Is this a salsa course? I had the feeling that the black guy was the instructor and the other people passing drop-in learners. A bunch of other people were sitting down nearby. Were they waiting for their turn or just taking a rest from a day's hard touristing? Or were they just exuberant young people of today spontaneously breaking out in dance?
This and many other things will be made clear when I can speak Spanish fluently.
"Everybody", for example people who don't speak a word of Spanish, keep telling me how easy Spanish is. This is like learning Cantonese but in reverse! When I lived in Hong Kong, few days went by without someone, Cantonese speaker or not, telling me "Cantonese is very difficult", with I don't know how many hong Kong people helpfully adding "... it's too difficult for you."
This they would often tell me after or in the middle of a long conversation - in Cantonese. It was just something they did, because I'm white and everybody knows it's impossible for us to learn Cantonese. Other Asians or Asian-looking people, on the other hand, should be fluent pretty much by the time they touch down in Hong Kong for the first time.
I've asked countless Hong Kong people (in Cantonese) why this would be so, and most of them looked at me as if I was an idiot. "Because you don't have Chinese blood - hello?"
Right. But now I feel this strange pressure to be fluent in Spanish already, because "it's so easy". Well, I don't think so! It's got verb declensions! Plural! Past participles! Genders, and genders in adjectives! The opposite of easy, paint-by-numbers Cantonese.
Actually, I don't think any languages are difficult OR easy. It's all about expectations. Here, locals expect foreigners to learn the language fast, and so they do.
In Hong Kong, no one expected me to speak the language and kept insisting I couldn't learn it for genetic reasons, even after I had clearly learnt it.
But of course I don't want to be the only foreign idiot in town who can't ask people why they are doing salsa in the shadow of the cathedral and what I'll have to do to join, so I've found a new language exchange guy by the name of Rafael Angel (!). I'm damned if I'm paying for lessons for something that is as natural as breathing. I'll keep you posted on my progress.
Meanwhile: Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian! It's only a Skype-click away.
0的語言好容易學 - di yu yin hou yongyi hok - languages are easy to learn
Patagonia - un lugar diferente (a different place) - the sign above this busy café proudly proclaims.
When I arrived in Palma all those months ago in the coldest winter ever (the locals claimed), Patagonia was my big saviour. Open from 06.15 and serving really great coffee, it was the only place I could work. Yes the Airbnb-ish IKEA-riddled little flat I stayed in for the first month didn't have WiFi, preferring to tap into a nearby hotel (Feliz, to be reviewed here soon) for its online needs. Well that didn't work. The password only worked if I stood inside the actual hotel, so to be able to get online I had to go to Patagonia every morning.
And so did all the early morning smokers in El Terreno, it seemed, and sitting "outside", they were the ones given all the space heaters. Inside, the cafe was not only sub-zero arctic, but the chairs made of reinforced plastic also turned out to enhance cold like a nice bathtub full of water enhances electrocution by hair dryer. So that was an interesting February.
But now I am of course whiling away the days in a house with wifi, Nespresso machine and all mod cons such wooden chairs, and don't 'need' Patagonia anymore. Still, I was looking forward to going back in the name or research. What's 'diferente' about this 'lugar' is that while in February it had curries and all sorts of proper meals, now it seems to have only chips and bready things. There wasn't even the Palma café staple tostadas - toasted bread with olive oil and mashed tomatoes. But... that's impossible!
I ordered Sandwich out of desperation but only when I bit into it realised I had ordered Serrano Ham and not York. Now, Serrano ham is very good, together with scrambled eggs, potato salad and maybe a summer-y salad also containing eggs. But with cheese? For some reason, not so much. And the bread, although toasted to perfection, was overly sweet. Like a cha chanteng in Hong Kong.
But what the hell. A coffee is only 1 euro or something and a sandwich maybe double that. The coffee was very good, and the ingredients in the sandwich, separately, great. And their WiFi is beyond compare.
In our series Spanish words that don't sound like what they mean, shown together with photos from Mallorca that I really like we present:
I think this word sounds like "do everything you can to get absolutely no result" or "get a result but then dismiss it." Or could it mean "be an orange but then cast off your identity as an orange. Or banana" OR "make sure there is no fruit."
All those sound more plausible than the real meaning:
In Cantonese it's 享受 (Heungsau) - among other things. Of course a lot of people can speak Spanish and I'm not one of them, but quite frankly, being able to speak Spanish is not very ... special. Speaking Cantonese IS special. Very. So Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - from a Norwegian! This year!
