Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Walking with umbrellas

One of the key features of Santiago is the umbrella. It is as much a character of the city as the cathedral, stones, and tarta de santiago. In almost every store window you can find umbrellas for sale, and at the entrance of every home and every store there is a paraguero for you to put your umbrella in while you visit. The past few days we have been experiencing some terrible weather. Heavy rains and strong winds moved their way across northern Spain all weekend. The storms are called Temporales. Winds that have been building up as they move across the atlantic from the artic north and carribean to the south meet up and create on the sea the conditions for a perfect storm (yes, like the movie) and on land the result is a weak hurricane, or as called here a temporal. It began on Friday, classes were canceled for kids all over Galicia in the expectation of the winds and rain, but during the day there was not much to talk about, although having not had much practice in the wind and rain and use of an umbrella, I did lose an umbrella to the wind as I walked out of a restaurant in the zona viejo in Santiago. The wind made a wild change in one of the small streets and the change was more that my umbrella could bear. I had to leave it hanging off a garbage can in the city. After that the weather went down hill. Winds, rains, hail, thunder, lightening, power outages, etc. kept the social spaniard inside watching DEC-Dónde estás corazón all night instead of drinking cañas with amigos downtown.

Saturday we woke up to sunny skies that in a matter of minutes turned into another storm after lunch, cleared up in a matter of minutes and in the evening tricked us all into thinking the worst was over and we could make up for the lost Friday night caña on Saturday. So, we ventured out and the night was misty and windy, but nothing like the night before. Then we decided to go home. And the rain started to pour as soon as we came up with the idea, so we thought we'd wait it out, when 30 seconds later, the winds came rushing through, followed by the thinder and lightening and many taxis that appeared on the streets ready to take us all home.

Sunday was a little bit calmer, but there was wind and hail and extreme changes in the weather in a matter of minutes and until today it is still rainy. So, I've been learning to walk through the city with an umbrella, which simple as it may seem can become quite complicated when the streets are mideval sized with cars passing, and everyone else has umbrellas coming from both directions on the sidewalk. There is a subtle game of tilt the umbrella, dont poke out the eye, careful with the building being played by everyone as we avoid puddles but still get soaked when the wind changes and the rain hits horizontally rather than vertically. Slowly, poco a poco I think I'm getting the hang of the game, I've lost only one umbrella so far this season, and still have both eyes, and I've only had a handful of umbrella collisions, so if the weather continues to be this rainy, I should by the end of the winter master the use of the umbrella on the Santiago sidewalk.

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