Monday, September 1, 2008

Piecing together my Habitus

It is strange how my experience here in Spain changes over time. Initially the challenge of language trumped every other cultural challenge and kept my mind so occupied and entertained that I was completely blind to the cultural inconsistencies between myself and Spanish people that I would come to realize later.

I may be grossly overestimating myself here, but I think that at this point, I probably understand 95% of spoken Spanish. The problem is that within that 5% that is lost to me, it seems like 60% of Spanish humor and potential cultural connectedness is contained.

This can make it difficult to not be a total vacant, absent bitch at a party with Spanish people.

So, I go to a party, like Friday night. I do the normal thing I do when I´m in the company of all Spanish people. I sit in a chair smoking, being the quiet weird wife of my Spanish husband. And I think about how far that is from who I am, from what anyone who has ever known me well knows. I´m the furthest thing from quiet. I´ll talk to you until your ears feel like I´ve chewed them up and passed them through my digestive track. And I´ll listen to you if you have an ounce of humor in you.

That´s the normal me.

But here, among them I watch the people around me with bored indifference and feel such a disconnect with them on the deepest human level, that it pains me to try to make conversation. I see them laughing. I understand what they are saying. I smile to be polite, but in every moment I know how out of place I am and how brutally laborious it is to have a genuine connection with them. I know how goddamn difficult it is to say anything of interest to them and how difficult it is to find anything they have to say a diversion from the prototype that I have in my mind of them.

And I come across as a bitch. And I know it. And I can´t do anything to stop it. And I probably am one.

But then I go home to the states. I sit in a room full of Americans and I am completely and utterly entertained by how my language flows out of their mouths and they say things like "ass monkey", or "give me a pound, dog" and I tear up with laughter at expressions, poise and behavior that I had forgotten about. It just feels so effortless. And everyone amuses me greatly.

And I realize that those measly two weeks of happy, effortless understanding and cultural connection isn´t enough for me. So I try to find the pieces of my habitus here somewhere. Here in Spain. Here online.

But the pieces are lost.

I have my fellow expats who understand me better than anyone here or there possibly could. But I hate sometimes that their habitus are as altered as mine and I long to be in the company of people that are just American, the unaltered ones. Without this addiction called Spain in them.

And this is probably what I´m doing in the blogosphere. Looking for those pieces of my habitus and looking for the people whose dispositions I envy and miss.

Going home again this week. Back and forth never ceases to fuck with my head. Grandpa´s 100th birthday and reunion of cousins and brothers and sisters and all the people that can say things like "it´s hotter than crotch" and make me stare at them with glee and amusement at their effortlessness without all the nonsense and confusion in their brain that I have.


American Cultural Soup by MotherPie from Flickr

Ministry of Home Absorption by excauboi from Flickr


Captain Steve said...

Today is is completely hotter than a crotch and twice as muggy.

Have a good trip home.

Bluestreak said...

Thanks Captain.

Fned said...

I get you.

When I got to a point where I could communicate in French I would go to parties and people would expect me to instantly "be in their ambiente". Sometimes I would try... and fail miserably. I'd think of a great joke or perfect thing to say and the minute I opened my mouth everybody would shut up and turn to look at me. So whatever it was that came out of my mouth would instantly become lame.

I stopped trying. I'll go to parties and answer to questions and keep the conversation going if I have to, but the heart just aint in it.

I long for my friends back home who understand why saying things like "no seas pendejo guey" is freaking hilarious and to whom a joke that comes out of my mouth is fucking funny because THEY GET IT. And because I GET THEM.


Bluestreak said...

fned - yesssssssss, that´s it. I miss being funny to people sometimes, instead of just funny-sounding. Everything is instantly lame when you sound funny, and all of the nuances of tone and intonation and shit are lost. I hate it when I speak and get the silence you mention or worse, the fucking masculine/feminine grammar correction I always screw up on. I´m sooooooooo over it. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Laurie said...

You're funny to me, bluestreak!

I just happened upon your blog and had this thought after your entry: why not move back? Your husband must be one fantastic dude.

ghost of keywork said...

That's ok, it's no different than being here in the states. Most of the time I feel like I'm speaking a different language than everyone else.

Bluestreak said...

