From Being Abroad to Being Just A broad

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It’s been a while since I posted.

I have been in a funk of sorts.  Sometimes I ask myself what hell did I step into when I got off that plane from Morocco? (because I know the hell I stepped into when I entered my host family’s abode… ha,ha… but I digress)  Ever since I’ve been back, things have not been right.  To say the least I have had to think about mortality a little more than I would care to during the past 5 months or so, among other unpleasant things.  And so, it was almost a no brainer that spending the next several months near the beaches of Barcelona is not going to happen for me this time around.

Yes, it’s official, I am no longer going to Barcelona.  I turned down my fellowship (and yes, it hurt like the dickens to do that).  But such is life. When one door closes one or several more open right?  That hasn’t always worked out in my personal life history, but I am going with another old adage, that everything happens for a reason (This at least is something that I can pull examples of from my personal life).  To be honest I have a lot more on my plate than travel arrangements, so here’s hoping for the best.

At any rate, I am happy to be out of the will she or won’t she phase of not knowing if the Spain thing was going to work out or not.  For now, I think it’s enough to get out of my sad and sulky first world problems funk.  There are many people suffering the loss of a lot more than a Fulbright.  It would certainly behoove me to keep this in mind.

In the meantime, it looks like my blog will go from reflections abroad to reflections of a broad (no offense to anyone who is offended by my pun).

I Won’t be Needing This Anymore :-/

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On Apartment Hunting in Barcelona…

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Ay, yai yai, I thought Spain was in an economic recession?

Then why are apartment prices so high!!!!!!!!!!!

750 Euros for a 40 m square apartment?

that’s not to mention the the deposit  of two months rent, plus administrative fees for whatever real estate management company I end up with… and this stuff starts to add up…

sigh.  What’s a girl to do.  Having room mates would be cheaper, but I am soooo tired mentally and emotionally and physically of the room mate thing.  Besides, I have friends who are already planning their triumphant return to Espanya… ha, ha… it might be better to have my own space.

So, I don’t know what to do, these apartment prices are … well, to be expected, but you know what? yes, I want my cake and to eat it too.

I want my apartment in a centralized, crime free location, where I can have all the modern comforts that I need, internet, washing machine, elevator etc… is that too much to ask?

The quest continues…

It’s official! I am going to Spain!

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Just got word like 30 minutes ago and am elated… GAzelledusahara’s travels continue…. Espanya here I come!

I really needed this pick-me-up today, I’m getting to the point where even comfort foods aren’t comforting anymore… I gave up packaged snacks for lent, and once I started eating them again, they don’t feel as satisfying anymore… ha, ha… what a stupid reason to be sad, but oh well…

 

Alhamdullilah!  I am going to Spain!  what a wonderful memory of Egypt of have, the night I found out I was going to Spain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Back in London– Things I missed about Barcelona

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Been back for almost a week now, and nothing has change in contrast to Barcelona’s warm lazy, dry days, I was welcomed back by London drizzle, the smells of the Tube and an even greater realization of how home-sick I really am…lol oh well.

The things I will miss about Spain are all the more with now. I wrote this post before I left and did not get a chance to upload, but better late than never, I guess,

Things I will miss about living in Barcelona:

The Fresh baked bread and cheese cake from the local patisserie
The view of the Mediterranean (if only it were warm enough to sit on the beach and do work)
The Latin-American telenovelas (I dig them so much more now that I’m here, can’t say why)
The preponderance of Zaras and Mangoes (if only to look/browse every few).

Down to my last week and I’ve realized just how much I have eased into a daily/weekly routine.

The television which I once despised, I have found to be a great companion as sit in my apartment meticulously writing and editing my thesis. On one hand its kind of sad to be in such a city full of stuff to do and do nothing but basically go to class and home each day. On the other, who gives a *(&(% I am basking in having my own space. My apartment is in many ways my sanctuary and not my prison. But I digress, back to television.

I have really gotten into the telenovelas which are basically imports from latin-America
1st there is el Secreto del amor which has the same main protagonist as Tropico (my other telenovela secret delight).

Then there is Sonar no cuesta nada, which kind of sucks, but its good background noise.

Finally I enjoy watching Accorralada, which actually was on in the states last summer, but I never really had a desire to watch it. Well it is the SHOW here (for me anyway) and I will def be tuning into the Gran finale with all its melodrama this week.

I’ve actually realized that I dig that show Bones. Although I never watched an episode before coming here, after two dubbed episodes, I think I will tuning into see it when I get back (it’s on before House, right?…lol).

Aside from the other dubbed American shows there are two Spanish ones that I will really miss. Funnily enough they are not sitcoms or dramas (just don’t get Spanish humor).

The first show is Fama a bailar it’s a Spanish version of so you think you can dance, but better. (um, more like so you think you can dance mixed with Big Brother). I have my favorites and will have to go on the internet to see how they fare in the end. So far, one of my favorites, Kiko won a spot as Mariah (or as they say here, Maria) Carey’s backup dancer. I was so happy for him!

