Tag Archive | expats

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!

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CBBH Photo Challenge: Street Art

I’d been thinking about putting up a post with just Malaga street art for a while now, seeing as I pass by quite a few of these murals every day. But since that always happens when I’m on the way to one of the ten-hour-per-day jobs that I have (now, I don’t work ten hours a day for any one company but when you work for four different companies, all those hours can really add up!) I can never stop and hop off the bus to take photos! Maybe one day I will do it……

But in the meantime, Marianne of East of Malaga just happened to put up a timely monthly photo challenge on urban street art, so I thought I’d take advantage of that to post the two tiny little pics I did manage to make of some, well, interesting paintings that I’ve passed by lately.

Street ArtYou can see this right downtown in the historic city centre, don’t remember which street it’s on though, maybe on or near calle Beatas?

TurtleJust passed by this turtle walking around Teatinos.

Antonio Lopez DiazEven though I wouldn’t exactly qualify this as street art per se, well, it’s still a mural on a wall. The only thing is that you can only see this mural if you enter into the building. But it’s still on a wall. And you can see it from the street if you pass by the building and peer in through the glass door…… This mural is by a well-known painter in Almería, Antonio López Díaz. You can see more paintings by this wonderful artist here in In the Studio of Antonio López.

Since the photo challenge is for blog hopping, but unfortunately working ten hours a day leaves me with little time to browse through blogs, I haven’t commented on many blogs lately.

The Wagoner family has one of my favourite blogs in the whole wide world here at Wagoners Abroad. They’ve got two kids and as you know, since I do too, I’m really into expat stories by people with kids. They’re lots of fun too!

Well I’ve never commented on the next blog before, so Danielle and Youssef, who run it, don’t even know I exist. But lately I find I’m really fascinated by Lebanese culture and cuisine (and a visit to Beirut, the “Paris of the Middle East” is certainly high on my bucket list!), so This Is Beirut is a wonderful blog for people interested in Lebanon, the Middle East, or who would like to move there.

I hope Marianne of East of Malaga won’t mind that I snitch her photo of her white bunny to go with the photo challenge. If you click on the photo you can visit the post with the rules of the CBBH Photo Challenge.

Conejo Blanco

Happy Hopping!

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My First Demo

Spain Vs. Canada

I’ve been sitting around noticing how expats often blog about the differences between life in their new country and life in their country of origin.

Spain and Canada

(I’ve also been noticing how widespread it seems that bloggers who have never left their own country just naturally assume that everything is going to be exactly the same in all the rest of the world as it is in their own country. I would LOVE to be able to inform them that not everyone around the world has access to The Vitamin Shoppe, and that we can’t all order online from US internet sellers, but anyways…… And those people who run blogs like that would never read this one……)

But anyways, so I thought I’d do something similar. Now, taking into account, however, that I’ve been living in Spain for so many years, it’s almost more like my own country than my real own country. But even so, there are several things that do jump out at me, so let’s go, on with the list:

* One of the very first things that struck me is how different ordinary, everyday objects can be. Door handles, toilet bowls, light switches and, of course, electrical outlets. In Canada everyone has round door handles. That’s just the way door handles are made there, I guess that’s how Canadians like it. Here, however, door handles are long. I actually like them better here, the round ones are always slipping out of your hands whereas here, you’ve got something you can really get a good grip on! (They also make great hooks for hanging stuff on.)

* In Canada, there’s only one way to flush a toilet bowl: using a little lever on the front of the tank that sticks out a little to one side. Here, on the contrary, there are so many different contraptions each with their own way of flushing. The first toilet bowl I ever saw here had nothing but a little ball on top of the tank. What in the world are you supposed to do with a little ball?? I tried spinning it around, pushing on it, edging it in one direction and another, all to no avail. At some point (probably when people were starting to wonder whether I had actually fainted or something in the bathroom) it occurred to me to pull on it! Wonder of wonders, it worked!

