Smart Alec and the Chicken Pox - 1981, Miami Playa, Tarragona

It's 1981. We're still living in Talavera de la Reina, but the boxes are packed, and we eagerly await the move to the Mediterranean coast. We've heard  a lot about how international it is there. People from Yugoslavia, Sweden, Holland, the United Kingdom, India, Singapore, the United States, are living and working in the Province of Tarragona. Apparently the social life is terrific. and although it's been an interesting and rewarding one year spent here in Talavera de la Reina, we're ready to move on to where the action is.

One thing that's been great about this year in Talavera is that my Spanish has vastly improved. I thought I knew Spanish before coming here, but, really all I knew were verb conjugations and basic conversation. Having to speak Spanish on a daily basis with native speakers who are not used to foreigners at all has been somewhat of a challenge. And I'm feeling chuffed with myself on how well I now speak Spanish. Ha ha!

A friend of mine and I meet frequently so that our kids can play together.  We're sitting in the park next to the swings when she tells me that her son is in bed ill with the varicela. She also tells me that quite possibly our son will get the varicela too, but not to worry as it's not a serious disease. Now, I had to look up the word 'varicela'  in English as I'd never heard it before. 'Chicken Pox' is what I find.

Guess what? Our son does indeed get the chicken pox!  He gets the symptoms a few days before we make the drive to Miami Playa, Tarragona. Reassured that everything will be fine, we begin the process of unpacking and settling into our new accommodation.

It's a brand new house, complete with brand new furniture. I love being able to go out and back in without having to wait on a lift which is what we had to do in the apartment in Talavera. I love the beautiful tiled kitchen and bathroom, and the modern furniture. We even have a garden which is taken care of by a local gardener.

Next door lives a couple from Madrid who have a young boy around the same age as our son. They have big smiles as they inhale and exhale their cigarettes. They can talk for a long time after inhaling, something I've never been able to accomplish. I bet they can even blow smoke rings, another thing I've never been able to accomplish. They play their cassette tapes really loudly, all day long. I can hear Abba singing jauntily through the open windows and the couple start singing along with them.

"We're practising our English!" They announce to me.

Since I don't want their son to become ill I tell them that it's probably best that the boys don't play together for several days as our son has the chicken pox. At least, that's what I think I tell them! I remember that the word for chicken pox begins with the letter V.

I'm afraid that's all I can say in my favour.

The father stares at me, his mouth wide open. He practically swallows his cigarette as he tries to prevent it from falling onto the dried up grass. The mother's eyes grow huge and I don't whether she's going to cry or sneeze. They step back, and yell at their son to go inside quickly.

"We're so sorry, seƱora. We really are!  What a tragedy!  A terrible, terrible, awful tragedy!"  They rush  inside their house and close the door. They even close all the windows.

I'm left standing, puzzled by their reaction.

I don't think the chicken pox is all that bad is it? I believe it's quite common for young children to get it.

Later that day I'm looking up a word in this huge dictionary that weighs several pounds and that has the teeniest tiniest of print. You'll never guess what I happen to see! Remember how the word for chicken pox is 'varicela'?   Well, the word that I told the Madrid neighbours was 'viruela'. Yikes! Guess what 'viruela' means!

It means 'smallpox'!

So much for being a Smart Alec when it comes to Spanish! No wonder they ran away from me as fast as they could!

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