Today I had an El Sario experience as has become my Wednesday custom since classes have started here at the UPNA (La Universidad Pública de Navarra). Every Wednesday I go to the cafeteria that is called El Sario and have a café con leche (coffee with milk) and a pintxo (a small sandwich or some other small appetizer) in the hour between my Spanish class and my art history class.
As has also become customary, today I found myself once again perplexed by the manner in which this cafeteria functions. I have been confused about this since I first set foot within any of the UPNA’s cafeterias, which all seem to function in the same way; with little organization. Every week as I try to solve the mysteries of the cafeteria it seems that I am presented with a new but equally confusing circumstance. It is not to say that I dislike the cafeteria, in fact, I’ve come to quite enjoy spending time there. To see the same familiar faces of the enforcers of “the experience” bustling around every Wednesday is refreshing. The small group of people making this cafeteria function seems to work like a machine of efficiency with each of them doing his or her respective job. When I go to the counter I sometimes can’t help but feel that I’m throwing an extranjera wrench into the gears of this machine. It’s my inherent desire to know how this machine works… For this reason, I am always saying something akin to, “I would like la tortilla and a café con leche (of course, all in Spanish). Do I pay here? Do I pay where the coffee is served?” Each time I am getting a different reaction. I don’t know how it works and I may never know how it works. It is a rarity that I am content with the realization of my lack of understanding. I think this unusual contentment could stem from the fact that this cafeteria always seems to be a font of creativity and pure interest for me.
Today I didn’t even seclude myself by drowning out the commotion and listening to my music. It was 12:15 and people started leaving in order to tend to their responsibilities and engagements. The machine started working a little more tranquilly at that point in time but no less efficiently than before. I continued observing but the observations didn’t result in any further clarification.
Of course, I won’t deny that every time I enter the cafeteria people are quite obviously realizing that I am not one of them. There are always looks on the faces of people in Spain that make me question whether or not I am truly a human being or if I could possibly be some sort of alien of the extraterrestrial kind rather than just the “from another country” kind. However, my pure curiosity and sense of ease in this place always overcome me and I just enjoy the experience. They play music when the pace of the environment starts to quicken and people start infiltrating the little space. The music seems to be something that I enjoy and which they are playing at a comfortable level. It blends with the distinct noise that all coffee shops in the world seem to be made of. The clocks adorning the walls are of the Coca-Cola variety and depict different time zones throughout the world. Perhaps it is all of these little things combined with the fact that no one expects anything from me in this environment that make me feel so at ease.
So, no. The cafeteria doesn’t come with instructions… but really, I don’t mind.