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Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Down and out in........Enguera

Continuing with my 'slow-crawl' blogging. Today I am, guess where?

In the computer room of the school. The computer teacher is guess what?

Bulgarian, and she lets me use the computers as I want. As I indicated yesterday the internet cafe here is also run by a Bulgarian - although there I have to pay. The cafe boss is a very intelligent and very nice boy (even if he does have some strange ideas!!), an autodidact, he learnt about computers when he did the military service. He understands something about complexity and self-organisg processes. Wow. The cyber cafe seems to form a focal centre for the Bulgarian community, and it is posssibly the only place where Spanish and Bulgarian youngsters are truly integrated.

The owner is one of the 'wise men' of the community, and many of the others come to the cafe to try to get their problems solved. However, even he needed his Spanish girlfriend as a 'front' to start the business, since the residence permit system makes it difficult to establish a business before you have been here a considerable number of years. He is one of the few Bulgarians I have met to have established a 'couple' with a Spanish girl.(Now I think of it the Lithuanian who had the locutorio in Barcelona was also married to a Spanish woman: interesting theme, intermarriage and entrepreneurship). Curiously enough people from Lithuania and Poland seem to take Spanish wives more frequently (although the small Lithuanian community, in an even more obscure village up-river a bit, are alleged - possibly Bularian gossip this - to have wives back home). Maybe they inter-marry more because their communities are smaller, and also, possibly, as a means to obtain citizenship. But I would not say the cyber cafe boy was particularly integrated, rather his girlfriend has gone 'native' and assimilated with the Bulgarians.

One of the big topics which is emerging is that of 'family' and 'friendship', and it is clear that these terms have a very different meaning in the two cultures, and this itself makes inter-marriage difficult. Most Bulgarians say that they find it difficult to make Spanish 'friends', since they say that they feel friendship in Spain revolves around what they call interests, by which they tend to mean family and work. The Bulgarians seem to have another idea of social life and friendship.

I arrived at the school furious with the local Spaniards, since I have just come from having a coffee in a bar. This bar is an interesting place since it constitutes what Margy calls a slave market. It is a place where Bulgarian day labourers go to wait for a 'boss' to pass-by and offer work. They sit round drinking beer or coffee, and you can imagine the prices paid are not exactly the same as those paid by the locals. Well you have to remember that I too am a foreigner here, and they notice it straight away. So when I came to pay, I of course got the 'expensive' price - 1.20 euros sitting at the bar, in a small village in the middle of nowhere. For comparison the price is about 1 euro in a normal bar in Barcelona. Now this is not a lot of money but it's the principle I don't like. And the look from the barman. I don't like this kind of treatment. But this has been happening to me for ten years now - not the money part, although I have got in the habit of always checking my change - but the 'frialdad' (coldness) in the attitude towards ousiders - I don't like it. I don't get this treatment in say France or Germany, or in the villages of Catalonia. I see these kind of 'closed' attitudes as a great obstacle to the creation of a diverse, multi-cultural society here in Spain.

Anyway just to show you can't generalise, I came to the scool looking for my Bulgarian friend, to find she hadn't arrived yet (maybe this is one thing Bulgarians share with Spanish people!) and went to talk to the cook in the kitchen. (One day I will write a post about how I seem to get on better in life with the caretakers, cleaners and kitchen staff of this world.....) Lolli. A lovely, kind, generous woman. She immediately offered me an enormous breaskfast and all the coffee I wanted. Free, of course. So it just goes to show how difficult it is to talk about the 'typical' Spanish person, or the typical Bulgarian (or the typical British person, which I most certainly am not!).

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