Tequila Does NOT Break Dan’s Spanish

… But it has broken my spirit. Actually, yep, screw this. I am hungover as hell. Certainly too hungover to be blogging. I will tell you about it tomorrow…

31st March 2014 (some 8 days later):

Dearest readers, I am sorry that I lied to you. In my desperately hungover state, I boldly claimed that I would tell you about my latest of experience of tequila ‘tomorrow’ (see above for any clarification). As you may have taken note by now, I did not tell you about it that following day. Nor did I spill the beans the day after that, nor the day after that, etc., etc. … For this, I wish to apologise. Yet frankly, you didn’t miss out on much. As the title suggests, even in my sorry state that developed ferociously soon after waking up on the sofa of my favourite Venezuelan friend (of which I have a grand total of 1), I was able to converse with her in Spanish without too much trouble. Well, not so much converse as complain of an aching head and great regret for having drunk so much the night before. In fact, the volume of alcohol I consumed on the night actually had a fair amount to do with Luz – translated as ‘Light’ in English and pronounced more or less as the word ‘loose’ –  who is something of a tenacious little latina lady when it comes to convincing me to drink far more than I should.

After preparing her housemates, friends and me a delectable meal, such is typical of her generous nature, she proceeded to ‘pop bottles’. Birdman and Lil Wayne would have been proud. The contents of a couple of tequila bottles were quickly depleted thanks to the dogged determination of my South American companion to ensure that all in attendance knocked back shot after shot. The lemon, liquor and salt were all out in force. After time – an alarmingly brief period – as the wells of tequila began to run dry, Luz was able, with some considerable cunning, to trick us into downing further shots, presented as ‘tequila’… Tequila, they were not. She had us downing shots of vodka (which she had poured into an empty tequila bottle, somehow without anyone seeing). Worryingly, it took a number of us more than one attempt with this latest concoction to realise that our barmaid for the evening was pulling the wool over our eyes. Thankfully, I soon wised up to the deceit and stemmed the flow of booze to my system. Not before, that is, Luz was able, finally, to delegate me the task of seeing away some red wine left over from dinner that she had at least in principle intended to drink herself, or so she said.

The end result, needless to say, was a drunken group of individuals, which constituted of 2 Swedes, 1 Englishman, 1 American, 1 Venezuelan and a Pole (a Polish person – we didn’t form an international gang and wield a sole weapon between us of a pole as our means to instil fear in our rivals). It all sounds like the makings of a terribly poor joke. Without discussing the details of our punchline, we soon left Luz’ flat to go and wreak havoc on the streets… or rather, just to go to a club. An entertaining evening, for sure. Followed by a diabolically unpleasant headache the following morning, as is both deserved and to be expected. Regardless, the hangover is a familiarity, most regrettably, which never becomes more bearable. It did, however, on this occasion provide me a lesson (no, not to stop drinking for good): I can now say with conviction that my Spanish has notably improved since I first arrived in Barcelona way back when. I have the scientific evidence to prove it and everything! Well, er, sort of. I now have the pseudo-scientific evidence to prove it. Cast your minds back, if you will, to September 2013, during which I went out for tequila-filled night. The result was this.

Indeed, at that time in my fledgling Catalan career, equipped with an apocalyptic hangover having drunk a toxic amount of tequila, I was simply unable to string two words of Spanish together – let alone a sentence. I remember giving in to the pain fairly swiftly on said occasion and accepting that words were not destined to leave my mouth that day, in any language for that matter. I was well and truly hurting. Yet, back to the present day – or thereabouts – and I now have a barometer of sorts to measure the quality of my spoken Spanish. My capability to speak the language after my recent night of tequila consumption dropped far less than on that initial occasion. Therefore, with the independent variable of my consumption of [an unspecified amount of] tequila and the dependent variable of my level of spoken Spanish, I can accurately conclude that my Spanish has improved. All I have to do is look to the results! Whether or not I specifically needed the independent variable of tequila-drinking to formally examine the extent of my improvement is a question which, for the time being, remains unanswered (does it, really, Dan…?). What I can at least say for sure is that, in terms of the tequila and its attempts to foil me in my own attempts of speaking decent Spanish, I have come, I have seen and I have conquered.

My vanquished foe

My vanquished foe

The sad truth for me is that this merely represents a victory in a minor battle in what is sure to be long and hard-fought war against this vicious Mexican beverage. I am almost certain to continue drinking it, despite my better judgment, and it will no doubt leave me in a sorry heap on each and every day after the night before. So this is a victory that I will savour and will be sure to look to with fondness in my more desperate of moments, when all points to tequila holding the upper hand. The war rages on but, for the time being at least, I have the spoils of my triumphant battle to enjoy.

