Why Spain? (part 2)


This text was published in 24-7 Valencia, October 2008


Ten years ago I landed in Valencia in search of a better life. Now what does a better life mean? In fact I think I was looking for love. Isn’t it what we are all after? But then where does one find love? In a pack of Special K? More seriously, I think I was dying to get a bit of cariño on a daily basis and my unconscious had led me to the right place for we all know that Spanish people are experts at being openly loving.
Two days after landing, as I was trying to find my way around, I asked an old lady for help; when she put her hand on my arm while she was repeating for the third time (I would find out later that they all do tend to repeat the info three times) where the street I was looking for was, the old instinct of cold country girl awoke and I stepped backward (did I really step backward or only thought of doing so?) I remember thinking: “How dare she touch me?” I know my world is full of contradictions: I had crossed the ocean wanting a warmer life (the warmth was not expected only from the sun) and there I was protesting as a nice old lady invaded my personal space… That was only the first of a whole series of quiero pero no quiero movements. Do you know what I mean? When you want something so badly but at the same time you are so afraid to get it that you can’t let go… Do you know the feeling?
As time went by my personal space slowly grew smaller and smaller. I gradually accepted that their idea of personal space was not the same as mine and kindly allowed them to stand in what not so long ago was still considered intimate space. I started to like it when strangers slightly touch my arm while talking to me. Then I deliberately started to go to certain shops and market stalls knowing I would get the happy Dime cariño. That sunny cariño thrown so freely to me would make my day. Now shall I say thrown to me or thrown at me? In this case I believe I should say thrown at me since it was like a ball I was always surprised to get. So amazed that I didn’t know how to catch it and certainly didn’t know how to throw it back. But then that was ten years ago…
I am no longer surprised when a stranger calls me cariño but not yet so used to it as to do the same with my neighbors. Come on, let’s be honest, I can’t even use the magic word with my dearest friends! Old cold country sense of decency won’t allow it… Thought I would learn from them… Seems so easy, so natural for most of them to touch and kiss and hug and water everybody around with their sweet words… I really thought that I could really learn and become that loving person I dreamt of becoming before I set foot on the plane which would take me to Spain. However, ten years later, I must admit that I am still on the way… Perhaps I could compare it to learning a language. How many people do you know who are still struggling to get an acceptable level of spoken English although they have been at it for years? Loads! Maybe, just maybe, we can apply the same concept to us, people from cold countries: although we have been living here for a long time, we are still struggling to get the cariño out of our bodies… We are dying to really hug and be hugged but, as our Spanish friends react when they have an opportunity to speak English, we are embarrassed. Then I shall safely use the same excuse as them: me da vergüenza. Everything has been said…

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