It took moving to Portugal for Jeff to become a staunch defender and big fan of Spain. Being an engineer, he likes streamlined, easily explained, well defined processes. In other words, if you can tell him the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, and he understands the rational, he’s all in. Sometimes, while living in Spain the headwinds we encountered did not reach all three of these criteria. But overtime we learned the ‘what’ and we just complied. That had to suffice.
I got my first glimpse of his appreciation for Espana while watching the newly released special by American comedian, Jim Gaffigan on Amazon Prime called ‘The Pale Tourist’. The first episode was all about his adventures in Canada. Being North American and having been to Canada (we liked to think of Seattle as Southern Canada – especially these days) we could related to some of the funny observations. Poutine and the cold winters of Saskatchewan. But the second episode was shot in Barcelona and it was a train wreck,
Gaffigan started right out of the gate mocking the ‘lisp thing’, heavy on the ‘Bar- th-elona’ and then rolled right into the ‘There’s too many autonomous regions’ and slammed headlong into ‘What’s up with Cantalunya trying to become it’s own country?’ Jeff was having none of it.
‘I used to like this guy. Now he’s just being an asshole. Who does he think he is coming here and bashing Spain. He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. And look at that audience. Their faces say they’re not happy either and the laughter is half-hearted. Like their trying to be polite when he doesn’t deserve it. Does he get he’s standing in Barcelona? It’s so culturally insensitive I’m embarrassed for him. This is why people hate Americans. I can’t watch this – it’s a train wreck. Turn it off. They shouldn’t have called this ‘Pale Tourist’ It should have been ‘Stupid Tourist who comments on things he doesn’t understand.”
My mouth was hanging open. When did Jeff become a staunch defender of Spain? Apparently it took moving to Portugal. Then he looked up the selection on Amazon.es (as I’ve said before), and other sites like El Corte Ingles.
‘The selection in Spain is so much better.’
And today we were driving back from the bank in Leiria.
‘Look at these people. We’ve nearly been killed three times since we left Leiria! Motorcycles pass 5 cars on a solid white line on a two lane highway at 100km per hour! This would never happen in Valencia. It’s like everyone has a death wish in rural Portugal.’
I choked on my laughter. This is the same man who muttered constantly driving in Valencia. ‘mutter mutter mutter – cars just creating seven fucking lanes in a 3 lane round about!? – mutter mutter mutter…’ and now he’s a fan of driving in Valencia.
Last night we were watching Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez give a speech on TV. I was a little surprised that I was able to tease out much of what he was staying – no subtitles in english. I was telling Jeff the gist of it (I know I got it mostly right because on Twitter later they hit the high points and there is a translation) and he said ‘Imagine. A rational human being as the leader of your country (of course, it’s no secret we are not big fans of the orange one in the US). I’m all about his scientific approach. He declared the State of Alarm, the regions criticized the government overreach, he tried to get it extended, they wouldn’t allow it, lost control of the virus, and now they’re saying he should declare another one. But he’s asking for partnership and co-governance. He’s a reasonable man. And I bet he speaks multiple languages. Smart guy.’
I knew I needed to be judicious in my response. ‘So you miss Spain?’ I asked him.
‘I don’t know. I like it here. This house. Being on the ocean. But there are things I miss about living in Spain. I finally understood it. It’s not like Portugal and Spain are the same country.’
Well, duh. But I didn’t say that. I just listened and I agree. Mostly. I took all those history classes for Spain. And I watched a lot of their news. We made sure we tried to understand the political landscape so we could feel a part of things and be culturally sensitive. When there were elections we read what the candidates stood for, even if we couldn’t vote. We kept up on local initiatives and how the Valencian government were shaping the future. We cared. It was what any good citizen does, but I’m not sure I appreciated just how much until now.
I’m sure we’ll do the same once we are settled here. Once the house closes I’ll feel like we’re here for good. Like we’re living, rather than reacting to circumstances for getting this thing across the finish line. It’s like a full-time job these days. And Portugal will become our home. But for now – I know how Jeff felt last night watching Pedro Sanchez on TV. It was a little stab of home sickness. In 2 1/2 years Spain had become our home. And right about now, I think I underestimated just how deep it went. For both of us.