* The bidet. Does anyone reading this have a bidet? (I, of course, do not, seeing as I live in a minuscule, cramped one-bedroom-with-a-walk-in-closet-as-the-second-bedroom.) The first time I saw one I didn’t know what it was, or what you were supposed to do with it. Was it some sort of strange, low-level wash basin for little kids to wash their hands and faces in? Was it a weird sort of toilet bowl, maybe? In the end I myself ended up using it to wash things (like clothes) by hand, very useful for that sort of thing.

* Spain is very, very urban, compared to Canada. Even in a major city in Canada all sorts of wildlife prowl the streets: hares, chipmunks, racoons, skunks and even the occasional red fox, not to mention the ubiquitous squirrels of every colour. I expected to find bulls roaming free in the streets of Madrid at the very least, and yet it turned out to be one of the most urban, built-up, concrete-and-cement jungles I’ve ever encountered. You can travel for miles (well, several blocks anyways) without seeing one little piece of greenery. And animals? The only thing you will find is a pigeon.

* I suppose every expat in Spain must have noticed this but I will mention it anyways: the total (or almost total) lack of foreign goods and imported products (with the exception, of course, of electronics like computers, Nintendos, Wii’s……). The list of foods you can’t get here in Spain would be so long it would probably cover reams and reams of paper. You can’t get a lot of make-up either, unless you are really into mass-produced junk churned out by companies that test on animals like L’Oreal, or elitist little venues that charge a fortune for a tiny vial of something, like L’Occitane or La Mer. (Now, having said this, I still won’t deny that even so I would still LOVE to be able to get my hands on something from L’Occitane one day, just to try it out!) Now, I do realize that slowly all of this is changing. From what I’ve been reading, famous companies like BeneFIT and Nars finally seem to have made the discovery that Spain exists and that it actually has women, who use make-up. Hopefully more low-cost-but-good-quality US brands like ELF will one day follow suit, so that us “poor” women who don’t want to patronize animal testers can still afford to look good.

* Schools. Well, I don’t find schools a whole lot different here from in Canada. Sending kids to school is a tradition that dates back millennia, so I don’t suppose it is all that different now from one hundred years ago or from one continent to another. The curricula is also not that radical. Kids learn the basics everywhere, reading, writing and arithmetic. Throw in a bit of algebra and science. The one thing that has changed enormously, is the role of computers in the classroom – but that has to do with the times, not with the country.

* I find schools A LOT more secure here than in Canada. In Canada, anyone, like a maniac with a gun, can just wander into a school and when the kids leave, they just leave. Any creep can pick them up off the streets before their parents arrive. Here a teacher or monitor will personally hand the child over to the parent when s/he arrives, and not to anyone else. It can occasionally lead to paranoid moments, when for example a new teacher or monitor doesn’t know who you are, and refuses to hand your child to you because she doesn’t recognize you! And speaking of parents, in Canada most kids travelled to school by bus, in those famous yellow school buses, at least in my experience. Here, however, school buses are quite rare and parents themselves must pay for them. Most kids are personally brought in to school by their parents, no matter how far away they live.

On the other hand, school buses here are quite the luxurious item. We had to travel squeezed tightly into these cramped, dirty (well, the ones I travelled on were always dirty) yellow school buses while European kids breeze along in their airy, spacious, top-of-the-line luxury coaches. I always want to ask them if they realize how lucky they are to be able to go to school in one of those, which always look clean, and there is room for them to put down their backpacks and stick out their feet.

* Most things, in general, are just generally a lot more tightly controlled here in Spain than they are in Canada. That is, I think, both good and bad. The good thing is that not just anyone can have access to things and people here the way they do in Canada. For example, if you are in a hospital and someone is trying to kill you, it would be very easy for them to pay you a visit in Canada. But here, who can enter into a hospital room to visit a patient is very restricted. When my mother-in-law was in the hospital she was only allowed to receive visitors for two hours a day, only one visitor at a time and no children were allowed to see her. I thought that was extraordinarily sad, the people she wanted most of all to see were her grandchildren. In Canada, on the other hand, a whole bunch of us including babies could pile into a patient’s room, much to the patient’s great joy and relief.

