Monday, April 27, 2015

Dating the Distance

I've taken quite a few Blablacar (car-sharing website) trips since moving here in 2013. My Spanish is at a level where I can converse with the other passengers fairly easily. One of the most common reasons Spanish people use Blablacar on weekends is to see their partner. Many, many people here are forced to seek work outside of their hometown, thus putting distance between couples. Some take Blablacar for hours, one direction, just to be able to spend a couple of days together. I recall meeting one man from a tiny town near Jaén, visiting his pregnant wife every week, while she worked in Madrid. His story is one of many.

My spanish friend Vic is an English teacher, who receives a new placement every year. Her life is similar to anyone's in the NALCA program, except she stays in her chosen region (Andalucía) and changes cities, whereas for us auxiliaries region placement can be a craps game. Her difficulty in maintaining a long-term romantic relationship stresses her out. She'd like to stay in her hometown and establish something, but it would require taking difficult career tests that she has no appetite for. So she continues with the instability of her career and personal life.

Do long-distance relationships work? Looking at how many Spaniards do it, you would think it's possible. Based on personal experience, and survey results, I vote probably not. Although I only tried it once, and it was with a dude I met at a rave, and it was only 3 weeks after we met that it was over so..... that's been my one and only experience.

I asked a friend, who travels a lot both for work and pleasure, if it's possible for someone with his lifestyle to have a long-term relationship. He believes so, if the person is understanding and has a similar lifestyle as him. It's a difficult thing for a single person to keep aligned: a love for travel and a desire for a stable relationship.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Don't Ditch Friends

My best friend called me out of the blue a few days ago. We discussed being single and maintaining (or not) friendships. We'd seen friends who date and, upon finding a boyfriend, ditch their friends completely.
I've always tried to be the one that didn't do that, although years ago a good friend of mine remarked that I had done it a bit in my previous relationship. Not to use an excuse, but thing is the activities I did, as a single girl with my girlfriends, normally entailed partying every weekend and flirting up a storm until 4 in the morning, and then slovenly shoveling Denny's scrambled eggs into my mouth before heading home, rolling half drunk out of my friend's car and crawling into bed. Unless I'm doing those same things with a boyfriend, I don't think that kind of behaviour is conducive to being alert for a date the next day.
When I say it's important to make time for friends, I mean making time for friends. So, not spending an hour dissecting the man's phone call, nor checking for his texts every 15 minutes. I mean quality time, boyfriend-free. This is another thing I've tried very hard to do, but only my friends can comment on whether or not I've been successful at it.
Why is this important? Because true friends will be there when the floor opens up beneath you.
My friends were my lifeline when I got dumped. I could count on a few of them to listen when I phoned to cry and babble late at night. We went out and partied up a storm. They let me crash on their couches when I couldn't stand being home alone.
People in your life are like handholds while climbing a mountain. Some handholds are there to help boost you up. Then, you have to leave them behind. They're not coming with you.
Some handholds you grab on to, and they look secure but actually they come loose, crumble away, and disappear. You have to quickly latch onto a tried and true handhold so you don't fall.

The tried and true handhold is a true blue friend. These handholds actually move and come with you, to help you climb the mountain.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Managing Mannerisms in Spain

As much as I love being Canadian, I can't maintain my mannerisms in a country as different as Spain. Here's how I deal with Spanish customary behaviour:

Canada: Always saying please, or using matrices to frame a request.
Spain: "Give me..." / "Open the door!" / "Shut up!"
Solution: In Spain, people make their requests in a very direct manner. If I don't start my request with “Please,” I make sure to say "Thank you."

Canada: Be on time.
Spain: 10-30 minutes late is no big deal with friends or performances. For appointments, school, and transportation, it's best to arrive on time.
Solution: Whatever time my friends say, I add minimum 15 minutes. It still feels weird to me, but it's better than showing up too early, like that one night I was alone,wearing a costume in the middle of a park in a pueblo.

