Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Random thoughts on our trip to Europe

During the second week of our vacation we stayed near Marbella, Spain. It’s a beautiful city on the Mediterranean, and a popular vacation destination for tourists from the UK. I can certainly understand why. I’m sure England is beautiful, I’ve never been there, but I associate it with the color gray. I like gray, but it makes me think of cloudy skies, drizzly rain, and cold damp air. Marbella on the other hand is white. Not stark white like a blank canvas, but the white of a whitewashed village, soft white linen, and fluffy clouds. It’s the kind of white that makes me think of a warm dry summer day. If I had to pick between the two I’d pick Marbella, and apparently a lot of English people feel the same way. Much of the hotel staff seemed to have moved to Marbella from Enland about 15 years ago. The area seemed to be a combination of the two cultures. Many signs were in Spanish and English, most people we talked to spoke English, and the grocery store we went to sold frozen Yorkshire puddings. I’m pretty sure that’s not a Spanish food!

The Spanish - English mix made me think a lot of California. We’ve got a similar situation, with two cultures trying to coexist. I wonder if the people of Spain feel threatened in any way by the encroachment of English language and culture. I wonder if the English immigrants feel welcome in their new home. I wonder if the children learn both languages in school. I realize there are also some huge differences between the two situations so they shouldn’t be compared too closely, but it certainly gives me something to think about.

The shrinking difference between cultures was apparent everywhere we went in Europe. We didn’t feel the need to buy any types of souvenirs (except for some soccer jerseys) because pretty much everything we saw in the stores there was identical to what we could buy at home. Ashley said even the street vendors were selling the exact same sunglasses and purses in Rome as they were in NYC (and in both places they disappeared almost instantly when the police showed up). We thought it was funny that the best Italian food we had on the trip was at a restaurant in Spain. I think when you combine cultures you generally end up with something better (my apologies to Naples, but I prefer American pizza), but I also think it’s important to find a way to preserve culture as well. I was really intrigued by something I learned in Morocco. While on a bus tour, the tour guide pointed out some new houses being built, and he said it was a requirement that each of those homes have one room built with traditional architecture and decor, all hand-crafted. They do that to preserve their culture, create jobs for local artisans, and ensure that a new generation is taught those traditional arts. Somewhere in there is a lesson to be learned.

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