I am in the rather strange position of having by far the best Spanish on the boat. This is nothing to boast about and is due simply to having done a year of Spanish at school. I also spent some time in my 20s travelling in Bolivia and Chile, when the phrase “Lava ropa?”* often came in handy. However, it has been 6 years since I have had to say “Hola” to anyone and the sad little bit of Spanish I once had now largely eludes me. Everyday words and phrases like “Wife”, “Too much” and “Are you sure you’re not completely fleecing me because I’m a foreigner?” have me reaching for the diccionario. I dearly look forward to the day when I can talk to people here without the cumbersome ‘Spanglish’ interspersed with grunts and hand gestures (largely mine). Here in Galicia regional Galego is widely spoken so the locals have already managed two languages before they think about English. Portugese and French are also common third languages. Everyone else on board is doing their best, learning from our recently acquired ‘Spanish for beginners’ book. The girls really try hard with “hola”, “me llamo Lily” etc. But we just have to accept that it is going to take a lot of work and time to get into this.
It is not only the language but the culture and environment to get used to. Martina and I have spent many afternoons getting slightly sun or heat stroked along with near dehydration for little practical benefit. Chores on deck and scouting the local area can always wait until it cools a bit. There is a reason nothing is open here between 2:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon, and many businesses are closed between 1:00 and 5:30. The locals have a relaxed shady lunch and then go to sleep, while we have often found ourselves wobbling about, completely exhausted and sun-frazzled at 5 or 6 o’clock simply through our inability to observe the local custom and take a siesta. The trouble is that we have mastered the staying up late, dinner at 9pm and so on, but in our true British or Irish fashion we have adjusted to this late bedtime by getting up later in the morning. Therefore we miss the morning markets, the post office, cool walks, fresh bread and finally emerge into the heat of the day baking ourselves crispy whilst everything around us remains shut until 5:30!!
Now I realise that nothing I have written is in any way original. Indeed I cringe at my lack of profound observation. Brit after Brit has noted exactly the same things. It is worth stating them again as we always fail to heed our own good advice, myself especially. The advice is simple, learn some more of the lingo and get a siesta whilst the sun fries the earth like the fires of Hades.
Tomorrow you should not be in the least surprised to find me wandering about half dazed, the colour of a freshly cooked lobster, knotted handkerchief on my head, sweat pouring down my face like Niagara, slowly shouting at some local the immortal line “DO YOU SPEAK ANY ENGLISH?” I think I deserve to be fleeced, don’t you?
*Martina: Julian tells me this means ‘clothes washing’, or something close. Given that we hand wash most of our laundry on board, the phrase isn’t getting much use!