China appears on the balcony

Sebastian Stone has a smile which is pleasing to look at. His name is Latin but his slanty eyes and the tone of his skin betray his Asian background. In fact, he comes from Taiwan, China. He is repeating his second visit to Pamplona during Sanfermin fiestas. He works as a tourist guide and he acknowledges that Spain is his favorite European country. “Here the people are the nicest and the weather is the best”. He explains himself in pretty basic Spanish. With him there are another 25 Chinese who have come from many different parts of the planet, from Shanghai, from California, from Taiwan… He wished to learn about the Camino to Santiago.

“In summer it is better than being in the south of Spain.” explains Sebastian. Among his group are four elderly people, several children, some youths … his first port of call has been Pamplona. They rented a balcony in City Hall square to enjoy for the first time in their lives the magic sensations of the Running of the Bulls.

All of the group have large cell phones with them – most of them Android and made in South Korea. They can’t stop taking photos. Some of them are members of the same family. One of the ladies stands out for her bulky and large size, perhaps she measures about one meter eighty or so. She explains to her kids with a strong American accent just what is about to happen at the bullrunning event. She is from Los Angeles, California. But, without a doubt, the curious people of all are the elderly ones, three ladies and a gentleman, all looking to be over seventy years of age. They seem to have just come out of some classy Eastern movie. What a pity I have no Chinese nor they any English.

Isabel, the local guide who Works for the local Company, Destino Navarra, which lets the balconies, is encouraging them to use all the space on the balconies, but most of them stay on the same balcony, the one at the corner of Mercaderes, and they don’t budge from there. While some of them understand English, it is not easy to talk to understand them. They have a strong accent and after several attempts with the same sentence, I give up. They have some coffee, eat some buns, they chat… without making too much noise. It is hard to believe there are 25 of them in total – it seems more like a dozen people or so. They don’t raise their voices; they move gracefully, they don’t fill much space…all in sharp contrast to the street below them with its noise and rowdiness.

¿Do you like to live in Taiwan? l ask Sebastian. “It is not bad, although the country is too small, he replies. An island of 383 km long, almost stuck to China and with only about 26 million inhabitants and lots of beaches. To get there from here would take a18 hours flight with a stopover in Thailand the Portuguese called it Formosa (beautiful island). Sebastian is dressed in a rose-colored tee shirt and black jeans. None of the group have dressed themselves in the traditional red and White of Sanfermin. Tomorrow they will head on their tour with a stop at San Millán de la Cogolla in the Rioja region. I recommend them to have a look at the bulls in the gas pens, but they don’t have time. They asked me how many bulls will run in the Running of the bulls and what happens afterwards to the bulls. They are surprised to hear my short explanation.

Finally, it is 8 o’clock and the three rockets go off. All of them prepare to watch with their cell phone cameras at the ready. The herd of bulls arrive amid the crowded runner. They pass so fast that there is hardly time to enjoy the moment. Inside the sitting room of the flat there is a TV broadcasting the event. Everyone gathers there to watch the live broadcast. The Chinese seem to open their eyes wide in similar style to the Japanese cartoons. Aaaaaaah, uaaaaaaa, they exclaim in unison. It sounds like a very sweet and innocent tone… What do they really think? What do they really feel? Do they think we are crazy? They will never have seen a live fighting bull in their lives before. Will you run in the Running of the Bulls when you grow up, they ask one of the children. “Perhaps, the child replies amid smiles and giggles and wide eyes after watching the bullrunning. They all together exclaim that the child speaks perfect English.