Monday, December 10, 2007
The world is my oyster. Let me share it with you...
My blogger bud, Zhu, who is a fascinating Frenchwoman living in Canada (and quite a talented artist besides), has seen fit to award me with a Citizen of the World award.
I'm not sure if this means that I'm a very confused person who doesn't quite know where she belongs, or if it's to applaud me for sharing vital information about toilet paper shortages, naughty Jamaican jokes, and sundry odd-things-that-pop-into-my-head, with the world. But whatever the reason, I'm proud of this button, because I really do feel like a citizen of the world. I was born to a Dutch family in the U.S., and while I have U.S. citizenship, there's a little Dutch bit somewhere inside me. And now that I live in Spain, I am caught between the American bit and the newer Spanish bit of my brain (with all the mixed language puns it can get quite strange in here, believe me).
When I was a kid I didn't think it was strange that Sinterklaas used to visit on December 5th and Santa at Christmas. We used to have hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles) and butter on our bread for breakfast (and we still do when we can get our hands on some), and eat the Dutch cheese that my Mom used to buy at the Dutch store, which was run by an Indonesian woman.
But I always felt kind of different (but that could be just my innate weirdness, who knows).
I was a kind of shy, nerdy kid who liked to read at recess, and as if that wasn't enough, I used to do it in Dutch. Once the school did a study on kids whose second language was English, which included me, since I first learned to speak Friesian, although I stopped doing that when everyone kept saying, "Oh, what a cute accent she has!" A warning to bilingual parents: if you want your kids to speak another language, never ever let anyone draw attention to their accent, unless of course your kid happens to be the theatrical type who loves getting attention for being a clown.
So, anyway, I found myself included in the English as a second language group, which was mostly made up of Hispanics, and I felt different then too. It felt kind of like I was cheating, because for me English was my "first" language, the one I used all the time, and I must have thrown the school's statistics off just a little.
I also didn't have much family in the States, unlike the rest of my friends, and I would get to see my grandparents once every three years or so (airfare wasn't as cheap back then, so it was a much bigger deal to cross the pond than it is now). When we did go, it was like a huge adventure and we used to spend those summers playing in the village where my grandparents lived, in a place where you could see the cows grazing and walk from one end of the village to the other. A big change from Southern California, where the end of one city just blends in with the next, and it would have never occurred to us to walk there (at least not if we wanted to get anywhere all in one piece).
I had my culture shocks too, and sometimes they were funny.
I remember being amazed by some things, like the fact that my cousin had never eaten a McDonald's hamburger (she must have been about 13 at the time), and I thought just about every kid must have had one before. My cousins were amazed by the Silly Putty I had brought with me. We had a lot of fun, and we learned stuff from each other (like naughty jokes, that we translated as best we could). When it was time to go, I was always sad, because I thought Holland was the most amazing place, and as the plane would enter smog-filled L.A. I used to cry at the ugliness of it all. Then we would go home, and I would go back to my life of being a little different, but I was pretty happy that way.
In college, I used to hang out with the foreign students even though I wasn't a foreigner, but I felt at home with them (besides they threw the best parties. Shhh, don't tell my Mom, because she has no idea how much we used to party). They were all different, so my differentness didn't stand out so much, and I was fascinated by all the languages and customs (and the cute Spanish men).
Now I'm here in Spain, and I live pretty much like any Spanish woman would, but I'll always be a little bit different. My Spanish is really good, so good that some people don't know I'm foreign, but my face gives me away. My husband says I don't look that different, but he's become accustomed to my face, so his opinion doesn't count. If you ask other people, they'll say I look like a "guiri", which is Spanish slang for a foreigner. Now, being a "guiri" is fine when you're young and hot-looking, because then Spanish men will trip over their own feet trying to see who can buy you a drink first, but I'm married, have three kids and am past the looking-hot stage (even though my husband disagrees...he's such a sweetie). So, looking like a "guiri" isn't much of an advantage, and it can even be a disadvantage, because there's always some smart-ass waiter or taxi driver who tries to trick you if you look foreign, but as soon as I open my mouth they know they're not dealing with someone who's just gotten off the boat, and they usually behave. Things like that used to bother me, but after fifteen years you get used to it, and I really don't care much any more. I'm me, and no matter where I am, or what citizenship I have (soon I may be Spanish, I'm crossing my fingers, and doing the bureaucratic tango), the world is my oyster, and so far it's given me quite a few pearls.
So, now I'm supposed to give this award to some deserving world citizens. Here's my list:
My sister Michelle, who had the same upbringing as me and probably felt about the same as I did when growing up (and she can even boast of two citizenships: American and Dutch). For now she's living in Nebraska, and is very busy right now getting ready to give me another nephew or maybe a niece, and trying to find a toy jackhammer for my adorable nephew, Joseph. Someday I'm sure she'll fulfill her dream of moving to Holland.
Minka also comes to mind as a first class Citizen of the World. Originally from Germany, she now lives in Iceland and always has something fascinating to say. So, if you want to learn something about Iceland (and see some funny penguin cartoons), this is the place to be.
Orneta, who's a Canadian sailor, has run aground (but I hope not amok) in Barcelona. It's fun to read about her impressions of the Catalonian part of Spain, hear her stories about learning the language, and see some of her fantastic paintings (and wonder how she ever manages to find time for it all).
Morgan also leaps to mind as a highly qualified Citizen of the World. His Canadian consciousness has wandered all over the world, and at the moment it has set up residence in Amsterdam. It's an interesting trip, as he shares his travels and other tidbits of his life with us (and if you ask, he might even share some of his luck with you).
Then we have Erik, who's an American married to a Spanish woman (they're newlyweds...aww, isn't that cute?), and they live in Colindres. You can see lots of great pictures and some interesting stories on his blog about life in Spain.
And last, but certainly not least, Lime. I know she has lived in Trinidad, that she grew up in a Pennsylvania Dutch family (am I right?), and that she's fascinated by other cultures, but I'm sure there are many more interesting things to learn about her.
And finally this rambling post has come to an end, so if you are still awake pat yourself on the back...you made it. Psst, and you, over there in the back...wake up and go over to Central Snark, where the posts are usually shorter, and probably much funnier.