Laurie, thanks for stopping by. I´ve often thought why don´t I just move back, but after 10 years it isn´t that easy anymore because you don´t quite fit in at home either, and this becomes home now (sort of).

Ghost - I know. Same thing happens to me when I´m home for longer than a few weeks, I start realizing the problem is just me, not where I am or the language

ghost of keywork said...

A wise man once told me this:

"If you are truly intelligent, you better make friends with yourself. Because 90% of the time, you will be your only company."

Bluestreak said...

Key - that´s really good advice, considering I spend almost 90% of my waking day by myself. We get on well, though, me and me.

ghost of keywork said...

You should, you probably share the same views.

Bluestreak said...

yeah, when me and myself aren´t at eachothers throats with inner conflict, we´re like two peas in a pod.

jen @ the cubicle's backporch said...

I can't imagine how lonely it would be to be in your situation. I know you have your husband, but I would miss people thinking I was funny.

I hope you have fun at your reunion and get your fill of ass jokes and crotch comparisons. At least for a little while! :)

Bluestreak said...

jen - thanks. I don´t exactly feel lonely, although at times it can be (mainly when I´m with a group of Spaniards I tend to feel lonely). I have loads of american friends here that help me keep my sanity. But those doses of home are necessary.

Sarita said...

Next time I see you I promise to say "hotter than crotch". Have a great time with your fam, hon! xoxo

Bluestreak said...

Sarita - thanks for the effort you lovely thang. you know you´re my sanity around this joint.

Maggie, Dammit said...

Babe, I'll be your piece of habitus any day. Gladly.

aoc gold said...

Where Go The Boats?


Dark brown is the river,
Golden is the sand.

It floats along forever,

With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,

Castles of the foam,

Boats of mine a-floating

Where will all come home?

On goes the river

And out past the mill,

Away down the valley,

Away down the hill.

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children

Shall bring my boats ashore.
-----by aoc


Ann said...

Oh I can relate a bit. We moved to my hubby's province and when there are family occasions, I just sit there smiling, and I don't know many of them so i would just politely smile to them. But I can't show the real me, the usually happy noisy me. I can understand the language but is afraid to speak it because it might come out wrong.
I can receive but still afraid to transmit.:)

Brook said...

Oh man I can't even imagine... But I did go and visit my boyfriends family over new years. They are from Ecuador... and I speak ZERO spanish... and I was the ONLY white girl and I was about 8 inches taller then EVERYONE THERE... it was umm... horrible... until everyone got drunk and my b/f s grandpa kept wanting to dance with me... the only thing I understood was "TU ES ALTA!!" "muy bonita" and all I could do was smile and say " Si" "gracias"

neil wykes said...

I can relate to all this a great deal, feeling like a lump at the corner of the table sometimes the token foreign guy and at others ignored. Very different to who and what I am back in Britain. Having said that it does wholly depend on the company and amongst some people I am very chatty- Especially if I am without the native better half. My sense of humour has to adapt too, not being able to say things like "arse monkey" or puns for laughs I have rely on the surreal or childish. as you mention in your replies to comments the two worlds bleed into each other and you stop feeling at home back in the land you were born in.
Sorry, not answers or advice, just thoughts

Bluestreak said...

maggie - thanks girl, and you are.

Ann - i know exactly what you mean about fear to transmit. But that has turned, for me, into unwillingness more than fear now.

Brook - too funny!

Neil - I knew you'd relate.

miss hell said...

we all romanticize that which we don't have...

Yo Momma said...

I completely understand you on the language barrier and just getting it. When I first moved to the states, learning the English language and then the slang was difficult but after I got it, I found that I actually enjoyed learning new languages and trying to get how each country's sense of humor worked. When I went to France and Italy, I spoke horribly to them all by a translation book. I'm sure some found it annoying, but a lot of people I encountered (Italians mostly - don't get me started on the French) would laugh at me, then teach me the slang, bad words, etc. Good times.

That being said, I kind of wish I was in Spain right now! (Grass is always greener right? LOL!) Hang in there!

Rassles said...

"Hotter than crotch" is good. Excellent, in fact. I like you.

Anonymous said...

I hear you my friend. Imagine it when you dont smoke. I usually hang out at the lame snack table trying to find something to nibble on that isnt ham ridden.
Here is to Saturdays, laughing our asses off speaking guiri and drinking a real cocktail (none of this rum and coke).