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Mrs Castillos view on life

Plastic fantastic. Where do your peppers come from.

Habemus papem. Where's my needle?
18 March 2013

It´s been quite a special experience to live in a Catholic country during the elections of the new Pope. As I like to listen to the radio, my mind was starting to turn crazy from the half hour news telling us nothing, so I was actually quite excited when I heard the famous smoke was coming out white. (A shame it wasn't pink...it´s a girl!haha)

 

So, let me congratulate the Catholics with the election of a seemingly sympathetic pope, let´s hope he´ll be able do do something about the antiquarian institution he's sat to lead.

 

As I´m trying to do the most out of this year in Spain, not only being a housewife (boooring!) but also learning new things, in January I appointed myself to a sewing course. It´s great. I´m not very good, and have spent most of the days adjusting old trousers, sewing holes and making skirts shorter – and, above all, listening to the ladies' conversation. An italian proverb always comes to my mind: “Tutto il mondo é un paese” – the whole world is a village. That is, we´re all fundamentally the same, all over the world.

 

The señoras, all with names that start or end with Maria, talk about their (grand)children, the weather – and above all: diets. “I´m trying a new one, you know, the chorizo-diet” “Oh I've tried that one. It´s good, but the problem is staying the same weight. “ “I think it was horrible. Couldn't stand to eat eggs and bacon all the time” “The thing is, you should eat often, and healthy, like me, I always eat an apple at this time of the day” “Well, let me have some of that apple, it must be magic, because you look stunning!” etc etc. Now, last week, the conversation was a bit different.

 

MariRosa: So, girls. What do you think. Will there be any white smoke coming out this afternoon?

Marilo: I know I shouldn't say so, but it interests me “un culo”. There shouldn't be any Pope!

Pili: Well, maybe you're right. If they all sold only the rings they are wearing, they could help half of Spain out of the crisis.

Rosamary: Well said. Where´s my needle.

 

So, much to my satisfaction, I discovered that papal elections are not necessarily as important for the common woman as it might seem from the media coverage. I discovered that Spanish ladies with crazy religious names (Marilo = Maria Dolores = Mary (of the wholy?) Pains) are not necessarily as religious as their names suggest. And I silently confirmed that the world really is a village. 

 



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On cardinals and carnival
22 February 2013

Some days ago, I listened to the Spanish national radio, as they interviewed an old journalist about what happened the day Franco died.

The journalist remembered how the Franco administration reacted very badly to the fact that "normal" journalists announced the news before it was official , with the words "Franco is dead. Franco is dead. Franco is dead".  It was true, he was dead, but the journalist got into trouble because the regime wanted to stay in control of all information - as a good, dictator-ruled country should...

I tend to forget that Spain was a dictatorship only 35 years ago, and that this of course influences how things work in the country today. The most upsetting thing I´ve learned about the Franco regime though, is its extremely tight relationship to the catholic church.. The scandals just keep coming... what about that baby-stealing nun that recently died - “sor Maria” - that just refused to say anything and to go to "tribunal", when they knew she had been stealing babies saying they were dead (and giving them away for adoption to fascist families with no children?).

 

I used to consider myself as a religious person, but after baptising my two children in the catholic church, I´ve been having some regrets.  Maybe I should have thought it over once more when I asked for the liturgy so that I could translate it into Norwegian for my friends and family, and discovered they were actually performing an exorcism on my little baby girl? Maybe I should have refused when "el cura" asked for my sons name and insisted we´d give him a "good catholic name" as well, because of the need of a protecting saint? (I´ve always found their obsession with saints kind of cute, but when I think of it, I find it more and more disturbing. I think they see their saints as gods, contrary to the third amendment) La Virgen del mar, la Virgen del Pino, La Virgen de la panaderia...seems "la Virgen" has been seen everywhere, and so we worship a stick (Check out "la Virgen de Guadalupe”, Spain) or a statue and carry her around and put her on a boat every August while we sing for her...)

