13 Dec 2011

Yes, I am a big girl … or possibly a Gigantor …

From the outset let me state that my forefathers and foremothers were not small folk. We are tall, have shoulders, breasts, a waist, hips, thighs, long legs and big feet.
In South Africa, I was a slightly tall woman, but there were many other women my size, and bigger.
According to my host country, however, I fall in the category of gigante.
It is not so bad that people point and stare, possibly because the husband is taller and bigger and he can apparently hit quite hard, but it has happened to me a number of times when I am on the metro, or anywhere where I sit, that when I stand up, that the Spanish folk step back.  I wonder (In Afrikaans of course) what the Spaniards are thinking ... that I will step on them because they are so small? That my size is contagious?
For the reader who does not know this, the Spanish women (and men) generally are not very tall, and the women are super skinny, their thighs are the width of my hand. There are not many countries that they make skinny jeans for men. If I wanted to, I could probably snap them with my one finger.
Now, normally this would not bother me at all, but with the change of seasons I have now spotted a problem: buying shoes.
Every shop I go into I have to ask if they stock my size. I had one shop assistant laugh at me (I nearly stepped on her … the little freak). The other shop assistant gaped at me with her mouth open in horror, shaking her head. I stepped on that little freak, sorry, she was so bloody tiny what is a big girl like me to do? I have no fear facing her loved ones, they will be so small, that once I stoop down to their level they will run away screaming and go hide in the hills …that’s what they do with giants.
I have, in addition hereto, established that Madrid appears to cater for all shapes and sizes, and there are shops that cater for cross dressing men, in that they can wear woman shoes. Out of sheer desperation I visited this store with a friend, and unfortunately have to report that I was not trying to buy glitterati high heeled shoes, which come in red, yellow, pink, blue and leopard print, all in one shoe. Nor were the white thigh high patent leather boots exactly up my alley.
As such, the search continues, since all shapes and sizes clearly does not mean shoes in my size. If there are any other gigantors out there with big feet, let me know where you secretly shop in Madrid, please, otherwise the small town folk shall continue to suffer.

11 Dec 2011

Feliz Navidad or is it Merry Christmas?

It appears that the Engelas have according to my host country, wrongly celebrated Christmas on 25th December each and every year. It appears that the Spaniards or Catholics or possibly everyone from Europe, celebrates Christmas on 6th January each year. Apparently, this is when the Three Wise Men come bearing gifts. Who knew? We of course will continue with our celebrations as per our upbringing, but we will not complain if we score some public holidays in January. If I have learnt one lesson here, it is not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
We have, admittedly, been swept up in the whole “first Christmas in Europe” fever.
It could be worse, I could be experiencing a “I am able to shop in Europe with Euros” fever, which would lead to quite a number of interesting stories, therefore, in my view, my husband should thank his lucky stars (and non-existent overdraft) that I only suffer from Christmas fever…for now.
Now, like many other folk out there, I hope, I have an unhealthy obsession with Christmas lights and Christmas tree decorations; I am literally unable to pass any shop that may stock these items. The mere flickering of a Christmas light in a shop window makes me stop dead in my tracks, gives me a warm glowing feeling around my heart and I am compelled to wander into the store.
I was therefore in absolute heaven last week when we visited a beautiful Monastery in El Escorial, and after the necessary cultural exposure to things older than by home country, my beady eye caught…the flickering of THE LIGHTS. My husband has learned to step back (probably in the “safe zone” which means “hand over the wallet, don’t ask any questions, especially not where will we put this one?”) and just let me be. I thus found the most wonderful little Christmas store, tucked to the ceiling full of wonderful Christmas things…and yes, at one point I was considering buying the train that goes through snow mountain, with the little people and the little houses, with the music … but sanity prevailed and I only bought a couple of beautiful handmade tree decorations. I normally do not do this, but by merely looking at this picture, you my dear reader will have no option but to compend me on this willpower...

It has reached a stage where I know a second Christmas tree is a necessity, and trying to figure out how many outside lights we need and when enough is enough. I am furthermore being unduly influenced by my neighbours, since every time we drive to our house, more and more Christmas lights are appearing on patios, railings, trees and whatever else cannot be carried away over your shoulder. As such, I am beginning to suffer from an inferiority complex – we therefore will have to shop some more. By “we” I of course do mean I and my husband’s wallet…
I am therefore a self-confessed anything Christmas shopaholic, I admit, but bearing in mind this crazy season only lasts a couple of months, how bad can it be? I will report back on that question once I have sneaked the second (slightly) larger Christmas tree into the lounge…of course I now need more decorations…

8 Dec 2011

How to go from attorney to teacher in 0.3 seconds

As I may have stated before, I practised as an attorney for many years in my home country before we moved to Madrid.
Clearly we did not move because I am clever.
Also, I never set out to study for so many years, and practise for so many years, to be in a situation where I don’t actually work in my field of expertise. This is not due to any misconduct on my part, this is due to some Spanish red tape which is about as complicated as Russian, which in layman’s terms means “sorry, for whatever reason we deem necessary or because the mayor had back pain or was angry at his wife, you may not formally work”. This logic makes no sense to me, but be that as it may.
We moved since my husband is allegedly a rocket scientist and those are no longer needed in my home country. My host country however needs rocket scientists so here we are. Possibly my father was right and I should have studied engineering and not law but alas, here I am, two degrees and many years of experience later, and I don’t practise law anymore.
Now, before I (finally) stopped practising, I tried to think what the heck I would do in Madrid. To briefly explain the boring stuff, once I have crossed the red tape mountain, I need to do a conversion type of course, but for that, I need to speak Spanish. This may take a while.
In the meantime, after packing and moving and unpacking and the usual “let’s move country things”, I came to realise a number of important things:
1.    I cannot speak Spanish. So I have a problem, possibly law is not in my immediate future. Check.

