The Ladies of Ronda Dumpster-Diving Society

In December I signed up for a furniture restauración course at the ancient Collegio de San Francisco. The course was scheduled to start on January 10th at 10 am, and foolishly keen and Norwegian that I am, I show up early. I came to a closed door. Actually, that’s not true. I came to a cemented close door. The college is obviously not as busy as it was in the old days…

Still keen to start my new course, I check a metal door to my left, also bolted closed. I knock anyhow and then walk around the building. At a side-door, hidden by six months of fallen leaves, there is a note saying that all classes have been moved to another collegio due to renovations and will start January 23. Thankfully, I have been here long enough now to know that such notices may refer to years past, so I return to the front of the building, waiting.

Quarter after ten and there is still nobody there, so I hurry home to call the Casa de Cultura to inquire about the changed location or cancelled course. “No!”, they tell me. “Por supuesto!” Of course the course is on! Just go back, and I will see them all there, they say. And sure enough, just half an hour late, the first students start to trickle in, renovation projects in hand. The last student arrives half an hour before our class is over, keen as can be and without an excuse.

Our teacher, named and doubly blessed, Maria Jesus, is a spirited woman with a constant flow of words, wearing stylish brown riding boots and a white lab coat. (Turns out that we all need the latter) The class consists of a dozen Spanish women between the age of 50 and 80, some married, some widowed, all with time and money to spare and all loving things that are old, decrepit and with patina. I feel right in my element as they excitedly show off their planned spring projects. Most have brought old tables, frames and trucks from their well equipped homes, while others have found them on the street, literally while going dumpster diving! Unbelievably, these Spanish ladies with their perfect hair-does, their golden jewelry and neat little twin-sets under their checkered working-frocks tell me which days to go to find the best treasures in the bins – on Wednesday nights before the city picks up the garbage on Thursday mornings. So here I am, a freshly accepted member of the Ladies of Ronda Dumpster Diving Society…

As a retiree exercise class springs to life with Latin beats in the plaza outside the collegio, our group starts the restoration work. Having moved here with 3 suitcases and not a stick of furniture, they let me inherit a lovely, curvatious, worm-infested skeleton of a chair, of which nobody can remember the rightful owner. Maria Jesus goes through the list of items I need for the course, including syringes to insert poison to kill the wood-bugs. Otherwise, I need brushes and sandpaper and scrapers and all the stuff we gave away in Canada merely weeks ago. And bring some old T-shirts as rags, she tells me, and I have to admit that I don’t even own an old T-shirt. Kind as they are, the group descends upon me with tools to borrow and extra stuff they let me use, so I can start stripping ‘my’ chair.

And, come next Wednesday night, I will be out there with the ladies of Ronda, plundering the city’s garbage bins for restorable treasures!

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