 

This brings me to "the news of the century": the pope´s resignation. I think it´s a very decent thing to do when you´re 86 and feel you can´t to the job anymore. I really can´t see how it´s possible to do a good job ruling 1 billion faithful catholics when you´re too old to walk and hardly can talk. Cannot say I´m eagerly awaiting the words "habemus papam" from Rome, still it will be interesting to see if it´ll be one of the ten Spanish cardinals or if they have the courage to choose an African. Or maybe a woman....HA HA HA...women can´t speak in church, we all know that of course. Shouldn´t be allowed to speak publicly, even. 

new pope

 

So, while I´m having all these negative thoughts about the Catholic Church, I find myself in an awkward position. I love the fiestas, I love that people dress up and do crazy things, I love to mingle with the locals and to listen to the music, I even love to enter the churches and lighting candles and to admire the art (even though I always ask myself how on earth they got the money, and I answer that I don´t want to know and it was surely a gift from someone rich, not a result of exploiting poor believers). I can do as most people do, of course, just pretend there´s nothing religious about the fiestas. Maybe it isn´t. Maybe the church just adopted the fiestas and put a virgin into it, so that people could be allowed to continue their much loved partying. 

I´m quite sure nobody at my children`s school think about carnival as a religious celebration, for example. At least I heard nothing about eating meat and preparing for 40 days of fast. The preparation last week was quite secular and wonderfully Spanish: they celebrated it for a whole week. So, tuesday last week I sent my children to school wearing wigs. The next day I added ties. And the day after an apron. Friday was the big party with carnival-queen and king and children are asked to dress up in dresses made from "recycled material". And still they wonder why Spanish children score low on the international PISA-tests? Hm. That´s another story, I guess I´ll write about that another day. 

 

Links:

On the stolen-babies scandal:

(in Spanish) http://www.elpais.com/especial/vidas-robadas/

(in English) http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2112003,00.html

 

 



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Stop complaining, Spaniards. You get the politicians you deserve.
05 February 2013

So..it´s been a while since my last blog post. It will never happen again. 

I´d like to share some of my thoughts about the ongoing political scandals concerning money laundering, fraud, corruption and other words you might find describing deadly sins in Dantes "Divine Comedy" - yes, the part where he talks about hell...

We were watching the news the other day, and my husband says "My God, every news story is the same...it´s corruption and money and fraud and I don´t know what..." He thinks all Spanish politicians should be put on the streets and that Germans should rule Spain - at least that is what he says every time he gets the oportunity to voice his opinion. My usual answer (after "oh shut up. Do you always have to repeat yourself?"), is: I guess you get what you deserve. And so I smile, sweetly. 

Yes, I AM sorry for you, Spaniards, but I do think you get the politicians you deserve. (I´m sure I´m quoting someone here..who?). Corruption isn´t something that concerns only politicians and businessmen. I´m quite sure, unfortunately, that almost all Spaniards would´ve done the same if they had the oportunity.... a little money under the table...trying to fool the system a little bit....getting money that are not meant for you but you think it should´ve been.... Don´t tell me you never heard about all the undeclared work in the (ex)construction business! About people saying: "well...yes, I am registred as unemployed, and I DO work, but I earn almost nothing, so I don´t tell Seguridad Social that I´m doing it...

And to illustrate, let me translate part of a (very long) mail my husband got from a friend, currently living in Great Britain:

Subject: Do we get what we deserve? A conversation in the "taberna". 

- What are you having?

- An Alhambra Special

- Please, two Alhambra Special!

- So...time flies, eh? It´s been a while. 

- Yeah, it´s about time we had a few beers and a good chat!

- Well then, how are things going?

- I can´t complain, really. Still got the garage in the village. And you?

- Well, I got through in the medical board and got the "invalidez" (disability)  thanks to Joan Sola, the village laywer.  I´m still continuing with my business here in the capital, though. With my wife. 