2.    I could write a blog to vent. Check.

3.    I am not a housewife. Check.

4.    Cleaning and cooking makes my blood boil. Not in a good way. Check.

5.    I need to do something otherwise I can easily turn into the wicked witch of Casa Engela. Check.
As such, and since I am suddenly “native” English speaking, I was roped into teaching English to children.
Now, for those who know me, stop laughing.
For those that don’t know me very well, I am not familiar with children.
In addition hereto, the idea of teaching never ever in my wildest nightmares crossed my mind. However, my host country suddenly wants their children to learn English from people who actually speak English. I cannot comment on the merits of this decision, however, I can tell you, suddenly I find myself in a group of people who are not very well liked by other teachers – again, this entire argument is in Spanish, which I definitely don’t understand, so I keep quiet and go on my merry little way.
I have now been at this teaching thing for about two months, and can honestly say that I can add to my list that I am not a natural born teacher, however, I know that the idea of sitting at home and not doing anything scares me more, so I shall stick it out, until some clever other English speaking person figures out that I don’t understand what I am doing, at best the children will speak with a South African accent, and furthermore, what the hell are you thinking letting an attorney loose on your kids? Talk about a nightmare.
So, if you are bored at your job, or think you may have made the wrong career move, I have a couple of pointers:
1.    You could marry a rocket scientist and change careers.

2.    You could move countries and suddenly not be allowed to work.

3.    Your English could be very important in ways you never thought possible.
If all else fails, and you married for love and not money, or you are single, then your only solution is to rob a Bank, flee the country and buy an island somewhere. I would love to join you, since I think robbing a Bank could possibly be easier than teaching a screaming mob of little adults to speak English.

1 Dec 2011

The wildlife (or is it night life?) in Madrid

From the outset, I warn any reader that this blog is not for the faint hearted. Reason being is that it deals with a certain portion of people in the host country we live in, namely the “ladies of the night”.
Now, to explain, in my home country there are such ladies (and men) but it is done quietly, only in certain areas, and as a regular Joe Soap (such as, for example, one innocent South African “meisie”) one would never normally see such persons or events. As such, and based on what we have seen thus far, I am compelled to inform you of our recent discoveries regarding these ladies.
In my host country, the situation is very, very different to my home country. I always thought that a country known to be so religious would be more conservative. Not so. Apparently being conservative in your religion has got nothing to do with what these ladies do. Right.
Our first exposure to these ladies was from the safety of our car. We were visiting friends on the coast of Spain, when we saw extremely scantily clad woman hanging around at roundabouts. We were quite astonished, since clearly, the sun had set, so pray do tell why are woman hanging around on the roundabouts wearing less than bikinis? These ladies are called “gloriettas”, and work to service tourist and locals. Now I am not one to judge, but really, being flashed by a woman, as a woman, is not something I really want to experience. As such, after this jaw dropping experience, we were not as astounded by more recent events as we would have been a couple of months ago.
Over the weekend, we, with the same South African friends who also live in Spain, went meandering around Madrid checking out the Christmas lights. We ended up having a late night coffee on a very busy road in Madrid, when we realised we were apparently on one of the roads where these ladies work.
Now of course, and as I previously pointed out, the Engelas are extremely nosey and curious, and as such, our entire group proceeded to watch these working ladies and the behaviour. All we needed were some popcorn, but admittedly, a pair of binoculars would have been wonderful as well.
Here is what I can summarise from our scrutiny:
1.    Most of these ladies appear to be from other European countries: they are however quite adapt to swearing at prospective clients (and their female partners) who refuse their services, in Spanish. I wonder of this leads to more work?

2.    They are able to stalk on killer high heels. These heels may however also be used as weapons, possibly when services are refused.

3.    If you look quickly, they may appear to be wearing large belts. Upon closer inspection, the belt is a skirt.

4.    One gentleman quite literally ran away (in circles, since when one is stalked the hunter tends to be able to accurately guess the preys next move) from one of these ladies who was stalking him. The South Africans were rolling around on the floor laughing at his acrobatic moves. And yes, Spanish men can blush. And yes, we received some glares and swear words, which we did not understand, so we continued watching.

5.    One event which had us all in stiches was that (and this is a true story) a Spanish mother requested the services of one of these ladies for her son (who was accompanying her) who looked to be quite young. This is an interesting take on motherhood in my opinion. Our friends, when returning home, saw this same mother and her son on the train – he was looking far more uncomfortable than prior to the meeting with said lady, and was scratching in places where no man should scratch continuously. Me thinks a very embarrassing visit to the doctor is on this young man’s horizon.

6.    Be careful not to try to determine if any lady is such a lady of the night, purely based on their clothing, you can be seriously mistaken; some local girls and woman wear clothes like that just to go out. Yes, their mothers allow them to leave their homes looking like that.
Today, I was in the city centre, with a guest from South Africa, when I noticed that the ladies of the night, also work in the day. Somehow these ladies seem as intimidating and scary in the day, as at night, if not more so ... something about black leather thigh high boots in the sun seems to scare me.
So, my conclusion is that the wildlife in Madrid is similar to the wildlife in South Africa, they move around day and night, they stalk their prey, they are seriously scary looking, it is safer to do a game drive from the safety of your car and if you don’t run away quickly, you will get bitten in places you do not want to be bitten in.