Spaniards are like the Welsh

29 11 2009

There isn’t a person I’ve met who isn’t an incredible singer. Standing in church sometimes I forget I’m meant to be singing too, and just listen. Last night I went to listen to the Christmas choir, a group of people gathered from all the evangelical churches for a concert in December. And they sound phenomenal. I remember this from a church in Wales where every second person could have released an Opera album – here they could all release flamenco & coplas… The conductor offered that if I can learn the spanish fast enough I could join the choir – I’m pretty sure it is infinitely more likely I will be fluent in a month than that I’d have aquired the kind of voice that would blend in here!


26 11 2009

I’ve had my first visitors here in Córboba. First, Noemi came to town. She’s a short termer with ECM living in the town about an hour away. She was a missio kid who grew up in Niger with a French Swiss Mum and an English Dad. She’s living with another short termer in Peñarroya, only an hour away and they have a spare room – making it a great place for a retreat when I need it… She’s also a pretty good photographer, so when she came to town she started taking photos of stuff I’ve just walked past. Giving me the excuse to pull out my camera too. It’s great to have someone to do normal stuff with like cook a good meal and watch a movie (OK she cooked… hence it was edible). Then Andrew Mallam came from North Rocks @ Night, one of the churches who sent me. He came along to church, to the Thanksgiving Dinner and for lunch on Monday with Marina and Nicolas before Heading off to Barcelona by train. Each time someone comes I see a little bit more of my city. It’s nice to have a reason to be tourist for a day or two, and someone else who is pulling out their camera too so I don’t feel so silly…


Giving thanks for thanksgiving

22 11 2009

On Sunday, Tiffany, the American from church, held a Thanksgiving lunch which she cooked for everyone – there were 27 people there!  The food was all your classic Thanksgiving stuff including pumpkin pie, corn bread and turkey seasoning. We’d been to the shop on the Thursday beforehand and it was hilarious trying to find stuff that would do for makeshift baking. For example, in the States they never eat actual pumpkin. They just use it for decoration. They’d never think of roasting it. And even for the pies, they used a sweetened canned version. So it was Tiff’s first time with a pumpkin! Then, finding a Turkey was impossible. They are only just starting to stock them for Christmas. What we did find was two legs and a chest shaped lump of sandwich turkey – you know the stuff that is really compressed mince? But it all came off brilliantly.

Spaniards aren’t big on trying new foods (and why would you need to given their food is so good!) Each of them took the tiniest taste of everything, which was great because it left stacks for the Aussies… I hope they’re not expecting much for Australia Day – because they’re getting Vegemite on toast!

Unlearning language

11 11 2009

I was prepared to struggle in Spanish. I was prepared to make a fool of myself on a regular basis, and for a long while to not even know I was doing it. I was also prepared to work with people from different teams who might have very different backgrounds, culture or theology from me. What I wasn’t prepared for was the disconnect between my English and that of the rest of the English speakers on the team. Random words we use all the time at home are often unrecognized, hysterically funny, or most disconcertingly – quite offensive… Every week I’ve found another word in conversation that provokes the kind of response that makes me feel like I need to wash my mouth out with soap. Words that we’d use in a sermon at home, they don’t use on the street… So I’m working at eradicating them. Word by word. I’m going to make a fortune out of my swear jar!

Darn… qué?

6 11 2009

Today I had my first ‘Darn Spanish!’ moment. I went to the Foreigner’s Office to register for my Residents card. I started out well, freezing cold but happy, confused about the lines – but happy. I chatted to a Chilean who directed me the wrong way accidently – but still happy. Still happy in a full room of waiting people because I was by the door and had air thanks to losing my seat when I misunderstood an announcement. It was only a 40minute wait til I went in and sat down. Then the lady looked at my passport and couldn’t find the stamp for my entry. I didn’t remember getting stamped so I said there wasn’t a man. Then she asked if I had my ticket with me which I didn’t because it was a torn up scrap of paper since I just printed off an E-ticket. She seemed nice and patient, then someone came to get her, she took her bags, left and handed me over the other lady who talked really fast and clipped at me, and didn’t change when I asked her to slow down. In frustration at trying to tell her I couldn’t understand in Spanish, my frustration making it really hard to find words I burst into tears at which point she got really dismissive.

I couldn’t understand anything else and I asked if I could just call my friend who speaks Spanish and she could explain it to her. She kept pointing me to the helpline. I assumed she was telling me I had to leave and come back with a ticket which I said I didn’t have. I had found a baggage ticket for the flight, but she wasn’t interested in what I was showing her. I finally got her to write down when and what time and what with, and clarified I didn’t need a number.

Then she just left my papers on the desk and walked back to hers, my queue to leave I guessed. I said ‘nothing more’ she waved me out and I left.

On the way back to the bus I kept thinking it is hardly fair that because I can’t remember their immigration doing their job she should be so unhelpful. It would have worked so much easier if she’d shown a little compassion and a touch of patience with me and slowed down to make it a little easier for me to form and understand sentences. I wondered if you have to be particularly uncompassionate to work in a place like that or if the days of endless unprepared people do it to you. Either way, I was so frustrated with administration and policy. But I’m not the first migrant to feel like that, nor is it a Spanish experience. I’m sure today countless people in Australia went mental trying to make themselves understood to apathetic immigration officers and some very patient and attentive ones too. Others are in cells or on boats waiting their chance to argue their case.

On the other hand, I got on a very efficient bus and came home to the incredibly generous ‘Spanish Mum’ Marina. But before that – I sat on the bus and took out my map, and the lady across asked if it was a map and if I was a foreigner. My face conversation instigated by a Spanish person. Someone talked to me, someone lovely and interested and kind. And while I was marveling at just how gracious God is to give me such a conversation, we passed a cathedral and she crossed herself. These lovely kind people with no idea where grace and how we live fit together. This is where I need to be and God will use me. And these things are just part of the journey.


Of course when I got home and had the space and calm to think, I looked through the passport and found very clearly exactly the stamp I needed right in the middle of the page they were looking at 🙂 So now I go back in 2 weeks and wait again, this time without a number – and hopefully I can move my class after morning tea so I don’t miss another day.

Either way – another day in the life of an ‘alien’ or ‘stranger’ in the world.

Hair cut

4 11 2009

Today I went and got my hair cut. I thought carefully about the words I would use to tell them that I like the length but the health was more important – I’d like to keep as much length as is healthy. What I didn’t have was words to explain I don’t normally get a part or layers… so I’ve got a new me to go with my new language – 15cms less and an early days Rachel from ‘Friends’ haircut 🙂 November 022This is it a little after to bounce has been flattened out…