I don’t know if you’ve been following my blog. Well, I do know, I can see my statistics. But if you had been following my blog, you’d have seen there was very little to follow. I certainly couldn’t be accused of posting regularly. This is my excuses why, disguised as an anecdote.
My first “Oh Sugar” entry had a simple premise: Catalans have evolved a very sweet tooth. My parents came to visit about a week after I published that post, which was lovely. My dad pointed out that that was the end of the longest time we’d been apart since I was born. But he made two off-hand comments that day that stuck with me. The second, talking about the couple of days they’d just spent in Barcelona, was him praising the bakeries for how nice the things they sold were, how they weren’t as sickly, over-sweet as bakeries in England like to make things.
This was mildly disconcerting, shall we say, given the arguments I’d just made. I’d just written a post expressing my view of this issue (however inconsequential an issue), and my dad had just come to completely the opposite conclusion. I want to give an honest picture of Catalonia and Spain, otherwise there’s no point doing this. I want to get an honest picture myself. Maybe I had just seen a pattern early on and cherry-picked data to prove it. Maybe my dad was nearer the truth.
In this case, I don’t think so. I have paid attention to things since and I still believe I’m correct. I’ve talked about it with locals. I’ve been here longer. Maybe it’s not as strongly different to Britain as I thought, maybe I think my tastes are more representative of the UK than they actually are, but I do think my dad just saw an exception. I think it might have been the holiday effect of going to nicer places than you would do at home.
But still, I want to be accurate, and that takes time. Sure, travel writing can be done at the end of every day, but I’m not travelling. I’m living abroad. My typical day would be much the same as yours with alarm clocks, work, cooking dinner, maybe meeting some friends in the evening or a lazy night in. I just look the other way before crossing the road and the signs are in a different language when I go shopping. This doesn’t offer much material. What I can offer is not vicarious tourism, at least not often, but a biography of a country. I just need time to get a fuller, more accurate picture. In a couple of days, I will have lived here for precisely one year (minus a couple of weeks seeing people in the UK, plus about 6 weeks in Spain on various occasions before moving here, so let’s call it a draw). I think I’m starting to get that picture. Maybe I can start painting it.
Postscript – But, you’re a teacher? Surely you must have lots of stories of silly things kids have said and done!
Yes, but I’m not going to write them here. That’s not fair. They’re speaking a foreign language, they don’t always mean what they say. They’re kids, they won’t always mean what they say. I think it’s unfair to let a load of strangers laugh at them. I want my classes to be a safe place to learn and play and make mistakes. I don’t do that by squeezing every drop of sadistic humour out of them. Sorry. In person, maybe. It’s a much smaller, more transitory audience than the internet. And sometimes I do need to unload!
If you’re truly disappointed, here’s a joke one of my students told me. It’s Spanish, and a pun, so doesn’t translate, so sorry if you don’t speak Spanish. Just know, it’s about the level of “What do you get if you cross a kangaroo with a sheep? A woolly jumper.”
So I loved it.
“¿Cuántas personas caben en una ballena? Cero, porque una ballena va llena.”