Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A long way home

Over the past posts I have often spoken about life here, about its differences, and about the way that people react. I have tried, as I try generally in life outside of this overly electronical world, to concentrate on the positive.

Today, please allow me to bring the tone down. I don't sit happily with being negative about anything, generally I don't see the point, as there is nothing gained from it other than creating greater negativity. Today has been one of those long, drawn out days and a few matter have been brought to the fore once again; I feel the need to share to an unknown and silent audience.

 It seems that we all wak around with little flags over our heads that say little intricate details about us varying in sizes from the huge to the obselete. All that is on show is in bold capitals and all that isn't is hidden under a mire of text and typewriter correction marks (though perhaps the younger generations may have some sort of Whatsapp text over theirs). It would seem that this flag follows you around continually, throughout your life and is constantly open for examination and excessive scrutiny by others. I have mentioned this point in previous posts, the fact that in the UK many people make assumptions about what I am and what I think due to the way I speak, or the way I express myself when with my friends.

What struck me today was that this is taken with you wherever you go, and though you may think that you have fooled those around you, it only serves to make all the little things that are different about you stand out even more. I have always tried to be as non-controversial as possible - perhaps this blog itself is a very good demonstration of the fact - there are four readers and whomsoever drops in by accident through google search. Not exactly groundbreaking, world changing material. This aside, when asked today where it is I am from, I found myself once again embroiled in the same conversation as happens every time I meet a new person.

Spain
-Yes I speak Spanish
- Gallego too
- And French
- Yes I know it isn't common for English people to be able to speak other lagnuages
- My wife is Spanish
- Yes we understand each other
- My kids are bilingual; no I'm not ruining their education by trying to achieve this
- Yes English people are reserved
- No, I know I'm not reserved, but in general my countrymen are
- The people that come to Spain to get brainlessly drunk are not my fault.
- Yes I know it rains in the UK I'm quite used to it, no I don't miss it terribly and yes there are people that are capable of living there happily
- Many people have indeed tried Jamon Serrano, some like it, some don't, perhaps a tortilla is the greatest invention since sliced bread, yes our food is generally considered disgusting (by everyone that has *never* tried anything actually from the UK or anywhere near) but we like it and actually you're hurting my feelings.
- Yes it *is* difficult having my family a bloody long way away from me and *yes* I miss them, and if I'm not crrently in the foetal position crying it's because I have more self control than that.
- Yes I can realise my faults and my coutry's faults without getting angry or shouting, it's called manners.
- People who shout and get angry about things are generally considered to have an enormous lack of culture where I'm from, so if I'm quiet it doesn't mean I agree with everything you say.

The same conversation in the UK
- Yes my wife is Spanish
- Yes I speak Spanish
- Yes we understand each other
- And the kids too, in fact we *all understand each other*
- My kids are bilingual; no I'm not ruining their education by trying to achieve this
- Showing me your *immense* ninja skillz in French / Spanish / Italian / Russian or asking where the nearest whorehouse is in Swahili does *not* interest me *or* my wife.
- It *isn't* actually hot where my wife is from
- Toledo is nowhere near a beach. Most of Spian is not made of beaches, and in the north *it rains*
- Other foodstuffs apart from Paella exist in Spain
- I have yet to see *anyone* riding a donkey *anywhere*.
- Spanish people are *not* lazy. Try working in 40ยบ heat, see where that will get you
- Actually 99% of Spanish people work their arse off
- When you can explain the Inland Revenue's tax system to me, you have the right to explain your opinion on Spain's tax system and its faults.
- Mexico and Spain are *not* and *have never been* the same place.
- If Spanish peolpe are taking your jobs it is because they do them better.
- No, neither my wife nor my children dance Flamenco.

 This conversation with myself (although hugely cathartic) probably won't do me, or inded anyone else any good, though it might be something to bear in mind the next time you speak with someone not from the same place as you.

 B xxxx

Updates

Another stream of consciousness, this one is probably going up without editing, so please excuse the 'rough' nature of what is said after this; as and whe I have time I will make amends both with the blog and with myself. When you make some decisions, they come with consequences, many of which you don't take into account, though they are just as important as the main factors themselves; human frailty isn't the easiest of bedfellows. About ten years ago I took the decision that my life was going to be in Spain, having had a long and involved chat with my parents, and particularly with my father, I took the plunge and came here to see what I could do with my skills and with the limited resources I had at the time. I remember the converstaion with my dad in a nearby pub just before I left to come here: "You are really lucky you know that? That's something all parents say I suppose, look just listen. When you have to choose a job, choose something you love to do, something that makes you happy, something that really excites and interests you. Think about it, you're going to be doing it for the rest of your life. Just imagine having to get up every morning and hating what ou do. You'd feel trapped, unhappy and upset about having to go into work. All I know is that I dreaded the thought of going into work, and there is nothing worse that that feeling every day of your life, every day of your working existence. You know that your mother and I are going to support you in whatever decision you take, no matter how hard it is, and no matter how difficult we find it at the time, there are decisions that you have to make, and they should be the ones that you know are importatnt to you. Don't rush into anything, really think about it and don't just say yes to the first thing you are offered." These words have often come to me, as many other words I have had with my Dad over the years, words that have come to bear more meaning now than they ever would have in the past. He was right. I love my job, I really am happy to be getting uo every day to do waht I do, to talk with my students, to talk with my clients, to make people understand each other and to bering a text alive in another language. I know that I'm going to be geeking out about the differnece between two verbs, trying to get students to see the difference between two sentences that earlier in the morning neither I nor they had ever really considered and getting two people from two different countries and backgrounds to understand each other. The job certainly has stresses. There are students that have great difficulty in grasping even the most basic of concepts. There are students who have had so many years of uninspiring drivel thrwon their way that they can't see the beauty of suddenly being able to invent and construct in another language. The advantages that it brings, and the deeper understanding that it creates among others. There are days when you really do wonder at the mentalitly of those that have taken your fifteen hours straight work on ten pages of text and don't understand why you are charging them 25€ per hour for the text you have been sweating on, trying to make clear for them, trying to make sound as alive as the person that wrote it wanted it to. There are people that see the ease with which you speak and want you to charge a lot les as 'for you it isn't really that difficult'. All of this is undoubtedly true. However, the moment when you see two people that never would have understood each other in any other way suddenly forge a relationship, when you see that someone gets as excited or emotional over a text that you have been working on, when you watch that child that was getting a one and a hlaf grade average in English suddenly leap up four marks because of the input you have had in their life, it all ecomes extremely satisfying. Today sat over a cold Gin and Tonic discussing the sifference between 'emphsis' and 'stress' it all became quite clear where the love for everything comes from. If even in your free time you are happy to do something, then it's obviosuly something you love, those beers often come back to me now, the special times sat chatting about nothing and everything. The advice there was genuine and well given, thus I share it with you all over this less that intimate medium, perhaps it might get through to you as well... B xx