Friday, 4 March 2011

Spanish Noise and Therapies

It is not a criticism – but an observation. I am not the first foreigner in these parts to comment on this particular characteristic of the Spanish.

Noise. Spaniards do not know the meaning of quiet. I don’t think there is any such thing either as a shy Spaniard. Even the children are completely relaxed about talking to strangers almost as equals. They do not lower their eyes and hide behind their mothers – well perhaps at times very briefly as they size up a strange foreigner who does not speak Spanish very well and is called something strange like Mary. Mary Poppins is a point of reference I am pleased to note, as that is one of my favourite films of all time. But generally they are quite happy to speak to anyone about all and sundry even showing off their counting skills – however limited.

Why do I mention all this now? Well, this morning I had to go for my first physiotherapy session at a Spanish clinic.

It is funny because I have been agonizing over what to write about this week. Feeling quite blocked really as I have not been in the least bit creative lately. My illnesses and social life seem to have taken over. In my case it is really true that I have to suffer a bit in order to be creative – albeit mentally rather than physically. When I am lonely and introspective I have all these ideas for images and themes. I am rather happy and contented at the moment as I have found myself to have a circle of friends! I feel that for a solitary individual this is a very strange state of affairs. I have lived my life very much as a loner always but now people call me up and call to see me or invite me out or round for meals or drinks. What on earth is going on? Maybe it is part of being in Spain – a much more gregarious place than anywhere else I have lived.

But that is a digression –

There I was agonizing over my non-materialising blog when all of a sudden I found myself invited to what was, in my eyes, the most bizarre group physiotherapy session that I could ever imagine. Obviously it is normal in Spain as no one else there seemed remotely concerned with the strange events that unfolded before my ‘Irish’ eyes.

I have never been to a physiotherapist before so actually I have nothing to judge my assumptions on, but I always presumed that the sessions were done in a small consulting room on a one to one basis. Here I walked into this madhouse where one or two older ladies were rolling large objects backwards and forwards on a table, a man was sitting under some contraption that obviously warmed or vibrated his shoulder. Another woman was lying on a couch having her hand manipulated by the physiotherapist and another lady was sitting under a sun or heat lamp. There was also what seemed to be a totally healthy woman with two children – a small baby and a delightful little girl who was trying to show off her aforementioned counting skills 1,2,4,6,11, 8…etc.

Of course all these people were talking, all the time and all at the same time. Laughing with and talking to the children and holding other conversations between each other. In the midst of this reigned the Physiotherapist – a lovely young woman, named Ana, completely at ease with the situation, although every so often she did say a general shhhh! To get everyone to pipe down a bit so that she could introduce the next exercise to one or other of her clients.

Especially for me it was a little difficult to say the least. I am certain that on a one to one session I would have understood every word she said to me as she spoke clearly and slowly to me, but under the circumstances and the loud and boisterous background noise, I had the greatest difficulty even focusing my attention on her, let alone understanding. Still she actually did speak English too, for which I was heartily grateful. So I did follow and do the exercises and therapies that she presented to me. And then I sat under the sonic wave machine which gave me a deep muscle massage – I am not sure it is quite what I was expecting, as I was expecting something that will dissolve the calcium deposit in my shoulder, but perhaps that does. What do I know? Anyway I am certain she knows what she is doing and time will tell. Oddly I am not experiencing any extra pain and perhaps even some slight more movement than previously in my bad shoulder – so I can only assume that the treatment, however bizarre the ambience, is working already.

Regarding deep thought. No, none. I spent the time trying to understand and follow some of the conversations that were taking place around me. I find it completely frustrating that I understand so many of the words perfectly clearly as single words, but there is something about the way a foreign language is put together that means that, in my own head at least, most of them remain as isolated words and are not hanging together to make any extra sense to me – they are obviously more than the sum of their parts. I can only sigh and hope that it will all start to hang together for me soon.

Maybe I just need to start yelling like a Spaniard and it will suddenly fall into place.

The photo? I thought it vaguely resembled the group therapy session of this morning. It is of me and my brother and one of my sisters showing an alternative to normal sitting. Why sit the right way up when you can sit upside down!

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