No Man’s Land

A week without my passport. I was waiting for the renewed one to come through the post. I couldn’t fly back to Spain until it arrived. I had a strange sense of being suspended between two countries and two lives.

Here in the UK I don’t have a flat or a car. I spend time with family, I have business meetings, and I meet friends. I admire the gorgeous countryside in this mostly mild autumn, and I spend double the money I would in Spain.

This doesn’t feel like home any more and yet, I have more vivid memories than ever over here. Every multi-colored autumn tree and bright green field jolts something within me. Every crunchy leaf I step on transports me back to a time when I had little legs and learnt about the world.

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My aim is to see all this through fresh eyes, and create a new place for myself here. Not a place based on memories that haunt me – good and bad – but a place that is part of my now and my future. When I return to Spain, I would like to do the same. Life is based on change, and clinging on to sentimental creations can be dangerous.

It’s time to actually live in and accept the moment – wherever that may be –  and be the person I want to be…. A hundred times more cheerful than the person in my passport photo!  😛

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Saying No

In general, English people are very polite and find it hard to be direct and say no. Even when they are thinking “definitely not”! There’s a lot of “Sounds good; I’ll let you know. Thanks for inviting me…”

To make things “worse”, in Spain there’s a big culture of life “en la calle” (outside). If someone asks you to go for a “Cervezita” (little beer) with them, it’s normal to think “why not?”, grab your things and go.

The weather’s usually so gorgeous here, it seems a shame to be inside. There’s also a culture of “me apunto!” (I’ll be there) – when you’re not even sure you can make it or not, just to be in the spirit of “up for everything”.…

Thus, between my very English upbringing and my last few years in Spain, I’ve recently realized that I find it REALLY hard to say no.

What happens when we say “yes”, when really we mean “no”? Apart from it damaging our self-esteem, it means we often take on too many commitments, and we have to cancel on people; to let them down . This also affects our relationships with other people, as they stop trusting us 100%.

In the process we get frustrated because we don’t end up doing what we originally wanted.  We have the feeling that the circumstances manage us rather than the other way round; that we’re not responsible for what happens to us.

This doesn’t mean going to the other extreme and having no flexibility and sponataneity; The key is to be connected to what you want in every moment.

Therefore, if I fancy the cervezita  (or the plan, the project etc) then it’s “YESS” and on my way with a smile. Yet, when I don’t want to, I’m learning to simply say “no, thanks”, without feeling I have to justify why.

Is it really that bad in Spain?

A Frequently Asked Question throughout my trip to England. Yes, I would reply, it  really is. I’ve lived it, I can see it all around me, and the figures don’t lie (they just manipulate). Yet, the doom, gloom and apathy doesn’t help.  The UK is out of recession, but it was grey for nearly the entire time I was there. I’ve returned to a beautiful, light, and sunny Spain, but to a pessimistic atmosphere for the year ahead. Right now the country needs active risk-takers, people willing to invest their time if not their money in new projects; people open to moving around and travelling. There’s no place to live like Andalucía but other regions and countries have a lot to offer too – economically, culturally, socially and even politically. Later, young people can bring their experience, skills and maybe money back to Spain where, deep down, most of them really want to live. It all sounds so simple right? I know that it’s not. These are complex, despairing and even tragic times for Spanish people.  Especially for older people who somehow have to provide for their families.  I would only ask that people are patient, positive and proactive – that we club together to think up new and imaginative solutions, and that we can still smile and be thankful for the sunny Spanish winter mornings (y las tapas, la gente, las risas etc etc…).

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Too Rich

Not something we often hear, other than perhaps in verbal attacks on politicians, hedge funders and football players… But I’m not talking about money. This reflection was inspired by a random conversation I had about chocolate the other day.  In English when something is overly sugary, fatty and creamy or ‘chocolatey’ we say that it is sickly, or “too rich”. In my early months in Spain when I claimed that a chocolate brownie was “demasiado rico”, I got strange looks. In Spanish when food is delicious, it’s “rich”: ¡Qué rico!  There’s no such thing as “Too rich”. The Spanish say “empalagoso”, which more or less translates to sickly. A dish being “too rich” is incomprehensible for the Spanish; a bit like the idea of driving on the left, or measuring distance in miles ;).

Reasons to miss the UK

This post is dedicated to one of my best friends, Noah, who has recently accused me of being “the least patriotic person” he knows…

The Greenery! It’s lush, it’s fresh, it’s beautiful. The English countryside is a pure delight. You somehow feel like there’s always a cow watching over you…

British banter! Otherwise known as a sarcastic exchange of loving insults. It’s never quite the same in another country. 😦

The Pubs! The atmosphere of a local English pub is unique. Pub food, beer, pool, music, and if you’re lucky, a nice pub garden to sit out and drink Pimms in. 🙂

Fresh milk! Ooh yes, it’s nothing, I mean nothing, like the carton stuff. A cup of tea’s never the same abroad. Talking of that:

The Tea solution! No matter how bad it gets, it can always be solved – or at least made better – with a ‘nice cuppa tea’…

Customer Service! In the UK the customer is ALWAYS right. (Well nearly always…)

The Seasons! Those “falling autumn leaves” and “swaying daffodils” primary school poems will always hold a special place in my heart…

Walking in the rain with no umbrella! In Spain I just get called loca :S

London! Enough said.

Family and Friends! Get out the violins, because they’re what I miss most about the UK, hands down.

If you can think of anymore, please add to the list :).

The Walk of Shame

In English there is an expression: “The walk of shame”, which would be something like, “El paseo de la verguenza” in Spanish.

The walk of shame is the journey back to your house after staying over at someone’s house… unexpectedly.

