Monday, December 21, 2009

Just after last X-mas...

At 8.30pm on Friday 3 January 2009 I entered the Salones El Puente Restaurant on Calle Arrabal 16 in the town of San Clemente in the La Mancha region. I greeted the lady at the bar who appeared to me to be the proprietress and then in a clear voice asked her what time the restaurant was open for dinner. She replied that I must speak in Castellano. I told her I was speaking in Castellano. She put her finger to her ear and said "Well, I don't understand you."

I could see from the expression on her face and by the arrogant tone of voice that she used that she was attempting to insult me. I swore at her in English and left this restaurant.

Later that same night my family and I had a lovely dinner at a different restaurant nearby: the Restaurant Jacinto in the Plaza de la Iglesia. The food was excellent and the service was very helpful and friendly. We stayed for one night in the Hotel La Posada del Reloj and concluded that it was also good quality.

My family and I travelled for five days in the La Mancha region and we liked everything about this part of Spain very much. We will go there again I am sure, but we will certainly be avoiding the Salones El Puente Restaurant because of the rude (and probably racist) attitudes that I found there.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Islam and Sharia law in Catalonia

I am a strong believer in tolerance of others beliefs but the recent case of the Muslim women in Tarragona who had to escape twenty extremists wanting to kill her under Islamic “sharia law” is too alarming to quietly stomach.

I have worked as a teacher in an Islamic school, and in my personal experience, the average Muslim who just wants to live their life without trouble and strife would be very much against a death penalty for a 30 year old woman who has defied her husband over keeping her unborn child.

As usual it is the extremists who get the publicity. In this case it is obviously well-deserved, because they are, it is alleged, clearly breaking Spanish laws against kidnapping and attempted murder while holding up what they believe to be their own moral code.

A Muslim friend of mine living here told me that many of the migrants who come to this part of the world are from rural parts of north Africa and are often educated at a fairly basic level. Without a better understanding and acceptance of the laws of the land, ignorance can mean relying on fundamentalist interpretations of the Koran.

There is a strongly established idea on the left of politics and in Catalonia that there should be genuine, healthy separation between the law and religion (including Islam and Catholicism.)

This is exactly as it should be.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thank you, thank you for my job!

In an almost unbelievable recent story, a Spanish cleaning company called Emlicodemsa has bamboozled it's mainly female employees with a brochure that was handed out to them with the words: “COMPLAINING FORBIDDEN.”

The El Pais article quotes one worker who belongs to the union Sindicato Unitario, which represents some 20 percent of the staff, as saying “Nobody else wants to protest. There are girls who work part-time, or have no permanent contract. They are afraid to speak out.”

But this union activist says she will continue to ignore what she believes to be the employers threats. "“They won’t shut me up. They haven’t paid advances for months now — they are really necessary for some families [but] ...we are afraid we won’t get paid at the end of the month.”

But however hard times may be, the brochure comes up with “three tools for not complaining.”

The first heading is “Positive Technique.” The second, is a word of advice:
“Concentrate on what you can do instead of what you have to do.” The third is: “Transform complaints into solutions.”

The brochure's text has other recommendations, such as: “I must make an effort every day, and help to improve the viability and profitability of the company, so I can go on having a good job that enables me to support my family.”

It also includes “consolations” such as: “Change your outlook and you will understand that your job isn’t something you have to do; it’s something you can do… You can go to work, while many others are unemployed.”

Emlicodemsa has acknowledged the distribution of these pamphlets. “They are based on a bestseller, and are aimed at creating a positive attitude among the workers,” explains company manager Antonio Fern├índez.

The book in question, The No Complaining Rule, by the US writer Jon Gordon, is described as “a simple method” aimed at changing negativity in the work environment. The person in charge of putting these techniques to work in municipal companies, Alfonso Barroso, explains that they are not intended to “annoy” anyone. “In the middle of this crisis, you have to be thankful for not being unemployed,”he adds.

The aim is to invert negative into positive. “Yes, let’s invert,” says the same female union member. “I’ll get the chairman’s monthly salary, and he can get my salary!”