Monday, August 14, 2006

Xenophobia and castles

  • To answer Jenny's question, I don't think the child bride and I have experienced any anti-Americanism since we got here. Or if we have, it hasn't been blatant enough for me to notice -- Rachel says I tend to miss certain social subtleties.
    Occasionally I'll hear the usual criticisms of the U.S. (we're fat and loud and uncultured and arrogant and hell-bent on promoting the Zionist agenda in an ultimately futile attempt to subvert the will of Allah), but these are generally the same criticisms that people had 10 years ago, and, from what I can tell, generally the same criticisms that people had in the time of Oscar Wilde. They are spoken with no more vitriol than ever before.
    It's possible that people's stereotypes about Americans have solidified a bit, making it oh-so-slightly difficult for me to be accepted as a person than a caricature (the photographer on Sunday seemed to think I was lying when I said I didn't have any sort of typical Americana tat around the house), but c'est la vie.
    And generally, criticisms of the U.S. offered by UK residents are diluted by the fact that they are in cultural lockstep with us. Britons refuse to admit this, but it's true. If you are British, take a walk through your local high street -- look at the fashions, listen to the music, look at what is being sold and how it is being sold, listen to the style of speech used by people, look at what they are eating and drinking and then try to tell me with a straight face that the "special relationship" doesn't extend to almost every aspect of life.
    In terms of "why the hell would you want to move here" negativity, I have bumped into a little of that. The "here" in question is Wales, and people are usually directing the question at the fact that I have moved here to study the Welsh language.
    Some people are confounded by my coming here to study Welsh. But these are often the same people who carry a strange animosity toward the Welsh language, so I don't give them a lot of credence. A person the other day was telling me about visiting the United States and said: "One of the things I really liked about visiting America was it was all in English. You didn't have to deal with this two-fucking-languages bollocks."
    I suggested to him that he must have visited a trompe l'oeil USA, because Spanish is the backbone -- and every other bone, for that matter -- of the U.S. economy. Not to mention the myriad other languages that can be heard in even the most staid of Midwestern towns.
    Other people just can't see the point in my being here because they can't see how it will earn me money. I can understand their concern; I can't see how this will make me money, either. But a few years ago, I came to the very frustrating but inescapable realisation that I am going to die some day. Not any time soon, I hope, but it is going to happen. And when it does happen, it will mean fuck all how much money I have in my wallet.
    It is no doubt elitist to say this, but I have an inherent belief that all smart people are capable of living in relative comfort. And it is egotistical for me to say this, but I am a smart person. Or I am at least smart enough to live in relative comfort regardless of what I end up doing with the Welsh language. I may not end up with a lot of stuff, but I am confident that whatever I do, I will be able to sleep in a warm bed at night.
    That's all very high-minded talking out of my ass, isn't it? I won't claim that I don't want three houses and a Ford Mustang. I do. A lot. But just not quite enough to make myself as sick as I always felt when I was doing a job that I hated.
    Usually, though, I will just say this: "The Welsh language is not a religion. So, I'm not going to ask you to convert."

  • The child bride and I went to Swansea today. For those of you playing along at home, Swansea is just west of Cardiff; Dylan Thomas and Curly are both from there -- Curly is, at present, in better health.
    View of Mumbles from Oystermouth CastleRachel and I were there so she could scope out where she'll be doing a job interview on Wednesday. Once that was completed, we decided we would just make a day of it and headed to Oystermouth because we had seen a sign that referenced there being a castle of the same name.
    The child bride is a sucker for castles. We certainly chose the right place to live for that -- Wales boasts upward of 400 castles, more than any other nation in the world. Every time I go to a castle, I feel this obsessive need to point out every single arrow slit. I don't know why I do this, but the child bride puts up with it.
    The interesting thing about this castle was that you could see that people had changed things to suit their needs from time to time, and often this had been done without particular attention to aesthetics. In a way, it was like looking at a 900-year-old government office block.
    Here are a few more pictures from today.
    Once we felt we had gotten our £2 worth of castle, we started walking toward Swansea along the promenade (that's what it's called, right?) that stretches along Swansea Bay (Here's a map; we started at No. 19). We ate lunch at a place that served pasta then sat there for a while longer just watching people walk by. We walked as far as Singleton Park (No. 11) and then took the bus to city centre, then another bus back to Cardiff.
    When we got off the train at Danescourt, walking up to the Somerfield to buy groceries for dinner, I realised that today was one of the first days that I've felt somewhat comfortable; very slowly -- much slower than I would like -- I am starting to accept that this is actually my life. I actually live here.

  • I just spotted that I twice used French in this post. It's the beginning of the end, my friends. I'll be wearing a beret soon...

    Curly said...

    I was at the very same castle about a week ago, but alas it was closed. We amused ourselves by trying to find a wall that we could use to climb inside. We couldn't.

    Glad you made it to Swansea though, that's more than a lot of people in Cardiff have done.

    Dave Morris said...

    You apparently didn't use the kind of french I can understand - and I think you know what kind that is.

    Relative comfort and contentment is what it is all about. We all get to where we're going, just on different paths... but the basics are what are 'portant.