Archive | March 2015

Voting In Spain

We just had some big elections here in southern Spain. Well, I say big. I mean, typical. Governments in, governments out. Do we really care who’s in charge?

Political Parties of SpainWell, but anyways, apolitical though I am, I do care up to a teentsy tiny point who’s in charge. So I decided to do something unusual and go and vote.

Now, I don’t know what it’s like to vote in other countries, since I’ve only voted in Spain and Canada. And I don’t know whether the process in Canada is normal either.

In Canada, you don’t just sign up to vote whenever you want to. Every four years someone comes around to your door and asks you who in your family is eligible to vote. You probably have to provide some sort of proof that the people you name are eligible to vote, like a passport or birth certificate or something, that proves the person is old enough to vote. I wouldn’t know, my parents always took care of all that.

This is called “Census Day” in Canada, and during the days leading up to this all important date, there are ads in all the media reminding people to stay at home that day so that they can get onto the Census List and receive the right to vote.

I always wondered what happened to people who didn’t or couldn’t stay at home on Census Day and couldn’t get onto the Census List. Did that mean that they couldn’t vote?

And what about people who moved after Census Day, but before the next one four years hence? Did that mean that they couldn’t vote after they moved, until the next Census Day swung around?

But since those were never concerns of mine anyways, I never discovered the answers.

Now, here in Spain, the process is completely different. I like it here more, because it’s much more within your control.

Here in Spain there are Censal Offices. There’s an office in every neighbourhood, town and village. So it doesn’t matter where you live, even if you live way out in the outback or on a farm, you can sign up to the Census List.

People won’t come to your door here. Nope. It’s YOUR responsibility here to go to your nearest Censal Office and sign up for yourself. You should sign up your family members too.

Once you are signed up, your name will automatically be sent to your Poling Station every time there is an election, and you can vote.

It’s as simple as that. Easy peasey.

On the day of the election, all you have to do is wiggle your way down to your Poling Station, well equipped with your ID, of course.

When you get to your Poling Station you will find a few police officers hanging around, usually looking a bit bored, in order to keep order. I live in a quiet neighbourhood, so manning a Poling Station is a rather boring task round here.

Inside the Poling Station you will see a couple of tables with a candidate from each of the main political parties sitting around eyeing each other rather suspiciously. They are there to make sure that there is no monkey business by members of opposing political parties.

It also saves trying to round up volunteers on the street who would be willing to sacrifice a beautiful Sunday hanging around in a Poling Station.

You have to present your ID and when they find your name on their lists, you can vote.

In Canada, the way to vote was, you went into a little private cubicle where you could pick up a sheet of paper. The names of all the candidates and their political parties were printed on the paper, and you had to choose just one. I don’t remember whether you chose your candidate by circling them, or making a tick mark next to them or making an X next to their name. But the point is, you had to read the instructions and make the correct type of marking, or your vote would be invalid.

Then you would slide the paper inside an envelope, which you would then seal and put inside the voting box.

Here in Spain, you also get to go into a private cubicle. But you don’t get a piece of paper with the names of all the candidates. Here, in the private cubicle, you will see piles of flyers in holders on the wall. There is a flyer for every candidate and their political party.

You must choose the one flyer corresponding to the one candidate and political party that you want, and you must slip that one flyer inside an envelope.

Then you seal the envelope, so no one can see which flyer you had chosen, and put the envelope into a voting box.

After that you can leave, pass the bored police officers, and hang out in the nearby bars, where you can observe all the people venting their passions and adrenalin with heated debates about politics.

If you enjoyed this post (I really hope you do!), maybe you will also like:

The Orange Trees

In The Studio of Antonio Lopez

Poetry by Hermenegildo: Bienvenida Sea La Primavera

Bye Bye Birds!

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

I was feeling quite sad because there are always things all over the place to remind me of what I had and don’t have anymore. Right now father’s day is coming up (here in Spain), so I am reminded all the time that I don’t really have a father anymore. The same thing when mother’s day comes around. Everywhere people seem to have so many people around them, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and husbands and wives.

I know we choose our lives and the people who are going to be in our lives before we’re born. And I always say, one day I’m going to have a psychic reading and ask why I chose to have no family in this lifetime.

But I also think, there are always people who are worse off. I think of Louise Hay, who had to face what I think is one of the most terrible things a person can have to face: having cancer. And she had to face it all alone. She had no family either, to help her or take care of her or support her as she fought cancer. She had to deal with her cancer all alone.

