Saturday, March 24, 2007

upon arriving in the usa

the past week has been one of reflection and comparison: of cultures, of standard of living, of daily priorities. our trip to madrid really impacted the way i think, and my goal is to not let it fade away.

one of the first differences i noticed upon arrival in sf was the chaos. it's not that sf is particularly chaotic by american standards, but when compared to madrid, there appears to be a healthy underbelly.

for one, i never heard, nor witnessed, anyone yelling in madrid. not a one. we were staying in downtown madrid with our windows open, and narry a word reached our ears. upon reentry in san francisco, yelling, hollering, and yelping welcomed us to our home. this isn't to say that people mess with you, or it's scary or violent, but people express themselves loudly and with abandon at any time of the day in our 'hood. (like right now: i can't sleep and it's 5:32 am and someone is getting something off their chest outside.)

second, the homeless. i have no idea what the socio-economic or social service situations are in madrid, but i didn't see people sleeping in doorways, asking for money, or even appear to be indigent in any way. it could have been the neighborhoods we visited, but we saw a good part of the city on foot, and it struck me that what i expect from urban areas just wasn't replicated in madrid.

the overall civility of madrid invaded my experiences daily. for example, the ability (and pleasure!) to eat late in restaurants was such a delight. why does our culture instill such a rigid time clock? on our last night in madrid, everyone expressed pangs of hunger around 11:30 pm. in response, our host laughed that there's not a restaurant in madrid that will be able to seat us at 11:30 (i.e. they're too busy on a friday night!).

in complete contrast to our culture, people don't drink to get drunk in spain. excessive drinking just isn't a part of their world. david told us that from a young age he was taught how to drink responsibly; you drink to enjoy it, for the flavor, but not to become altered.

well, it's now 6:01 am, and someone outside is pacing back and forth, yelling expletives at no one in particular (as far as i can tell), and she doesn't seem to be stopping anytime soon.

7 comments:

Jay Fienberg said...

The Lower Haight is uniqely the yellingest part of San Francisco. Though, I never slept in North Beach, which, if the yellers show up there too, could be even more yellingest. But, even in the Mission, not much yelling. And, in Noe Valley, no yelling.

But definitely, yeah! to everything else you said.

david silver said...

why, jay, why? why do you think the lower haight is the yellingest part of town?

btw, sarah - i saw a few homeless people in madrid, tucked under ragged blankets and sleeping on the sidewalk. maria said it was common but i think common means a handful, not hundreds.

Jay Fienberg said...

I don't know, David. It'd be an excellent subject for an anthropology / sociology field study, e.g.:

"The History, Geography, Ethnography and Other Diverse Factors that Have Influenced the Evolution and Distribution of the Practices of Public Yelling Throughout the Core Neighborhoods of San Francisco, Volume 4: 1990s to the Present"

:-)

Amy said...

What about dumpster diving? Witness that in Madrid or is that a uniquely US pastime, at 3am?

sarah said...

i have never witnessed dumpster diving in sf. i have, however, observed plenty of curb opportunities. i hesitate to call it "diving" as there are zero barriers or heroics involved in nabbing something off the sidewalk. we don't have many alleys, i'm afraid. too bad--they're so plentiful and fun!

sarah said...

jay: when you're in town we'll do a few field studies in our 'hood. i've been meaning to do a study--the cyclists caught my fancy--and this seems like a prime suspect.

sarah said...

wait, ame: i never witnessed dumpster diving in MADRID, either. it may be too uncivilized.