The Lady from Leon and the Washing Machine - Talavera de la Reina, 1980

Much as it was a wonderful opportunity to experience life in Talavera de la Reina and visit the surrounding villages, we found the people in this part of Spain an awfully serious bunch. There was no stomping of the feet, no clapping of the hands like what you found in Cadiz. There was no Andalucian humour and no loud shrieks of laughter were to be witnessed.

would daydream about moving to the coast, to the Province of Tarragona.

packed up to leave Talavera de la Reina for the coast.  After several months one year of living here my Spanish has improved remarkably. Well, that's what I think, anyhow. After one year of living here, in this arid part of Spain where very few foreigners reside, we are deliriously happy about moving to the Mediterranean. We hear wonderful things about Salou, Cambrils, and all the villages along the coast of Tarragona. Apparently the whole coastline is international. People from Sweden, Yugoslavia, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries work and play throughout the Province of Tarragona.

Not that the people of Talavera are any less special than the international crowd. It's just that they seem such a serious bunch of people. No stomping of the feet, not even at the annual feria, no Andalucian humour, no loud shrieks of laughter are to be witnessed here; certainly not on a daily basis. Any guffaws you might hear usually come from me as I try to figure out how to work the washing machine. You place the hose inside the machine to fill it up? After said machine goes chugalug, you then place the hose at bottom of said machine in a drain or bucket to drain the water? Okay. Then what do you do next? Hmm.

One day a pipe of this splendid washing machine breaks. I manage to get a workman who has  'voluntad', whatever that means, to repair the machine. He's a very silent person. No radio, no humming or singing, and definitely no clapping of the hands are involved in his presence. After living in Andalucia for four years in the seventies I somehow expect all Spanish people to be dancing and clapping their hands. I think that has been part of the cultural shock here in Talavera de la Reina. Somebody, please make these people smile!

The workman replaces the pipe and announces in a quiet voice that the washing machine can now be used. Humdingery doo! He leaves just as quietly as he arrived, presumably with his 'voluntad' intact. I set about the task of placing the dirty clothes inside the machine, inserting the hose and turning on the tap. So far so good! I'm a happy person. Doesn't take much to make my day. Just when I'm about to knock on the Lady from Leon's door to tell her the washing machine has been repaired, guess what happens?

The pipe that the workman with the 'voluntad' used to do the repair comes flying out of the machine . Water gushes up in the air and all over me. Water runs into the hall, under the front door, and out into the corridor. There's a flood. Someone is banging at the door. Drenched, I open it and find The Lady from Leon.
     "There's water all over the place!"  She's frowning at me,
     "There is?" I'm trying to sound scientific.
     "What happened? Look, there's water going underneath dona Jimena's front door!" The Lady from Leon chuckles.
      "I don't think the workman did a good job repairing the machine." Now, that's the understatement of the year.

 Together we figure out we should somehow turn the water off. The Lady from Leon, being big and brave marches through the water now up to our ankles and duly turns the tap. She examines the pipe with all the scrutiny she gives when choosing tomatoes at the local market.
      "Look!"  She holds up the pipe. "This is an awfully narrow pipe. I think it's a gas pipe!"
      "You mean the workman used the wrong pipe?"  Brilliant deduction on my part.
We stand there gazing in amazement at the washing machine and the water on the floor. Then slowly burst out laughing. Already word has got around and the next thing the neighbours arrive shaking their heads in disapproval. They glare at me, at the washing machine, and at the Lady from Leon.

      That's when it dawns on me that I'm really not the only foreigner living in this apartment complex. The Lady from Leon is also a foreigner. After all, she's not from Talavera, either. 



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