Friday, February 5, 2010

Now I Actually Tell You About Things... the weekend begins I figure I should catch up on the previous week. I know I've told a lot of people some of these stories already, but it turns out more people are reading this than I thought, so you'll all just have to suffer.

Friday and Saturday were trip days. Friday we had a class trip to Toledo, the ancient capital where supposedly Muslims, Christians, and Jews all lived in harmony until the inquisition drove them out. It notably contains places of worship named "Synagogue of Saint Mary the White" and "Mosque of Christ the Light". On Saturday, I went by bus with a couple of friends to a city called Buitrago in the north of the province. It was pretty interesting and still has its old Arab wall. It also contains a tiny Picasso museum in the basement of the municipal building. Apparently Picasso was very close to his barber and gave him lots of books with marker doodles, among other things. Said barber was a Buitrago resident and donated his gifts to the town government in his will. We later took a walk to the next village, Gascones, which had little of interest to offer other than a population below 150. I have pictures of everything, but I'm still working on getting them online. I'll link them soon.

Friday evening, some friends convinced me to go to what looked from the flier to be a fairly risque cabaret but ended up being a standard drag show at a bar. The first drag queen, Traumática, told reasonable jokes (I think - I don't understand colloquial Castellano well when it's spoken that quickly), but the second performer, Lady Noche, was truly a worthwhile experience. While something seemed wrong at first glance, it took me a minute or so to realize that she was wearing blackface! I was sort of horrified, but not quite as much as the African-American woman (and only other American there, it seemed) standing in front of us. Lady Noche also pretended to be American for her act, and actually had an American accent in Spanish down pretty well, though she didn't quite have it in English. This gave us an opportunity to hear the American stereotypes of the evening, which seemed to be (1) we're extremely religious and always dedicate things to Jesus, (2) while we assume everyone speaks English, we put an effort into speaking Spanish, but do so extremely poorly with hilarious effects (she at one point said "tengo maricones en mi estómago" for "I have butterflies in my stomach"), and (3) we're really naive about foreigners and think they're all friendly.

For the beginning of the week, we had a new professor to talk to us about immigration. She was an anthropologist of Cuban descent and clearly didn't like how immigrants were treated in Spain. After the first day, which she spent telling us how much better the U.S. treats its immigrants than the Spanish, she began going radical. On Tuesday, when I suggested that I thought countries had a right to regulate their borders and determine who could immigrate, and that developing all of Africa was not a plausible short-term solution to immigration, I got a half-hour lecture about how I apparently wasn't recognizing the historical background of immigration and believed that Africans should be doomed to poverty. The next day, I tried to be less controversial, but apparently failed again. When I pointed out that the author of an article had made insufficient distinction between Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa and that this led to incorrect analysis of immigration flows and cultural connections, I was given another lecture on how if we can't talk about Africa as a whole, we can't talk about anything at all, because we'll just have to keep sub-dividing and sub-dividing. Any attempt to clarify myself caused her to repeat her lecture in a louder and angrier voice. Eventually, trying to end the conflict, I said I wasn't going to continue because I didn't speak Spanish well enough to clarify (Pilar's suggestion). Rather than putting the issue aside, she told me to explain it to the class in English so I could "get it out" even if she couldn't understand. I didn't exactly make a lot of friends that day it class.

Wednesday was also out visit to the stock market. Pilar and Álvaro had told me it was a peaceful place, which seemed like a strange description to me, but I didn't really expect how peaceful it was. Despite occupying a "temple to economics", the trading floor was almost completely empty in the middle of the morning. It turns out that trade aren't really conducted on the floor anymore, but rather are mostly online. As a result, most of the people were reading newspapers, chatting, or aimlessly watching the ticker. On the floor, an older man (like almost everyone else in the room stopped me. "What are you guys here for?" he asked.
"We're university students at the Autónoma"
"Do you guys study economics?"
"Some of us do, but we all study different things. I study economics, though."
"Oh, it's great that you're here. Kids these days don't know anything about stock markets. They just want to go and become the chief of a bank without understanding anything. I was an intermediary for years, but now that I'm retired, I still come here every day, just like everyone else. I hope you all learn a lot!"
Note to self: The Madrid Stock Exchange is, rather than the heart of the Spanish financial system, a beautiful financially-themed senior citizens' center.

1 comment:

  1. I, too, have lots of trouble because I suggest dissenting opinions in class. I've just stopped more of the time, because the some students kind of ahte me for it. blech.

    i love you story about the comedian in blackface at the bar! hearing american stereotypes in other countries is fantastic! i find it entertaining, although I guess I can see why people are offended... me I just take it as peephole into foreign culture and their view of americans. if im annoyed, i try to make sure i don't act like they portray americans. but really, it's funny!