Dream of:17 October 1996 "Spanish History"
I was in the hallway of a school which reminded me of high school. I was standing in front of my open locker, trying to decide which books to take to my next class, which was Spanish. I had several books to choose from, and I was uncertain which to take, mainly because the students hadn't been receiving much direction from the teacher as to what they should read. In fact, I seemed to have been venturing off on my own in my choice of reading, and I was able to decide myself what to read. As a result, I had become quite proficient, although not completely fluent, in Spanish. I had already been reading several Spanish novels, novels now piled in my locker, and I debated whether to take one of those, or to take the Spanish language text book, a book with a picture of Don Quixote on the front cover. Or maybe I would take several books at once. Finally, after much deliberation, I opted for one of the novels, a small thick book which I plucked up from the bottom of my locker.
I headed for the class, thinking the teacher must admire my mastery of the Spanish language. I hoped so, because I liked her. I pictured my teacher in my mind: an attractive young blonde woman. I thought about how she reminded me of my eighth grade home room teacher, who had been the only pretty teacher I had ever had. Now I had another pretty teacher, and I hoped she was impressed by my abilities.
Lying on my back, as if on a bed, I sat up straight. As if awakening from sleep, I realized I was in my class, surrounded by other young high-school age students. I felt somewhat disoriented, and more so, because I was facing the back of the class. It took me a few moments before I realized I was staring at an extremely attractive girl (16-17 years old) sitting in the back corner of the class. She had long dark hair and black eyes. Only after staring at her a while did I realize she was looking back and smiling at me. She seemed surprised that I would be staring at her the way I was, but she was also obviously interested in me. I groggily tried to understand what this unexpected boon might mean for me. If this beauty was interested in me, I could probably have my pick of any girl in the school. That made some sense. I was older than the other students, and I figured most girls liked older men. I could imagine myself as being quite popular among the women.
I next found myself sitting upright in a chair in a much different room, a class room to be sure, but more spacious than the one I had been in. It was somewhat like a gymnasium which had been converted into a classroom, with chairs having been brought in for all the students to sit on. There may have been 50, maybe 100 students sitting in the chairs. Looking around me and seeing only young, dark-haired, Hispanic-looking men, I realized I was in Spain.
A woman standing at a lectern in the front of the room spoke and directed everyone's attention to a man who had entered the room to my left. A woman was accompanying him. The other students began applauding as I looked uncertainly at the man. He wasn't more than 50 years old and appeared to be in excellent physical shape. He was wearing light khaki clothes, and his hair was cut in a burr. I had no idea who he was, and although embarrassed to ask, turned to the fellow sitting at my left and inquired as to who the man was.
The fellow quickly told me that the man was a famous general who had been involved in the Swabia campaign. During that campaign, something had happened to all the other Spanish generals, and this general had gone to the Spanish leader and uttered some famous words, something to the effect of, "I, your general Obe, am here."
I deduced that "Obe" was the name of the general. It sounded like a strange name to me, and I rolled it around in my mind, wondering if I had heard it correctly. It almost sounded like something from the Bible. In fact the image of the general standing before his leader, saying that he was there, sounded like some kind of biblical story, and I could see how the tale had impressed the Spanish people, and now I somewhat understood why the general was held in such obvious esteem by my fellow students.
What I didn't understand was when the Swabian campaign had taken place. I thought my understanding of Spanish history was fairly broad, but as I now searched through my mind, I was coming up with a blank. I was having trouble remembering where Swabia was. The way the fellow next to me had told the story, it sounded as if Swabia was in Spain, but that didn't sound right to me. I couldn't recall any campaigns within living memory in which the general could have fought outside of Spain, but I felt convinced that Swabia wasn't in Spain.
I again spoke to the fellow next to me and I told him that I thought Spanish history was extremely difficult. In fact, to myself, I was wondering whether it was even worth the effort to learn Spanish history. What was the point of it anyway? There was so much of it. Would I ever be able to piece enough of it together so that it made any sense?
As the general and the woman with him took their seats in the front, the woman at the lectern announced that yet another celebrity was in the audience. She called out a name, and a young Spanish woman sitting over to my right stood up. She was a famous pop singer. Or at least she was a pop singer, although I became unsure of just how famous she was, because contrary to my expectations, few people applauded. Yet she didn't seem abashed by the weak reception, and after taking a brief bow, she sat back down.
My surprise at the slight applause for the singer was somewhat lessened as I began to realize what a militant group of young men surrounded me, men whose admiration of the general had been more than clear. This militancy became more manifest as the woman at the lectern asked the first question of the class: Should Spain intervene in Bosnia? The men resounded affirmatively.
I myself was undecided. Here again was an issue about which I knew precious little. I could understand why Spain – being so much closer to Bosnia than the United States – would have a stronger interest in what happened in Bosnia. I had also seen news reports of the atrocities in Bosnia, how hundreds of men had been taken out, murdered, and buried in mass graves. The reports had reminded me of the way Jews had been murdered during World War II, and I could hardly deny that this sort of barbarity shouldn't be allowed.
However, I did have a problem. It was my understanding that the Serbian Christians had been responsible for the murders, and that the victims had been Bosnian Moslems. Although I had no particular love for the Christians, my problem was that I intensely disliked Moslems. It was difficult for me to commit to the idea of avenging Moslems. As unspeakable as the acts of the Christians might have been, I couldn't bring myself to agree that Spain should enter the fray to avenge those acts.
My thoughts were soon interrupted by a lighter topic: Ping-Pong. It seemed that in addition to the celebrities who were already seated amongst us, we were also to be treated to an exhibition of renowned Ping-Pong players. Already Ping-Pong tables were being set up right in front of us, and we had to move our seats around to make room. In the process I thought about exchanging my hard-back chair for a softer blue arm chair I saw at the back of the room. But the arm chair appeared to be broken, so I kept my chair, and tried to find a spot close to the tables, which I did.
Two players were just about to begin. The strange thing was that they had set up three Ping-Pong tables, all in a row, to exhibit their skills. What they intended to do was play a game using three tables instead of just one. Without delay the game began. Not only did they use three tables, but they were able to hit the ball in the most extraordinary ways, making it curve and bounce and spin in unexpected directions. Truly they were masters at the art of Ping-Pong. Yet all wasn't mere demonstration. They were indeed earnestly playing a game with each other, each trying to beat the other. All their shots weren't perfect, and as skilled as they were, they missed some. I sat back, concentrating on the spectacle before me.
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