If not now, when?

Not the last Incubus album, with which I was disappointed…Every day I encourage people to follow their passion and do what they most love. Yet hypocritically, I’d stopped writing in this blog. My excuse was that I’m starting a business, Work English, so I’d soon be busy concocting blog entries about that.

I don’t know why I was so adamant in separating the two. In a brainstorming session with my friend Juan, Founder of Quantum Universidad, we jumped on the concept of being very honest and public to the world about our adventures. Juan’s going the whole way, and if you speak Spanish, I really encourage you to read his blog. He’s setting up a University Online with original and highly useful MOOC courses: http://vejeta.com/un-nuevo-comienzo/.

In this line of thought, I’d like to briefly share some of my current thoughts and discoveries.

Well, it’s obvious from the situation in Spain that people are crying out for jobs. This means two things. Firstly and understandably, many people feel desperate. This clouds their judgment and the bottom line is this: Employers do not want to hire desperate people. If they do, it’s to exploit them in some low-paid and unpleasant job, which I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Living abroad is already hard and expensive enough as it is.

Secondly, a lot of professional talent in Spain is hidden. It is hidden in fear to lose a job that does not motivate them in Spain (because jobs are gold dust), in lack of experience in selection processes abroad, and more often than not, in lack of practice of their spoken English…

This is a real barrier that people think will be removed “once they get there”. However, employers tend to prefer East European candidates to Spaniards because of their language level. It is those few Spanish people who take the time and effort to practice their English and interview techniques; who develop their personal brand, and write a really decent CV BEFORE they go or before they apply for a job, that make it. The rest remain hidden.

On that note, I’ll go back to working. I believe in brief insights, even if they’re only useful to me. See you soon.

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…).

manana_soleado_jerez

 

Perseverance

That warm and exciting feeling when Team GB wins a medal. That gasp of admiration as a person or team exceeds all expectations. That sigh of wonder as we appreciate the extreme difficulty of what’s occurred before our eyes…

Nevertheless, us ‘mortals’ cannot quite grasp exactly what it has taken the person or team to get there.

To be the best of the best requires not only talent, support and hard work, but an incredible psychological strength known as perseverance.

Perseverance is what I’ve lacked recently in keeping this blog up to date.

Perseverance is what many Spanish people lack when they say that learning English will always be their “asignatura pendiente” (pending subject).

Perseverance is what we all lack when we give up something we’ve begun.

So what is it really? Perseverance is like a blind faith in yourself and your desired outcome. It’s an optimistic vision, a risky investment, and above all a time-consuming habit.

Often, we may not see the results we crave for a long, long time.  We must then, turn our hard work into a routine; part of our daily lives.

“But I’m so busy!!” you cry.

This a question of priorities. What is really important to you? What are you truly prepared to sacrifice other things for?

There are only 24 hours in a day, and only so many things you can take on at once. You must choose.

Some of these are life choices, such as becoming an athlete. Usually parents make these decisions for their child, but at some point the child must choose.

Without clear priorities, perseverance is doomed. Without perseverance our goals and objectives are condemned.

I suggest that our priorities should be based on the things we love; the things that ultimately bring us pleasure, even if they occasionally bring us pain.

Do you really think that the Olympic competitors just like what they do? Or do you think it’s their absolute passion?

I believe that we should all find our passion and persevere. Not necessarily for the medals, money and fame, but for the simple, mere pleasure of doing it.

Spanish Hooligans

They exist! I found them. Not at a football match, club or on a dark street but… at a Beatles tribute gig! And they weren’t rowdy youths, canis (chavs), or scary motorbike men but… two well-dressed, overweight men in their sixties…

They weren’t drinking beer but gin tonic after gin tonic (not caring about the ‘brand’ of gin and tonic that’s de moda now of course…).

Instead of chanting football songs they knew EVERY WORD to every single Beatles song played, and they threateningly demanded more.

Their equivalent to “Come the F on!” was “¡VAMOS QUE NOS VAMOS!” – cried out between every tune…

Instead of throwing beer cans, one of them climbed onto the stage to hug the base player – a super fan, until… they found out that the group didn’t know how to play ‘Michelle’ (Rubber Soul album).

At this point all hell broke loose. The two men began chanting “MICHELLE, MICHELLE” at the tops of their voices and proceeded to sing the WHOLE song, while the poor group (who by the way, are amazing) carried on their show.

Y para colmo, their ‘likeness’ to English hooligans ‘relieving themselves’ in bottles of water, was to just NOT GO to the toilet the WHOLE BLIMIN’ night (excuse my inner hooligan) from the sound check (8.30pm) to the end of the show (1:30am)….

Lucky Eleanor Rigby. 

The Universal Language II: Smiley Face Icons

What have we become, when the tone of our written communication can be changed by a smiley, winkey or tongue-hanging-out face? Have we become less “cultured”, as we rely on these universally understood but horribly overused “delights” to communicate successfully?

It used to just be teachers that could leave you a smiley face to say “bien hecho”.  Now it’s all 🙂 :D. 😉 and 😛 on Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp etc.

Your choice of smiley face can actually completely change your perceived intention….