And then there’s Lazarillo de Tormes. You might not know who Lazarillo de Tormes is. He’s a fictional character, written about 5 centuries ago here in Spain. No one knows who the author is or, obviously, what the author’s life was like. But going on the premise that most novels are at least semi-autobiographical, we can assume that some of the things about Lazarillo would be true about his author too.

Lazarillo was an orphan. He had a terrible life as a child. He would be taken in by families who would abuse him and force him to work hard and beat him if he didn’t work hard. He finally “made it” by getting into petty crime and doing things like stealing. I don’t remember the ending.

They say some things you can look for if you don’t have them in your life. You can look for friends. You can look for causes, or organizations to belong to. But you can’t ACQUIRE a family, if you weren’t born with one.

Some people say, yes you can. You can get adopted into a family, or adopt one. But the fact of the matter is, not anyone can become your family and in fact, at least here in Spain, blood IS thicker than water. Here in Spain you can’t ACQUIRE a family. A family is something you are born with. And if you weren’t born with one, you will never have one. Because blood is blood and you will never share blood with anyone if you weren’t born into their family.

That’s just the way it is here. I had a best friend (we’re still really good friends, but maybe not best friends anymore because we live in different cities) and often she would wish that she could spend big occasions, like Christmas or summer holidays, with me instead of with her family. But she couldn’t. Her family wouldn’t let her, and she couldn’t be disloyal to her family.

Here in Spain, family ALWAYS comes first. And you can’t acquire a family or get adopted into a family. You just can’t. It’s just not done. No matter how close you are to someone, they might even love you more than they love their family. But you will never form a part of their family. And if they have to choose between you or their family, they will always choose their family.

I do see how blood is thicker than water. I often think it’s such an irony that to see what genes I have, I have to look at my kids, because they are the only people who share genes with me. I find it so curious how so many things that you think are just individual quirks, are actually genetically programmed.

My son has so many of the same gestures and expressions as his father. He’s never seen his father make these gestures (because he hardly ever sees his father), and they are not common gestures. So I know he didn’t pick them up by observing other people. He was just born with these gestures and tendencies, apparently they are in his genes.

And I can see how when you grow up surrounded by people who share your genes, you feel a certain affinity with them, that you don’t feel with people who are genetically different from you. Even if the people who are genetically different from you are supposed to be your parents.

When you grow up with people who share your genes, you look at them and you think, I’ve got the same expression as my mother. Or, look at that face that my father makes in X situation, I do exactly the same thing in that situation!

Have you noticed similarities with your family members that go far deeper than just a loving relationship, or interests in common? Please leave me your comments below. As usual, I LURRVE to receive (positive, non-spammy) comments!

If you enjoyed this post (I really hope you do!), maybe you will also like:

The Meaning of a Friendship

Childhood Friends

Blog About Blogs and Blogging

How Much Do YOU Value Your Friends?

Canada vs. US vs. Spain

3 flags3 flags3 flags + knot

I was just reading through expat blogs by Americans in Spain, and one of the things that most struck me, unbelievable though it might seem, was the differences between Americans and Canadians!

Now, you might find that a bit weird, considering that, you would expect, the differences between Spain and Canada should be far greater than those between the two North American countries which, when you come right down to it, still share a continent and have a common history and ancestry.

But I suppose perhaps I’ve just gotten used to the differences between Canada and Spain, since it has become quite customary to me to compare the two all the time. In fact, I’ve written another post in the past comparing life and customs in Canada vs. Spain.

The United States, on the other hand, is not a place I think about a whole lot. So it did strike me how different the United States really is from Canada.

Now, do take into account that perhaps my experiences might not be representative, and I’m sure another Canadian would probably have different views from me. I’m also not a “typical” Canadian (if there is such a thing).

I grew up in a small town in French Canada. The English language and culture that prevailed there were more British in many ways than American. So I think there are many things that I do that are more “British” than perhaps would happen with the average Canadian.

I write many, but not all, words the British way, and I use some British terms more than their American equivalent. And then there are some words that I use that are just, simply, Canadian, lol.

So I will write “realize” and “criticize”, but “favourite” and “colour”.

Now, having said that, it’s also true that that doesn’t make us “Brits” or British in any way. I don’t speak with a British accent. I’ve been told I don’t have an American accent either, however, but rather, an “unidentifiable” but fairly neutral one. Maybe, if anything, perhaps slightly “Scottish”, since there is a strong Scottish influence in Canada.

In fact once, in London, a wonderfully friendly gentleman told me he was sure I must be from Scotland, and he was flabbergasted when I told him I wasn’t. He said I had such a typical Scottish accent!

So now, these were the differences, in no particular order, that caught my attention the most.

