Skip to main content

Do We Want to be the Same?

Writing in the local paper. Local issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.

It seems like the mighty New York Times can never quite get it right when writing about this country. Many paella-moons ago I remember a diplomatic meltdown that almost took place when a Times travel writer published an article that happened to make a passing comment about how more than a few Spanish parents dressed their children in clothes that wouldn’t look out of place in colourized World War II photographs. The then nascent social media was set ablaze with indignant Spaniards whose pride had been mortally wounded by a fleeting line in an article that then went on to praise the modernizing wave that was then sweeping across the peninsula. According to the protesters, Calatravas and Guggenheims were the New Spain and frilly dresses and short trousers no longer fit in on the modern Zara streets. Now comes another NYT article that, according to some, once again dares throw stones at glass houses. The piece, along with many others in papers around the world, echoes some of the findings of the parliamentary commission set up by Mr. Modernity’s government that is looking into the possibility of returning Spain to its pre-Franco time zone and attempt to increase productivity by bringing Spanish work habits, and more precisely hours, more in line with the rest of Europe. Op-Eds spilled ink about the revival of the black legend and one again the tweetsphere was set abuzz with furious attempts to prove the falsity of siestaing Spaniards in 140 characters or less. Praise from both sides of the political spectrum rained down on the modern Ibero-European workers who, like their Nordic counterparts, are chained to their desks with soggy sandwiches and Starbucks coffee for sustenance. 7 minute lunch breaks and competition among our electric companies are now the norm. Conclusive proof that Europe indeed continues beyond the Pyrenees for some, harbingers of the coming apocalypse for others. Once upon a time in this country, yet not so long ago, you were allowed to make an adult choice between syrupy American sweetness or a cold beer from vending machines on sweaty August cercanias platforms. People once trusted their neighbour’s craft rather than being handed down the definition of safe cheeses and wines by some tax collecting EU bureaucrat. Butane bottles cost less than a trip to Ibiza and we could boast of a truly public healthcare system second to none, not to mention of course, the audacity of a month’s vacation. Accountants weren’t needed to tally everyone’s consumption after those old-fashioned long lunches and people tended to bond with other people rather than dogs. Hurray for sameness, ‘regular’ schedules and someone telling me when to go to bed. Well, at least here in Caceres we still have the kids in uncomfortable shoes and doilies, and of course, the odd siesta in July.


Popular posts from this blog

The 10 Best Places to Swim...?

I read a post the other day listing the 10 best places to swim around the world. Reading through them I realized that I hadn't been to even one of them!

Poor me, but then I thought, wait...I've swum in some lovely places.

Let's narrow them down to 3 in no particular order.

Ginnie Springs, High Springs, Northern Florida

If northern Florida wasn't interesting enough in its own time travel way, these springs are perfect. It's a surreal place to swim among the Spanish moss while the alligators patrol out in the warmer river that the springs flow into (the big toothy grins don't like the cooler water).

Bir Ali, Yemen

Yemen never makes it onto the glossy Caribbean style travel brochures, but the emerald green of the Arabian Sea is a mighty match for hurricane alley. Just outside the town of Bir Ali you can camp on a deserted white sandy beach that seems to extend all the way down to Aden. Behind you the sands of the beach meet and mingle with those of the desert on the vol…

Thou Shalt All Think the Same

Writing in the local paper. Local Issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.

One of the first things that drew me to Spain back in the nineties was a feeling that people generally minded their own business. Sure, they might comment, criticize or even ridicule those who wore socks with sandals, ate in the street or simply did things differently, but at least they let them do it. While the hyper-entrenched norms of society exerted an enormous pressure on people to fit in, non-conformists were mostly looked down upon, but not necessarily punished. If someone wanted to transform a lovely nineteenth century house in their village into a three story apartment monstrosity, well, if the law somehow let them do it, it was their choice to do so. The homogeneity of streets and entire Spanish villages have suffered enormously due to this, but if that’s the look the owner wants, well? Taste is after all a …

The Statue of Liberated Woman

Last night's Minaret exhibit was not only a chance to share some photos that I've taken on my travels but an opportunity to retrieve and relive some dusty memories that had been lying forgotten in my 1.0 memory chip mind.

During the evening, a few astute visitors were quick to notice an early Soviet-era statue that features prominently in one of the photographs, thus refreshing my memory in regards to one of my favourite emblems in Baku, Azerbaijan.

While living in the city, my wife and I lived just off Nizami square/Metro stop in the infamous 'Beysh Barmak'. Baku's first 5-story building (thus the name) that was stodgily yet sturdily built during the years of Russian rule. The window panes hadn't been changed since the 5 year plans, allowing the winter wind free access to the flat, but it was a handy address that every taxi driver knew...especially given the fact that I speak no Azeri or Russian, no matter how much vodka I drank.

At the time we lived there (2004-…