Sunday, November 7, 2010

Memories of Spain – Happy Birthday

I spent a semester in Spain my sophomore year of college. Many, many excellent stories and life experiences are rooted in my time in Spain. Spain was where I first wrote articles for publication and realized just how happy writing regularly makes me. It was also my first experience leaving the US and without it, I wouldn’t have had the guts to move to Germany three years later. One could successfully argue that my semester in Spain was the first step on the excellent path my life would take throughout my 20s.

Yet, Spain was also home of one of the strangest living experiences I have had so far. The first two months I lived in a sprawling flat in one of the nicer areas of Madrid. The host, Maria, was um, strange. And I think that I’m being polite here.

All in all we were an old collection of flat mates: four American students from three different universities; Maria; Maria’s grown daughter; Maria’s two grandchildren; and at some very strange period of time the host’s not-quite-as-dead-as-she-described-to-us ex-husband. That flat was just big enough for us all (without the not-dead ex-husband) but not what one would call comfortable. The warm water always ran out during showers; breakfast was a rather rushed experience; and dinner took place in shifts.

But the true strangeness was the ‘cleansing of clothing ritual’. Since Spain I have traveled quite a lot and experienced a number of clothing cleansing approaches; this one remains the strangest of all. For the first few weeks, we Americans just couldn’t figure out why our clothes starting to smell of ham and, well, ourselves. It took a little while to figure it out and we only slowly built a full picture of the root cause. This is what we discovered:

Maria did not use soap to wash our clothes. From what I can remember, Maria argued soap wasn’t healthy for the skin. Oh, but wait, it gets better. Maria would then hang our clothes out to dry in the freezing winter air of Madrid, next to the ham.

Yes, you just read the correct. Our still dirty, wet clothing slowly dried right next to our diner ham. No wonder we stank.

I moved out a few weeks later and Spain never smelled better. This all rushed into my memory when two images popped up on Facebook: a reminder that my American roommate from this shared experience has a special birthday coming up and this image:

Happy Birthday Former Roomie! Thanks again for introducing me to excellent chick music and giving me the courage to ask lots and lots questions. I continue taking both forward in my life.



Emma Hayes said...

nic, how sweet is this blogpost? you've made me tear up a bit. i need to start following your blog... you are hilarious! sending you a huge hug of gratitude.
lots of love, emma

Pickles and Onions said...

glad that you liked it and hope you have an excellent birthday. Hope to see you around this parts more often.

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