And so we sometimes make SL friends with people who are similarly enthusiastic for the lifestyle (or any other chosen lifestyle for that matter) or are drawn to other SL users in whom we recognise some kind of kindred spirit.
One of my SL friends, a long time SL friend, is Spanish girl Mercedes, and as you hang out with them you tend to understand a little more about what makes them tick in RL. Until recently I wasn’t aware that Mercedes was absolutely passionate about flamenco, as well as being an enthusiastic naturist. I think that sometimes ‘enthusiastic naturist’ is a wrong way to describe Spaniards who live on the Costas. Its such a part of their lifestyle, in some locations, that it’s a natural thing to do, almost without thought and certainly without embarrassment, from an early age.
Mercedes and I were hanging out at a friend’s naturist apartment when the conversation cam around to our non-Spanish friend saying he’d like to learn guitar in a Spanish, flamenco style. And that opened up a whole new area of conversation for us!
A lot of work in Spain is seasonal, serving the tourist trade. The jobs disappear during the winter, when hotels and restaurants sometimes close up, lay off staff or operate reduced hours. And their unemployment benefits are linked to their summer efforts. In other words, if you put in long hours over the summer, collect big wages and pay big taxes, your entitlement to unemployment benefits in winter is greater. Mercedes does work long, long hours during the summer, so much so that our friendship is effectively the odd IM waiting for one another, and it’s safe to say I would never actually encounter her inworld during the period from roughly Easter until now, Hallowe’en. But then she becomes a semi-permanent presence in SL as she seeks to fill long days with things to do. Besides SL, she’s a keen photographer, attends night classes to improve her already good English and halting French (although that’s still better than my French!) and has a passion for flamenco culture. The music, the dancing, the clothes.
‘Flamenco is the heartbeat of Andalucia for me’, she wrote in an IM, ‘and I do indulge myself by dancing flamenco when I can, or collecting flamenco music, with a lot of it now available or old, old records through the internet. So I collect old flamenco records in digital form and study them. I dance twice a week and watch others dance twice a week. It is a way for us to meet friends and have a night out without it ever being an expensive night. A little wine and some tapas and we can fill a bar and see old friends, meet new ones and have a social life we did not have in the summer time. You say I never see you in SL in summer. It is the same in the real world. I do not see my friends much in summer. They are working, I am working and maintaining a social life is impossible. We make up for it in winter times.’
And so, here in Vida Segunda, is the best of the photo sessions Harry did with Mercedes and her friend Pablo, who kindly played the role of barman/dancer for us too. nb: These are not naturist locations. We simply opted to do the photo sessions in ‘quieter’ SL times.
Ella with additonal reporting by Pookes.
The fan, sombrero, castanets, shoes (as well as free dressses in a flamenco style) are all available at Gee’s flamenco house -where the main bulk of the photos were done- or Flamenco Pasion which are each, in their own way, beautiful looking builds. Gee’s is more of a casa style restaurant which is very evocative of the bars and restaurants the real Spaniards eat at away from the tourist locations, while Pasion is more of a courtyard style with typical Spanish architecture. Both are lovely. All items worn (or not worn!) in the photoshoots were either free or L$1.