Apologies for the brief absence – I am just now returning from back-to-back Fulbright conferences (Spain and European Union) that have taken me away from BCN for 3 straight weeks. Now, to catch you up on everything!
The Spanish Fulbrighters assembled for our midyear meeting in Valladolid. As the capital of Castille y Leon and a population of 620k, their airport had only 1 gate. That was a big clue of what Valladolid would offer in sightseeing. A coworker at TPM described Valladolid to me by as “the Texas of Espanya.” Aside from the geographical similarities (flat as the Texas plains) and heartland-ness (primary seat of the Spanish Inquisition), the most *interesting* moment came on our last day. The BCN Fulbrighters stopped for ice cream at a local gelateria, and one girl with excellent Spanish skills was speaking to the owners. At one point in the conversation, she mentioned that I was learning Catalan. Without missing a beat, the owner replied (in Spanish) “Catalan is not a different language, just a dialect of Castillano. Catalans are Castillano, the Basques are Castillano, and the Galicians are Castillano. We are all Castillano.” Certainly not trying to provoke any further, we did not make any comments to say otherwise. However, it served as an interesting reminder of how the majority of Spanish citizens view the sovereignty-seekers in Catalunya – not as the culturally proud people that I have come to think of them as, but rather as a menace that threatens the existence of a unified Spain. Certainly truth to both views to cause emotions to run high, even with ice cream involved.
The conference itself was spectacular – the first time that the Spanish commission has been re-assembled since orientation, we talked about our project progresses, Spanish workplaces, new friends and coworkers, and the universal difficulties that we have faced. After 5 months of unique experiences in all parts of Spain, the stories, conversations, and insights literally never ceased. Project presentations, both PowerPoint and visual (in the case of the Gender Roles in Flamenco Dance, a dual show of flamenco with the male dance in jeans and the female dance in a flowing dress) demonstrated exactly how much of an impact the Fulbright grant has made in each of our distinctive projects and how we as researchers have evolved through this experience. Add another memory to my “Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth” moments, which occur more often with each day.