The morning after, you return on the same bus as the workers going to work, or the students going to university…

If you are a girl you are still in your high heels, skirt and smudged make-up from the night before. If you are a guy your shirt is hanging out, your trousers are half undone… You look like a mess.

And it’s obvious to everyone on the bus or in the street what you’ve probably done. SHAME on you!

You want to sneak back to your house unnoticed, but suddenly you see your old teacher, your boss, your arch-enemy or your loud, talkative uncle.

During the walk of shame you feel the lowest of the low. But to everyone else it’s hilarious!

And Sevilla this week is full of walkers of shame! 😀

This morning at the bus stop, girls and women in beautiful flamenco dresses stumbled over the road, while boys and men in messy suits hobbled along like drunken old men.

Yet the difference is, there’s nothing shameful about being an all-night “Feria-goer”. The Feria only lasts a week… the walkers of shame are the hardcore ones who really make the most of  it!

In England, with our early everything (lunch, dinner, closing-times), let’s face it – we just ‘ain’t’ capable of regular all-nighters… Shame on us! 😛

This is England… Gibraltar, mate!

Apart from some nasty blocks of flats, it wasn’t as run-down as I expected. But the whole experience was rather odd. England in the heart of Southern Spain…

Gibraltar

We queued for an hour to get in, and a human-sized monkey greeted us at the entrance. It felt strangely Disney.

Once inside, our phones welcomed us to the Reino Unido, and there he was – an English Bobby Policeman.

Bobby Policeman

We found ourselves in a plaza that smelt of England; a mixture of fish and chips, beer and pub food.

Plaza Gibraltar

We ate in a pub that was too auténtico to be your typical pub irlandés in Spain. With Strongbow on tap, Pimm’s and Lamb Shank, this was not Spain. Only the surrounding sun, sea and big ‘rock’ reminded me where we were geographically…

Gibraltar is its own world. You can pay in pounds or euros, and it’s tax free. Cars and aeroplanes share the same runway (no a la vez, eh!). Smoking is allowed in bars. You hear posh English accents, thick Andaluz and: “¿Qué pasa cabrón? Where the bloody hell have you been?”

And if you get bored, you can go and see monkeys that steal.

Monkey

But whatever you do, don’t miss out on this…

Queen Gibraltar

…The place may be raro, but then the English (we) are very raros at times… No doubt about it – we were clearly in England.

Happy Easter!!! 🙂

Gone Mad with the Wind.

Have you heard the ‘myth’ that the wind can drive you mad? The people who live in Tarifa are supposed to be crazy due to a constant wind known as ‘Levante’.

It hasn’t been scientifically proven. However, many people assert that the wind gives them a headache and makes them feel weak. Others claim it makes them feel angry and sad.

Close you eyes for a second and imagine what it must be like to have strong winds in your face every time you step outside.

I am doing that now and it reminds of those nasty, cold windy-rainy days in England when nature is the enemy and your only protection is a central-heated room…

Or those suffocating, hot summer days in Sevilla when your brain swims in the heat, and clarity is only found in an air-conditioned room.

You see, the concept of “Madness” is relative, and the ultimate question is: How far are our mental and emotional states affected by the weather?

I’m looking outside and I see the palm trees swaying drunkenly. I think I’ll stay inside. Not because of the dull, grey sky of course, but…perhaps I’d do something ‘crazy’?! 😉

El tiempo vuela…like a Ryanair plane? Let’s hope not!

“Dee de le dee de dee de deee. You’ve arrived at another on-time flight”. YES, we’re alive. Everyone claps. Just a few more minutes until we can escape the dirty, bright yellow seats, and the claustrophobia of a typical ryanair (‘reeyanair’ at Sevilla airport…) ‘experience’…

The Spaniards talk loudly about llegando a casita, la comida de mamá y el frío que hace en Inglaterra, whilst the English mutter quietly about tapas, sangría and ‘getting a tan’.

Both are relieved to arrive, forgetting that nearly a WHOLE day has been lost travelling¡¡Qué ganas de llegar!! It’s a day that’s frequently ‘gone’ for us ‘guiris’ and for Spaniards who live abroad.

But when we wish time away it flies faster than a plane from London to Sevilla. In Spain there’s always something to ‘look forward to’. In the next few months: Semana Santa, La Fería de Sevilla, later el horario intensivo… It is great, however, it often gives me the sense that el tiempo vuela.

In England this year, it will be the same: Easter, the Queen’s Jubilee, the Olympics… Every time I hop on to a plane, it’ll be close to some sort of fecha importante…

So, the next time I am on a flight, I am going to take a deep breath and not wish it away. I am going to try to appreciate every single day for what it is, and not always looking forward to ‘the next thing’. It is an enormous challenge, but I would really like to think that time CAN be a beautiful, galloping horse, and not, as it sometimes becomes, a tacky, accelerated ryanair plane…

El mundo es un musical… keep your scripts flexible!

Do you ever feel a bit like you’re in a musical without music? That the people in your daily life are characters in a funny, exaggerated play, each with their own scripts? It’s easier to imagine in a espanglis world where mixture and distortion become creativity, swinging between the unknown and the familiar. In fact, there’s no better way to learn and speak another language… and to live. As Mr Shakespeare said: “All the world’s a stage”. So we must embrace the role we’re playing (our current ‘character’) and empathize with the other ‘characters’. But OJO, our scripts cannot be rigid. Communication and life require constant editing, directing and producing.

Yet neither communication nor our lives have to be perfect….just enjoyable, shared and meaningful. So, the next time you feel negative about something, try to connect to the musical vision. Picture someone who takes themselves veeeery seriously break out into song, dancing or saying something outrageous. Include yourself in your ‘musical’ but… among the medley  of competing scripts, keep yours flexible!