Words

I will say torch and rubber, and I had no idea that in the States, rubber is a “bad” word hehe. But I also say pants, car trunk and running shoes (rather than trainers or tennis shoes). And in my particular part of the world, we would say patio, the same as in Spain, and métro rather than subway, tube or underground.

Place Names

I am used to places being called “Place” (as in Place Bonaventure, a place that really exists in Montreal), which is the equivalent of the Spanish plaza. It took me a long time to find out what English speaking people call a “Place” (ie. Square).

It didn’t make much sense to me when I found it out. As far as I could tell, although it’s true that some “places” (with silent “e”) are square, such as the Plaza Mayor in Madrid, as far as I could tell, most were round. So I really couldn’t fathom why they are called “squares” in English language areas of the world.

We also call very wide avenues “boulevards”. And as I mentioned before, we take the “métro” rather than the subway or underground.

Sovereignty and Imperialism

The great majority of Canadians enjoy being a monarchy and having Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. I dunno, we just do. We think it’s pretty cool, to have a queen and a royal family. It’s quaint and fun. What’s more, the British royal family have always been quite crazy about Canada and have always treated the country well.

Customs and Names

In Canada we hang out at the shopping centre rather than the mall. We can do our shopping at both a grocery store or a supermarket. A grocery store usually refers to a small food shop while supermarkets are very large.

Like Americans, we go to elementary school and high school. But after graduation, we don’t head off to a college but rather, to a university. A college, as far as I was ever able to discern, was a sort of élite school where children from wealthy families could attend for a year or so after high school but before entering university. In that sense, I suppose you could sort of refer to a college as a “preparatory school”.

Colleges were also vocational schools where you could study a “métier” or a trade, if you didn’t want to go to university or undertake academic studies.

What You Can Buy

Canadians always go crazy when we go to visit the United States and we walk into a store, like Walmart or a supermarket. It is like going to the Mecca! There are sooo many things to buy in the United States! Such a variety of brands and such a humungous number of goods is never available at a shop in Canada!

Now, it is true that there are some things that we have more of in Canada than in Spain. We have instant flavoured oatmeal and cream of wheat. We have more cookie flavours than in Spain.

But the cheese selection is really, really poor. Basically, from what I remember, about the only cheese you could buy was cottage cheese and the plastic-flavoured Kraft cheddar cheese cut into little square slices and wrapped in plastic.

In fact, there seemed to be a dearth of milk and dairy products in general in Canada. We only had one, maybe at the most two, brands of milk. You could get it in whole fat, semi and skimmed varieties. But there were only one or two brands.

I remember going to the supermarket for the first time in Spain. I nearly fell over when I beheld the gigantic range of choices in brands of milk. Puleva, Pascual, Covap, Asturiana…… Just the brands of milk you could buy in Spain occupied one entire aisle!

The same is true of yoghurts as well. In Canada, at least when I lived there, you had Sealtest, and that was it. True, there were many flavours you couldn’t find, like blueberry and raspberry, which were flavours that, until recently, seemed as foreign to Spanish people as Martian flavours.

But once again, the enormous number of brands of yoghurt available in Spain was overwhelming, to me.

In Canada, most people read about all the new products that come out in the US in magazines and drool over them. We count the years (yes, years) until they finally start getting imported to Canada.

And if we’re lucky and we live near the border, like I did, we get to take a road trip a couple of times a year to the US, where we bombard the stores and SNATCH UP aaalll those goodies that we just can’t find in Canada.

We’d drive back to the border with the car trunk loaded to the maximum. Usually the kind and understanding customs officers would just glance through our goods, which were probably enough to stock up a small shop, and wave us through with a sympathetic smile.

I remember when Carmex brand lip balm first came out in the States. A friend of mine who was a makeup artist dropped in to the south of the border and hoarded up a huge stash of little jars of Carmex, which she then doled out magnanimously among her friends back in Canada.

Canada doesn’t have its own car company either. They import all their cars, although several American companies, like Ford, do have factories in Canada, where they manufacture vehicles solely for use in this country.

So I was quite amazed when I arrived in Spain and discovered that Spain actually has its own car company, Seat.

The American Dream

As far as I’m aware, no such equivalent exists in Canada. If anything, perhaps the Canadian dream is to be able to emigrate to the United States haha!

How about you? If you are a Canadian, or an American who has ever visited Canada, or a Canadian or American living in Spain, what differences have you found?

Do leave me a comment if you’d like. I LURRVE receiving (positive, non-spammy) comments!

If you enjoyed this post (I really hope you do!), maybe you will also like:

Spain vs. Canada

Who Is Jack Frost?

Andalucía cuatro de la tarde

Blog About Blogs and Blogging