The show is weird in that instead of voting for who you want to stay, you vote for who you don’t want stay anymore. Also, in addition to learning and performing different dance styles, the contestants choreograph pieces too.

Interesting. I also just started watching last week so I don’t get the structure, it seems like a revolving door. When people get kicked off, new people are put on.

I think I’ve really gotten into the show, because it takes me back to my dancing days. No, I wasn’t en route to Juliard or anything like that, but dance was a big part of my life in high school and college, where I jacked up one of knees doing it and it has never been the same ever since, so go figure…lol. I guess its all for the best that I’m not busy trying to shake my thang or do twists and turns on stage anywhere anymore. But, audiences have always been besides the point for me. I miss learning new choreography, I miss the feeling that I got when I got all the steps down pact. Like I’ve mentioned before, I can be quite anal, so when everyone else was done with practice I would still be there, until the steps were intuitive, like drinking water when I was thirsty. To this day, when I hear a new song the thought that comes to mind is “that would be so hot to dance to.”

This show reawakens all that for me. The choreography is soo hott! And not just the hip-hop or the “Funky” (i.e. Britney Spears pop-ish songs), I saw a classical piece the other day and really enjoyed it (I’m not a big fan of balle for whatever reason).

Funnily enough, my favorite dancers among the girls are Belinda and Marcielle, both happen to be black (or have some black in them—- oh I just found out that Marcielle is Cubana). I don’t know, I think the way they move reminds me of well, me. One puts everything into every performance its awesome. Even when she’s doing stuff that would otherwise be considered corny, she makes it work. I love it. The other girl has a fluidity with her steps that I love. She’s so cute. Or maybe since there is only two of them, they both stand out. Too bad Macielle got booted off the week I left 😦

It’s like I’m living my life vicariously through these people. If only my knee wasn’t the way it is…lol…. Let me stop and be true to myself!

Baila me Corazon! …lol.

Being B(l)ack in Spain: Morena vs. Negra

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Of course being in Spain puts race on the top of my reflections list. My Catalan teacher, despite our rough introductory sessions, is pretty cool. (well we don’t talk about Africa anymore…lol… and she’s an Obama supporter… whatever that means).

We were talking about the difference between people’s experiences in Catalonia vs. other parts of Spain. Of course she was proud that her region was more progressive than others, and I would have to agree with that.

Specifically, I told her about how living in Cordoba was difficult because there were so few black people in the town. Every where I went it was “negrita” this and “negrita that” and that was when people were being polite.

My experience in Catalonia hasn’t been perfect, but talking to my teacher about what I’m called made me realize that I’m referred to as morena here. I prefer this term because frankly “negrita” is to close to the N-word (cultural relativity aside… Don’t call me a NEGRITA!).

Case in point:
Walking through Placa Catalunya (more or less the heart of the center of the city). I heard someone yell out to me “hey morena que guapa estas” or something like that (hey black girl, you are so pretty!) Well, let me make it clear, I wasn’t smelling myself that day. One of his friends said, “that one over there?” and he replied “No, una morena- morena!” (no, not a brunette, a black girl!). I thought it was funny.

Today I went to buy a cell phone and all the clerks sat behind little stands scattered around the store. Customers just need to wait and then walk up to whichever one is open. When I came in there were two people standing at the door (a man and a woman talking on a cell phone) and two sitting down waiting for a friend. I came in and was a bit confused by the store set-up so I stood and watched to see what everyone else did. Two other people came in and just walked up to the empty stands and conducted there business. When one was done, I walked up and the woman begins yelling “hey we (i.e. the man that was at the door) have been waiting way before she came in!”

I am not about to cause an international affair because of some random rude woman. So I said, ok whatever, I will wait. The guy at the door took my place. But esa  mujer did not stop there. She said something about me to the person she was talking on the phone with, I didn’t hear it all, but I did hear “una morena” (a black girl) and, “no they can’t just do what they want.” (something to that effect) WTF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was so mad after hearing that! But then she went up to her kiosk. Then again, what would I have said/done anyway? On one hand I know what I heard, I may speak Spanish with a stutter, but I hear it just fine. On the other hand, one must be absolutely sure. Raising a raucous in a room full of white folk in a country that is not my own, in a language that is not my first, is probably not the best thing to do either.

Actually I am even madder now, because its only as I write this that I realize that two WHITE people/Spaniards (whatever the heck they were) had come in after I did and jumped in line (hence the confusion) y esa mujer did not say anything. It’s only now that I am fully convinced that her actions ring of something that starts with an R and ends with an –acism.

Now, I am mad at myself, because if I had realized it earlier, I would have made that point. But the time is passed.  I hate events like these because they for me they are the ones that cut deep. I was minding my business, just trying to grab a phone before catching a train ride home.
They were just words, but I hate myself for having such a delayed reaction/reflection time. I don’t remember her face in fact I could meet her tomorrow and not realize it. But I will always remember what happened today. That is what for me is the saddest part of it.