😉  can mean: “I’m cool”, “I’m patronizing you”, “I know everything”, “Any time baby”, “Great!” “THAT’s it”, “I’m really a very friendly person”…. Whatever, it usually comes off as slightly condescending.

🙂 is more, “I’m nice”, “I’m genuine”, “I’m innocent”, “I’m at peace with myself”, “I’m pleased about that”…

😀 slips into “I’m fun”, “I’m crAzy”, “I’m enthusiastic”, “YEAH!” “I’m sweet”, “I’m REALLY OH SO pleased about that”…

:P. “hehehe, you’re so silly”,  “I’m slightly coy/flirty”, “I’’m teasing you” etc.

XD “HILARIOUS”, “I’m silly and proud!” :/ “I’m a little worried/confused” :O “I’m SHOCKED”

O_O “WHAAAAT?”

The list goes on… We could add LOL (you are rarely laughing out loud when you write it) and hehehe/jejeje vs hahaha/jajaja (looks like a fake laugh if ever I saw one)….

And don’t even get me started on English kisses: xXxxXxxXxx – Would you give someone that many kisses in person?! I guess it depends ;). Oops, there goes the wink… I’m as guilty as the rest :(. Aaah! I’m addicted! I can’t express myself without them! XD

Why are words not enough anymore? Shakespeare and Cervantes would be devastated.

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 ;).

God Save the Queen

The word Queen makes me happy. The Spanish word Reina is not quite the same. Perhaps because Freddie Mercury and co were a genius creation. Or perhaps it’s that I really feel some British pride for our 60-year-ruling Elizabeth II.  There is no denying that the monarchy partly defines us as a nation, whether we approve of it or not.

Yesterday I began to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in Spain. We lifted our mojitos and cried “Salud”. OK, so Gin and “Cheers” (in a very posh accent) are more Elizabeth II’s thing, but at lease I am in flag-covered Britain in spirit.

I have never been particularly patriotic, but parts of British history and culture are embedded in me. This week I have missed British manners. Our “pleases” and “thank yous” can be very pesados, but we have unwritten rules that occasionally seem to lack in Spain: Formalities, sticking to our word, not talking over other people when they are speaking, aiming for punctuality…

We also have many things to be ashamed of, such as our nation’s historic tendency to drink too much. Yet, the great thing about the British is that we are capable of laughing at, and making parodies out of ourselves. This is why many love our Queen’s fake twitter account, where she tweets as a sarcastic, swearing, drunkard… https://twitter.com/#!/Queen_UK

God Save the Queen. And God let us appreciate the wonderful elements of different cultures… while being able to constructively criticize our own.

Happy 60th Anniversary Liz.

Coming Soon: The Heat in Seville

The afternoon sun is omnipresent. The blanket has been thrown off my bed. I can almost smell those evenings when I dive outside into a pool of heat.

The Sevillanos ask me “Conoces Sevilla en agosto?” (Have you ever lived through an August in Seville?) Never mind that this will be my fourth consecutive summer here, I think what they mean to say is, “How can someone so pale and English aguantar (put up with) such heat?”

I am a typical guiri. I love the sun and I solve the ‘heat problem’ with flip-flops, short skirts, sun cream, swimming pools, beach and air-conditioning…However, I must admit, the sleepless nights, heavy head and inability to go for a run until late at night, do get to me.

Before, I was worse. When I was on Erasmus I got stopped by a policeman while I was sunbathing.  I was in my bikini by the river in August, eyes closed, and suddenly I hear, “Rubia, rubia, te has puesto crema??!!” (Blonde girl, have you put sun cream on??)…

How embarrassing! I can safely say I have never done that again, and partly of course, because I’m now a little older and wiser ;).

I digress…The heat will be here by next week. I would like to take this opportunity to think, while I am still able to do so clearly. I would like to reflect, and to consider my plans and aims for the next few months before they slip away in front of my eyes. I would like to be aware that I am living, and not just merely alive. So, hold on please 40 degrees days, I’m not quite there yet.

Tell the Story

I went and did it. I dressed up as a gitana (gypsy) for the Feria de Jerez. People ask me if I feel “fully integrated into the culture” now… I would say I feel more like a true payasa (clown). I did it to be silly; a bit like dressing up as a pirate or an Indian. In fact, thanks to the rather serious look on my face in this photo I got nicknamed the “Gitana asesina” (Gypsy murderer) and gave a few people some ideas for Halloween.

The dresses are beautiful, I love them…. on Spanish females who know how to dance.

I decided I would include it in this blog as I was walking towards the feria, and that got me thinking. How much of what we do, do we partly do to tell the story? For example, the typical facebook status that tells everyone that you are “contemplating the world on a train” when really you are “bored and time-wasting on facebook”, or the “I’m having the time of my life” status and photos…

Undoubtedly, our need and possibilities for recognition have been accentuated by the web 2.0 and social networks. Yet, as humans we’ve always loved telling the story; sometimes more than living the actual event.

For that reason we have the marvellous expression in English: “That’s one to tell the Grandkids”…

Will I tell “the Grandkids” about my gitana asesina moment? I’m not too sure it’ll make it on to the list. 😉