Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Africa: Hola, Madrid!
Finally, the day had come. I rushed off to OHare and started the "hurry up and wait" game. My flight to Madrid filled the waiting area with Spaniards and their families going home for the holidays. I love watching the spaniards. I always say that they are some of the suavest, most attractive people. I enjoyed being in what was clearly the coolest crowd at a gate in the H wing of terminal three. Two other americans were waiting for the flight, a guido-looking New York guy and his girlfriend. While the girlfriend walked around, guido talked to his buddy on the phone:
"yeah, yeah man. me and Lisa last night - wooeee......yeah haha. I'm just tryin to keep up wit you! She's ovulatin'......yeah, man, I'm tryin'. "
To pass the time, I started to read one of my six books, "Indecent", about the life of a call girl/peep show worker. The book was a lot racier than I thought, with the "P" word used in profusion, the p-word referring to both men and women. I looked around to see if anyone might notice or be offended that I was reading such smutty words. They were all spanish and didn't seem to read over my shoulder, so I just kept on reading.
On the flight, I had a great seat-mate, Selvy from D.C. He was on both my Madrid flight, had the same 15 hour layover, and the same flight to South Africa. He used to be a travel agent and now teaches drama to kids. Selvy had made many trips to Africa over the years, and was so enthusiastic about it. We talked about how SA has changed since 1993, when one of his friends was arrested for a year, for distributing pro-mandela flyers. He was so happy when he talked about Africa, and showed me photos of his capetown friends on his laptop, and a little girl he wanted to adopt. I learned all about islands where slaves had passed through, and about how SA reacted during the Mandela election, and how his 1970s college friends were still close because they all used to protest for black rights. It was so interesting to hear his stories. He had also travelled to Asia and Saudi Arabia, so we talked about places we had each travelled and how important it was to each of us. He told me that I had convinced him to go to Vietnam.
I felt a little embarrased to take out the call-girl book around Selvy, so I read the entire book, the Bell Jar, instead. The story of Sylvia Plath's mental breakdown, start to finish. (although I do recommend "Indecent" to everyone I know! go out and buy it - I promise you'll learn some new things)
Iberia airlines was taking their own sweet time serving us and removing our trays. I think our trays sat on our seats for over an hour, then we endured some interesting turbulence. It was such a looooong, uncomfortable flight.
I was tired but I knew I had to power through, put my pack in storage and wander around Madrid again. I was there in 2000 so I knew my way around. Since it was Christmas eve, a lot of the stores were closed so I spent my day wandering around, coffee shop to restaurant, sampling all my favorite tapas and shivering in the cold. To my surprise, the Prado museum was open so I once again looked at all the Goyas, Rubens, and de Rivera. I had that old slap-happy jetlagged feeling, jacked up on way too many cafe con leches. My favorite painting was one of a family of frogs, but painted in that dark, ominous, ancient spanish catholic style. It made me laugh. The painting of a man breast-feeding a baby also made me laugh.
I started to feel like the Michigan Avenue Yanni of Madrid - aimlessly wandering, pretending I was going somewhere in particular, peeing in public restaurants, not quite dressed like everyone else....Finally, I caved and went to Starbucks. They may not be very european but they have comfortable chairs where I could finish reading my call girl book, undisturbed. I wandered some more in the dark, and found a cute little restaurant to sit at the bar for some tortilla espanola. It was nice to sit in the warm yellow glow, listening to the spaniards chit-chat. It was time to stop pounding the pavement, Yanni-style. None of them were shouting on their cell phones, nobody was punching away in a blackberry, just pure holiday cheer and the sounds of an espresso machine and groups of friends talking. I sat in there for two hours, just soaking up the atmosphere and reading. The bartender handed me a beer and said "feliz navidad! where are you from?"
Finally it was time to get back on the metro and go to the airport. I was a little sad and nostalgic to leave Madrid. It was kind of like hanging out with an old friend. By this time, the Spaniards were all out in groups, celebrating Christmas eve in the festive lights. A lot of young people were wearing brightly colored wigs, for reasons unknown. I got back on the train, ready for journey part #2 to South Africa.