28 July 2006

Foreigners, not quite like me

Saw a statistic this week that 9 percent of the immigrants here are British, many escaping the socialized health care system in Britain and finding sun in retirement, and 8 percent of the immigrants are Romanians. These are the two biggest blocks of extranjeros (foreigners).

From several discussions I've had with Romanian's here, their culture is a little scary. The women I talked to assured me that the woman I saw in the attempted kidnapping was in danger of violence from these men. They said that the gypsies carry knifes and think nothing of snatching and harming someone they know or putting them to whatever purpose they choose. Also, another Romanian woman told me that she has no Romanian friends because it is too risky. There is a big Romanian mafia, here as well as in their country. She said if a woman has been a girlfriend or live-in partner and she tries to leave, the men see no probelm with dragging her back and maybe locking her up. If they know you, they feel they have license. Apparently it's much worse in Romania. Human trafficking is a big issue in Eastern bloc countries where women are brought out of Romania or wherever with the promise of a job and then forced into prostitution and treated like slaves. Amazing these things can happen in the 22nd Century.

I wonder how much generations of people being told there was no God effects the mentality of a nation. They suffered under some really harsh times in Romania. About half our church here is Romanian, they most often are cleaning people for others since those are the only jobs they can get without papers. The Romanian believers in our church have such great spirits and are very evangelistic toward their friends. They are really inspiring the more I learn.

20 July 2006

What a week! Sand storms and...kidnappings?!

Monday afternoon walking home from work, I walked through a sand storm. I didn't know there was one when I set out from the office. When I turned the corner to our neighborhood where it is open out to the fields, I was hit by a blast. A literal blast of sand and dirt. It turned dark and swirls of sand like little tornados were in the air (not strong like that but twirly shaped). I had to stop and turn my back to it for a minute. I finally put on my sunglasses, so I could see through the dust particles to walk the last two blocks home. Really weird. Apparently some climates have these regularly. We've had to dust and vacuum and mop really thoroughly this week.

Wednesday, we went to the mall and looked at the portable air conditioners. When we left, I had one of those amazed moments of realizing we'd conducted all our business in Spanish. It's a challenge mind you, but still surprising when it works. We bought one ac unit - to be delivered Friday. Wish I had it now, sweating at 10:45 pm. Won't have one in the office anyway, so it wouldn't matter.

Thursdays I work at home, usually on the website since I don't have the right tools at work. The last few weeks of 90s + temps I've taken advantage of Thursday mornings to get a walk in before the hot temperatures hit. This morning I did this too. I was in the neighborhood just below ours and saw a construction worker guy (they all wear blue work pants here) go calling to his girlfriend (or some girl) up the street near our neighborhood. At first I thought she forgot her keys or something. She didn't get in the car she was about to take a ride from (like a car pool pick up). They started fighting audibly.

By now, they were standing on the corner I had to walk on to get home. It was escalating and I thought I'd have to walk through some domestic violence and was wondering what to do. They were yelling in Romanian. (I know you're saying how does she know, there are a lot of Romanians here.) So I couldn't understand them.

As I approached another guy appeared and they grabbed the girl. A car pulled up and they covered her mouth and grabbed her by the arms and started dragging her, kicking, fighting and screaming to the car. By this time, I was on the same corner and only a few feet away from all of this. Standing and staring, probably with my mouth open. I was thinking I had to do something, and how on earth would I be able to explain this in Spanish because I would have to call the police if they drove off with her.

The driver of the car started saying, "No, no, no" when she started screaming. They were covering her mouth. The driver began to drive off without letting them put her in the car, at which point they let her go. She walked over to me and I said in Spanish. Come to my house. As we walked, she was visibly shaken. I asked did she know the men and she said yes. I think we were both a bit shaken, and I couldn't really make my Spanish work. She thanked me for staying and explained that she worked for a neighbor of ours whose husband is with the police. So, she rang their bell and went in their house. I went home. Dar thinks I should go to the neighbors and ask them what this was all about.

Dar and I were speculating about human trafficing, white slavery, and illegal immigration scams. They obviously thought she owed them something.

