Wednesday, September 29, 2010

El Que No Pide, No Mama

Actually, I didn’t chose to live here – it was luck of the draw.  I’m working here through a scholarship called Auxiliares de Conversación, and applicants are not allowed to specify their choice city.  They are, however, allowed to rank their three top provinces in Spain – I chose the Basque Country. 
Basque Coastline

It was not an easy decision to make.  I almost chose Andalusia.  I couldn’t decide between these cold, Basque-speaking hills on the French border or the gypsy-scented flamenco lands near the deserts of
Moroccoan Africa.  In all of Spain there are not two lands more different in culture, language, climate, cuisine, landscape or ambiance. 
Andalusia (Sevilla, Feria de Abril)
The Andalusians are the quintessential Spaniards of the South – warm, boisterous, social people who seem to carry an endless rhythmic melody with them across Spain.  Meanwhile, the Basques are seen as the colder, serious products of a cryptic and impenetrable culture united by their arcane language.  Few of my friends in Arevalo understood my fondness for the latter. 

Certainly most foreigners prefer the iconic culture of Andalusia.  I wanted something different.  I saw great potential in a year amongst the Basques, perhaps even a challenge to unravel the mysteries that lie folded within these valleys and coves. 

But to get here, I had to ask for it.  As the Spanish say – el que no pide no mama – literally, he who does not ask does not breast-feed.  Perhaps a better English translation would be ask and thou shalt receive. 
More Basque Coastline

So in my application letter for the scholarship, I all but named where I wanted to live.  I explained that after a year in the heart of Spain, I wanted to live on its northern fringe – specifically, in a place near the beach with culture, young people, nightlife and surf.  My wish was granted – two months later I landed a job in one of San Sebastian’s high schools. 

After six years away from the beach and the last year in near isolation, I could not be more appreciative.  I pinch myself each time I walk past the beach, the film festival, or the nightlife of the Parte Vieja.  I see a great year rolling out before me, perhaps the greatest yet.  As I wonder if I will ever leave here, I remember the old Spanish saying,

 El que no pide no mama.

Maybe I’m just lucky, but I’m sure glad I asked.   

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