- Well done, the situation is f***ed. I myself had three men working for me in the garage, but I had a chat with them and we agreed to finish their contract. But, of course, they still continue working. 

- They´re dismissed and still continue working?

- Yes. It´s the best for all of us, really. I dont have to pay employers tax, which you know are really high, and they get unemplyment benefits pluss their salary, but I obviously pay them less than what´s in their contract. Everybody´s happy: they earn more and I do too. 

- And if they discover you?

- Who´d ever pass by the village? And anyways, all three garages of the village are doing the same and we´re not going to rat each other out. 

- Ah, ok. 

(The two friends continue talking about how to get scholarships to their studying children (by not having income...on paper), how to avoid  registration tax on new cars (by finding someone in the family that is disabled and putting his/her name on the papers) how to fool the inspectors of the city council etc etc) 

- Speaking about the city council...did you hear about the mayor?

- Yes! What a "cabron"! (asshole...) How little ethics! I WAS wondering why the same company always got to collect the garbage...and it doesn´t surprise me that the company just happened to be his son-in-laws business....

- What a gang of corrupt bastards that are governing us! What a shitty country this is!

- Yes, we shouldn´t vote for any of those scoundrels. They´re all the same. 

- No doubt about it. So, do you want another beer?

- Sure. I just have to pop out to check on my car. I double parked it just outside. 

(Probably with the emergency lights on....)

- the end - - 

 

 

 



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Rain and my man
10 November 2012

I come from a rainy place. A very, very rainy place. It is said that it rains more than 200 days a year there. It's a record in Europe. My husband claims it to be 300, but even if he's the one always checking the weather and the statistics on the back of our local newspaper, I don't really trust him. Rain made something happen with his head, I think. Like a dark, rainy cloud confusing his once so positive thoughts and making everything dark and negative. So – after ten years in Bergen, Norway, we decided to move to his country.

One of the main reasons we moved, was, alas, the rain. Not being originally from the area we moved to (Almeria), and with just limited experience to count on (we bought our holiday home here in 2004), my dear husband leaned on statistics. And what does the statistics say about Almeria? That it has an average annual temperature of 18 degrees – the most stable in mainland Spain. That all the greenhouses have created a micro-climate that makes the temperatures even more stable. That it is the driest place in...Europe? That it has the only desert in Europe. Now, add the fact that every time we talked to my husbands parents via Skype, the conversation went:

  • Y que....allí llueve, o que?

  • Si....llueve.

  • Pues, aqui vamos en mangas cortas!

  • Y aqui con botas y chubasqueros....

(So what...it rains there, right? - Yes, it does - Well, we still put on t-shirts. - And we rain boots and raincoats...)

Conclusion: a dry place. A very dry place. My husband moved one year before the rest of the family, and we "enjoyed" conversations much like the one above. As I originally was quite reluctant to move away from my friends and quit my job, move from the centre of a city to a small apartment in a deserted residence far from a city in an area full of ugly greenhouses,I had some conditions. The conditions were:

 

  • I want a dishwasher (check)

  • We need more space to all our clothes. You need to build a closet in the second bathroom and do something about the (extremely useless) ones we have already. (check)

  • Find a solution for all the shoes (check)

  • Move the barbecue and put in the laundry machine. Make place for laundry on roof. (half check)

  • Build an extra room on the roof. (ha ha)

Our apartment is 75 m2 – and the roof terrace the same size. Needless to say, a lot of space we don't use. So I thought it would be a good idea to put the laundry up there. So thought my husband, and installed dishwasher where the laundry had been, and moved laundry on roof. During the year he lived here alone, he went heroically to IKEA all by his own, bought laundry baskets, installed them, moved the barbecue to another corner, made a little house to the washing machine, made a kind of counter top made from thin wood (cheap plank bought at BrikoMart) over the laundry baskets and then decided it was enough – we would cover the wood as soon as we found tiles that we liked, and there was no hurry in finding doors for the machine and the baskets.

