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 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.


  1. oh theresa, thank you. i really love the spirit of this award. since it has always been one of my goals in blogging to share what i know about my culture and those i've experinced as well as learn abotu other cultures this is really meaningful to me. thanks.

    LOVED the glimpse into your multicultural world too, especially since i am a relative newcomer here. i think i will use this for next tuesdays' post if you don't mind waiting that long.

  2. Here I was thinking, "Man, I can really relate to all this!" And then you went and gave me a shout out!

    Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be a little more moreno and not so visibly foreign. I don't think I'll ever forget what a boat captain said to me during my Caribbean honeymoon, "You don't have a drop of Moor blood in you, do you?" So true.

    I don't think I'll ever want to change citizenships. I'm kind of surprised that you're converting. Personally I prefer my vote to count (to the extent that votes are actually counted anymore) in the US than in Spain. Maybe that's just me.

    Great post! Keep it up!

  3. Ooooo, Thank you so much, I am so honoured this is a nice award/button. I love hearing about what you find and know about Spain after having been here somewhat longer, I only dream of the day when I can open my mouth and not sound like I just got off the plane....Ah well.

    Thanks, I'll post this one tomorrow.

  4. Great nominations!

    I think you are guiri!

  5. You are almost over qualified for this award! :D

    I was fun to read about you a bit more. I mean, I know all about your family's bathroom habits (and toilet paper problems) but I didn't know your background that well.

    I'm glad you liked the award/ button... and thanks to introducing me to new blogs, I'm sure I'm gonna love them! :$

  6. yesd your qualified thanks for the blog-if you have any questions click here

  7. Theresa, thanks! Links and nods are always welcome and this came as a total surprise.

    I started blogging thinking that I'd mostly be talking about diving but my "travel" label is far more common now than "scuba". And I love having the travel to complain about. :-P

  8. P.S. Don't worry guiri. In my humble opinion Dutch women age very well!

  9. wow, pretty awesome, honor, Theresa, and aptly awarded, as well!

    i knew you were amazing and/or interesting, but i honestly had no idea how deep your "internationality" ran! congrats! and lovely nods all around to these other bloggers who clearly qualify (some i know and/or am very fond of, others i will try to get to know ASAP!) : )

  10. wow...that is an honor indeed.
    I think I am gonna tackle the question "Where is my home!" in response to this award. I appreciate this one very much, because I feel it truly connects to me.

    Now tell me, is there a button or soemthing that we can copy teh code for, should we just steal the picture in your post???
    Lemme know and you make an excellent world-class citizen.
    I think anyone with an open mind qualifies, this is a nice awareness award as well. How much does the place we live in define us, who are we when all is said and done, does our mind transcend the boundaries of geography...
    it is all very interesting!

    Your background my dear friend, is riveting and charming...which explains you quite well :)

  11. WOOHOOOO! A blog button! Way to go!

    So your husband's opinion doesn't count? Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, MY HOUSE.

  12. Lime: I thought this award would be perfect for you and I'll be happy to wait until Tuesday to see what you do with it. :)

    Erik: Yes, you're a guiri just like me, and you'll never completely be able to get away from it. :)

    I'm changing my citizenship mostly because I feel it's more important to be able to vote for the people that will directly affect my life, and since I am not planning on going back (aunque nunca se puede decir de este agua no beberé), those people are here. Besides, I am really sick of having to renew my residency permit every 5 years (talk about a bureaucratic pain in the ass). I wish they would let me keep both, since there are nationalities that this is possible for, but not for U.S. citizens. :(

    Orneta: That day will come sooner than you think, just keep working on it. I love reading about your experiences, they remind me of when I just got here. :)

    Cindra: Oh, I'm a guiri, but I know I'm no twenty-year-old bollycao (which is what they call a hot young thing around here) anymore. ;)

    Morgan: I love hearing you complain about the travelling. And I hope you're right about the aging thing. :)

    Neva: Thanks, I do feel honored because I feel more like part of the world than any one country, and I love meeting people from all over.

    Minka: You are one of the people who deserve this award the most, and I'm curious to read what you have to say about it. Just copy the picture from here, that's what I did with Zhu, who awarded it to me.

