Saturday, 17 August 2013

Moorish hermits crash and burn

It´s hard being foreigners in a tight-knit town. No matter how friendly everyone is, we will always be outsiders. Add to that our location: we live at the top of the pueblo, the finca farthest from the plaza, and information doesn´t tend to flow uphill. This time of year, when everyone´s relatives are visiting for the  fiesta, we miss out sometimes.  

In a town totally centered on family, we are not related to anyone. We don´t have anything they need or want. We are no longer a novelty, so no one makes special efforts to include us. That´s normal, that is
Castilian, and that is OK by us. One thing we appreciate most about our village is their respect for privacy.

Because even though yes, we open the house to almost anyone who wants to come in, and yes, we host a lot of strangers and friends and acquaintances here, still, fundamentally, Paddy and I are both introvert. We are hermits.

When no one else is here, we spend our days in quiet, individual pursuits. We potter around the house, we paint pictures, we read and write and edit books and blogs. We do not talk to anyone. We hardly talk to one another. We are loners. To a lot of people, we are probably pretty boring. But we love our lives.

How & where I spend my summer
Still, for us the hours are long during the fiesta. At Vitoriana´s house on the plaza, 28 people are crammed into ten rooms, eating and drinking and catching up -- at least four other houses are similarly brimming. Children, dressed to the nines, chase balls and balloons through the flowerbeds. Cousins hold hands in church, and pass their cranky baby brothers hand to hand. Old ladies air-kiss one another´s cheeks outside the church. I see them, and I miss my cousins, aunts and uncles, I miss my big family back in Pittsburgh, its weenie-roasts and potato salad, lightning bugs and fireworks.  

So, maybe making up for that lack, at the Moratinos fiesta I throw myself into the community fun and drag Paddy along with me. I sing the songs and snap photos of the processions, we fill our pew at Mass, we sidle up to the makeshift bar on the church porch. And since they reintroduced the annual costume contest to the lineup, I figure a way to dress up for the big Saturday evening dance.

Last year we turned a couple of cardboard boxes into wearable dice. Paddy happily filled that role. But this year, Lucía my Spanish tutor lent us some exotic Moroccan robes and an headpieces. We can dress up like Mozarabs, the people who lived in Moratinos a thousand years back -- how cool is that?

So this evening, in time for the 8 p.m. costume judging (as listed on the church door) we donned our burnooses and pinned up Paddy´s hem, and headed up the street. Paddy groaned and mumbled that the other men in town don´t dress up. I reminded him of last year´s cave men and pirates and Che Guevarras, and told him "You don´t get old and stop playing. You stop playing and get old." 

We looked great, I thought. Good as two foreigners can look, dressed up like another kind of foreigner. Julia and a little group of relatives smiled and waved as we passed, and we saw they were wearing the clothes they´d worn to Mass earlier. But not everyone participates in the costume thing. We kept going.

I wondered. Last year, the costume contest happened after sundown, after the mobile disco music started up, after everyone had a glass of wine or a beer. Now, at 8, the sun was still high and white. Paddy´s sunglasses made him look like an OPEC oil sheik.

Gillen, a child I´ve pretty much watched grow up in the last seven years, spotted us from down the street. He pointed and laughed at us. We turned the corner into the plaza. The card tables were set up in the shade, the Brisca and Mus tournament in full swing. The games stopped, the faces turned to the two strange beings. Smiles. Incomprehension. Realization.

Victor, always a quick wit, bowed three times and said "salaam." 
A cousin stood up and touched his watch with his finger. "The contest is not til 11 o´clock," he said.
I´d got the schedule wrong.
Yes, we are foreigners, yes, we live up in the Barrio Arriba. And yes, we are morons: me for getting the time wrong, and Paddy for not even bothering to look. 

We came dressed up like Moors, but suddenly we were clowns instead.

"I have ruined my grand entrance!" I mumbled.
We foreigners scuttled home. The dogs snarled at us at first.

Eleven o´clock is two hours distant. The house is very quiet. I don´t know if we will make that long, long walk downtown again. I will have to re-do my makeup, and struggle back into that robe, and hear Paddy groan and grouse from inside his.

Next year Paddy says he will be out of town for the fiesta. If he lives that long. 


Anonymous said...

Oh dear Reb! At least it was the right night. We once turned up at someone's house in roaring 20's fancy dress on the wrong night!

Anonymous said...

The pic of the shifty looking Florence of Arabia is worrying, shocking. He looks like a dodgy Berber flogging publishers remainders in a Marrakesh souk.

I hope the pilgrims and the dogs weren't too frightened.


ksam said... I know this feeling. Only it was 3rd grade, I was new in town and still had that "weird" New England accent, according to the kids in New Jersey. Guess my mom got the wrong time for the Halloween parade at school and I was late. To late for everything. I remember slinking to my seat and wishing I could evaporate. Guess somethings never change. :-)

Robert Jessop said...

"You don´t get old and stop playing. You stop playing and get old." ... I LOVE THAT!