Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Call Me a Linguist But.......

One of my main goals when coming to Spain was to learn the Spanish language. It's one of my majors and I thought studying abroad would be the best/only way to immerse myself in the culture and get close to the point where I'd be fluent. However, over the last 1-2 weeks I've been here, I'm finding that the encounters I've had in English generally have a better result than my encounters in Spanish or with Spanish speakers. I'll give you a few examples and you decide for yourselves.

First the bad news..AKA Spanish encounters..I might be already biasing your opinion before you read but oh well. And plus, if you're from the US you've had a bias for the past (subtract the year you were born from 2009) years that we (America) are the greatest and best country in the world. Not to mention the first civilized nation to organize a governing body and a set of laws and what not. Right?

-So this one may have come as a result of some friends who do not know the Subway/Metro escalator rules, but still unwarranted. The rule I'm referring to is: If you are riding the escalator up from the station, the right side is for lazy/old people who don't take the stairs and the left side is for extra ambitious/sort of lazy/opportunistic people who take advantage of the fact that you can take the escalator AND walk up the steps, getting to your destination faster than everyone else. So my friends thought that the left side of the escalator was for standing still and waiting to get to the top and talking to me. To their benefit, they asked the guy (who will come into play soon) if he wanted to pass by in Spanish and he just shook his head. However, he was clearly pissed and when he got to the top he "accidentally elbowed me in the side of the head" while putting on his jacket. In other words, the little piece of crap Spaniard cheap shotted me. Now what I probably should have done is thrown him back down the escalator. However, the only thing running through my head was the warning from my program during one of the orientation sessions: "Don't be a hero...they probably are carrying a knife," which was in reference to negative encounters with Spanish teens. The warning they failed to leave me with, but which I found out on my own read, "Don't be an idiot. If a 5'6'', 150 pound Spanish kid punches you in the side of the head, he's probably with his 3 friends who are much larger and stronger than you." Which he was. My best defense was the insults I know in Spanish. So, I told him, in no particular order: maricon, menino, jodate, dejame. If you have time, look em up (if you're a relative and more than 20 years my senior, don't). Thanks.

-Next, I go to a cell phone store where a group of people in my program had bought cell phones the day before. Now, their phones cost them 29euro which is a pretty good deal so I wanted the same. I went up to the counter and asked, in Spanish, for the phone my friends bought yesterday that costs 29euro. The lady gave me a weird look and answered, "No we don't have anything like that. The cheapest phone is 69euro." Right away I knew she was lying, and I had a small fear that people might try to rip us off because they know we're American students. So in Spanish I tell her, "Well, no it's not becasue my friends just bought a 30E phone here yesterday." So she looks a little undecided, goes to the back of the store for about 30 seconds, comes back to the counter, reaches directly below her and pulls out a box. What's in the box? I know the suspense is killing you...but was a cell phone that costs 25E. After that she was quite nice and activated my phone for me and was very pleasant. But, had my amigos not been there the day before, I would have spent an extra 45E or so. Thanks alot, you dumb chica.

-Lastly, I'm walking home from a bar at about 1's a pretty well lit street and I'm totally coherent/sober to start it off. So these 2 dudes walk by me and one asks if i have "fuego," fire or a lighter so he can light his cigarette. I say No, I'm sorry, I don't smoke. So either the way I spoke Spanish or more likely the fact that I said I didn't smoke tipped him off that I wasn't from around here (EVERYONE smokes here it's nuts). So one of them asks me a few things about where I'm from and what not and then we got to talking about the FC Barcelona game that night and how they won and we were both happy about it (he was quite excited that I was an American and still a Barca fan). So I'm going to say bye and he goes to shake my hand...but he did this really weird move where used my hand to like propel himself past the right side of my body...and so as he's walking back past me he (completely indiscreetly) goes to stick his hand in my pocket to go for my wallet. I just hit his hand away and told him to get the hell away. He complied, luckily, and we both just walked away. I got played, yo. Here I am thinking this guy wants to have a nice conversation and he's really just priming me to steal my wallet...EXCEPT HE'S THE WORST PICKPOCKET IN THE WORLD. Like, seriously, that was the poorest attempt I've ever witnessed. I mean, I've lived in Philly, NYC, and seen 3 or 4 different renditions of Oliver Twist, so I've seen pickpocketing on all levels...and this guy was just embarassing himself..I prolly should have just given him 5E out of pity.

So I'm realizing how long this post would be if I wrote allll about my good experiences with English speaking people because they're not all that interesting. I did come in 2nd place in this bar's weekly trivia contest with my friend Austin though. 2nd place gets you a free liter of Estrella Damm, the cheap beer in Spain, and makes you think it's a good idea to do Trivia every Wednesday because you might be able to win 125E. I also had a good conversation in English with a cab driver...and for some reason unbeknownst to me...he really likes the Eagles and he hates the Pittsburgh Penguins. I told him he's living in the wrong city and he should come back to Philly with me in April. He's currently considering it...I'll fill you in on the final decision.

Now I know it makes sense that I would have better experiences with Enslih-speaking people and some Spanish people are probably just pissed because I'm just using their city for 4 months and then peacing back to the US, but I thought I'd have gotten a better reception. And I cannot go on without mentioning my Senora and her family who all speak Spanish but are super nice. She feeds me very well and is always trying to make me eat "mas, mas, Jose." More, more. Also, the amount of new food I've tried is crazy. For my family members who read this, I'm going to compile a list of things I've eaten since I've been here and then you are going to read it and fall out of your chair. I'm becoming a very cultured eater...a far cry from my "chicken buckets" days. I'll explain later for all of you who are confused. OK well I think we can both agree this is becoming a bit tedious. I hope all is well in the States and I can't wait to watch the Cardinals get slaughtered tomorrow. I found a place, aptly named "Sports Bar" where I will be watching it.

Everyone take care and Adios. I'll be back pronto.

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