a wandering woman writes

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Well, somebody's got to win

Ah, the good habits the Spanish have taught me.

And the, well, other habits.

They've finally broken me down. I'm playing the lottery.

The Spanish Christmas Lottery (El Gordo), the year's biggest, is a national institution. Multiply the Super Bowl by 10 and you might close to the level of participation, excitement and news coverage.

I didn't buy a single décimo (tenth of a chance) for El Gordo this year, between the Camino and my travel home, and darn if I wasn't the only resident of the country who didn't. When I was forced to confess, I was greeted by a chorus of "¡Erin! ¡No se puede!" accompanied by shaking heads, shrugging shoulders and deep, heartfelt disappointment. No se puede live in Spain and not participate in El Gordo, it seems.

The thing is, now that I'm president, best performer and worst slacker of a company of one, no one conveniently stops by my desk to sell me a share of an El Gordo ticket.

I was happily returning to normal life, after the "no-se-puedes" and the hoopla of El Gordo, when I watched the nightly news instantly transform ordinary bar customers and supermarket workers into millionaires. I stared at the television, transfixed, while groups of neighbors and coworkers from across Spain discovered they'd hit El Gordo together, for millions.

During the next night's paseo, I suddenly noticed the laughter and witty chatter in those long lines outside Salamanca's lottery kiosks. And I thought, well, it's been 4 years.

I'm going in.

So, friends, I did what any intelligent expat faced with the complexities of a new Spanish institution would do. I asked for lessons.

Lottery lessons.

I was escorted to the kiosk by a generous and patient Salmantina, who, like any good Spaniard, took me into a complex subject step by step. We started outside the kiosk, acquainting ourselves with a bird's eye view of the many and various lottery options available to us. Once I had learned to distinguish my Primitiva from El Niño (El Gordo's little brother, to be awarded the first week of January, for Los Reyes) and my Eurobotes, we entered the building. My profe proceeded to instruct me, in a voice a tad loud if I may say so myself, profe, in the subtleties of form-filling, and buying and redeeming tickets with the confident swanker of a native.

So I filled out my little form, played my first Primitiva - and won a free ticket.

The best news is that like each of my friends and neighbors, I know El Niño is mine this year. Me va a tocar.

A friend likes to tell people who call me americana that I now qualify just as well for española. I've walked the Camino de Santiago and been present for an ETA attack. I make my own membrillo, refuse to eat lunch before 230 and consume mass quantities of morcilla.

Wait till she hears I've taken to hanging out in the line at the lottery kiosk.



  • I enjoy reading through your peculiar manner to capture the Spanish collective personality. You are right, the Loteria de Navidad turns for most of us into the National Health Day, oh, well, we didn’t hit it again, but at least we have our health….

    BTW, Spanish people tend to think that foreigners (guiris) are deaf. It just doesn’t cross their mind that you simply may not understand what they are saying.

    Great blog!

    By Anonymous canislupus, at 1:30 PM  

  • Gracias, canislupus!
    In the end, I asked for any décimo of El Niño and got gasps and shocked looks...made me laugh, I'd rather just spin the wheel and see what I get (and I like what I got!) and everyone else in line was desperate to get a décimo with some meaning for them, some certain number.

    I'm pretty much a guiri in disguise this days; no guiri friends in Salamanca, all españoles, and outside of this blog and a couple of American clients, I spend my days en castellano so I don't run into the deaf guiri problem too much anymore, although I spent Noche Vieja in La Alberca, and missed what the local ancianos said to me a few times...They swallow their words a lot up there in the sierra, says this guiri.
    Thanks for the visit and the comment! ¡Feliz año!

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 10:21 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:46 PM  

  • What? Could you repeat that, filomeno?


    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 7:25 PM  

  • Hay Salamanca hay grandes otorrinolaringólogos: como el Dr. Gómez Benito, el Dr. Cañizo........

    By Anonymous filomeno2006, at 8:46 PM  

  • I see you're still here, so I guess El Niño passed by you as well. Good, because I enjoy reading your blog and I would have missed it..... :D

    Filomeno, I was just joking about the widely spread Spanish habit to treat foreigners as if they were deaf (not that they are whatsoever!). They (we) tend to scream when "guiris" don't understand a sentence instead of explaining in a different manner what they mean....

    Spain is different.

    By Anonymous canislupus, at 1:39 AM  

  • Es que los españoles hablamos con un tono de voz alto.........¡Y los guiris cuanodo están en España también pegan buenos "berridos"......!

    By Anonymous filomeno2006, at 1:46 AM  

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