 

Tequila Broke Dan’s Spanish!

A week has passed since I last took to writing an entry in my trusty blog. My recent lack of activity is owed largely to the fact that my first working week was uneventful from a blogging perspective. By and large, it entailed meeting a lot of new faces, familiarising myself with the university and with the projects of the Instituto Global de Salud Pública y Política Sanitaria (IGS – my place of work, situated in the university’s Sant Cugat campus), and attending a few meetings in which I desperately attempted to grasp an understanding of all that was being said around me. The obstacle of the fast-spoken Spanish is one yet to be fully hurdled! It was a relaxed week by any standard but, come Friday, I was so inexplicably tired that, once I returned home, I took myself away to my room at around 7.30pm for what I presumed would be a power nap. I roused next at 3am, fully dressed and considerably disoriented… Soon falling back to sleep, I would not resurface again until 11.30 the next morning. Possibly the longest sleep of my entire life and that is by no means an exaggeration (a good 14 hours!).

With Friday being the sleep marathon that it proved to be I knew that Saturday had to be the day to go out. Of course, not before I watched my weekend’s supplement of Premier League football, which was this week returning following on from the international break. My beloved Chelsea faced Everton at Goodison Park and despite dominating for large periods of the game were so poor when it came to taking chances. Needless to say, we didn’t score. It was as if I was watching a Liverpool side of last season, unable to convert on any of their opportunities, and suffering as a result of their inefficiency in front of goal. Chelsea, to my dismay, somehow managed to lose the game 1-0, and so I was decidedly grumpy. Steven Naismith (Everton’s goalscorer), please… If you ever happen to be trawling through the cyber-world of wordpress.com and happen to stumble upon this blog of one student’s year in Barcelona… I implore you; stop scoring goals against Chelsea. It makes me sad.

So the disappointment of the day was served blue (ironically) via the northwest of England on Merseyside, but I could not let that dampen my spirits too greatly. Shortly after the loss, with my composure restored, my flatmate and I were on our way to Las Ramblas, in search of tapas, and later on, her Californian compatriot. Some beers, croquetas and calamares later, we embarked on our mission to find said companion… And so begins my fateful encounter with my old friend (or perhaps more accurately foe), tequila.

             Looking mischievous

Looking mischievous

Tequila (‘liquid death’ hereafter) is a sly mistress. The analogy to follow is by no stretch of the imagination my best but bear with me, it can only go uphill from here:

You’re hosting a house party, it is to be a fairly quiet affair in which you entertain close friends, have a nice evening, but no one is looking to go wild. Liquid death (tequila hereafter, to avoid confusion), who just so happens to be a beautiful girl, asks if she can come over for a while, as she misses you and wants to see you. Now, at this point you should think back to all of the trouble she has caused in the past and deny her request. You have heard so much of the disruption she has caused and have had a number of run-ins with her yourself. Instead, you are instantly under her spell after she promises to be on her best behaviour this time. Succumbing to her charm, you let her in. Within minutes, she has called all of her friends, they are all in the house, everything goes crazy and somehow the place ends up on fire.

Whilst I am sure that better analogies exist out there somewhere, the central message remains, that tequila is not to be trusted. On Saturday night, I all too willingly ignored this wise and most vital of warnings. What initially seemed an innocuous evening soon became messy. Walking along Las Ramblas, somehow still buzzing full of bodies in mid-September when, for all intents and purposes, I would say that summer was drawing to a close, Allie and I went about our mission of finding her new American friend at ‘London Bar’, a name which delighted her no end on my behalf (cue Dorothy clicking her ruby slippers singing ‘There’s no place like home!’). Why was our destination to be London Bar specifically when Las Ramblas is replete with establishments in which the objectives are indistinguishable; to get merry, all the while shouting ‘Salud!’? The answer lies in its history. In the early 20th century it was a haunt of some of the most prominent figures of the arts, including Hemingway, Orwell and Picasso, to name a few. Yet, walking in to this historic bar and resting our eyes upon walls adorned with metallic fringe curtains (a name I have never seen in all my years of speaking English – much time was spent researching this tacky decoration, which in itself is fairly depressing), we were to ultimately be left disappointed:

Not the most high-brow of decor

I never knew what this stuff was called!

