Spain IV: the slow sink and sway

Well, it is safe to say that I spoke too soon about the rain. The floods that characterize Oviedo have arrived, attempting to confine us to the limited indoor spaces we can find. After a few days trapped with my Nook, I decided to take on the rain. I have found that it is actually quite lovely to stomp through the thick puddles collecting in the crevices of the stone walkways. I am also on my third Chino-quality umbrella (note: stop buying things from Chino).

A rarity in this area, we have also been seeing fleeting but sweet bouts of snow flurries. This gives skiers hope for the Asturian slopes—we can reach Bajaras and San Isidoro within the hour by bus.

I’ve also been taking advantage of the Tandem program offered by the school. It works to pair an interested English speaker with a Spanish speaker for better practice, the things we do not tackle in class. We meet up for coffee or wine, or just crawl the city, communicating in a mix of languages. Just this last time I excitedly realized that I was responding to questions posed in English with Spanish and conversing this way. It has been a great way to make local friends as well.

I feel as though I have been very spoiled by Philadelphia’s efficient city layout; with a numbered grid system, visualization of the city is painless. However, Oviedo seems to have opted for something a tad more whimsical. Its roads arc and swerve, intersecting at strange and inefficient angles. Street signs are bronzed and embedded in buildings at intermittent points, aesthetically in conjunction, but just as easy to miss. The days I choose to wander, I tend to find myself at the city limits without any recollection of how I ended up there.

The homogeneity of this culture is a further drastic contrast to what I have known in Philadelphia, which means that at times, I feel disillusioned. The model for the ideal Spaniard has been molded for centuries, resulting from the thorough meshing of Celtic, Arab, and Iberian cultures. After attending one of the most diverse universities in the nation, as well as living in Bella Vista, the intersection of Mexican, Vietnamese, and Italian neighborhoods, I have grown to expect variety (and also political correctness, which is something entirely out of sight and out of mind here in Spain). The apparent tones of xenophobia can be intimidating. Because of my dark and mixed features, at least, I do not receive the uniform mouth agape ogling experienced by the others. Because the population is elderly, it works to further create a strict conservative atmosphere and a noticeable divide in the city which is taking time to get used to.

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