Treading Water in the Deep End

There are some simple truths in my life these days. The first my endlessly long list of plans over the next year keeps growing. The second is that my Spanish is rubbish. And yet, the long list doesn’t appear to care if my Spanish is not great. Not one little bit. It just stares at me. Mocking.

Get on with it! It shouts. There is nothing for it but to jump into deep water and start paddling. Sometimes, it’s more flailing than the crawl stroke. And involves swallowing more than my share of water.

I dream of the list at night, now. Like its a job unto itself. And every time I tick a box off, its a major victory.

I’ve located a company in Barcelona who will build me a food trailer/truck from the ground up, and to my specs. ✅

I had a logo made up for me by a graphic designer in the Czech Republic, and the super hip food truck company confirmed they will incorporate it into the paint design. ✅

The trailer will come out oven-ready, licensed and road-worthy for towing back to Lugo. ✅

All of this was done online or via WhatsApp. We will have to visit the food truck manufacturing facility outside Barcelona to finalize the design and sign contracts. But that’s just housekeeping.

Today, it was time for the next item on the list. And this required me to go to the Concello in Palas to talk to them, in person. Gulp. The folks at the town hall have never been anything but helpful. They don’t allow my linguistic challenges to stop us from getting what we need. But so far, all of those things have just been surrounding registering ourselves and our car, or paying taxes. This time, it would be more than one paragraph in Google translate and filling in a form.

I am opening a business. Surely, based on all my other experiences with Spanish bureaucracy, this would require endless forms, filing fees to be paid at the bank exclusively between the hours of 8 and 11am, and stamps. Lots of stamps. Jeff went with me, but opted to stay in the car and wait. He did not want to witness any of it. I can’t say as I blame him.

I climbed the marble stairs in the town hall, approached the window, and rudimentarily explained what I needed. The guy I always deal with walked me down the hall to a door marked Licensing and Permit Approvals. Double gulp. He explained to the gentleman at the desk what I was looking for. Then he left. I was on my own.

The guy asked me a few questions. Some of which I understood. Then he wanted the address. We looked at the property online together. More questions, which helped me tease out the meaning of the previous questions. We got there in the end. The longer I was there, the more I understood. And the more I was able to Spanglish my answers back. I was kind of proud of myself.

The upshot is that opening this business will require no permission from the Concello. You heard that right. In the US, I would need to have a business license and a liquor license, just selling wine and beer. And to have someone at the Health Department certify that my food truck was to code, and that the refrigeration was the correct temperature. I would get some sort of certificate for passing this inspection. And it would happen every year by surprise, at the most inconvenient time. But I don’t have to do any of that. Why? Because it’s a temporary structure. And I can drive it away.

I reconfirmed that I don’t need a license to sell beer or wine. The guy said they don’t care. If we build a permanent structure, then they care. But that will happen when the architect we hire to design our Eco-Albergue, and our permanent kitchen structure submits their plans to the Committee for the preservation of the Camino De Santiago for approval. Until then, even the police won’t care.

He just shrugged, ‘It’s a caravan. You can drive it to fiestas, a concert. Anywhere. Another province or Concello. It will be on your property beyond your gate. What do we know what you are doing behind your gate with your caravan?’

What, indeed. So it seems we are good to go. ✅ All those hours of sweating about that little line item suddenly seem like a waste of time. I was thrilled.

Chasing the Lucky Stick

Then I had to head up to the Centro de Salud to get some test results from my Dr. My new Doctora who I have never met before. So, as you do, I screwed up and sat in the wrong waiting room for an extra hour.

At the medical center at Palas, I am always the youngest person unless Jeff is with me. There was a toddler once and we all stared at her like she was a Martian. Fifty percent of those in the waiting room are invariably carrying a stick. Not a cane, a long bamboo stick. This is used for walking support, herding cows, poking a friend, pointing. It’s a thing. I think when you hit 70 years old in Palas or Melide, they just issue you a stick. Automatically. Its like the gold watch at your retirement party. Except here, I don’t think farmers ever retire. Old people are too busy.

The waiting room turned over pretty quickly yet still, I waited to be called. To no avail. Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows each other here. They’re all catching up while arriving, waiting, seeing the Dr, then leaving.

At long last, as lunchtime approached and the room cleared out, it was just me and a man who resembled Father Time. He smiled at me over his mask with the Galician flag embroidered on it. The wrinkles around his eyes told the story of a man who has spent a lifetime laughing. You could tell he was full of mischief, and since I, a perfect stranger, was all he had left, he started talking to me.

After a flood of words, I let him know I barely have sad Spanish. And that’s being generous. So he slowed way down. Like I was a linguistic toddler. Which is exactly what I am. And then my español woke up. Turns out, he is not Gallego at all. The man came to Galicia from Peru 50 years ago. His wife ‘The most beautiful woman in Palas’ is Gallego. He likes the weather and the tranquillity. The food is ‘Meh’, but it is better than the food in Valencia, after I told him that was where we moved from.

Then, he proceeded to introduce me to each new person that showed up for the next round of appointments. Pointing at me with his stick.

‘She lives here two months only. From the United States.’

People nodded to me. Then sat whispering so I wouldn’t know they were talking about me. Looking surrupticiously and pointing with their sticks. The old man clued them in. ‘Don’t worry. She doesn’t understand’. But I actually did.

Finally, he didn’t like that my appointment was taking so long to materialize, after looking at my appointment chit, so he got a Dr to look up why the hold up. Which is how I found out that my waiting so long wasn’t because the Dra. was running late. It’s because I was in the wrong waiting room entirely. The old man escorted me so that I found the correct place and barged in on my Dra, who was with another patient, to tell her that I was here. But he had his stick with him so it was OK. He tipped his cap to me, then disappeared.

Turns out, my new Dra speaks enough ingles for us to muddle through with my pidgin Spanish. We laughed our way thru it all. The folks at the medical centre are used to me now and everyone is just that much more helpful and accommodating. They even called the HULA in Lugo to set up my next round of appointments, because they know how hard it is for me on the phone.

After a morning of taxing my brain, I was pretty proud of myself in getting through things and figuring it all out. I just wish, after three years, that it still wasn’t so difficult to communicate. One of these days it will all click. Maybe I just need to buy a magic stick.

2 thoughts on “Treading Water in the Deep End

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