No, I’m not going to walk around ready to hit the next Catalan I see, but its events like these that give me pause and remind me that of what some people still think being black/of color signifies. It aslo makes me swear off living abroad.

Event like these, even if they only happened once a year, are much more than I care to encounter. No the U.S. is not the holy Grail when it comes to race relations, but it’s a dynamic that I have grown up in and like it or not, am a part of.

Dealing with events like these would make me one of two things: 1. Crazy/clinically depressed 2. Angry + volatile= dangerous. Life is too full of other things to add racist b&^%7@!, no matter how petty, to it.

I speak English you know!

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Okay, so the Barcelonan Urban Guard just came to my door (not for me btw, for my landlord) and I was fumbling with my Spanish like a drunk monkey, it was sad.

The same thing happened to me when I first arrived. I left the airport terminal without finding baggage claim and had to go through a bunch of rigmarole and walking to get back in. After going through security a second time, I tried to explain what had happened to a security guard and was stumbling and fumbling and incorrectly conjugating my words so much that he just said… wait, “I speak English.”

How embarrassing! I was a Spanish major and am doing thesis research using Spanish language primary sources, but I can’t communicate in Spanish?

My encounter with the guardsmen at my door has made me realize that this happens when I’m under stress. When I have to talk to my Catalan teacher I’m fine. When I have to talk to the lady in the grocery store, I’m fine.

I guess it’s also a function of not having been in a Spanish-speaking environment for two years, and simply being out of practice. In these few days alone, I think my comprehension has gone up significantly. And yet, if I am talking to someone who I know speaks English, I will answer them in English even if they speak to me in Spanish. Maybe it takes another week or so for the speaking to become second nature.

At any rate, I don’t like it. Who wants to sound like a bumbling idiot in times of crisis? …lol.

More importantly, as I continue the job search, it becomes more important to pin down my language skills. And I don’t like being in flux. Some people will put down fluent, even if their language skills are not “Like that” (if you only know a few words or phrases, you do not speak the language!..lol). I shy away from fluent and tend to put down proficient just to be safe … but what the heck does proficient mean?

Could I live in the country where that language is spoken? — yes
Could I carry out bank transactions and other official type stuff- yes
Can I watch movies and films in that language and know what the heck is going on—yes
Could I write a letter in that language- yes (although I will admit that my grammar can be atrocious sometimes… what’s up with every other language having masculine and feminine everything?…lol)
Could I carry on a phone conversation?— yes.

Going in and out with the level of proficiency makes it even harder to place myself. I’m pretty confident that if I’m able to make a trip to Spanish-speaking area every once in a while, I will be fine (I met a woman once who used to teach Spanish and now she doesn’t know a lick… that’s a scary thought… all those years, all that effort, for nothing).
I’m also scared about veering into Spanglish. I thought my Spanish in high school was on point, because the Latino kids would give me compliments on it. I didn’t realize that what I was speaking was an unregulated hybrid of two languages until I got to college and STRUGGLED for the first semester or so to keep English out (and still do from time to time, when I am around people who speak both… it’s so easy to pick the first word that comes to mind). I don’t want to go through that again.

Actually if there is one thing I have learned from starting Somali and Catalan this semester it’s that I’m done trying to acquire new languages. Let me just strengthen my knowledge of the ones I have and call it a day…

I guess I just need to stop stressing it. Y Ja está. (that’s it).

Naked Women and Other Liscentious Acts on TElevison

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Spanish Television has much to be desired. To tell you the truth. It’s mostly dubbed American shows from several seasons ago (I’m getting pretty desperate, so I must admit, I watch them…. It’s still painful to watch One tree Hill [hate that show… isn’t it cancelled already] and “House” just isn’t as witty in Spanish to me as he is in English.

Or telenovelas that came out last year on Univision or telemundo. There is one, Accoralada, I never watched it because I was so hooked on Tropico, but now that I’m desperate for background noise and there is no internet…. Accoralada it is.

As for Spanish programming I don’t find the sitcoms funny (they are full of cultural references that I don’t get… or a lo mejor, I don’t think are funny). Also, pornography, or rather what we would consider to be porn in the states is soo readily available here.

My first night I nearly threw my remote at the tv, because like 5 channels had some form of smut on, making channel surfing absolutely horrible. The worst part is that it wasn’t even like late at night it was 11:00 pm or so!

I guess it’s definitely something that will always  surprise me.  I remember being amazed at how common it was to see some woman walking around with no shirt on tv. In fact I distinctly remember some sort of caberet/award show that featured and entire act of bare-chested dancing girls.

To each his own, but, it’s a bit disconcerting to see people naked in commercials and such — correction, literally half, naked women on commercials and such. As a matter of fact, the news did a special on Janet Jackson the other day and of course they had to play the Justin Timberlake fiasco clip—over, and over, and over, in its entirety and in slow motion… I was like, wait, this is the news? As a matter of fact they moved to talking about something else, and then came back to the clip…lol… Was it really that serious?…lol..

When in Spain, do as the Spaniards do!   To think I was hoping they would show a clip of  JJ’s  new video.  Oh well.