Because Canadians don’t have ID cards, that sometimes makes things harder in Canada and sometimes easier. It’s harder, when (in Canada) a person is very paranoid and won’t let you have something unless you can produce about thirty documents that prove that you are who you say you are. Since there really is no norm in Canada that states that you must identify yourself a certain way, in other places you don’t have to do anything to prove that you are who you say you are. It all seems to depend mostly on the establishment’s own personalized, rather haphazard policies.

* Stores. Need I say it, it is a lot harder to buy anything in Spain, and generally a lot more expensive too. In Canada, we had all sorts of cheap-o shops where you could get things for a dollar or two (and I’m not referring to dollar stores). Drugstores sold make-up (and not exactly from China either) for a dollar or two. We had Zeller’s (which may not exist anymore) and Woolco (which I think has since been bought up by Walmart) where everything was cheap. Pyjamas for the kids were cheap. Shoes for the kids were cheap. Shampoo was cheap. Diapers were, perhaps, the only thing that wasn’t cheap there! You’ll never find something like that here in Spain!

* Convenience. Living in Spain is like about a hundred times more convenient than living in Canada! In a Canadian city, you might have a grand total of perhaps THREE or at the most FOUR large supermarkets in the entire area, usually located in distant suburbs and generally requiring the use of two urban buses in order to arrive at the location. In Canada, most cities are divided into residential neighbourhoods and commercial districts, which makes the term “shopping in your own neighbourhood” a bit irrelevant. I LOVE being able to just hop downstairs when I want some bread or milk, rather than have to hop onto two buses for some bread and milk. (Well, of course, since I went to the trouble of hopping onto two buses and riding for perhaps two hours, I would of course buy more than just bread and milk, but I hope you get the picture.)

* Employment (hehe, this subject had to come up, of course!). Quite frankly, getting a job is a lot easier in Canada than in Spain. Not because it’s richer or has a great, booming economy (which it doesn’t, like every country in the world, it’s in crisis). The reason is because employers here in Spain are just so **** demanding! You can’t even work in a f***g McDonald’s here without possessing at least three different types of professional certifications and presenting about thirty references.

Basically, in order to work at the counter at McDonald’s here, you would need something similar to an MBA from Harvard, a few internships in a variety of different large corporations and a couple of courses of “Manipulador de alimentos” which you would, of course, have passed with flying colours (and be in possession of the official, government-issued certificates to prove it, too). Then later Americans ask me why don’t I just get a job at McDonald’s, since apparently in the US McDonald’s will just hand the position over to the first person who waltzes in off the street and asks for it. They say, after all, I don’t need any qualifications to work at McDonald’s, right, and anyone can do it? Snort snort! That must be in the States, because here……!

What kids habitually do in Canada such as delivering newspapers, selling lemonade or babysitting for a bit of small change would be considered child labour here in Spain, which is, of course, illegal. Here, you are supposed to leave your kids with a responsible adult (ie. over eighteen years of age) or you would be considered a negligent parent. So asking your thirteen-year-old little niece over to watch the toddlers for a couple of hours just wouldn’t cut it here. (A lot of people do it here, however, which is okay as long as nobody knows about it and can report them to the police.) In Canada a lot of kids begin working at the age of fourteen in shops and boutiques to earn a bit of spare change because probably their parents refuse to give them money for clothes or entertainment and you know, a teenager without the latest fashion or being able to go out to the pub is one very sad teenager indeed!

* And of course, there are, I think, a lot more ways to save money in Canada than in Spain. There, you can have garage sales, buy on Craigslist or get your clothes at the Salvation Army. I know there is a thing here in Spain called Segundamano, which is supposed to be like Craigslist, but the few times I’ve looked at it it was practically empty, except for a rush of ads in the “Personals” sections. In Spain, I find that there really isn’t as much of a culture of “second-hand” or “one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure” sort of thing. People tend to throw things away into the bin rather than give them away and there appears to be a bit of a stigma around using second-hand items (except for electronic items). No one wants to buy their clothes second-hand here, for example, whereas in Canada even very respectable, professional women had no qualms about shopping at the Salvation Army.

