Saturday, March 15, 2014
The sun has made its appearance and has magically warmed everything up. It’s in the low 70’s today and it will get warmer the next few days. Fallas is in full swing and the projected number of visitors is one million. The tent in front of our building has reappeared and so have their two fallas. Obviously the noise level outside has increased, as has the number of exploding firecrackers.
There are pyrotechnic stores that open only during Fallas and I would imagine that they sell an enormous amount of both ground and aerial firecrackers and fireworks. You hear explosions, both small and large wherever you go. The streets are approaching impassible. It took me close to ten minutes to get to the Mercado Central, which, as you know is a block away. The number of stands selling typical refreshments – churros, chocolate, buñuelos, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries and, of course, beer – seem to have multiplied exponentially. There is a rather large hamburger stand outside of Jordi’s restaurant. I guess that both can co-exist. Carosel was filled to the rafters yesterday. The good (?) news is that the celebration is just beginning.
For the most part the week has been uneventful for us. I have just about recovered from my bout with otitis and Susan, for the most part, has escaped the throes of sinusitis. We have done a good job of keeping the antibiotic industry in business. Thursday morning we had an appointment with our tax advisor and we made some interesting discoveries.
Given the fact that we now reside in Spain year round, we are subject to income taxes here in Spain although all our income comes from US sources. Because of a treaty with the US we are only liable for the percentage difference between our tax bracket in the US and our tax bracket in Spain. Additionally, the amount we receive from Social Security is not taxable and not considered part of our annual income. Taxes are due in May and, at the moment we have no idea of how much we will owe. We are hoping that it will be somewhat comparable to the taxes we used to pay to the State of California. All of the foregoing came as no surprise. What did come as a surprise and almost left us speechless was the first question we were asked – “Did we want the taxes we paid to go to the Spanish government or to the CHURCH?” This is the same church that receives a 10 billion Euro subsidy from the government every year. (Smart-ass comment omitted so I do not go through the roof!)
Fortunately we made our appointment in the month of March because by March 31 we, as well as all residents, must submit to the Spanish government, a list of all our foreign holdings so that we will be sure to pay taxes on all our sources of income. This is a law that recently came into effect with the discovery of millions of Euros that had been secreted in Swiss and Caribbean banks by politicians and members of the upper class here. Some politician have siphoned off millions of Euros of public funds to their own personal bank accounts. The only question that remains to be asked is whether this law will do anything to stop the scofflaws from continuing to under-report their true worth?
We left our advisor’s office with a bit of homework. There were a number of questions that had to be answered regarding our holdings beyond how much was in each account. We need to supply names, addresses, federal identifiers of the institutions, when accounts were opened, as well as the average balance of each in the last three months of 2013. Susan spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening gathering that information and putting in on a spreadsheet. Most businesses will be closed next week because of Fallas celebrations, but obviously we will make the deadline.
Today we returned to the casal where we are falleros de honor. With the uptick in activity we will be frequent visitors until the celebration has ended. Each casal erects a children’s falla, as well as its main falla. Since most of the fallas are critical and sarcastic there seems to be a certain similarity to the figures that comprise the falla. There are some, however, that are noticeably different. Na Jordana for the previous two years have built absolutely unbelievable fallas constructed, for the most part, out of wood. Two years ago it was an enormous falla that represented the head of Leonardo DaVinci. Here is a video of it being put into place http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTw2SSPLGCA Last year it was the Trojan Horse http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShXjX9vwj3c . The fallas of the Casal de la Plaza de Jesús are not your typical ones, either.
The children’s falla is a coach populated with wizards and spirits who are leaving town because children no longer have or use their imagination. The main falla is made out of pressed cardboard that has then been sculpted into the shape of a head. The hair of the figure is tied up in knots. It poses a question and that question is are you prepared to leave the knots in place and accept all ideas and beliefs that others accept and believe or are you willing to untie the knots and accept the consequences of your questioning? Each of the fallas has an explanation of their meaning in valenciano, Spanish, braille for the blind and icons for the autistic.
We visited the casal for both lunch and dinner. Lunch was a rice dish made with snails, sausages and Swiss chard. It is a typical dish and something we had never eaten before. It was delicious. After lunch we made our way back home for a bit of rest. Susan headed out again at 7:00 with the hope of seeing the light display at both Sueca and Literato Azorín. She could not even get close there were so many people so she turned around and made her way to the casal. I arrived at 9:20 and we sat down for supper at 10:00. Friends of Maripaz had arrived that morning from Seville and had brought with them an entire ham. Slices of that ham ended up on our supper table along with the makings for a traditional sandwich of habas y embutido. Habas are broad beans or fava beans and we each received a link of morcilla and one of longaniza. Dessert was a tarta de Santiago and then bottles of cava were opened to celebrate the fact that that children’s falla had won two prizes.
We made our way home at midnight and the streets were filled with revelers. There was a disco móvil a few blocks away from our apartment and the tent outside our building was celebrating their verbena – loud music and alcohol – that the authorities allow to go on until 4:00 AM. And it did. Fortunately the double doors that seal off the back of our place did a fantastic job of blocking the noise.
I am finishing this post off on Sunday morning. We are planning to go the The Ginger Loft for lunch since this definitely is their last week of operation. There is a tapa festival at the casal at 8:00 this evening and we will be there for that event. There should be less activity in the streets later today since many of those who have trained here from Madrid will return home to begin their workweek.