The rain in Spain stays mainly in the tiles. If you live in a town with tiled sidewalks, you probably know what I mean. Tiled sidewalks are great as long as none of the tiles are loose. And even loose tiles are okay as long as it doesn’t rain.
It rains. Then the sun begins to shine and a smiling you decides to go for a walk to enjoy the fresh air. You’re in high gear when it gets you: that warm splash up your ankle and along your hem. Sigh. That tippy tile was hiding a puddle of rainwater. Rainwater that had been flowing along a filthy street.
There are some streets that I avoid after a rain because to walk along them is to feel the ground moving beneath you and hungry waves of brown water lapping your ankles. Most rainy days (and even 1-2 days afterwards) I long for drab concrete sidewalks with obvious puddles rather than the noble but surprising tile ones.
Most Spanish balconies have water spouts and people use them as they wash down their balconies. Beware, pedestrians below! Those of you who live in the city probably know what I mean, but balcony water spouts were a new concept to this country girl.
After the Saharan dust storms in March, everyone was splashing water on everything. At times, the streets flowed with orange water. My neighbor tossed a bucket at his balcony wall and seconds later heard a shout from below. Oops, he had nailed a passerby.
I think the proper etiquette is to check for any passersby before starting the flow. After that, they’ve been warned by the growing puddle on the sidewalk below the spout and if they’re unaware enough to walk within reach of your balcony spout, then that’s their problem, not yours.
And, for the record, yes, I still get dripped on every now and then. And I just hope… hope that it was a harmless drip from someone’s squeaky clean mop bucket.
Some Spaniards set plastic water jugs on the sidewalks outside of their homes, often fastened to something with string or rope. The bottles are filled with liquid, sometimes clear, sometimes amber.
I have noticed this for years and finally asked my landlady about it. She acted like she’d never even noticed this strange habit. So I did a little research and found that the water bottles are supposed to scare away pets and stray animals from peeing in doorways or sidewalks in front of homes. Whether or not it works is up for debate, but it’s still widely practiced here.
I’m not sure what northern or central Spanish flies are like, but the ones on the coast have the ability to drive sane people mad (at least temporarily).
The lesser flies aren’t so bad, the ones that zip in jerky patterns in the center of the room and never seem to land. But the ones that I pick up by walking down the street can get my blood to a rolling boil in no time at all.
They don’t leave me alone. I might only pick up one or two on my walk, but they follow me no matter how fast I walk. It’s like they believe they’ve found a friend and want to stick by my side–or on my nose–for the duration of my trip. I swat one away and walk a few meters, imagining that I have left him in the dust and suddenly he’s on my ear this time. The next time it’s my nose again. And then my chin. And I want to sprint down the street screaming bloody murder.
Would it hurt Spain to invest in some good ol’ American flies? Not that I ever liked American flies either, but they seem to respect boundaries a little better than coastal Spanish flies.
Pepper spray is apparently only available on the black market.
One day, I went to the police station to ask, “What can a woman in Spain do to protect herself?”
The officer’s eyebrows raised. He tried to explain how citizens were not allowed to bear arms. (Maybe I’m imagining things, but he seemed to emphasize this point when he realized I was American.)
“What about pepper spray?” I asked.
“It’s only available on the black market.” He shrugged. Then he gave me a lecture about matching the defense with the assault.
Right. “So how can a woman protect herself?” I repeated.
“We are your protection.”
“But you weren’t there when I needed help,” I pointed out.
He sighed in assent and was quiet for a little. “Then what you need to do is report the incident.”
Right. But no pepper spray.
Well, those are a few things about life here. If you come for a visit, watch out for those loose tiles, dripping balcony spouts, plastic water bottles, pesky flies and, oh, BYOPS (bring your own pepper spray).
Have a wonderful weekend!