Sunday, 3 May 2009

Building Bridges

Name that Landmark!

One of my favourite Pop Music Errors is that oh-so-slutty logic-mauler Fergie, of the Black Eyed Peas (she with the humps, those lovely lady lumps), telling the world about London Bridge, while flapping about in front of Tower Bridge. Does no-one do research, these days?

"Why the hell is he going on about talentless tarts and bridges?" you may be asking yourself. There is a method to such apparent madness, though. In Spain, when one enjoys a long weekend, it is called a puente, which literally means "bridge". Don't say you never learn anything from my ramblings.

This weekend has been a rather special puente for three reasons. Firstly, Friday happened to be the first of May, meaning that most of the working population celebrated International Worker's Day by doing anything but work - or was that just me? Then, on Saturday, the City and Region of Madrid celebrated the one hundred and first anniversary of the Dos de Mayo Uprising, an event which led to the Spanish War of Independence from Napoleon's French Empire. Finally, the previous Monday had been a pseudo-religious festival for the Humanities Faculties in my university, meaning that last weekend was the second puente in a row.

One of the long-running stereotypes is that of Spanish laziness. "Lo hago mañana" ("I'll do it tomorrow") is a common phrase heard among the people of this fairly docile land. You know what? WRONG! The truth is that the Spanish working day is longer than those of the self-styled "efficient" Germans, "hard-working" British and "sophisticated" French. Most people get up to start work or school at 8am, going right on until 2pm, breaking for lunch and the famous siesta (during which no-one sleeps, another false preconception), going back to work at around 5pm, and finishing the day at 8pm. Count up the hours, and you'll find it to be much longer than the classic 9-5 office hours we British pride ourselves on. With a nine-hour day, working Monday to Friday (and saturday, in some cases), is it any wonder they go mad at the weekend, and savour a long weekend whenever it comes round?

Mix this madness with the lack of sleep, and you'll soon understand why Spain is such a great destination for fun. Everyone's just that little bit manic enough for you to fall into the rhythm and forget about everything else. Discipline and self-control are concepts best left to the foreigners: and that's just how I like to live. Problem is, I've gone native, with the prospect of having to return to British procedure in October. Next academic year is my final - and therefore most important - year at university, and what with all my fannying about in Madrid, I've wondered whether I'll ever muster up enough willpower to even finish my degree. One of my American friends is actually graduating this year and staying in Europe probably for the rest of her life. I have to say I envy her somewhat, not because I think Spain is a better place for me to live in (I do miss the old homestead, from time to time), but rather because it is a country which doesn't take itself as seriously as the UK or the USA. People work hard only while they have to, and then spend their hard-earned cash on having fun. Of course, one thinks about the future, but everything is viewed with a "I will work for it, but no to the detriment of my psychological wellbeing" perspective.

What with two months left to officially need to be here, it's no surprise I'm thinking up of any old excuse to stay just that little bit longer.

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