<%-- Page Title--%> Impressions <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 117 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

August 08, 2003

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A Spanish Affair

Nadia Kabir Barb

Spain - the very name conjures up visions of flamenco dancers, bull fights, dramatic landscape, historical sites and an abundance of sunshine. Almost four times as large as Bangladesh, Spain is not just geographically and climatically diverse, but has distinctive languages, food and customs. But this is only a part of what draws me to this beautiful country. It is more the feeling I get when I step on to Spanish soil that keeps me going back time and time again. It is like being greeted by an old friend - comforting and familiar. All the stresses and rigours of living in a hustling and bustling city such as London just fade away. It was almost 15 years ago that I visited Spain for the first time and it was truly love at first sight and the beginning of a love affair that is ongoing.

My relationship with Spain began through a very dear friend of mine who is Spanish. She invited me to spend a few weeks with her at her grandmother's house in Carballo in Galicia which is situated in the North West part of Spain. Having been given the approval from headquarters in Dhaka (my mother), I accepted. From the moment I landed in Santiago Airport, I felt very much at home. It was nice not to stand out as a foreigner due to my Asian colouring people just assumed I was from the South of Spain where the people have darker hair and skin than their fairer cousins from the northern regions. Not only that but my friend's family treated me with so much warmth and affection, it was like being back in Dhaka with my own family. The main difference being that I could not understand much of the conversation around me due to my non existent knowledge of Spanish. However, we got by with a bit of sign language and a lot of translating by my friend. For some reason I came away knowing a few phrases that I am actually very unlikely to use. E.g. Esta la agua fria? (Is the water cold??) Quieres pan? (Do you want bread?).

After my initial contact I did not go back to Spain until after I got married. But since then it has become a home away from home. We usually go to a little town called Javea in the north of the Costa Blanca which is halfway between Valencia (famous for its oranges) and Alicante. It is actually miles from any airport so we tend to hire a car and just drive there from the airport. Even the experience of arriving at the airport fills me with a sense of familiarity and routine. The man at the immigration desk looks at the passports and always spends a few minutes identifying which passport belongs to which one of my children as the pictures were taken when they were a few months old! Once we have retrieved our baggage, it is off to the car hire desk. Slowly but surely we manage to iron out all the little wrinkles and head off on our journey to Javea.

The one and a half hour drive just seems to fly by while I absorb the beauty around me. The small towns scattered on either side of the road, the orange groves and olive trees the sleepiness and tranquillity of my surroundings just wash over me and fill me with some of its serenity. Even the constant clamour of three children in the back of the car does not affect my sense of peacefulness. As we drive nearer to Javea, we all look out for a small mountain which I have claimed as my own. Even the children point out “My mountain” when they spot it in the distance. “Look Mummy there's your mountain”, are the cries from the back and they never cease to put a smile on my face.

Shortly after the citing of my mountain, we reach the final leg of our journey and as soon as we drive through the gates of the house I can see the Mediterranean Sea sparkling and glimmering in the distance and the mountains whose feet are constantly being bathed by the waves. If I look very hard, I can even see the light house that protects the boats from crashing into the jagged cliff face. I am continually surprised at how the beauty of the view can still take my breath away even after all these years.

Another aspect of being in Spain that I love is that time seems to slow down. We never have to hurry to be anywhere at any particular time. Nobody wants to watch TV, computer games are forgotten and there are no phone calls to break up the quietness around us. There is time for reading and playing with the children and even for a little bit of daydreaming and introspection. Definitely a luxury to my mind. The children spend their time outside in the pool or exploring in the garden. In fact the exploration does not stop in the garden or the beach, even when I decide to cook something new I am spared the usual turning up of little noses and gagging noises as Spain is a place of adventure for my offspring, even with respect to food! Our trip to the beach is also very routine but pleasantly so. My husband and I sit at a café on the beach front watching the kids play on the sand, making castles, getting covered in sand and sea water and thoroughly enjoying the feeling of the sun shining benevolently down upon them. Then there are the ice creams how can anyone be so hard hearted as to deny children ice cream on the beach? Well in our case our acquiescence may have something to do with the fact one of the adults (yes that would be me) has no aversion to joining the children in devouring an ice lolly or two.

Just across the beach is a fair which is set up only in summer. It consists of a merry-go-round, a few other “kiddie rides”, and a ride called “Coco Loco” which my daughter and I go on religiously. It just does not feel right until we have sat and screamed and come out thoroughly dishevelled but totally satisfied. There are a few stalls as well. One of them being a little shooting range and in the past few years my husband and I have won so many hats that I feel that my entire family will never want for head wear or I could just set up a hat shop in London with our winnings! Compared to any other fair it would be considered tiny and insignificant but to me it is definitely part of what makes Javea so special.
I could write about the water sports, the beach, the nightlife, the restaurants, but those you can find in so many places. I think it is the little things that give any person or place its charm or uniqueness and each time I leave Spain I look forward to my next meeting with my old friend. Some relationships are long lasting and I hope that the one I share with Spain will continue for a long while yet.




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