    Dorky Dad: You men should just leave the opinions to us women, it's safer that way. ;)

  13. great post!

    my grandparents were citizens of the world from eastern Europe, but now i'm just an American mut. i feel a little out of place when i visit places outside the U.S. ...even in the U.K. where they speak English (or some accented variation of it).

  14. Hi Theresa,
    Wow what a nice blog do you have, you are so very common (as a traveller ) to me, you are really an interesting person to me,

    Thanks for visiting my blog again, you are also (me too) a'citizen of the world. This award we both got through ZHU, you have an interesting life too, I red your travel hsitory, with a lot of moving-overs to other countries,

    I lived in Italy for 6 years and also 2 years in the USA, My youth and now again in Holland, where I am origionally born.

    Interesting it is right? To know a lot more from other countries and cultures, where do yu like to live the best? You can also email me, than I can answer you on whatever question. Just ask for the E-adress, by comment, or its mybe in this comment (you can see the adress in the commentsI quess?)

    Nice meeting you through the blog:)
    Bye Nice blog do you have!!!

    JoAnn ( now living in Holland)

  15. You go guiri!

    I can remember attending a party in Luxembourgh where I didn't know anyone at all including the host because they were a friend of a friend and my friend couldn't make it. There must have been 20 different countries represented and though I'm language illiterate I still had a great time. I do like to get the non-American perspective at times. We can be so overbearing here in America...



  17. Holá Theresa!

    Congratulations for this award!!! :D

    I am Max, and I came through Zhu (I am one of her awardees lol)!

    I like the way you write; I will be back for more (I had seen you on Zhu's comments' section, and I always wanted to visit you - I am next door, in Portugal - but I was too lazy lol)!


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  19. Yes, the world is our oyster ... but I don't like oysters! Am I screwed? :)

    I loved this post Theresa. It was a very nice glimpse into who you are.

    Necessito practicar espanol. Hugs!

  20. I'm reppin the second generation born in America from my paternal Dutch descendants. My maternal side is nearly 100 percent Germanic. So yeah that would be me tiptoeing through the tulips in wooden clogs with a gut full of sauerkraut and brat.

  21. It must be cool to live over the pond. I guess everywhere has its advantages and disadvantages, but I really dig those European history shows and I would love to spend some time over there. I've been thinking of learning a second language, though I'm not sure which one. I'm leaning towards Spanish.

    I have no kids, but my wife tells me I'm still as hot as when we met. Of course, she now wears glasses most of the time...

  22. It's amazing you've adapted so well. I got massive culture shock just by moving from Michigan to Florida. Of course, there are probably more English speakers in Spain than there are in Florida.

  23. Hi Theresa, thanks for the award. I am trying to figure out how to put it on my page.

  24. What a terrific award, honey, and I love how you elucidated the reasons why you qualify (very modestly, of course!). What a fascinating overview of your life.

    Did you like how I used "elucidate" there?

    Pretty proud here.

    Oh, and Theresa's Mother, she NEVER partied during college. Stop asking.

  25. Minijon: If you travel around enough that feeing eventually goes away. :)

    Joann: I'm always glad to meet another citizen of the world. :)

    ve: Would any of that fun have involved cute foreign girls? I guess you don't really need to know other languages for that. ;)

    Cindra: Wow! I'm honored yet again.

    Max: Hi neighbor! I'll be sure to visit your blog too. :)

    Eye: I'll check it out.

    Dan: I don't much like oysters myself, but pearls are something else. Siempre puedes practicar tu español conmigo, si quieres. Un abrazo.

    Elasticwaistbandlady: Yup, sounds like you are pretty international yourself.

    Frogster: If you ever find yourself on this side of the pond, look me up. Does your wife still need the glasses after your "enhancement"? ;)

    Diesel: I've never been to Florida, so I really can't tell you, but people have a lot of trouble with English over here, so I doubt it. But Michigan - Florida, that must at least give you weather shock.

    Michelle: You deserve this award as much as I do. Just copy the image onto your hard drive and then upload it onto a sidebar widget. It's more or less the same as putting a picture in a post.

    Jocelyn: What an erudite commentary on my post. I'll have to give you an A+ for use of vocabulary. :)