Posted by: jayteea | Sunday. 10 February 2008.

Lovely, or En Graná Otra Vé

It’s 4:48pm on a Saturday afternoon in Granada.  Atmosphere: super tranquilo.  I missed this.  After a whirlwind weekend road trip to Cadiz for Carnaval, I feel completely wiped out, but it’s okay.  I throw on an unusual outfit—that is, one that I usually wouldn’t wear in Spain—of tennis shoes, comfy jeans, a big Gap sweatshirt, and sunglasses to hide my makeup-free face after six hours of sleep in two days.  Iva’s going back to Madrid.

After walking with her to the bus stop, I grab hold of the oversized key in my pocket—the key to my car.  Well, what is to be my car for about 10 more minutes.  Getting into the driver’s seat of the Ford Focus C-Max (or something like that) makes me feel good.  Peaceful, really.  It’s been a long time since I’ve driven a car.  I feel like a grown-up again.  Memories of driving my car…the oh-so-rad teal Cavalier…around Mukwonago pass through my mind.  I feel like a normal Spaniard for once—not a silly extranjera that everyone stares at and unconsciously thinks to themselves: “she’s not from here…great…just another one of those foreigners invading my country.”  At least that´s what I imagine that many people think when I pass them on the street, wait in line with them at the supermarket, mumble taluegoooo, or try to teach them English.  Don’t get me wrong—many Spaniards are incredibly nice and accepting and it’s probably easier to be a foreigner here than in many other countries.  Spain’s still getting used to this massive influx of outsiders, though, and being one of them messes with your head sometimes. 

Thankfully our 5 or 6 hour trip to Cadiz has more or less prepared me for city driving.  In silence I navigate the excessively narrow, chaotic streets, dodging impatient pedestrians, rude moped riders, and big wheezy busses, remembering that there is no turn on red—ever—and that if you do turn right, you may have to stop before making the full turn to let the second red light turn red, the one that cuts off pedestrian cross-traffic.  Whew. 

Driving in Spain is like that.  This time around, though, my blood pressure is at a normal level.  Okay, good. 

It’s not just that I’m super relaxed, either.  Perhaps the caffeine from my two diet Cokes has finally worn off.  I’ve certainly stopped shaking.  I think it’s more relief, though, that I’m feeling.  We didn’t get (overly) lost, have an accident, or ruin the car.  This extra responsibility is almost off of my shoulders.  Anyway, if I screw it up now, at least there aren’t three other people counting on me.  Almost 9 months after my dad’s accident, I’m still really touchy about driving and even riding in cars, though I try to ignore it. 

Bonus points:  I manage to parallel park the car in front of Hotel San Anton.  Don’t even hit anything. 

Waiting patiently, I smirk as the hippie kids in front of me play stupid when asked why they didn’t fill up the gas tank before returning the car.  Come on guys, really.  I’m so relaxed that I don’t even care about my wet hair.  In a way, I feel more like myself when I know that I don’t look good.  Soon I’m chatting it up with the rental dude:  he reminisces about learning to drive stick on his old Fiat 600, I pretend to be interested while hoping that he doesn’t care that the car’s a little dirty or that there are discarded pieces of tinsel from my 2-Euro wig all over the floor of it.

When Spaniards are actually friendly, it makes me indescribably happy.  Now it’s time to walk home and take a much-needed siesta.  After the chaos of driving, I can truly enjoy the walk home, listening to the birdy sounds in the otherwise-quiet neighborhood, watching the old Spaniards out for their weekend post-lunch walks, thinking about the thankfully empty piso that I’m going back to, not feeling quite so alone anymore.

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