Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Taking a cab as a blond-haired, blue-eyed joven speaking with an accent-laced Spanish is not always a walk in the park. Taxistas have tried to overcharge me. They’ve tried to drop me off at a destination other than what I’ve asked for. They’ve started to drive away with my suitcase. They’ve insulted my nationality. They’ve hit on me; one even claimed that taxi drivers in Spain are like doctors and lawyers elsewhere – every girl’s dream guy. But what happened today was a first for me.

I was in a cab on my way back from an appointment this afternoon when my taxista missed his turn. I wasn’t even paying much attention. He immediately apologized, saying, “I should have turned there. I’ll turn off the meter until I get us back on track.” Huh? What? I was left speechless. I didn’t even have to complain. It came from the goodness and the decency in him. Or perhaps from the fear of getting yelled at – Spanish women tend to have a bit of a temper (and I mean that as a compliment). Regardless, he took the next exit, got us back on track and told me when he turned the meter back on.

Is it worth noting that my taxista was not Spanish? I’m not sure if that had an impact on the whole exchange or not. My accent is noticeable, for sure, but could it have gone unnoticed on the ears of another foreigner? Or was he just a decent guy? Or both?

Thanks to ADN for the foto.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Bubbly at 6am

Last night I had plans to attend a local election-watching party, but my plan to sleep in between poll closings kept me home. So when the 5am hour rolled around and CNN proclaimed Obama the winner, I cheered to myself. (Well, and I went and woke up Nacho to tell him…) I broke open the bubbly while watching John McCain’s concession speech and waiting for Obama’s victory one. Shortly after Obama wowed us all with his impressive discourse (McCain’s was note-worthily good too!) it was lights out for me for a couple hours of sleep before heading to work, palmeritas in hand.

Heading out into the world today was a new experience for me as an expat. Why? When I studied abroad in Spain 11 years ago people talked about putting Canadian flag patches on their backpacks to cover up the fact that they were American, to avoid dealing with people’s preconceived notions. It wasn’t done out of shame over their nationality, but instead as a defense mechanism against how judgmental some people can be. Today, I thought, “Let them judge us. We’ll come out with flying colors.“ Today I WANTED people to notice my accent, to know that I’m American, to know that I contributed, even if in the form of my one vote, to this historical moment. Today I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, “Yes, we did!!”

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hoping for Palmeritas

It’s Election Day in the States. I’ve never been one overly interested in politics but today is one of those days where I wish wish wish I were back in the States – in one of the two “toss-up” states (Missouri and Florida) that I have recently called home. Lacking the chance to hop a flight back there I will be watching the election results from the Democrats Abroad party in Madrid tonight – 11pm to dawn. What a poetic schedule, right? Dawn. Hopefully that means the dawn of a new political era. Cheesy, I know, but not untrue…

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about this election (who hasn’t?) and about how everyone has gotten so wrapped up in it. For the past week the US elections have been the top news story on every channel – pushed to second only by the monsoon hitting the coasts of Spain. Like I said, I am hardly a political guru and my thoughts, opinions and predictions on the matter would be about as significant and the Queen’s recent opinions on gay marriage – simply the opinion of another civilian. So, instead I thought I’d share my two memories of election night. I am certain that I have watched more than two election night results shows in my 29 years, but for some reason only two really come to mind…

1996 – Re-election of Bill Clinton over Bob Dole. I was a senior in high school during this election and I was only 17, having a “late” birthday like I do. For a few of my friends it was the first election in which they could vote. And perhaps for that reason it drew more of my interest than all previous elections. Or perhaps because my sister and I had gone with my mom to Union Station to see Clinton speak. But that might have been before the 1992 election… (Mom?) Anyway, I remember watching the results sitting on my living room floor in front of a fire in the fire place (no shock to those who know me). I turned them on for a class assignment and then couldn’t turn them off until the very end. Missouri went blue. So did lots of the other states. Go Bill!

My other election night memory shines in sharp contrast to the first.

2000 – Al Gore’s “defeat” by George Bush. Ah, the year of the hanging chad. The vote that called the entire electoral college into question. That one I voted in by absentee ballot - being away at my senior year in college. And I watched it in the basement bar of Duke’s Brian Center with about 200 other Dukies. Not a pretty moment. Not a high point for the democratic process. And definitely not the best time to be surrounded by LOTS of Republicans. There was yelling. Lots of it. And beer. Lots of that, too. Probably contributing to the yelling. Regardless, the feelings I walked away with after that election were far different from those in 1996. Why bother even voting? I wondered if the guy with the most votes didn’t even win??

I didn’t even vote in 2004. Don’t tell my mom. I got the absentee ballot and I think I even filled it out. But a mailbox must have been hard to find or something because while packing for our Thanksgiving trip home nacho found my ballot. Ah, well, I thought. Had my one vote swayed Missouri in Kerry’s favour he still wouldn’t have won.

This year, though... This year is different. This year there was no playing around. I sent in my absentee ballot weeks ago, once again filled with excitement and (dare I say it???) pride. For the first time in many years the rest of the world is looking to the States with excitement, hope, and enthusiasm. I truly hope that we do not let them down.

Oh, yeah, and I’m not just talking about the big-picture here. I’ve promised my coworkers that an Obama victory means palmeritas de chocolate for all. And Spaniards take their breakfasts very seriously…