Don Valcárcel, a "Spaniard, a proud Castilian" read an old post
of mine today, about my discomfort returning late books to my local library. I'd like to post his comment.
And respond. His comment:Good Afternoon:
Although you wrote this a while ago, I have some issues. First, I should state that I am a Spaniard, a proud Castilian, and though not from Salamanca but rather from Madrid, I know Salamanca very well...as I do all of Spain, my great country.
I don't know where you get this idea that "Salmantinos are not punctual." I deal with many North American foreigners (especially students), and I have only had problems with punctuality from them (and this is not to mention, since it is not very relevant here), their highly disrespectful behaviour in the city centre.
I also find it interesting that you find yourself in Salamanca (I do not know this moment but when you wrote this blog), and yet, you do not write in Spanish. Is it fair to think that you have not learned one meaningful sentence in Castilian Spanish? Why did you come to Spain then? Are you like 90% of all the other foreigners who just come here to "soak in" what you like and not learn the real culture?
Again, I know this comment is "overdue"...and I will end with this:
If you had a problem returning the books due to time issues, then you should be more responsible and write down the hours when they are supposed to be returned to the person in charge (la encargada)...because this way you wouldn't need to complain about the way hours work.
By Don Valcárcel
First, I do want to thank you for your comment, Don Valcárcel. I'd hate for you to have thought all that and not told me!
I hope you will come back and read a bit more. If you do, you'll find that I love your "great country", spend my life in castellano
, and spend much of my time and virtually all of this blog exploring and celebrating the delicious daily differences I find between my own culture, and the "real" Salamanca culture I have very deliberately chosen to immerse myself in.
What I try not to do, in this blog and in my life in Spain, is make assumptions. Draw on stereotypes. Judge people by who I think they are, by what I expect them to do, and not by what they do. How they live.
Let me respond to your concerns.
Punctuality? Well, I speak from my own experience. Friends arrive 5 minutes late, meetings start at least 20 minutes late, coworkers arrive 10 minutes late, concerts start late, and my boss runs several hours late, every day.
And I, for one, love every less than punctual minute of it.
Funny thing is, Don Valcárcel, I am not an impressively punctual person, myself. I arrived late to meet a friend during my first few months here, breathless, stiff with stress, frustrated, and sputtering out apologies. Only to be greeted by warm Spanish patience, and 5 of the sweetest words I've ever heard: It's OK. You're in Spain.
That never happened to me in Chicago.
(Your North American students likely arrive very late. That doesn't necessarily tell us Spaniards, or Germans, or Swedes arrive on time, does it? )
I have never run into the legendary Spanish "mañana". I'd argue my Spanish friends put nothing off, even things I wish they'd put off. But I have had clients refuse to see me when I arrived 5 minutes late for a sales meeting in the States, and a successful young Spanish CEO counsel me never to arrive right on time.
One woman's blog. One woman's experience. And not one ounce of complaint.
Language? Castilian. I work for a Spanish company. In Spanish. I run meetings in Spanish. Give seminars in Spanish. Eat my lunch in Spanish. Answer my phone. In Spanish. Send all my e-mails in Spanish.
I live my life in Spanish.
Although I will admit I have little choice in Salamanca, I have exactly, well, NO extranjero
friends in Spain. I do work with a nice British chap, Rob, although we don't socialize often. And we speak Spanish.
I am one of those extranjeros
who lives in Spain to live in Spain, Don Valcárcel. Maybe that's rare. Or maybe you've met too many temporary visitors, and not enough proud residents. Salamanca is hardly the top choice of the Costa del Sol set.
So, with all that castellano
, you ask, why the blog in English? Well, if you read a bit more, you'll discover that I originally started this blog to connect to family and friends back home. Who don't speak Castilian. OK, and I write a lot better in English. A lot.
Still, something spectacular happened after I started this blog in English. Spaniards came to read it. And they came back. And commented. I soon found myself following their blogs, where I read and comment in Spanish. Meanwhile, they follow mine, reading and commenting in English.
I have watched, delighted, while this blog has become a very tiny part of something I am desperate to see -- a bridge, a gradual, grass roots conversation that gets my countrymen to see the world outside their borders, and my beloved Spanish hosts to see extranjeros
- particularly North Americans - from the inside.
And sometimes I just make them all laugh.
I do have a secret wish to start a second blog in Spanish, strangely enough. My Spanish writing teacher sells me the idea every week. What I don't have is time. Or stellar, quick writing skills. Yet.
I guess what I want to tell you, Don Valcárcel, is that I am not "90% of the foreigners who come to Spain". I am one person. One person intensely in love with your culture, with a life lived in your native language and with everything both of those experiences are teaching me. One person who is, as far as I know, not responsible for the admittedly obnoxious behavior of other people's children, whether they are 19 year old Dutch hordes in the streets of Salamanca or packs of 23 year old Americans in Madrid.
Please read on, Don Valcárcel. Read Overdue
again. Imagine if you can, an extranjera
who chooses to live her life in Spanish, who chooses to live in Spain to open and expand her mind, to see the world through another lens, to explore how much we all really have in common, obnoxious college kids and all.
Read my reaction
to a Spanish blogger who travelled through my country and wrote about his experiences. From his Spanish point of view. A lot of what he found didn't please me, but I don't doubt that those were his experiences. Nor do I doubt there's truth in how other people see me --- or my native country.
Read on. Because before you know it, you may meet me. As so many of your paisanos
do every day. Don't worry, you won't recognize me. You'll never guess I am North American. No one ever does. Truth is I probably won't tell you unless you ask.
But here's the rub: I am.
I am also a proud resident of Spain. And a damn proud Salmantina.
I hope you'll read more, and I hope you'll keep an eye out for foreigners who surprise you.I'd be happy to correspond in Spanish, by the way. E-mail's on the profile page.
Labels: an american abroad, the essential wandering woman