European Discrimination

I’m Canadian and Eastern European. I was born in Canada a few years after my parents immigrated from Poland. It was 1986, and Poland was in political, social, and economic turmoil. There was an exodus of people with dreams and ideas that couldn’t flourish inside of the Iron Curtain.
My parents were on their way to spend their honeymoon in Croatia, but they didn’t get off at their stop. They stayed on the bus. Next came Slovenia – they kept going. They got off the bus in Trieste, Italy because it opened the door to Rome, Italy. The Eternal City served as a temporary base for Polish people looking to escape in the 80s. It was the halfway line between prospective immigrants and their countries of choice, mainly Australia, Canada, and the United States.
That long prologue to this article was necessary in order to understand my frustration. As a Canadian with a European passport, I often travel on the latter in order to avoid long lines or visa questions. When asked for I.D, I often present my Polish one because it doesn’t make a difference to me.
I’ve noticed a look. A special look of discrimination within Western European countries reserved especially for those from the East. The Russian Dictatorship a.k.a “Communism” that swept across countries like Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic, and so on, stunted their growth. Intellectuals were murdered and resources were exploited. If the communist years were erased, perhaps these countries would have grown to aide the big fish of the European Union.
But they didn’t. Instead, tons of Eastern Europeans immigrated to Western Europe and became a product of their environment – many falling into drugs and prostitution, among other things.
Not everyone is a bad apple however. There were hundreds of thousands of other hard working Eastern Europeans who immigrated not to cause trouble, but to start a new life. I’m tired of the look people give me when they see my ID. No, I’m not a prostitute, alcoholic, or a maid. I’m not a mail order bride.
I was walking down the street once with a German friend, who knew about my Canadian origins only, when we came across a man digging in garbage cans.
“He’s probably Romanian, or Polish or something.” stated my new friend.
When another friend met a girl at his university, his friends wouldn’t let him hear the end of it because she was Ukrainian and probably after his money.
In a supposed “united” Europe, I see nothing but social and cultural division. Neither Spain or Italy can call themselves multicultural nations, despite the increasing percentage of immigrants coming in from Arab, African, and other European countries. Thousands of displaced immigrants fleeing war torn nations are marginalized and mistreated by their nations of refuge, and I see 1986 all over again.
When football (soccer) player Mario Balotelli made his debut for Italy, many fans made their feelings clear. Balotelli, a black Italian raised in Italy, has been greeted several times by fans throwing bananas at him on the field.
If it’s wrong to make assumptions based on origin or race in North America, why are Europeans, (mainly from Southern Europe) so far behind?
I consider myself Canadian, but there’s a part of my past that’s impossible to ignore, and easy to offend, especially when it comes to comments made from total ignorance.
I shouldn’t be treated differently based on which I.D card I present, and lastly, I’m sick of the all-knowing “look” that comes afterward.

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Cremona, the city of violins.

A city of just under 70,000 in Lombardy, Italy. Known by lovers of classical music, undiscovered by the rest of us. On a regular afternoon, you won’t see a tourist in sight, those are the best places though, aren’t they?

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Bologna, city of colour.

I’ve previously blogged about my new home in Italy. It’s a city called Bologna, famous for its tortellini and mortadella, but just about everything else is delicious as well.
Bologna isn’t as famous as Rome or Florence, but it has a spirit that can hold its own, and a burst of colour that speaks for itself.
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5 Strange Spanish Expressions

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Spanish is one of the most beautiful languages in existence. If you speak Spanish, you can agree that not only is it the language of love, it is the language of creative cursing and expression. If you want to sound more like a local on your next trip to Spain, try incorporating the following expressions into your conversation (the English equivalent is listed below).

These idiomatic expressions are in Castilian Spanish, meaning from Spain. They may or may not make sense in Latin American countries.

1) Tomar el pelo.

Literally: “Take someone’s hair.”
English equivalent: To make fun of, poke fun at, or pull someone’s leg.
Example: “Mis hermanos siempre me toman el pelo.”
Translation: “My brothers always take my hair.”

