Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Year, New Language

AOG, Madrid

Last year I decided I wanted to change my life, again. For the better. Again. 

Well, thus far my plans have gone on the back seat due to different circumstances, but they are not entirely parked. No.

I have decided to, at least for the time being, study a foreign language. On my last birthday, when I had decided to go down a new career route, my amazing partner offered to bankroll my French classes. Unfortunately, due to reasons beyond my control, I didn't quite find the right French class. There is a lot of choice here in Madrid, but for one thing or another, I never settled on anything. Or rather, I did find the right class, but I had to exhaust all possibilities. Then Christmas came round, the year ended, I was abroad, &c. 

So, now that I'm back, I've decided to enroll where I had intended to enroll all along, at the Alliance Française. Madame Mère is very happy with this choice too. 
Funnily enough, French classes do not start until today, even though the year 2011 started 18 days ago. 


Last week, by the by, a friend of mine informed me that he was going to Chinese classes at Madrid's 'La Tabacalera'. 

What is this 'Tabacalera'? It is a sort of social group which has taken over a disused tobacco company from the XIX century in Southern Madrid and is squatting the premises, which are gigantic. 

As is often the case in Spain with squatters, so as to gain public favor, whenever they take over a disused or abandoned building, they very quickly turn it into a social/artistic center, and they (whomever they may be) have done so here too. 

I went with my friend, and was surprised (though perhaps I should not have been) at the amount of people which showed up at the venue for Chinese classes. 

Yes, I forgot to mention that the classes are free. Part of the whole social thing. I wouldn't understand.

So there I was, with another 60 people, about half of them standing, listening to the lovely Teresa teach us some Chinese. 

This she had to do in spite of the fact that some people, this Brazilian guy in particular, could not keep their mouth shut for more than a minute. He behaved as though this were a private class. 

Yes, he is one of those people who call attention to themselves at all times. 

Just like me, but without the sophisticated and subliminal tactics I use. Like keeping quiet, and nodding to appear more intelligent and savvy.

But Brazilianness was not alone. There was another guy, he of the 24 Hour-a-day-gay brigade, who was sitting at Teresa's hip level, and, towards the end of the class, kept pestering her to show us some Chinese writing. 

So she did, a couple of words. 

I can't do the pictographs here, but I was amazed to learn that "Rest" is drawn with the symbol for man and tree, and "Family" (and we all LOVED this one), is expressed by drawing a roof and a pig. 

Gotta love Chinese just for things like that!

All in all, Teresa's class served to take away a lot of the fear and apprehension I had surrounding Mandarin Chinese, the most widely spoken language on the planet. 


When the class was over, I went for a wander around the Tabacalera, and found it to be quite interesting. 

There was a hall were people were dancing 1940s Big Band and Swing, a room where there was a Salsa class in full swing, a space where and 'Art Film' was being shown. 
 There even was a sort of Spiritual Room for Black People. No, I kid you not. There was such a thing. 

Needless to say, in Spain there is a small immigrant African community (distinct from any Hispanic Black people from the Americas or Equatorial Guinea, where, as you know, they speak Spanish since it is an ex Spanish colony), where you had to be Black to enter. No, don't ask. I am not Black so I have no clue what that is about. 

Perhaps it is about giving African immigrants a space of their own in a society which won't allow them much space.

I respected the space, and moved on to inspect the rest of the grounds, like the backyard, where I stayed for a very short while before the pong of Mary J. Wanna invaded my nostrils. There was also a slight air of danger about the place. 

They also had art pieces all over the place. Graffiti, drawings, collages. In short, they really push the art aspect, which I have to say I really like.

Not, perhaps, Gallery art, more urban and free, but art just the same.

 Squatters in Spain (known as 'Okupas' -the use of the letter "K" is to give them a certain outlaw Basque and anarchist flair; yes marketing is everywhere), much like squatters elsewhere on Earth, tend to be very friendly people until they loose it and turn aggressive. Much like non-squatters really. 

Except that they do tend to sell you that love the  Earth and your fellow man tree-hugging philosophy. 

Which is fine by me, and I agree with it, but I've never understood why it has to come with dreadlocks, drugs, and general bad body hygiene. But who am I to judge? 

They are happy, mostly harmless, and they are going to teach me Chinese, once a week, for an hour, for free. And all I have to do is survive the premises. 

I think I can handle it.

1 comment:

p said...

cool story bro
following and supporting