* Sales taxes. Well, the only thing I can say about that is that Rajoy has probably been eyeing Canada a lot lately and trying to learn from Canadians. Maybe he figured, if he started charging taxes like the ones they do in Canada, Spain would somehow magically transform itself into a country similar to Canada? (Well, with taxes like that, I can certainly understand why Canada doesn’t have Spain’s debt.)

And then, the worst thing is, that in Canada sales taxes are not included in the listed price for an item. So when you’ve filled up your basket with all the goodies that you would like to take home with you, you take it to the cashier, who then passes it through the cash register which performs some sort of complicated, algorithmic calculations and then spits out at you the amount of tax that you must pay in addition to the cost of the items that you wish to buy.

So, now your modest little basket, which perhaps summed up to be about ten dollars when you were just looking at the price on the price tag, has now suddenly jumped up to perhaps a whopping twenty-five dollars! (Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a tad bit, but not much.)

* Efficiency and productivity, especially in the workplace. Ever wonder why it takes at least five times longer to get anything done in Spain than it does in Canada?

The other day I was at the unemployment office here in Malaga. I was observing human behaviour. There was only one information counter and just one young guy manning that counter. He answered the queries from a couple of understandably confused people, then waltzed off to the back of the large office with a slip of paper, supposedly in order to file the paper away in its proper place. Well, so far so good, right?

He tucked the paper away succinctly into its proper file, then turned around. Did he turn around in order to return to the information counter? Of course not!

He actually turned around so he could chat with his co-workers who happened to be conveniently seated near the file cabinet he had just used. After chit-chatting for a space with these co-workers, he advanced a couple of steps towards the front of the office, then stopped to chit-chat with the next co-workers in his path. He did this at every step he took and as you can imagine, since it was a government office, it was filled with employees to chit-chat with.

Eventually, he was joined by a young lady who apparently had similar ideas to him, and they both took up a post somewhere in the centre of the office just chit-chatting and discussing whatever happened to be on their minds, together. They stood there for about fifteen minutes, talking animatedly, while the line-up before the (now unattended) information counter grew longer and longer. No one else bothered to attend to these people, and no one said anything to the young man who was supposed to be attending to the counter, either.

Eventually, the young man and his co-worker strolled casually back towards the information counter. They lingered a while longer next to the information desk so that they could conclude their rousing discussion before the employee started attending to the people in the line-up.

I have an acquaintance who owns a company that is going down the drain. One day I wandered into their office for a visit. He just happened to be berating an employee of his at that moment. His words, more or less, went something like this:

“You want to know what you’re doing wrong, and why I’m mad at you? You arrive every single day ten to fifteen minutes late! Then, every time I send you out on an errand, you have to go to a bar and have a drink before you return to work. It only takes you ten minutes to take the document to the address that I gave you, so why does it take you half an hour to get back? Because you’re spending twenty minutes in the bar!”

To which the young man replied, non-plussed: “Well, but I have a right to take a break, don’t I?”

I asked my acquaintance why he didn’t just fire this lazy dead-beat, but he said it wouldn’t have made any difference, because everyone he hired did the same thing. That’s just what people are like, and how they expect to behave, around here in southern Spain.

* All the things which are traditional and “home-grown” are, of course, easily and readily available here in Spain, such as (in my case, as these are the things I use a lot): sweet almond oil, anything with chestnuts in it (I *heart* my raw chestnut honey, lol!), olive oil OF COURSE, I mean, we are in the heart of olive land, right?

However, if you want anything that must be produced in another country, then you would be fairly outta luck here, as Spaniards seem to be allergic to importing things (except things like computers, Nintendos, mobile phones……).