2) Poner los cuernos.

Literally: “Put the horns on.”
English equivalent: To cheat on, to be unfaithful.
Example: “El ex novio de mi hermana le puso los cuernos.”
Translation: “My sister’s ex put the horns on her.”

3) Tener mucha cara.

Literally: “Have a lot of face.”
English equivalent: To have nerve.
Example: “Hace falta tener mucha cara para hacer lo que hizo el ayer noche durante la fiesta!”
Translation: “You need a lot of face to be able to do what he did last night at the party!”

4) Ponerse las pilas.

Literally: “To put your batteries in.”
English equivalent: To get yourself together, get a move on, get your sh*t together. This expression was believed to be originally used in Colombia. The idea of having a “low battery,” and therefore being unable to complete a task, is used in various languages.
Example: Ponte las pilas! Vas a suspender el examen!
Translation: “Put your batteries in! You’re going to fail the exam!”

5) Tener mala leche.

Literally: “To have bad milk.”
English equivalent: To be mean, unkind, bitchy. The origin of this expression dates back to medieval times, where noble women often gave their newborns to women of lower classes so that they could be breastfed. Women of the upper classes didn’t want to be bothered with this task. The “host mothers” were usually of Jewish or Moorish origin and therefore thought to “have bad milk” that would be passed on to the child. The expression was generally used as an insult.
Example: La profesora de ingles tiene muy mala leche.
Translation: “The English teacher has really bad milk.”

The Tapas Phenomenon

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It’s 9pm in Spain, what does that mean? Dinner time of course! You’re off with your friends to go bar hopping (no, not for shots). You will try a series of “tapas” at various different bars, each having their own speciality. What is a tapa? It is best defined as an appetizer sized dish that varies from seafood to meat – mini sandwiches to a bite-sized dinner. You can wash it down with a caña (a small beer) or some wine. Almost every city in Spain offers a “ruta de tapas” meaning, a tapas route – a scavenger hunt for delicacies. Each bar usually has a speciality (some may have even won awards for their tapas).

Whats the best part about a taste-testing night on the town? Socializing. There is no better way to end a long day at work than having a meal with some friends. The Spanish have a word for this that doesn’t exist in English – sobremesa.

“Sobremesa”refers to the time period after eating where you stay out with your friends having great conversations. The joy of staying at the table once your food has been cleared to have a chat and catch up on what you’ve missed in one another’s lives.

Sometimes I feel like the Spanish solved a mystery that North Americans haven’t. We often get caught up in work, school, kids etc, and forget how important it is to unwind, have some regular downtime with your friends, meaning real human interaction. No texts, no phone calls, just a really good meal, and a little too much wine (but thats not always a bad thing, is it?).


Recommended Tapas Bars:

Los Zagales, Valladolid, Spain

Las Tres Bellotas, Valladolid, Spain

Txirimiri, Madrid, Spain

Bar La Eslava, Sevilla, Spain

Bar Dos de Mayo, Sevilla, Spain

Please comment or add your favourite bars to the list, I’m heading off to Spain for a visit again soon, and need some new suggestions!

Deserted Spanish Beaches

These photos were taken in Mallorca, on a beach called Cala Pi. If you find yourself on this magnificent island in April or May, you may find yourself completely alone, surrounded by beautiful rock formations, a serene sunset, and a sense of peace. That’s me in the last one!

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Pizza, cappuccinos, and calcio!

I haven’t blogged in a few days because I had a 9 hour flight to Rome, plus a four hour train ride. Add some jet-lag to that and you’ve got a lost-in-translation mindset for a few days. Once I’m cured of my temporary insomnia I’ll be able to write real paragraphs again.

First impressions of Bologna, Italy: Although I always go through a “sad” phase in my first few days in a new city, trying to adjust to my surroundings…Bologna is beautiful. It’s a photographer’s dream. However, for the artistically challenged like me, it’ll be hard to give it justice using my iPhone.