Is there a bigger bore than the bore who bores you boringly with "when I was in..." about places you have never been? With this in mind, I try to keep comparisons between Hong Kong (where I used to live for almost 30 years) and Palma, to a minimum. But I can't help comparing the two places as I walk around Palma, with or without dogs. It's only natural, seeing
they are both places in which I have lived or live. And look, I don't want to knock Hong Kong just because I felt it was getting a little too ugly and screamy and high-rise for me. Many people like, nay, prefer, living like that. I'm just saying that Palma is more suited to my needs, visually. But there's one thing about Palma, beautiful as it is, I think is very bad visually, and that is tagging.
Yes, tagging. The awful vandalism habit of writing one's name, or a name, or a word, on a wall or other surface. It's ugly, it drags the whole area down and it reminds at least me of "bad parts of town" - crack dens, crime, people who poo outside. OK, the two photos above show tagging on walls that are already a bit crap, crumbling and could certainly do with a coat of paint, but the tagging makes them look worse. However, I can understand that some people feel they're brightening up some inferior walls. But the taggers vandalise even churches and palaces, 400 year old buildings and medieval walls. All over the Old Town you can hardly see the beautiful brickwork for stupid spray-painting. People tell me how the Palma Government is such a nanny state. Why don't they crack down on this?
On the other hand, in El Terreno where I live there are also some extraordinary wall paintings. Is that also vandalism? I'll have to say technically I suppose yes, but also - it's art! Tagging isn't.
You can say what you want about Hong Kong, but there's very little if any vandalism. People don't have time I suppose, they are too busy working.
So if you want to find out more about Hong Kong or already live there but want to understand the city more, why not take Cantonese lessons from me on Skype? It's cheaper than before and guaranteed zero violence! Unless you live in Palma. Hey, I'm surrounded by tagging - it brings out the stabber in me
Learn Cantonese the Natural Way - From a Norwegian!
Looking at the news, I wonder how much of a great advertising idea it is for a restaurant to put Venezuelan food on the cover of their menu. Apparently the people in that country have long since eaten all the animals in the zoos as well as their own pets, and are now gnawing their way through rats and insects. But, long live socialism, eh!
Onwards in my quest to visit all the establishments 8 minutes' walk from my house, I only had to cross the street to find home cooking-looking new restaurant Café Latino, where they have set up a comfortable al fresco corner with lots of ashtrays, overlooking all the activity on Avenue Joan Miro. That's right, I live on an avenue!!! The interior hadn't changed much from the days when it was called Ciento Cuatro (104, for it is situated in Avinguda Joan Miro 104) and was run by my neighbour Marta before the building was sold. She had the best tostadas (toasted bread with olive oil and stuff on) I have tasted so far, so out of loyalty to her and because she can see into my garden and therefore my brain from her second floor window, I didn't want to visit the new place at all. But now duty called.
As is usual in these little cafés in Palma, the owner/manager does everything, so it took a little while before I could order. In addition to Venezuelan food they also had Mexican (nachos, which I love because how can one not) and Colombian, against which I have been warned by a Colombian friend. I didn't know what was what nationality, but went for a crepe ("kreps" according to the sign outside which is vaguely funny for me because it means crayfish in Norwegian) with chicken, tomato, lettuce and onion. Yes! I was feeling wildly adventurous.
Hmmm. Okay. First of all, I think the tomato should have been on the outside, to brighten up the super-dull exterior. The taste was fine, and I'm sure crepe experts who like sweetness and that sort of thing would love it but: That pancake needed, I'm not afraid to say it, a dollop of spice to offset the sweetness.
Instead, it had mayonnaise, which made it more blargh, not less. No, no, no, I thought, my whole Sichuan-ness raring up in me. I know, not every dish in the world should be full of chillies - cookies'n'cream ice cream from Hagen-Daaz is an example - but this crepe was screaming out for more colour, more taste and more crunch.
I asked the owner what nationality this dish was, and he looked a bit sheepish (OR that is what he looks like when he thinks a customer is an idiot) and said: French.
I mentioned that I was a Sichuan cook (Cocinera sichuan) and he kind of sniggered because he thought I said "cocinera sexual". So in addition to writing about establishments, perhaps I should knuckle down to learn more Spanish asap. And also I want to taste their nachos as soon as possible.
But people - Sichuan food really does taste so, so much better than any other food! I have various deals for birthday parties etc. Check out my website www.penandwok and also my facebook page Sichuan Food Made Easy.
Avinguda Joan Miró 104
Open 24 hours every day of the week (?!?)
Tel: 632 232 565