So, in conclusion, is life better or worse in Spain or in Canada? Well, I don’t think it’s either better or worse, it’s just different. And I guess it also depends, too, on what sorts of things you like, personally.

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A Celebration of Single Motherhood

Lately I’ve been going through blogs by other women where they talk about how they raise their children, and what everyday life is like in these typical family households. So I thought maybe I would do something similar. I expect that in some ways my life wouldn’t be like those of other families, because we’ve only got one “head” of the household – and it isn’t a man!!

But in so many other ways, life in a family with children always has certain similarities, no matter the individual circumstances.

However, I have to claim that I LOVE being able to wake up my children to go to school every morning in the way that I want. All the same, they HATE getting up in the morning to go to school. I’d like to remind them how lucky they are to get woken up with lots of tickling and stroking and kisses, instead of lots of screaming (although I do also do a lot of that, when tickling, stroking and kissing don’t work!).

It doesn’t make very much difference to them at 7:30 in the morning, though. All they want to do is turn over and go back to sleep!

Running a marathon with my kids to get into school on time is yet another new challenge every day. We got the tough luck of getting them assigned to a school about fifty miles away (okay, it’s more like just one kilometre, but try running one kilometre in ten minutes every morning!) because one year we arrived from Barcelona in the middle of the school year, and they didn’t get admitted to any other school.

I’m very pleased and happy with their school, though. It’s in a nicer neighbourhood than where we live, which means that the kids in their classes are generally from nice, well-educated, polite homes.

Being a single mamma means no lounging around in bed until a late hour, then ambling off to the local market for the day’s menus, the way I would probably do if I were a traditional Spanish housewife married to a working man.

No offense meant to stay-at-home Spanish housewives, of course, please don’t be offended! I know that housewives work veeery hard and here in southern Spain, still a bastion of machismo, even more so. However, I also believe that single mothers must still work harder than married ones, because we have to go out and win the bread as well as cook, clean and run the household.

We also have to pay the bills alone.

Having said that, I believe that we also enjoy a load of luxuries that married women most often can’t claim.

When the kids don’t have school, I can sleep until the hour that I want. Now that they are old enough to prepare their own breakfasts and entertain themselves……

I can cook what I want, and if I don’t feel like cooking, I can buy something frozen or ready-made at the supermarket across the street. I imagine if I had a hubby, he’d be roaring for specific menu items, and I bet Eroski brand Spanish tortilla just wouldn’t make the cut in his opinion!

We can do what we like on week-ends. Of course, being a “struggling single mamma” most often means that we can’t take luxurious outings, like going to theme parks, on a regular basis. But I do save up so that occasionally I can treat the kids to something a bit pricier, like a trip to the zoo for my son’s birthday.

Being single and a mother means that I have to go to work. That means that I can’t sit around every morning waiting for that slow-cooking pot of stew to boil, and lunch will often have to consist of something that pops into the oven and simmers there for just ten minutes. It means I don’t meander through the local marketplace every day, chatting leisurely with the merchants, and our routine usually consists of a once-a-week shopping excursion – except I’ve probably only got about half the amount of money to spend on these once-a-week shopping excursions than would a complete family with a working father and a working mother.

It also means, though, that I get to lounge around at home in the evenings and do what I please. I don’t have to give hubby a massage because he’s “beat from a long, hard day at work”. I don’t have to clean up hubby’s mess because his mamma never taught him to clean up after himself. I don’t have to give my son a shower every night if I don’t feel like it – after all, hubby will never know and be able to protest about that, because hubby doesn’t exist!

I also don’t have to put up with disagreements about how to raise our children. There are no forced catechisms for them, no boring masses on Sunday mornings when the bed and warm quilts are just soooooooooo much more inviting! I don’t have to leap up from the middle of a dream about “kissing Valentino in a crystal-clear Italian stream” in order to dash over to the in-laws’ for their traditional Sunday lunch.

So, all in all, I guess life’s tougher if you’re single with little kids.

