Sunday, April 22, 2007

Water Music

Earlier this week, I had a minor epiphany. Thinking back to the situation where I have had the most success in life mastering a foreign language, I realized it was as a teenager in Germany. The breakthrough came after about 6 weeks, when I just woke up one day and vowed that I was simply going to speak at all costs, and not worry too much about the correctness of what I was saying (after all, that's presumably how we do it as kids - nobody really teaches us the rules). So I've started to do the same thing here. Furthermore, I've added the condition that I will force myself to overcome my natural reticence (yes, folks, I am an introvert, thought not hugely so) and make a conscious effort to talk to strangers, whether it be to ask for help, exchange pleasantries about the weather, or just engage in general meaningless chit-chat.

It's amazing what a difference this can make. Obviously, some interactions are more successful than others. But I've gone from being served with the kind of sullen neglect, bordering on rudeness, Spanish waitresses manage to inflict on most tourists to being greeted with an ¡hola!, a big smile, and free vocabulary lessons in the restaurant where I eat lunch most days. Similarly, I've learned that the previously eternally bored-looking woman, Inma, stationed at the counter in the internet café/grocery store, spent six months in Killarney last year with her boy-friend (the competent helpful guy - see earlier entries on "laws of the internet café"), and they are both crazy about all things Irish. And I'm due back at Hannigan's (not to be confused with Flanagan's, because there is one of them as well) Irish pub tomorrow night, because I've been roped in as a member of what has been described as a "killer" pub quiz team. (I explained that I would be no good whatsoever on sports questions, but apparently that's already covered).

About 6:30 last night (Saturday), I was exploring the narrow alleys of the Albaicin (the area of the city by the Alhambra). Without particularly meaning to, I found I had made it pretty much to the top of the hill, to what seemed to be the bus parking lot for the Alhambra itself. Seeing a sign for the "Manuel de Falla cultural center", I followed it. Very few people arround, but there was a terraced area from which I had a great view of the city, and the Sierra Nevada behind me. I walked around a bit more, and was getting ready to go back down into the city, when I spotted three guys, who appeared to be maintenance men taking a cigarette break outside what seemed to be the entrance to the main auditorium, which was visibly deserted. A week earlier, I would have nodded to them neutrally and gone my way. But I obeyed my new policy and forced myself to ask a question: "¿Hay concertos aquí?", which seemed like a pretty safe bet for an auditorium named for De Falla.

Turns out that not only are there concerts almost every night, there was one last night. Again, with my usual bone-headed pessimism, I thought to myself that it would surely be sold out. But the little voice said, "it can't help to ask, dummy". So I did: "there wouldn't be any tickets left for this evening, though?" At which all three went into this elaborate pantomime of denial, indicating that "sí, sí", there would be tickets, and that all I had to do was come back to the taquilla (little excursion as they took me over to show me where the taquilla was) after 8pm (further little pantomime with watch hands) to snag a ticket for that night's concert at 9pm. The zoos "Budapest", "Tchaikovsky" and "agua" kept coming up a lot, so I had some idea of what the program might involve.

Well, at that point, it would have been churlish not to come back, right?
(to be continued)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See, extroverts do have more fun!