things never work out the way you plan

Most of the time, I am okay with being far away. Most of the time, I am okay with living in a rainy, cold city. Most of the time, I am okay with working for very little and not having any money no matter how hard I try to save it. Most of the time, I am okay with how much of a hassle it is to do almost anything here in Galicia. Most of the time, I accept these things. But some days, I’m not okay with it. Saturday was one of those days.

Saturday was one of those days where planets align and stars are in their houses and everything comes together to come apart, all at once. I’ve been sick for a week with something I can’t identify but which keeps me from eating anything good and allows me to see a wider variety of public bathrooms than I ever wish to experience. I was feeling better and then Saturday, I was feeling worse. The rain and constant changes of temperature can’t help either. My body gets confused with scarves and umbrellas one day, and tank tops another, so it does the only reasonable thing it can think to do: create lots of mucus.

Then I ran out of money. I mean, really. I thought I had more, and looked in my wallet and realized I had about forty-seven cents. This caused me to sit down on a bench in tears and whine to Carlos about working, about being sick, about feeling like crap. Carlos then proceeded to knock some sense into me and took me to the aquarium (he paid) where we saw seals, sharks, jellyfish, eels, and the coolest octopi ever. Next to toucans, the octopus might be my favorite animal. They’re extremely intelligent, agile, and just plain goofy. Quite tasty, too.

Luckily, the weather this weekend was beautiful. No rain, no scarves or tank tops, just perfectly crisp fall weather. Because, when everything’s going wrong, sometimes all you need is a fall day, a bowl of soup, and a trip to the aquarium… even if it takes three buses and a train to get there.

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hung out to (not) dry

Laundry is a simple impossibility in Galicia. Sometimes I don’t know how people (myself included) get along with the current galician laundry system. Let me explain how this works:

First of all, the washing machine is almost always located right underneath the sink where a dishwasher would normally go. It makes sense, because usually that means it’s closer to the clothing line where you hang everything up, but still…it seems silly.

A normal load of laundry takes about two hours to wash, and no matter how much fabric softener you add, towels will inevitably come out feeling like cardboard, or sandpaper, or sandpaper-covered cardboard, or something very uncomfortable.

There are no dryers. I repeat, there are no dryers. This does not seem so ridiculous if you live in Europe, because most Europeans do not have dryers. However, in Galicia, where it rains EVERY DAY, and where, in winter, you can easily go through three pairs of wet pants and socks a day, you would think that they may come in handy.

However, the current system involves a set of clothing lines, which may or may not be under a covered roof. At our house, we are lucky enough to have both. On warm, sunny days, clothing hung outside may be dry in a few hours. But it is never warm and sunny in Galicia. The best you can hope for is that your clothing dries just enough before it starts raining and you have to take it in. I have gotten used to putting my clothes away while they’re still the slightest bit damp. Of course, the lines are short, so only one person can hang out their laundry at a time, and because it takes days to dry, you can expect to wait two days until it’s your turn to wash, and at least two more days until you can wear that sweater.

The inside clothing lines are protected from the rain, but it takes forever to dry clothes there. So of course, when they’re dry, they have a lovely smell of mold and maybe fish (from the windows of other homes). Unfortunately, I have begun to get used to that smell.

Of course, don’t forget the sheer risk factor. Only high-quality clothespins can be used, as items hang precariously five, six, even nine floors above someone else’s patio, who may or may not be home when you knock on the door to pick up a dropped sock or lost towel. If your lines are outside, your shirts may risk a dog attack (as Jill has inconveniently experienced) or may be carried away by the Galician winds and lost forever in some solitary forest.

Perhaps the most frustrating of the laundering process is the unpredictability of Galician weather. While the sun shines brightly as you hang your sheets out to dry, the sky may have clouded over a few hours later and when you’re miles from home, it begins to pour. Hello, moldy smell. On a clear, breezy night, you decide to leave your sheets to fate (they’re almost dry, anyway)…the next morning, they’re so wet you might as well have just taken them out of the washer. Well, what’s two more days? By the time those pants are dry, they’ll smell so bad you’ll need to wash them again anyway.

Spain is different.