Needless to say, today I locked the gate and the door. Then in the afternoon, a guy came by in jeans and t-shirt with an invoice asking me to take 2 cases of wine for some neighbors who weren't home. It's like a wine of the month club. I felt strange and did not take it. I think if my morning hadn't been so odd, I would have held the wine for the neighbors. I was reticent to unlock the gate for a delivery I had no assurance was legitimate.

Then tonight, we had to take back the fan we bought Wednesday because it had one wrong leg. Our Spanish wasn't up to explaining, "I will just exchange it if you can prove to me the other one has all the right parts." Finally we left with a new fan that we opened up to check parts. The clerk said to the security guard (in order for us to get out of the store), the other one had the wrong "paw", not foot. No wonder they didn't understand me. I was using the wrong word. Such is life on foreign soil - this week anyway.

13 July 2006

TGIF - what it looks like from here

Tomorrow will be a little different Friday for me. We have to be downtown (in Alcala not Madrid) at 8:30am to meet our lawyer type person and go to the police station. We will start stage 2 of our identity process tomorrow. Even though we've had our card only since March, it expired on our arrival date in the country. So we start with the papers again.

But my normal Friday is a day at home. The ladies in our office tend to take a day off for household maintenance, so I do too. I love being home all day. Dar has been majorly helping with the house stuff lately and it has been a huge gift. It allows me time to pick up on some of the writing things that have gone begging for years. I'm really excited about getting back into the writing groove. It's so great that he has helped carve that out for me. He knows I'm a slow cleaner, and I kept getting caught up in cleaning and then running errands on Friday and not getting to anything else.

Now, I get up and do my part of the cleaning. Then I try to spend several hours at the computer getting familiar with my words again and finding places to market stuff. The last few weeks I've been submitting things I've written that never got a publishing home. I've sent out a few queries on my second novel too. So far rejections from everything, but it feels good to at least be trying again. I've started working on an old short story that I want to turn into a novel too. It's amazing what you can do in a few hours if you will just stick with it.

Then I usually eat a late lunch and run a few errands or sometimes vice versa, if my errand destinations are at risk of siesta-ing on me. Fridays are now extra good thanks to Dar.

08 July 2006

Vacation for the 4th

Every one seems to have done their report for what last weekend held. I'm a week late, but I'm feeling pressured to tell how it went. ha.

We took a vacation day to make it a 4-day. Drove to Tarragona where we went to language school, about 5 hours away. Stayed with future co-workers, who are in language school, in a high rise apartment building over looking a half moon, crystal clear pool.

Saturday - went to Arrabassada beach. Beautiful breeze, cool mediterranean waters, and only a couple topless people. Drove over to La Mora beach where we used to live and ate beachside for under 10 a person. I had bifstec, fries and a salad. It's a real cheap cut of steak that is sometimes tender, like this time. Cleaned up went into Tarragona downtown, ran into a little festival on the rambla (main walking/shopping street). Marhsal arts performers, drum band, stilt walkers and only a handful of observers. Walked the old city and went home late.

Sunday - we got a very slow and late start. Decided to drive into Barcelona, one hour or so. Parked the car, hopped the metro. Shopped in a big bookstore with English books and magazines. Ate lunch at Hard Rock Cafe, oh yeah, American eats and large beverages - with refills! Took a tourist bus tour, which we'd never done, and it was everyone else's first and perhaps only trip into Barcelona. Worked out nicely, you see a lot but are not exhaused at the end of it. We did the rambla thing - walking and watching street performers. Then by popular demand Starbucks, are we a bunch of American's or what?! Got home at the very Spanish hour of 1:30am.

Monday - grocery run at the very crowded equivalent of Super Walmart to prepare for a BBQ. A couple hours at that beautiful swimming pool. Cook side dishes and head to a BBQ at the language school complex. Visit with friends we haven't seen in six months. Ate lots of good food. The Tarragona fireworks festival happened to start this night. We were late getting away so we were driving like mad to get to the beach and glimpsing fireworks through the trees. We still saw about 10 minutes worth when we got to the beach. It's a competition each night so they try to out-do one another. A good show. 30 minutes worth of traffic afterwards.

Tuesday - alas vacation is drawing to an end. We did 2 hours at the beach, then cleaned up and headed out. Arrived home in time for Dar to watch the world cup match that was on television.

It was nice to be away. You relax differently when you're away from home.