14 December 2010

Estic Terminat*

Oh look, it's been 4 months and I'm already going home. I liked a lot, I didn't like a lot and I'm coming back.

Things I'm very very ready for

Specifically Chick-fil-a, apple cider, pumpkin anything, Hi Bombay!, peanut butter, flavor, popcorn, butter, broccoli, Mexican food, milk, and a source of protein other than pig.

+Being able to read a book from the library or a bookstore without having to think really hard whilst reading

+People I know

+Having a telephone that works

+Smoking bans in public places
I'm tired of airing out my smoky clothes from the night before since I a) forgot to bring Febreze b) don't get to do my own laundry and c) only have 2 pairs of pants.

Until Christmas and then I want that ish gone.

+Being able to express anger or excitement or really any emotion and not sounding like an idiot

+Affordable shoes

Things I'm going to miss

+Being able to walk everywhere
Because it's never colder than 50F/10C, the sidewalks are huge, and everything's close. I'm especially going to miss my walk to school.

+People being really comfortable with their bodies
Also my breasts would like a healthy tan next year.

+The metro
The metro here had countdowns to tell you when the next train is coming, runs all night on Saturdays, costs 7.95€ for 10 trips, and has escalators. This is a far cry from arcade city Philadelphia, where the sham of the subway operates on tokens and frequently forgets to stop at my station.

+The metric system

Yesterday, Noa built our pessebre/nativity which really deserves an entire post to itself for you to be able to fully appreciate the comedy value of it.

+Being able to speak three languages
This is a fun game: harto [spanish for tired] > fart [catalan for tired] > pet [catalan for fart, also a popular rock band] > mascota [spanish for pet]

+The beach

+The mountains

+The women
They have nice arms, they don't wear much makeup, they have shiny hair, they wear sensible clothes, they speak Spanish.

+Living next to a church
1/2 due to the laziness-inducing time-telling bells and 1/2 because it smells really nice and calming when I walk through it on my way home.


+Everyone having their own style
Note the stroller: actual adults dress like this.

+Dogs without leashes

There's really no idea of kids' space and adults' space here. You'd have to search really hard to find someone who says things like, "Why couldn't they just have left the kids at home" and even if you did find them, they would probably not be from Barcelona. Parents bring their kids to bars, babies don't cry [much], and no one freaks the eff out about child molesters.

+Cheap things, flights, food, drinks, and metros

+Not tipping

+My gym

I would like to take Eloi, the trainer who chats with me while I exercise, with me please. And the cute cycling instructor with a tegan piercing who sings along to the music over her microphone while she's teaching classes. And the fingerprint scanners so I don't have to carry a card around.

+Monopoly money

+People standing patiently in line
If there is a line. You know those signs at King's Island:

Those would not exist here because people just don't care. If you're in a grocery chain or clothes store, no one cares about waiting around for 10 minutes until it's their turn, and if you're in a market it's an all-out push or be pushed smilefest of nice people.

+Assorted weirdness

Coming soon: Me throwing up all over you about how much I loved Morocco. As soon as my roommate from the trip sends me our photos.

*I know it should be "estic terminada" since I'm a girl, but you can't sing that to the tune of "Feliz Navidad."

03 December 2010

On Culture and Offensive Language

If you've been to Spain or read anything I've had to say about it, you know that the Spanish have a special relationship with ham. In any predominantly Christian culture, taking the Lord's name is vain is not nice, but what happens when you have a Catholic country that is obsessed with pig products? I'll tell you what happens, you get a place where "Jesus Christ!" and "and a ham!" are equally offensive exclamations. When you look at how people insult each other, you see a lot about their values.

In Harry Potter, there's a scene where Ron calls Harry a loser and storms out. In the subtitles, he calls him inútil which is Spanish for "unhelpful." Just a few days ago, someone asked one of my teachers how to say "loser" in Spanish. She said there really isn't any translation, not because they don't have a word, but because winning and losing aren't important concepts in Spain (except when it comes to soccer). Calling a Spaniard a loser wouldn't make any sense to them; they'd just ask, "What did I lose?"

In America*, we're a capitalist society. Winning means success and losing means failure, laziness, and undesirability. Spain's socialist system means that helpfulness is more important than personal achievement.

Spain's socialism is visible on public transportation. While you have to swipe your ticket to enter the metro, the trams are set up so that it's up to you to validate your ticket once you're on board. In three months, I've never seen anyone come around to enforce the 50 Euro fine in place for unvalidated tickets, yet every single person who gets on the tram makes sure they pay for their ride. Half the signs at every stop encourage passengers to look out for the common good, saying "Valida tu título. Todos queremos un buen servicio," "Validate your ticket, we all want good service."

The other half of the signs have a more Big Brother feel.

"Validate your ticket, we're all watching you." Pros and cons to every system, right?

It seems like something that's culturally ingrained, but then I see people jump the turnstile to get on the metro. When I think about it, though, it's mostly at night and they're almost always drunk teenagers and young foreign tourists. People here take their three different recycling bags up to 10 blocks to put it into the right bins. 1st graders take themselves to school on the metro. Barcelona is a city without dog parks because dogs are trained so they don't need a leash. Responsibility is taken seriously so that life is easier for everyone.

In unrelated idiomatic expressions, if someone asks you on a date and you turn then down, you "give them the pumpkin."

*I know Harry Potter is a British book and movie, but if the number of advertisements I saw in the UK are any indication, competition is alive and well there too. That's nor to say that people in Spain don't compete or aren't driven, but it seems that after years of Franquimo, the culture is more willing to value diversity (meaning there's not one universally accepted continuum of success and failure) whether it's in the political structure of the autonomous communities and languages, rights for minority groups, or respect for jobs that are not as high-powered but necessary for the city to function.