Underwhelmed by London Bar, decorated with this green, yellow and pink sparkly stuff (see left), complimented primarily by a slightly drunk guitarist with long straggly hair, and deciding that the present company (with the greatest of respect to them) didn’t quite meet the exceedingly high standards of the 1920s crowd of Hemingway et al, we enjoyed a few Coronas and were soon on our way. As those of you who have had the chance to visit Barcelona will undoubtedly know, wandering aimlessly along Las Ramblas whilst so clearly being a foreigner attracts promoters in their thousands! Bombarded with offers from all directions, we eventually agreed to accompany one particularly persistent and rollerblading individual who promised us free entry to whichever club he represented. Whilst indeed there was no entry fee, this club also severely lacked party people. In other words, the joint was empty. More fun could be had by, firstly, setting out to find a tumbleweed and, secondly, rolling it about in the middle of the dancefloor, such was the disappointment that was this club’s attendance. So, following a brisk exit, we jumped next door to Boulevard,  where my night’s experience of tequila began in earnest.

With entry costing an extortionate 14€, I would have felt aggrieved if it were not for the promise of a free drink of my choosing that accompanied the admission. At the bar, considering my options, I made what would be prove to be a fatal error by asking for a tequila. Prior to my receipt of said beverage, I assumed and I think justifiably so that I would be presented with a shot glass of liquor, a pinch of salt and a slice of lemon, as would seemingly be the norm. Yet, what the bartender actually produced illustrated to me that she must have had something of a talent for interpreting drink requests creatively, as she picked out a tall glass and proceeded to pour this most dangerous of liquids within until what stood in front of me resembled a glass full of water (albeit with ice in the glass, but still!).

‘Careful now, Daniel’, I thought to myself as I stared potential catastrophe in the eye, ‘there is much potential for carnage within these walls’.  I must have been staring by that point because I was then promptly asked if I wanted my wisely selected beverage by itself, a question to which I recoiled and requested some limón to attempt salvage the situation. Those first few sips of ‘water’ were brutal, I have to say. Now, all that which has been described above as an isolated incident would probably have been acceptable were it not for the fact that my American companions had caught the tequila bug. From the moment they first observed my audacity in ordering a full glass of the stuff, which must have equated to a silly number of shots, they wanted nothing more than to drink exclusively tequila for the rest of the night. Salt, shot, lemon, salt, shot, lemon became all too familiar a routine and the girls showed no sign of letting up, not that I cared at all, of course, after making decent headway with the nightclub’s entire stockpile of Mexican liquor.

Dancing as a trusty trio, we were loving life #yolo. Unrelenting fun was the order of the night, apparently. All the while, as I danced in a crowd going wild to the most generic pop imaginable, I was so deluded as to believe that tequila was my best friend and always had been and, for that matter, I wasn’t even that drunk! Cue a few more shots, as requested by our diminutive and feisty friend from Los Angeles, and finally, when I came to appreciate how plastered I really was, it was too late. I knew I was doomed as I made my way home with Allie, with her sleepy head resting on my shoulder as I tried to comprehend the movement of the tube and why it didn’t quite feel normal.

Sure enough, come the morning or should I say early afternoon, I knew that this was to be a horrendous day of pain and regret. Buzzfeed offers an amazing list of all hangovers known to man, and yesterday I was experiencing a full number 8 – ‘The Apocalypse’:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/samjparker/the-9-types-of-hangover-weve-all-had

It was pretty awful. Dreading the day that I saw tequila again, I knew that it had tricked me once again into drinking far too much and paying the price the following day. Life was no fun at all, when hours beforehand, I was having the time of that very same life. What’s new about that story? We’ve all been there, done that – I’m nothing special! Allie, on the other hand, has the absolutely blinding luck of not experiencing the dreaded hangover. For that, I will be forever be jealous of her! Fortunately though, I was home alone for almost the entire day, so my flatmates did not have to witness my pitiful state. Yet when both of my Spanish cohabitants came home, eager to catch up on how the weekend had treated me, my honed language skills had completely deserted me. When I say ‘completely’, I really do mean it. Any attempt I made to chat with either Spaniard was doomed to failure before it ever began. I repeated the word resaca (hangover) time and again to convey my current chemical state, but speaking Spanish was completely beyond me at this point. This has happened to me once before in Tenerife, when I had a comparatively mild headache, but last night was something else. In fact, I was completely incapable of communicating in any language: even Allie struggled to fully understand me, and her first language is English!

Lessons learned from this weekend (notes to self):

  1. Tequila is not your friend.
  2. Tequila reverses all improvements made towards speaking Spanish fluently.
  3. Avoid drinking copious volumes of tequila wherever possible.
  4. If, in the event that you happen to ignore the first 3 lessons (see above), do not attempt to speak Spanish. Do not attempt to speak at all.
  5. You are silly.
  6. You will do this again to yourself soon, and you will feel equally horrific.