Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ir de botellón and many tapas

Last night, I met up with a friend I met in New York at an internship over the summer, Ana, who lives in Madrid. We went out to for tapas with her childhood friend, who brought along her boyfriend and her two roommates, both of whom are from France and are studying in Ireland. This meant that they didn't speak Spanish, so fortunately the majority of the conversation of the night was in English.

Tapas in Spain is totally unlike in the U.S. Rather than being a delicacy, it's basically glorified bar food. You order drinks, typically cañas (small glasses of beer), and they bring dishes of food for you too eat with each round. Almost all of it includes potatoes. There were potatoes with blue cheese, potatoes with chorizo, and potatoes with mini hot dogs, as well as whole cured fishes, cod croquettes, pork meatballs, and an omlette with mushrooms. Since the food is technically free, you only need to pay for the beer, which, while a bit overpriced and not very good, is still only about 1.50 euros. In total, it was a complete meal for 6 euros, which seemed absurdly cheap to me.

After eating, Ana told me that she was going back home, but her friends were going to go out drinking and I could go with them. I still had 6 euros on my dinner allowance (we get 12 euros each Friday and Saturday to eat, to give our host families a break), and it was only 11:30, which is absurdly early in Spain, so I decided to go. As we headed to the metro, Ana's friend told me that we were going to a bolletón (literally "giant bottle"), which is when Spanish kids drink together outside. It recently became illegal, so we had to be wary of the police, but they rarely showed up at the place we were going.

We came out of the subway at a square in the Universidad Compultense, the other really big university in the city. It looked like a post apocalyptic warzone. The area was dimly lit by the streetlights, but the square, which wasn't exactly lush to begin with, had gone through years of neglect by the students. The main statue was totally covered with graffiti and there was trash everywhere. Clumped in groups around the square and surrounding parking lot were kids drinking and talking. Cars were parked by the sidewalks playing music. If this really was illegal, the police must not care, because the scene was not subtle to say the least.

I spent most of the hour I was there talking to Ana's friend and her roommate, but towards the end, moved on to some of the Spaniards. One girl kept on coming to offer strawberry flavored marshmallow hearts, which she would only give if we said the word for marshmallow (esoponja (sponge) or nube (cloud)). I actually didn't have a whole lot to say to most of them, as they weren't really the crowd I would hang out with in the States, but the drunk ones seemed more that sufficiently entertained asking me repeatedly what I thought of Spain and Spanish people. Luckily, by time they tried to get me to dance, I needed to get on the metro before it closed. The boyfriend (I think his name was Andreas) told me I would probably find my way back there after I start my classes, since a lot of Automona students go to botellones at the Compultense as well. He just told me I should make sure not to walk around, since there are skinheads (!) in the area, who do unnamed bad things to people at night.

This morning, I moved in with my host mother, Pilar. She's a divorced nurse with a son my age who lives elsewhere in the city and works for IBM. I believe, due to my height, I may be expected to play basketball with him when he comes for lunch tomorrow. I fear disappointment will be in the air. When I told Pilar that I had enjoyed tapas the night before, she decided to take me out for pre-lunch tapas. The local tapas bar was a total Cheers bar, almost to the point of being goofy. We immediately ran into Antonio, who lives in our building, and his son, who had three young children. Antonio recently quit smoking, which apparently means that now he is eating and drinking more. Right before we left, his other son showed up as well. We ended up having three cañas and tapas a piece, all on the way back to get lunch.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh evan that sounds so great. Wait, you did botellon? Really? I feel like thats so sketchy. But I love that you had pre-lunch tapas with your host mom. She sounds awesome. Fun!