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CLUAS in Andalucia (page 3 of 3)

Ecija and its famous church towers (with a barber called Angel down there somewhere)En-route from C?odba to Seville time was found to stop off in a sleepy town called Ecija for a well needed hair cut. Identifying a barber was no problem - just stop off in one of the local bars, down an Espresso or two, watch the local lads show off their caterpillars eating leaves in a shoe box, then call the barman over, make funny scissors shapes, point to your hair and next thing you know some guy called Angel around the corner is snipping delightfully away at your skull, chatting to you about bullfights as if you were christened in the local chapel as Julio Picasso.

It was about time there was a disappointment on the trip and Seville dutifully obliged. Looking for a place to stay pretty soon showed up the Sevillians (very civil, geddit? sorry) to be a greedy, glum and unfriendly bunch. On this trip anyway it fell to these boys to provide the bad apple.

However, memorable moments in Seville there were. On the first night CLUAS nearly accused a waiter of serving wine stolen from the local church. The bottle you see was labeled 'Vino de Mesa'. Now, I am familiar with the linguistic fact that many words in these continental languages are just letter or two away from their equivalent in English. So it was obvious that this bottle was once familiar with the ecumenical shadows of a tabernacle, n'est-ce pas? Eh, no actually. Mesa it turns out actually means 'Table' to the Spaniards...

As if that wasn't enough, there was the charade of popping down to a bank to change my last Traveler's cheques. The passport was handed over to the teller who, eventually, I managed to persuaded that the perfectly legible signature on my 9 year old passport did indeed come from the same hand he had just seen scrawl randomly on the cheques. Then the real fun began. When the time comes for him to cough up a bit of cash he, with an apologetic face, waves a few notes of smaller denominations in front of me. It can't be true I say - the bank doesn't have enough cash to give me? 'La banca no tienes dinero?' I splutter. Faced with this I start to laugh, loud and in his face. 'Eh!!!' insists the teller, mouthing some incoherent words and shaking the fist of notes, but I'm still laughing and refuse to notice him. It was then that a woman standing behind me - of obvious linguistic talent - intervened. In polite tones and fluent English she explains that the teller is saying he has sufficient funds, but only in smaller denominations. I freeze, shrivel, sink, melt, die, slowly. Very slowly. Very publicly.

The experience that was Seville, you can now understand, needed to be quickly abandoned. A night in Ronda, a mountain village, astride a plunging canyon, was the last stop before the great exit from this wonderful region of the planet.

I thought I had seen it all but then I went shopping in downtown Malaga a few hours before catching the plane home. I found myself standing outside a huge shopping complex. Looking up I saw staring down at me a sign that taunts me with an air of undisputed victory. I know the sickly green of those letters. I know the horror of what you stand for. Oh Ben. Please. Not here.

The sign? "Dunnes Stores" it read and I tell no lie.

Eoghan O'Neill

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Also check out Tansay's article on her year in Australia.

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