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America, May 21, 2004

Rob's Madrid Living - Part I

How many bathroom fixture stores can a city support?

In Rob's Dreams
can you read this?
An Open Sign
Corpus what?
Civil Law
dream dorm
A Clean Bathroom
Editor's Note: My friend Rob is in Madrid this summer studying law at a Spanish University and is sharing his interesting interpretation of Spanish life with me.

Life in Madrid
by Rob

Buenos dias...or as I say in my very best American - Spanish . . . excuse me, EXCUSE ME CAN YOU HELP ME NOW . . . interestingly, while English is not commonly spoken here . . . I find it no more difficult to communicate with the folks here than with those back in the states.

It is Thursday evening and I have just returned from class and am now relaxing on the terrace of my apartment and reflecting upon the habitability of life in Madrid, but more on that a bit latter.

The first week of classes went well, although true to European form . . . reciting facts [date, events] are far more valued than the understanding concepts and their application . . . but remember Spain is a socialist's country. The liberal art majors are truly in their prime with lectures on Roman civil law, cannon law, and Corpus Juris Civilis --- Justinian in the sixth century A.D.....huh? Today, one of my professors had us respond to the following questions?

1. Why are civil law traditions considered more important than the common law tradition? [To clarify for my non-lawyer friends, the US follows a common law system and Europe is generally deemed a civil law system].

2. . . . civilians see the common law as "relatively crude and unorganized" and "common lawyers as relatively uncultured people." How well trained are American lawyer in history, the classics and philosophy?

I tried so hard, but I could not keep my mouth shut answer went something along the lines of, "While American lawyers may be crude and uncultured, I would prefer to be represented in a court of law by a money hungry, ambulance chasing "common law tort lawyer" who graduated at the bottom of their class and who believes Shakespeare is the valet at the country club vs. a civil law trained attorney who teaches summer school hoping to earn enough money to pay down their student loans stemming from their overpriced liberal arts education."

I might be overly sensitive, but I don't think they like Americans, though they were quick to cash my tuition check . . .

I am enjoying the apartment and neighborhood, only steps away from the metro with every third business a restaurant and two patisseries within a block. However, I have as yet to figure out exactly when any of the businesses are actually open ...when I arrived last weekend everything was closed for two days in celebration of the Saint Isidor festival and most business routinely close at 1PM for a siesta.

This weekend businesses will again be closed in celebration of the royal wedding. I can't figure out how any of the businesses can maintain profitability.... besides limited hours operation there is an over abundance of restaurants [tapas bars], cheap shoe stores, banks and bathroom fixture stores.... honestly how many bathroom fixture stores can a city of 400k support.

With the grocery stores closed, I had the opportunity to sample Spanish gastronomical delights at local restaurants. I believed, incorrectly that Spanish food would be similar to Mexican food . . . not even close. My tour book describes it best, "Spaniards eat to live, and do not live to eat"...though I am not totally convinced that you can actually live on Spanish food.

We now turn to:

Madrid's Habitability Index
[Rating: Best ----> Worst]

Stinky People

Scale: Some one who has actually taken a bath ----------> Frenchman
Rating: As indicated, Spaniards have several fine establishments that sell unique bathroom fixtures suggesting that they probably use them, but like a lot of Europeans ... they love their cigarettes.... overall I believe they own a bathtub and know how to use it.

Communication Barriers

Scale: Zig Ziggler ----------> Frenchman "It is not possible"
Rating: Again, as indicated ..... the language / cultural barriers seems no greater than dealing with the average American.

Rudeness Factor

Scale: Your grandma [unless she is French] ----------> All Frenchman
Rating: While they might not be as friendly as your grandma, they are a heck of a lot friendly than the average born and bred St. Louisan --- no one has once asked me were I went to high school


Scale: Homemade Macaroni & Cheese with a slightly burnt top [not Kraft, but rather the kind your friendly, non-French grandma makes] ----------> French Food
Rating: Escargot, anyone

The time approaches 10 pm and it is now time for me to figure out which restaurant to dine......tonight I believe I deserve a treat . . . can you say, "I would like that super sized, por favor."


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