 

- What about rain? Said my visiting Norwegian friends this summer. My husband started to laugh. - It never rains, he said. As he's the native, I decided to trust him, and soon had the same answer to visiting friends. - My husband says it never rains. And if it does, it's just a little bit. Noooo, there's really no trouble having all the laundry up here, uncovered. And the counter top made from thin wood with holes in it? No problem. And the electricity? Nooo, don't think it'll be a problem.

 

Now, during this year, I'm beginning to realize that I need to stop and do a consideration whenever my brain suggests thinking: He's the native, he knows how to do this, I'll trust him.

 

This is what I have to think: He moved away from home at 13. From Spain at 17. He's equally lost. AND he's a man. He doesn't always get the gossip, the talk, the comments, the information given at school - even if it's his own language. I need to trust myself. I need to get something to cover the roof top washing room before the next rainfall soaks everything again. Never trust statistics, I learned at University. Don't trust the locals, even if he's your husband, is what I'm starting to realize.

 



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The Time in Between - Spanish Morocco
24 October 2012

I'm just finishing a wonderful book;  "El tiempo entre costuras" (The Time in Between) by Maria Dueñas.

I found it at my local supermarket a while ago, and because it has more than 600 pages and is in Spanish, I've been waiting for the right moment to start reading it. Which wasn't really necessary, the language wasn't a major obstacle. The book is elegantly written, the story is breathtaking (not like a crime/mystery/thriller-way, but still very exciting) - and I have learned some interesting things from it. Which is good! We tend to ask children "what did you learn today?", but forget asking ourselves...

I didn't know, for example, that a big part of what is today northern Morocco, was once the "Spanish Protectorate" (1913-1956), with Tetuán as its capital (I had only heard about the international city Tanger), and that it was from the Spanish Protectorat that Franco gained force with his troops and got help from local Moroccans in what was to become the Spanish Civil War.

As a language enthusiast, I was delighted to learn about the existence of the Hakitía language - a mix between old Spanish (Castilian), Hebrew and Arabic, spoken in Morocco by the so-called Sephardi Jews. Interesting!

How Maria Dueñas describes fabrics and clothes, is also a delight. (the protagonist is a "haute couturier" - designing and making dresses for the upperclass. You can virtually see the dresses and the fabric she describes - and I would have loved to see the TV-series, but I don't know if it's still running om Antena 3.

We live in Spain (or wish to live here) - and I think we're obliged to know something about the history - and reading is a great way to do it, don't you think?

More information:

About the Spanish Protectorate: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Protectorate_of_Morocco

Maria Dueñas:www.thetimeinbetweenbook.com/

Book reviews: www.barnesandnoble.com/w/time-in-between-maria-duenas/1101091321

(reviews at end)



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All these days that just came and went
22 October 2012

...little did I know that they were life itself (Stig Johansson, Swedish writer)*

These words seem to ring in my ears quite often these days. Days just come...and they pass...and I  get up...get the kids to school...go to pilates...go to Mercadona...prepare dinner...clean the house...but there are no... results in the end of the day. Or of the year. Maybe except a clean house and happy family. Which is not bad. It's just...not enough. I need something more! Even if I don't consider myself as particularly damaged by the famous protestant work-ethics (mark the use of the word "damaged"), I have found that slow Spanish life is OK for a while but then....I need something to do. 

 So - while I'm finishing my curriculum in Spanish, trying to find my ways in converting myself into a structured freelance writer (a challenge!) and giving some lessons in Norwegian using Skype - - - I've also decided to start blogging. First of all to give family and friends a chance to see what I'm really up to, and if someone else find it interesting as well - perfecto!

That's all for now. I will continue doing research for my article on the Spanish belief in "centro bilingüe" - how teaching English to children ultimately will solve the crisis and save the next generation. (!)

 

* Original text: "Alla dessa dagar som kom och gick
inte visste jag att de var livet." From "Den kapsejsade himlen" (1984)

 



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