Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tortilla de patatas, at last!

For those of you who know what's going on in my life, I'll say ─░Hola! Today finally I had those tortillas de patatas. I must say that it has been better than what I expected: the people, the weather, even the food!

My journey started with a bang; there was no space in the cabin for my big fat hand-carry luggage and it ended up being taken away from me. It was an unfamiliar thing to me because: (1) I never carried a handcarry bag that is so fat that there was no space in the cabin for it, (2) I never carried anything remotely important for my life in a small luggage, (3) I never expected to lose sight of it for more than the duration of the flight. So I arrived at Madrid a little sleepy after a transit in London. Sans luggage. On top of that I lost the little baggage tag that was given to me in exchange of the custody of my handcarry luggage. Inside was my university certificate and birth certificate... Oh mother, pray for us!

After a little dilly-dallying and a mad dash for the almost-lunchtime Mass, I decided to proceed to my final destination sans luggage. That same day I took the bus to Pamplona, and would have slept throughout the 5-hour journey if not for the fact that I was carrying my last possessions on earth in a knapsack and that we had to stop and change bus halfway through the route.

Soon after I came to the warm embrace of those who picked me up that rainy freezing night in Pamplona. What their names are, I don't recall. Only that there was a Honduran... and that they thought I was a doctor... I fell asleep soon after.

Day #1: The day began with a meditation about the feast of the Visitation of Our Lady. That's about all I caught. I felt a kind of panic surging, a voice screaming, What the hell am I doing here? before reason took over and calmed me down.

Did you know that in most towns here you can only exchange US dollars for euros? I had half-suspected it but was too tired, back in Singapore, to realize I should not have carried singapore dollars with me... Bought myself los necesarios, amongst which was a little UK-to-Spain adapter for the computer. Unlike the train in Germany, (and like the rest of the world), it seems like you have to pay to take the train and buses.. and I got myself a bus card and a local SIM card.

After calling the airlines' lost baggage counter, finally I heard news that my checked-in luggage arrived this morning. I spent the day replying to my emails, reassuring everybody I was not lost in the middle of Spanish prairies, but merely incommunicado because the phone charger was in the handcarry luggage. After a day reading Spanish and listening to 30+ Spanish girls talking at the top of their voice, I retired with a headache.

Just before dinner, I was informed that my checked-in luggage had arrived. Thank God!

Day #2: Went to the town hall today to get my residence registration done. The Spanish understood English, spoken, much better than they speak or read. With my Indonesian passport before her eyes, the government officer took my word (a mistaken reply to a mistaken question) that my citizenship is Singaporean! Also, did you know Sarasate was Spanish? I didn't until today, where I took the bus to Calle Sarasate, one of many roads named after him. Passed by many fine old churches in the casco viejo (old town) of Pamplona.

Day #3: Went to the university's financial aid office. Was told I only qualified for one type of scholarship available, and that if I managed to somehow get it, the fund would be released only next year, halfway through the course... there's always part-time work available if I want to work... On the bright side, I found an English speaking priest in the chapel of the university.

When I came back to the residence, I found that the elusive handcarry luggage had arrived. I was just relieved at this point of time. Looking back at the whole episode I learned that I should never part with important documents, and that I should treat luggage tags as if they are as important as passports, and that I should have carried a slimmer handcarry luggage, and ultimately, that God is good. I traveled the whole journey: plane, train, bus, car, without having to carry luggage, and they were delivered to my doorstep, no less!

Food... hmm.. food was fine. Everybody had asked if I like Spanish food. TO which I replied that I didn't realize they were "Spanish" since they were very much similar to what we eat back home. Not the hawker center variety, but the home-cooked food variety. But today we had tortillas de patatas and gaspachos, which is never served outside summer. So today summer had officially begun here :)