Barcelona, Seville, Iran – 2 of 3

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“Hello! Do you speak English?”

“Yes. Only!” I responded.

It’s a phrase I’ve taken a liking too. I must look very European, because I get to use it quite often. Other English speaking travelers often speak to me very slowly at first. A few times I’ve made up my own language on the spot and watched them try to figure out where I was from. Spanish people will carry on complete conversations with me until I repeatedly tell them I don’t speak Spanish. I must mumble, because they don’t seem to notice I’m responding in English. Maybe I just look Spanish or maybe it’s the fact that I do a very good “Hola!” and the only other phrase I know is “Yo Hablo Espanol!” (I speak Spanish!) I do like the Spanish language. I’m trying to figure out which language I’m going to take a serious stab at learning. It’s a toss between that and French right now.

Bahareh and Behnaz were both from Iran, were studying and working in Spain and had met each other at that same bench. I got some points for knowing Iran was different than Iraq, but struck out assuming their language was Arabic. It was Persian they were speaking and although they denied it, they were both fluent in Spanish and English as well. Besides all the interesting things about them and their exploding personalities, they were quite beautiful too. I hadn’t showered in a few days, was wearing my ripped, faded, stained clothes and was completely convinced I had crusted evidence of my runny nose somewhere on my face, but they didn’t seem to care. All that giggling had been them trying to guess where I was from. ‘Tourists don’t shop at FNAC, but I was reading an English book’ they said. But I looked Italian. One guessed Spanish. Another English. Neither American. Nobody guesses I’m American, which is always a fun surprise, getting to see faces change before my eyes. In India and Thailand they widen, in France and Spain they sink.

I can see it in European people’s eyes when they lump me into the MTV Mickey D idea of an American. It sucks. This use to make me mad at my country, like there was some identifiable and blamable entity born and bread on US soil. I’d forgotten that most of us are just European’s set free to experiment with human nature for a couple hundred years. Now it just makes me sorry for people when they lump and judge me and my country. So many American travelers do the same and it’s a sad, sad cycle. I can’t wait to meet an American with a Canadian flag on their bag. I know they’re out there.

I bombarded the girls with questions about Iran. I’m never too shy to ask the simplest and sometimes dumbest sounding questions of people about their country. And yea of course I’m going to stereotype. With the fine worldly education I got in US public school, it’s often all I’ve got to go on. But I try to do it in knowing and admittance and people usually respect that.

“I don’t know what language you speak, I never learned, I wasn’t interested, you don’t hear about that stuff in America, all we see is what’s on TV unless we read, but I didn’t read, so yea I don’t know much about the world, but that’s why I’m here and talking to you, do you really have to wear a thingy over your head?”

Yes they do. And it’s the law. And they don’t like it. And wow, I’d always wondered if they liked it or not. Sure I probably could have read that somewhere or asked someone else, but there’s something special to me about hearing things like that directly from people. I’m finding people are what I love the most about traveling. I love to feast my eyes on the beautiful nature in the world, but talking to people, watching them act and react and even seeing the things leftover from all their acting and reacting; that’s what I love.

We chatted for an hour, they circled some stuff on my map and we parted ways with plans for the next evening…

3 Thoughts on “Barcelona, Seville, Iran – 2 of 3”

  1. dave hornoff Says:

    Hey John,

    I am in Laconia NH for the big Bike Week there and still follow your travels from here. One question: Does the rain in Spain really fall mainly on the plain? Be safe my friend..I enjoy your stories…it is the most reading I have done since retiring from the Mafia Police in Warwick.

  2. kevin Says:

    I love the boldness. Not being rude but the way you think about things. Some might never talk to those girls…others may judge them and walk away taking nothing from the situation and then there is you…..talks to them reguardless and asks questions some might hold back on and you answer questions others might have. thanks for the new insight…and as usual i am looking forward to the photos as you go along. oh…if you get a chance granada is awesome.

  3. Diane Ferrara Says:

    Ahh, the intrigue of human nature. We are all unique yet quite similar. It makes my heart sing to know that that’s where your interest has fallen at present. And you capture it so beautifully in your writing

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