Canada: Make dinner plans with friends days, sometimes a week, in advance.
Spain: Receive a call 10 minutes before, to meet at a bar.
Solution: This drives me crazy, but it's something many of my friends do. Since moving to Spain, I'm much more relaxed about accepting and making invitations. And feelings aren't hurt if I cancel or if they do.

Canada: Eating lunch with one's parents is, at most, a once a week thing.
Spain: You better come home for lunch, or else!
Solution: I remember feeling angry when a spanish girl in our group couldn't attend "The Last Lunch" with our friend who was about to go home for good. The spanish girl's excuse? "I have to go home because my mom prepared lunch for me." I thought, "Just call and tell her you won't be there."
When another friend did the same thing, a spanish person explained, "If someone's mom has made lunch, it's really rude to not come home to eat it, unless you advise her well ahead of time."

Canada: Let the man call you for the first dates.
Spain: Sometimes, you have to set the dates first. Last year, I waited and waited and no one followed up on their request to meet for a coffee or movie. I've since learned that sometimes, the woman has to make the first move.
Solution: I do this the first couple of times if I have to, but then I sit back and wait to see if the guy sets up the next date. If he doesn't, I assume he's not interested and move on.

Canada: After as little as a couple of months, a couple starts using the terms 'girlfriend/boyfriend', and perhaps even meet each others' parents.
Spain: Woah, slow down nelly...
Solution: It's confusing for us North Americans, but here some couples don't use the term girlfriend/boyfriend until it's very serious. One Spanish guy told me he knows of couples that refer to their partner as 'my friend', and don't meet each others' parents, after a year of dating. People are much more casual and relaxed about relationships here.

Canada: The customer is always right.
Spain: The customer can go f*** himself.
Solution: This doesn't always happen, but it's inevitable. I remember Javier, the owner of one of my favorite pubs in Villacarrillo, who seemed so rude and brisk with me my first few months in the village. Turned out, that's just the way he is. He's actually a funny guy and I'm used to his manner now. In fact, I take things way less personally, which is a nice result of moving here.

Canada: Asian people can be Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Thai, Indonesian.....
Spain: All Asian-looking people are Chinos.
Solution: I tried to fight the fact that 1) Spain's exposure to Asians had been limited for many years, and 2) anyone with small eyes is called “Chino/a”. Even some Spanish people are nicknamed that. I no longer get crazy angry, rather if I pick up a good vibe from a curious person, I smile and say, “I'm Canadian. And my parents are from the Philippines.” Usually people get it and if I make a new friend, bonus points!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Living in Spain with a Dog

I have written many posts about what it's like to move to Spain with a cat – in short, my advice is: try to avoid it. Recently, I had an opportunity to experience what it's like to have a dog while being an auxiliary. In Madrid, I stayed in the apartment of a friend who's in BEDA and currently fostering. It was an eye-opening experience. I learned that although at times it's inconvenient having a cat, those times are very few and far between. Owning a dog while working in Spain has many disadvantages.
Number one on most auxiliaries' lists is travelling. Often it's a last-minute, impulsive decision. It's easy to decide to hop on a train to a nearby town, or take advantage of a last-minute seat available in someone's car. The problem for dog owners is having to return within a few hours to walk the dog. This is what happened to me when I wanted to visit Alcalá de Henares. Some might say I should've timed it to coincide with before, or after, the midday siesta. However, I'm not that type of traveller. I like to wake up in a relaxed way, visit what's open, have a two-hour lunch on the terazza, and wait for a monument to re-open at five o'clock. Having to skip the rest of the monuments and return to Madrid to walk the dog sucked.
As a social person, I find that activities I plan on taking a couple of hours to do, end up taking much longer. For example, if I'm out with friends and meet new people, and they invite me on the spot to check out more places, I'll easily take them up on their offer. Making new friends is important to me. I'd hate to turn people down because I have to walk a dog. On the other hand, something to consider is that with a dog, it's easy to meet people through clubs or by simply taking Rover for a walk.
Cute, but a lot of work.
What I discovered during my visit was that at this time, while I'm still in travelling, exploratory, impulsive, social mode, I can't own a dog while in Spain. And if you're like me, neither should you.