Tuesday, October 26, 1999

6 Million Catalans discovered in Cataluña


Hola, Howdy, Bon dia, Dobry Den,

Has it been a week since the last one of these? Well, ambition, like water and morality, seeks the lowest possible level at which it is comfortable. Which doesn't mean jack, but is meant to somehow make up for the fact that in spite of myself, I've discovered a routine here in Barcelona so boring that there hasn't been much to write about.

Oracle hasn't sent me anywhere for a while, with the exception of a few side trips to Madrid. I'm so dang glad that I didn't decide to go live in Madrid-- honestly, it's so flat and far away from everything, and the architecture is to yawn at. Here in Barcelona we have buildings that look like they were built by sand castle mechanics on extended acid trips (maybe they were). You compare the buildings here to ours in the States and think, man, we oughta use more tile.

I've been here for six months now, as of the 24th. Kind of a big deal, a milestone when you consider that my contract is only for two years. I go through days when I'm damn sure that I'll go back at the end of the two years (I can hear my mom sighing with relief), and then I have days when I'm certain I want to stay forever (I can hear my mom tensing back up).

My free time is all Spanish now. My house is like one big list of new words; During conversations I suddenly dive into my rucksack to scribble down something someone said. Okay, this is heaven.

My friend, Sònia, is earnestly learning English at this point. Which is real good for both of us, because I end up helping her out, and it makes me have to think about our grammer a lot. Quick. Is "When" an adjective or an adverb? Or neither? Why do we use the word "do" for negative commands ("Do not panic") but not for affirmative ones ("Panic")? How do you pronounce "Egg" and "Iron"-- some day, the answers I give to these questions, especially this last one, will mark her forever as having learned pronunciation from a Southeast Texan.

Sometimes I get kind of jittery about the whole thing-- what if I'm wrong? Weirder still is the fact that I have a lot of Spanish coursing through my head, so, for example, the other day Sònia asked me what the English word for "Pronunciación" was. I thought for several minutes about this, and concluded that there wasn't one, that we'd say, "how it's pronounced". Then we looked it up, and sure enough, it translated as "Pronunciation" (duh). But I couldn't pronounce it correctly! I mean, what the heck is that "t" doing there, anyway? I've always kind of complained about French pronunciation (damn that word), but really, when you have to explain it, English writing has just about nothing to do with English pronunciation. May as well be Chinese.

It's starting to get cold here. My first exposure to Spain was Christmas day in Madrid, when it was about 14 degrees (57F), and probably that impression will last forever. I don't remember much about that first day, but I do remember getting off the bus from the airport and coming out of the station in the center of Madrid, thinking, I might end up living here. It was different then, because I still wasn't sure I'd end up with a job-- I couldn't imagine coming here without a job. Now I find out that there are thousands of Americans living and working in Spain with a tourist visa from like 1978. Anyway, I set down my backpack on the curb of the Paseo del Prado and looked around. I can't describe the rush of thoughts I had... I was excited, and worried that someone might speak to me and I wouldn't understand them (this happened right away, too). I noticed that the first building I set eyes on was the American Express building. We're everywhere. I thought about my prospects of moving, and then about my job and my friends and my family back in the States. I really wasn't sure that this was what I wanted to do, but I wasn't sure that it wasn't, either (did that make sense). So I picked up my backpack and found the metro into the Puerto del Sol.

Just this morning a co-worker asked me why I had moved to Spain. I never have a good answer for this. Usually I say "for the fame and the money". Occasionally I say "for the adventure". If I had to tell the truth I think I'd say "I don't really know". Most of my expat friends here say pretty much the same thing-- we just ended up here.

Well, enough of that. I have to get to work. Lots to tell-- I just found out that Barcelona has its own Marathon in April, and I think I might run in it. We'll see. Hmmm, I didn't mention anything about dogs. I'm working like a... you get the idea. I'll write again soon. -Tim

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