un sombrero: a hat, generally a frowsy fishing hat worn by either sex
  4. piel blanco: white, very pale skin (this means that Asians cannot be guiris, for example)
  5. pantalones cortos: shorts

This may sound super-specific, but I’ve seen them. The British are nothing if not predictable tourists. Savi has been deemed a hopeless guiri but I have been excluded from the category by merit of my dark hair, eyes, and tan skin. They think I may be French, or Italian, which is fine by me.

Summer is here. The palms are swaying, the people are all out in their finery and sitting at shaded tables in the plaza, or pushing along babies in strollers equipped with parasols. Que calor, they say from the confines of their jeans and button-down shirts, while gawking at us in our shorts. No pasa nada, tios.

Tits

We were invited out to the country this weekend by a friend of ours and what a lovely day for an outing. This activity, this heading out to the country for a day is an activity typical to this part of Spain; folks all have their spots and everyone returns to the same place each time for a picnic, a barbecue on an open flame, and time with their family. Savi agreed to this invitation before she knew what the outing was to be, and later learned it was going to be a convening of a coven of breastfeeding mothers. We were apprehensive that perhaps a table would be set up and milk-heavy tetas slung down in a buffet line and indeed, there were only three women but immediately, before we even left town udders had found their way in open air into tiny mouths.

I am not scandalized by breastfeeding. On the contrary, I was breastfed and I haven’t any beef with women who let it all hang out in public; that’s their choice, it’s their body, and good on them. What was surreal about this trip was the concentration of women at the same work. To me, they were machines; fit infant mouth to left tit and go for a bit, remove mouth, recapture left tit and wipe mouth, place infant in carrier, address toddler and ask if they’d like some tit, release right tit and fit toothy mouth onto nipple, pulse until toddler’s happy, recapture right tit and wipe mouth, notice infant in carrier, pick up and hold, release left tit…ad infinitum, the math never failing, the factory never slowing, three at once with their index fingers hooked under the hem of their t-shirts, sore nipples always playing at bulging through the sewn-on pocket and children thinking about soccer balls and the husbands hovering with mild headaches…no-one ever arrives at a point of rest. They’ve redefined for themselves what “feeling good” means to accommodate for the dearth of energy.

For us it was a lesson on paths and tits. When you’re pregnant your tits bloat and when they’re under assault every day, your nipples enlarge and their natural color is tinged red. When you choose to procreate you give up, to some extent, your freedom of will and choice. You must always account for a passenger in your car, which I’m not ready for. Savi is totally turned off to the very idea of this and for that I’m happy. The last thing we need is her joining some lactation group which for hours talks about tits and baby names. Lactation; it’s a focus here. In the religious museum here there’s a painting of a lactating Madonna with haloed baby pulled off-tit, and leche spilling down her underside, just above her lower ribs. I don’t know what it is with Catholics and their “sacred” fluids.

Speaking of udders, there were a small herd of cows out in the country which were a bit curious and fearful of us. They approached our campsite en masse but were too skittish to investigate, only stand some twenty yards off and give nervous looks. Their aim, finally, was to get through a closed cowpath gate. Fine; we opened the gate and after they’d all passed through, humping each other on the way, a solitary cow approached the way the others had come. It ran full-tilt and stopped at the barbed wire fence, confused as how to get to its mates. A young boy was holding the gate open, up along the fence line a ways. The cow ran at the gate, but when it saw the boy it stuttered, pitched forward once more, stuttered again, and just as it was getting to the gate gave up the ghost and threw itself through the barbed wire. It squeezed through the top and second string, somehow, and ruined the fence in doing it. A seven year-old boy filled it with so much fear that it was ready to risk it all on a potentially fatal chance. Amazing.