But then again, if you’re married, you also miss out on so many small pleasures, like having no fights, playing what you want with the kids, feeding what you want to the kids and being able to watch all your favourite TV shows hehe!

Kids On The Beach

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CBBH Photo Challenge: Reflection

I don’t often get around to rummaging through old photos and picking out specific themes. But I felt like taking up the challenge from Marianne of East of Malaga today and putting up some photos with the theme of the month.

I’ve seen some neat galleries on other blogs, but I don’t know how to set up a gallery here so I guess I’ll just bumble along with the old traditional way: plunking down photos one by one!

Ciutadella Barcelona

This was from our trip to Barcelona. Seems such a long time ago!

Calle Larios Malaga

Larios Street (calle Larios), the major pedestrian thoroughfare of downtown Malaga, is so beautifully lit up at night.

Chunky Statue

Thought this was a most unusual perspective on reflections, this statue, in Torremolinos, is polished so smooth you can even make out the details on the building it’s reflecting.

Malaga Street

These nocturnal alleyways are lovely in black and white too, and more mysterious at that.

Nebulous Reflections

I’m not going to tell you what that one is! I’ll leave it up to your imaginations!

Rio Chillar River

This was a scenic gorge you can wade through on the Chillar River near Nerja.

River Malaga

Shadows in the Water

This could be any city, any riverbank, any reflection.

Well, I would like to link to Toby at Travels With Toby, who reminded me about the CBBH Photo Challenge. She’s travelled a lot, and with any luck, one day she’ll be my neighbour here in Spain!

Then I’d like to recommend another blog even though it isn’t really related to travelling, photography or Spain, A Sprinkle of Al Sharq. What Sprinkle and I both have in common is we’re both single mums! I know lots of single mums but even with that, I think we’re still a minority.

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Marbella, Land of the Jet Set?

Do people in Marbella spend most of their days lying around a poolside, sipping champagne and zipping off every once in a while in their own personal yachts when they get bored?

Well, I dunno. Most of the people I know in Marbella are pretty poor and down-and-out. Although, on the other hand, I have to admit that most of the local people I know in general here in the south of Spain are pretty poor and down-and-out. (Unlike in Barcelona, where most of my friends were average, middle-class and with good jobs.)

Marbella Street

I’ve got a friend who works cleaning houses. She’s a single mum, she has to struggle to make ends meet. Although she’s been living this way for years, and I guess she’s doing pretty fine when you take everything into account. She’s been able to pay her rent up till now, never got her electricity cut off for non-payment, hasn’t as yet had to resort to living off of flour and potatoes for a week or take her son to the homeless shelter for a meal.

But does she live off of Chardonnay and pink champagne or lounge on the beach in topless designer bikinis?

Church Tower Marbella

Well, she does lounge on the beach sometimes. But not in designer bikinis, hers are more likely to hail from the dollar store.

Most of the time she doesn’t have shampoo, shower gel, cutlery, pots and pans or towels in her home. You know, the usual, basic, everyday items that most of us take for granted that everyone will have and that most of us assume that everyone can afford. When she can get it, she usually has milk (after all, she’s got a growing kid) and oil, olive oil when things are going great, sunflower when things are a bit tighter.

Belen Marbella

So, well, you can’t exactly say she’s starving to death. But maybe that’s not exactly how you expect an inhabitant of opulent Marbella to be living, either.

Another friend in Marbella is pretty hip. She’s an artist, so, of course, she makes art. Handicraft, to be more precise. Then she sells it in improvised stalls at street markets.

Passageway Marbella

Well, that’s not such a bad way to make a living. She says her best-selling wares, nonetheless, aren’t her artwork but rather, cheap clothes that she barters away for one, two or three euros apiece.

You know, fashion’s quite important in Marbella.

