Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires...courage.
-
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

An interesting way to make a living.

While this trip is for work, I have really enjoyed my experience here. First off let me say it has definitely been work. Our schedule has us getting up each morning between 6 and 7 and getting back to bed at between 1:30 and 2:30 the following morning. We then get back up at 6 or 7 and start the whole thing over again. Like most people, I can keep late nights if I need to, but lack of sleep will really catch up to a person after a while. We can all feel ourselves getting a little more dense with each passing day, but the customers don’t know this. There is absolutely no excuse for nodding off during a presentation that you have seen twice a day for the past week, even if you are only going on 3 hours of sleep. For each customer it is the first time they have seen it, and if it is not interesting o keep our attention, why should it keep theirs?

But why do I enjoy it? Because I don’t feel at all like a tourist. I feel more like a guest in someone’s home. I have really gotten to know many of our hosts at RFE and a few of the customers. When we go to lunch or dinner we don’t have to struggle with the language and wonder what we’re ordering. We have a guy to translate for us and tell us that the item we’re trying to read on the menu is actually the head of an octopus in sea urchin sauce. When we meet someone new we don’t have to introduce ourselves. We’re introduced by our hosts, and instantly we are viewed by those we have just met as something other than a stranger.

The owner of our host company is Antonio. He is an architect by training and still runs a firm here in Madrid along with RFE, which he bought from a friend several years ago. One of my favorite meals during this trip was a simple lunch that we prepared ourselves in the office. After one of our presentations Antonio came in and said he would like to offer us a small treat for all our hard work so far. He brought some plates and knives into the small conference room we had been using during the week, along with several varieties of cured meats and cheeses. He gave hero and I each a knife and asked if we would cut up the meats and cheeses to be served. As we prepared each we snuck a bite or two while he told us the name of each food and what is was and where it came from along with the history of the particular area from which it came. He of course spent the most time on the items that came from his home town, or village as he called it. Every now and then he would urge us, “thinner, thinner, cut it very thin.” He sliced up the cheeses himself, warning us that they were very strong. Little did he know my appetite for strong cheeses. :)

Antonio was obviously proud of his home town and the goods it produced. As everyone sat down he brought out a bottle of wine “from my village”, he said, near LaMancha. This prompted a discussion regarding the uselessness of the letter X in both of our languages, as we were reminded that we may be familiar with LaMancha from the story of Don “Quick-so-tee”, in another “would you like more jam?” incident.

In Spanish each letter has a single pronunciation, always, in all circumstances. Realizing that we pronounce Mexico “Mek-see-ko” and not “Meh-he-ko” as they do, and in another attempt to speak “proper” English, they spoke of Don Quixote in a manner that they thought would be more familiar to us.

“No, no.” we replied. “We say Don “kee-oh-tee” as well.”

“Not quick-so-tee?”

“No, it’s kee-oh-te” for us too.”

“Really?”

“yup”

“How do you say Meh-he-ko”

“Mek-see-ko”

“but…”

“Don’t ask”

Ah, cultural exchange at it’s finest. Thank you Antonio for a great meal, and a fine wine.

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