On Being b(l)ack in Spain

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March 18, 2008

Alright so its been a few days since I arrived and there is so much to write about. First of all, I don’t have internet access in my apartment and have to wait till I get to school to type.

The keyboard funnily enough isn’t even Spanish, it’s German (as is the version of windows… es un fastidio verdad). So, I type my blog entry on the computer at home, save it to a usb, and copy paste when I get to school. It’s weird. Blogging is a form of release for me and it feels incomplete to just write and save rather than upload….oh well, hopefully, this will at least mean fewer typos (yes, I realize that I have tons of them… oh well… you get what I’m trying to say anyway).

I am taking Catalan classes and right now I’m wondering if it wasn’t un decision fatal. Catalan is a cross between Spanish (more correctly known as Castellano, the native language of the Castillian region of Spain) and French. I’ve never tried to learn another language tan aparecida a una lengua que ya hablo… oh wait, did I just type that in Spanish? …lol.

I’ve never tried to learn another language so similar to one I already know. Even with Arabic, the only dialect I’m familiar with is the Moroccan one, and those who know about it know that it is an entity in and of itself.

Furthermore, my teacher is overdosing on excitement.  Apparently no one comes to learn Catalan so she’s super excited that I am actually interested in her language and culture (I love Catalunya…..  no matter what happens…. I love Catalunya— remember that).

She gives so much homework, you know the busy repetitive type that you get when you first start out:

Em dic Gazelle, y tinc 23 anys. Jo Sóc estudiant… (my name is Gazella, and I am 23 years old I am a student) blah blah blah.

I guess we just have different goals. There is no way I am going to master the language in one month and counting. I just want a firmer foundation in the grammatical basics and vocab then I can read and hear the language better. Bump the speaking… Castellano gets in the way…lol.
I never realized how much I slur my words and lisp others until this class. It seems I can’t pronounce anything right, even the words that are the same in Spanish… oh well…. Blame it on my professors…lol.

Then there is the differences in perspectives on identity . The first day I had to say where I was from (Les Estats Unis of course) but since I was born in Sierra Leone she made me say “I live in the U.S. but I am from Africa.” And then today, I had to fill out a mock government form and had to put down “African” as my nationality.

Of course, this situation boils my oil for a lot of reasons . First of all, Why would I call myself African and not Sierra Leonean? It’s been said a million times, Africa is a  continent. I tried to point this out to her, and it took her a good minute to get what I was trying to get as calmly as possible:

Me: You said that your nationality is Spanish. So why should I put down African in the nationality section when you do not put down European?

Her: uh…. (and then something about double nationality or place of birth technicalities)

Frustrating!

Secondly, the whole identity thing throws me for loop in Europe (well, Spain) every time. I have lived in the U.S. for 21 of my 23 years. The only culture that I really know is the American one. So yes, while I am Sierra Leonean I am more American than anything else. Saying “ I live in the U.S.” implies a temporality in that situation that is not my reality. I do more than live in the U.S. my life is in the U.S!!!! situations like these make me so grateful to be AMERICAN and to have the right to say that in the U.S. and no one bats an eyelid. I know the good ole US of A has its problems, but no place is perfect. I still think that in many instances though its immigration and identity philosophies offer many lessons for even the most progressive of European immigration hot spots (like Catalonia).

At any rate Pero, no es lo mismo por los Espanoles (it’s not the same for Spaniards). You are where you were born. Period.

I remember having this conversation with my grammar professor back when I was in Cordoba. She just didn’t get what all the hypen-American identity stuff was all about.

Oh well.  In the end, it’s just something I have to get readjusted to.  No one should have the right to tell me what I am or am not but me— but that’s not always the reality on the ground.

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2 thoughts on “On Being b(l)ack in Spain

  1. theangrymuslimah

    Salaam,

    My sister your spirits seem low…I will keep you in my du’a.
    All will be finein just a short while..have faith….concentrate harder….InshaAllah…

    I am thinking of you

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