so fa, so go….

by Evans Yonson

(Note: I wrote this piece on 5 May 2005 living the university residence named Nuestra Señora de Africa in Madrid, Spain. I thought of my mother when I wrote this piece. She died a year before that. If she were alive then I would have told her this by long distance, which I normally did when I was still in Manila.)

It’s been seven months, 1 week and 2 days since I left the Philippines. The same period that I have been here in Europe. How is life treating me after 222 days away from my dear country?

Life has never been so good to me.

I travelled more than 17 hours to get my butt here in Spain. I am still discovering Spain up to this day. It’s a wonder that I wake up to a wonderful view. Go to sleep with yet another view of the guys on the other dormitory.

I take breakfast with a Spanish tongue. Hola! Que tal? Como te vas? Go to a Spanish language school in the morning. Learning Spanish grammar and culture everyday. Buenos dias. Estamos estudiando el futuro y el condicional. And to a Spanish university in the afternoon. La cooperacion espanola no se que… Tal… Tal.. Learning more about the realities beyond my world. En Colombia, la vida es asi. En Caracas, la gente es amable. En Mexico. En Buenos Aires. En Peru. En Bolivia. Eat Spanish dormitory food for lunch and dinner. Potato soup for the first plate. Sopa de patatas. Baby back ribs with mashed potato. Papas (Spanish slang for potato) everyday. Drink cafe con leche and Coca Cola light during school breaks.

One thing is certain here in Spain – people everywhere speak Spanish. From the newspaper vendors to a McDonalds crew member. From the cleaning lady to the Starbucks’ barista (pronounced as Star books). They all speak Spanish here. In the same manner that people in Manila speak Filipino, even small children speak perfect Spanish here.

Another thing is the bar culture. Everyday is a fiesta here in Madrid. On weekends, bars close at 0630H while other bars specialize on opening at 0630H. The fun never stops on weekends. It just goes on and on and on and on.

Yet another thing is the subterranean life. I mean, the Metro. If Manila has 3 Metro lines (LRT, MRT, and MRT3), Madrid has 13 lines. The trains begin chugging at 0630H, just when everybody is set to go home after a night’s fiesta. The Metro closes its doors just when everybody is already in bars and restaurants drinking and chatting the night away. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. People do sleep in this part of world. The Metro life is a good anthropological study. It’s a marvel. Yes Virginia, there’s even music underneath the earth.

Another thing is the warmth of the people you meet everywhere. Just when you’re lost in the wildreness of Madrid, people will show you the way. That’s about it. Don’t speak anything more. But if you go beyond Madrid, people are a lot warmer. They always strike a conversation. They have a saying here that goes, “silence is violent.” You must think of something to start a chat. Spanish people love to talk. I mean really talk. They have this unending energy of really talking with gusto and actions beyond description.

The changing of the seasons is splendid. A take-off from hot-hot, hot-wet, wet-cold, cold-hot seasons that we have back home. As seasons change so do the colors. From white to green to yellow to brown to white again. So does fashion. From black heavy winter clothes to light spring jackets to almost nude summer to light fall jackets to black again. After a year here in Spain, I would certainly be a star for all seasons. Sorry, Ate Vi.

Travel is another preoccupation here. At the slightest chance of having a long weekend, people always travel out of the city or out of the country. I mean it’s really cheap to travel to another city or country. Avila. Toledo. Barcelona. Salamanca. Alcala de Henares. El Escorial. Lisboa. Fatima. Porto. Milan. Venice. Florence. Pisa. Rome. Genoa. Montepellier. London. Brighton. A round trip ticket to Italy costs only less 5,000 pesos. A trip to Portugal for about 2,500 pesos in 5 days. An e-ticket to London is a killer for only 4,000 pesos return.

Am I having some difficulties here? Of course!

I have classmates who are so cold. They don’t talk to me at all. Why? Is it because I’m Asian? All the more I am Filipino? Or they feel threatened? Or is it because I couldn’t catch up what they are talking about? I really don’t care. Me da igual. At the same time, I have difficulty dealing with some people here. I could take it if they were my students, but they are not. They are supposed to be scholars. They must be rotten eggs back home.

I hate the food in the dormitory. Everybody is complaining but nobody seems to care. You should see how the women have fattened themselves after several months of eating grease from breakfast to dinner. Is this a piggery where they fatten everyone before slaughtering them? I want adobo. I crave for paksiw. I miss pancit. I would kill for a kilo of lechon. I could just imagine kinilaw. Tapsilog. Cornsilog. Bangus. Chorizo. Oppss. Bad food.

My sex life is zero. Zilch. Nil. I mean it’s hard to distinguish who is sick and who is not. But does that make me sick? Men here in Spain are gorgeous. They are vitamins to my eyes. But not to all my senses. I could just appreciate and daydream that the next Metro stop would take forever. Or the leaves of the trees would grow more so fast and fall to maintain the good view that I have. Or that the night become so hot that they will start disrobing mindlessly to my delight.

I have never been so quiet in my entire life. I just keep on writing everything that I see. Understanding new ideas. Learning about another culture. Discovering more of myself which I was not aware of before I left the Philippines.

Sobreviviendo. Surviving. If I have lived in Manila alone for more than 12 years away from Cagayan de Oro and survived, why can’t I, here in Europe.?

I tell you one thing is certain, so far, yet so good.

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