Square Marbella

Now, I know that supposedly, a lot of world-class citizens are supposed to own mansions and palaces in Marbella. The famous (and wealthy) Spanish singer Isabel Pantoja is perhaps Marbella’s most renowned sweetheart. Arab sheiks seem to like to make Marbella their home. The rich and famous favour Marbella as their winter hideout, and I imagine that if you mention the name of this small city, probably images of luxury spas and giant estates surrounded by lush gardens and palm trees spring to mind.

But the truth is, I didn’t see any of these famed properties. Now, logically, I know that they exist but I guess, like the mythical Shangri-La, maybe you’ve got to be “in the know” in order to be able to find them. Sort of like the mystic valley behind the mountains whose doors only open to you if you happen to be a seeker of spiritual truth, or something of the sort, and you come in peace.

Typical Street Marbella

So in conclusion, I guess Marbella is just yet another example of a typical southern Spanish locale where the lifestyles of the “natives” (ie. Spanish people) differ enormously from those of its foreign (and usually world-celebrity) inhabitants.

Now, I know that Marbella and, for that matter, the great majority of communities both large and small in southern Spain, are going to be just fairly normal, average, ordinary towns where you can find all sorts of people. Well-to-do people with large homes surrounded by gardens, middle-class citizens with reliable but not outstanding jobs and poorer, more marginal types, who work in the “domestic assistance” sector or at odd jobs.

Marbella Lights in the Sky

But it strikes me over and over again how such a large proportion of the Spanish people I know and meet in this part of the country belong to the “poorer, more marginal types”, as opposed to well-off foreigners or Spaniards with steady employment living in other regions of Spain, such as Madrid, Barcelona or basically any northern city.

And over and over again it makes me wonder: Is it just the culture? Perhaps here in this part of the country kids aren’t encouraged to work? Maybe they just grew up used to observing their out-of-work fathers lounging around on the sofas most of the time, and decided that that was the way people are supposed to live? (I say fathers, of course, because on the contrary here mothers never rest. There is always more work to be done around the home, meals to be cooked, rooms to be cleaned, clothes to be ironed…..)

Wrought-Iron Head

What really struck me about this balcony was the incredible intricate faces in wrought iron. Do you see them?

Is it just the attitude? Maybe here people don’t bother trying, because they think: Well, Andalucia has always been poor, so what’s the use?

I don’t know what it is that exists here in southern Spain, that keeps people poor and uninterested in obtaining or completing their education. I don’t know why so many people take “recreational” drugs here. Well, I know that drugs are a major problem in many parts of the world, and not only here. But here, I get the impression that most people take them. Or at least most of the people that I know, at any rate.

My ex brother-in-law recently passed from an overdose of the medication he was taking to wean himself off of strong illegal substances. He came from a good, well-off, educated family. He didn’t need to take drugs. He had a successful business.

Many of my friends here take drugs too. A little bit of Mary over here, a joint of hashish on the beach. Some coke if you’re successful and you can afford it. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much (or little) money you’ve got, drugs are always readily available and easy to obtain at any gathering with your friends.

All the same, I thought I’d leave you with some images of historic Marbella in the evening, with the colours of the setting sun tinting the sky.

Marbella Street With Flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a photo full of light, in case you were tired of gazing at all those dark night photos.

Staircase Marbella

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Chance to Leave Me a Little Cuddly Hug

The Expat Blog Awards are coming up! As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m so chuffed to have received a nomination for the Top Expats Blog Award. This is your last chance to leave a little bit of love for this blog (and for me!).

So if you like this blog, and you’d like to help me, please click on the badge below and leave me a comment (a NICE, sweet and cuddly one, please) and a rating. That would be so sweet of you and I’ll be so tickled if you do!

Living in Spain

And a big, humungous thank you and a sweet little kissie-kiss for all those who vote for me!

Lizard

Okay, so I wanted to leave you all with a photo of some sweet, cuddly, furry little animal, but I haven’t got any. I seem to be drawn more to creepy-crawlie things, right? Like crocodiles, and Barbary macaques and drooling birds, don’t you think? Well, at least this guy’s cute!