Sunday, April 29, 2012

Oregon in Spain / Oregón en España

Before I cam to Spain, I had a mental image of a sun-drenched, wind-swept earth, full of knights tilting at windmills and debonair dudes with nylon-string guitars wailing in a forlorn, quasi-Arabic syallabary. This was a land where people were always winking and laughing at some inside joke about the futility and thus innecessity of hard work; men were slapping each other on the back while slapping women on their hindparts; a land where everyone was good at spitting game and good at playing castanets.

However, I've told you enough about the deconstruction of the preconceived notions of Spain's people. Shoot, I've probably even covered the landscape enough too. Tell you the truth, it must sound like I'm just constantly bitching and moaning about how much life sucks over here. Right?

Don't answer that.

But to all my Pacific Northwesters - check this out:

Greetings from Seattledolid
Somehow, the Northwest has followed me here. All we need now is several steamships full of emigrant hipsters and a cargo tanker full of unicycles, used books, thick-rimmed lensless glasses, and flannel shirts. We'd also need to establish at least seven organic food stores. Then, such as this following artsy picture shows, we'll be totally ready to write spoken-word poetry about the gloomy gray skies and perform it in a hip coffee shop, run by a failed bassist with 1890s-U.S. President mutton chops. Maybe, soon, between the espressos and the organic, range-free, egg-white omlettes, we'll even be able to play a worn, 1974 edition of the board game Clue, just because, like, it's so much better than the new updated version, before Colonel Mustard totally sold out.

This street represents the futility of existence. Calle Godot.
So as you can see, Spain also has shit weather in late April. Where are my goddamn palm trees?

Friday, April 6, 2012

El páramo / The Plain

I have never lived in a place as arid or barren as the province of Valladolid. It has been a shock moving from Eugene, Oregon, which is one of the most verdant and lush places in the United States, to the empty plains of central Castilla. I never knew before that a change in landscape could be so unsettling.

There is not much in the way of forests - just a few scattered "pinares", or pine groves. Some of the landscape looks exactly like northern Utah or southern Idaho, places which I came to know due to my epic journey across the United States almost a year ago. Actually, east of the Cascade mountains in Oregon looks very similar to Valladolid, but without nearly as much change in terrain. Here, for example, is a landscape shot near Burns, OR:

I don't know if I could live for an extended period of time in a place like that. Something about the Wild West just has a mystique, though. That unspoken edge to it, carved in from centuries of cowboys, desperadoes and history.

 But, of course, all of that existed in Castilla as well. There were knights and duels and jousts and desperadoes and vaqueros, long before there were any on our continent of North America. 

Maybe, just maybe, it's my rut-stuck way of thinking about a place that's unfamiliar to me. Because this plain, this páramo, sometimes doesn't match up to the one I am used to. But sometimes when I scale one of the flat-topped, monolithic mesas that encircle the city, the astounding view I get is something that conjures up the epic wildness of the American Old West. Maybe, just maybe, the Spanish conquistadores saw something that reminded them of home - many, many years ago.