As for the blog, I can’t believe someone other than my mother reads it. I’ve even received a lot of questions about my travels, so I figured I’d answer them here.

Why did you leave Canada? – Canada is a fantastic country where you are guaranteed financial stability if you’ve graduated or have any form of educational training. You will get a job, and even if it’s waitressing at a local Italian eatery, you’ll be making double the wages offered in a real Italian restaurant in Italy. I originally moved to Spain, I loved it and I’m hoping to return. I was tired of being comfortable. I was born in Canada, raised in Canada, and if I hadn’t lived abroad- I wouldn’t have any stories to tell. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re stuck in sticky situations.

How can you afford this? – I live in a shared flat with another person (several people in the past). I work as an ESL teacher, and I make enough money to pay my rent, eat, travel using low cost airlines (yay Ryanair and Easyjet), and go out once in a while. An ESL teacher in Spain or Italy will make 1,100-1,300 euros for 25-30 hours a week. Private lessons (at home tutoring) pay about 25 euros an hour. This is a good option for some extra cash on the side.

Any advice for people who want to move abroad?- If you’re ok with making enough to live on, do it. You will learn a new language, meet new people, and grow in ways you never believed possible. These are experiences you cannot have living at home. Do it while you’re in your 20s and haven’t got a family or children to worry about. Just don’t fall in love here, it’s a bad idea 😉image

The one where you feel grateful.

Prompt: Life just isn’t the same without your trusty sidekick. For this week’s writing challenge, tell us about your partner in crime.

The first words I ever said to my partner in crime were “get the f*ck out of here! you’re annoying.”
About a month later I fell in love with him though, how’s that for a paradox?

We were studying abroad in the same Spanish city. We were both football(soccer) fans. Unfortunately, our teams were playing one another, so we were both cursing each other’s team.
We met again later at a football match where the local city team was playing at home. I was “oh hell, you guys know that assh*ole from the bar?”
We sat next to one another and I was really mean and he asked me out

See: The one where you fall in love.

We compliment each other in the right way, just like any crime fighting team should (I’m definitely Batman by the way, he’s Robin – let’s make that clear).

We were born and raised on two different continents. When I get angry I cry, and he makes a series of hand gestures that probably have some sort of meaning.
He’s rational, I’m emotional. I exaggerate everything and he tells me to relax. He can cook better than I can, but that’s not saying much – besides if you’re from Italy it kind of runs in your gene pool, doesn’t it?

The reason he’s my sidekick is because he’s always there. When you reach your mid-twenties, finish school, and get a job, your social circle shrinks quite a bit. You begin to value people you can have a great conversation with, and those who listen to your hopes and worries rather than a good night out on the town.

Living abroad really sent the message home. When you’re living a million miles away and constantly saying hello and goodbye, fewer people stay in your life. Your heart becomes a home for those who count, and my Italian version of Robin has the master bedroom.
Maybe I should have gone with the Mario and Luigi combo?
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Countdown to A New Adventure

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My visit to Canada has come to an end, and on Thursday I’ll be heading back to Italy, and moving to a new city: Bologna. I moved from Spain to Italy this past February. The problem is, I chose Milan, and I haaated Milan. Seven months of arrogant wealthy people and snobby fashionistas in a concrete jungle left me feeling like I’d been living in a world where I would never belong.
So Bologna it is! It’s considered a student city (having one of the first universities in modern history) and more of a low-key alternative atmosphere.
A new city means a new job as well, although I don’t start until mid-September. I wanted a few weeks to adjust and get to know my surroundings without getting lost on the way to work. Moreover, it’s a condensed city so a car is unnecessary, I might get a bike at most.
There’s was famous Italian singer, called Lucio Dalla, who dedicated a song to Bologna. I figured, if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.
First stop, however, is Rome!
P.S – one of my posts is on Thought Catalog, check it out here.
Ciao.