Living by the sea has made me aware of how often our surroundings are changing. The sky is cloudy, sunny, and mottled and threatening in the space of half an hour. The water is turquoise, green, and blue in the space of an hour. The last few days, though, there’s been a remarkably fixed point in our water landscape kaleidoscope. A freighter has been anchored just outside of the harbor, presumably waiting its turn to dock and take on its cargo.
That cargo, most likely, is salt. Torrevieja has been a center of salt-making in this part of the world for thousands of years and today is the largest producer of sea salt in Europe. Two salt lakes, one pink and one blue, provide the raw materials for salt distillation. By the time the Romans sailed into the harbor, salt was being extracted from the lake waters. Being Romans, the newcomers took over the enterprise and, presumably between Punic wars and stabbing people in the Forum and such, improved the manufacturing system and increased salt output from the lakes. To this day, salt hills are visible as you take your chariot from the airport in nearby Alicante into Torrevieja.
But we’re not looking at a galley in my view today, although I swear I see shades of those long-ago Roman sailors during my fancies at twilight. Instead, it’s a modern freighter, and it’s been waiting at anchor in the same spot for a couple of days. I keep wondering what the people on board are doing while they rock back and forth in mare nostrum. What does one do on a ship that’s not sailing? They could all be sleeping in and playing online poker on their phones for all I know. Or they could be terribly busy doing sailor-y things, like mizzening their masts or shivering their timbers. (After I wrote this, it sounded vaguely obscene, but I’m leaving it in anyway.)
Wondering about the sailors and their masts and timbers has got me noticing how much more we wait in Spain than we did in the US and, perversely, how much less I mind it here. This is not to romanticize life in Spain. Some of the waiting is tedious and cold, such as when the wind is blowing and the bus refuses to arrive when I want it to. Likewise, it sometimes annoys the heck out of me that nearly everything shuts down at 2pm for siesta. And don’t get me started about the waits at the municipal office where you get your residency card. Numbers for same-day appointments are given out starting at 8:30am and are all gone by 8:45. And if you’re lucky enough to get a number, you can expect to cool your heels for a couple of hours before seeing an official.
So the waits are real, but for all my grousing I actually don’t mind as much as I have in the US. For one thing, it would be ungrateful to mind too much. The timetable is Spanish, and we are guests here. Besides, once you get over grinding your teeth about delays, you are freed up to see that your way is not the only one. There’s sense in how Spain lives. We’re enjoying riding the bus (see previous post), and siesta is much appreciated after the heavy meal of the day, which is lunch. The municipal officials see scads of folks every day and took pity on our terrible español and found us an English speaker when we went to register ourselves. If we wanted our lives to run like we were in the US, we probably should be back in the US. And that’s not what we want at this point in our lives.
So for now, we wait like the sailors. Or perhaps it’s more like being one of those ladies in waiting I see on Season 3 of “Victoria,” only with much less elegant clothing involved. They wait in the sense that they serve, but they also wait in the sense of hanging out until the Queen finishes yelling at some errant politician and decides its time for everyone to trot down to the reflecting pool to wait for Albert to come out and declare his undying love again. I’m a lady in waiting to the service of our life here, and that’s okay with me.