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Published: April 5th 2011
I hear this phrase all the time and I love it. To me, it basically epitomizes the Spanish culture. Translated into English, it means 'nothing happens", but that's not the <span style="font-style:italic;">meaning</span> of it in Spanish. If you bump into someone and say "I'm so sorry!!!!", a Spaniard will respond with "no pasa nada." If you are late to class and are apologizing profusely, the professor will say "no pasa nada." If you stumble over your words and get embarrassed (side note: embarazada does not mean embarrassed, it means pregnant), or if you don't understand what the other person is saying: "no pasa nada." It basically means, "don't worry about it...you have nothing to be sorry/embarrassed/etc. about...nothing happened." The Spanish have that attitude about most things, which is why I love it. You have nothing to be embarrassed about in Spain, because no one cares. No pasa nada.
On a different note, there are many pissed (excuse my bad language, Mom) Americans in Spain right now. We just started our Spanish classes on Monday (thank God for those), but out schedule is very different than we expected. In my last post, I was raving about the siesta. I was bragging about how I get to take a siesta every day, and trying (succeeding...) to make my working American friends jealous. Things have changed. We get to class at 8am on Monday to take a placement test. It's a 2 page written exam that we all finished fairly quickly. Then we went over the test with someone and spoke in Spanish with them so they could test our speaking/listening abilities. I was finished at 8:40 and THOUGHT I was placed in the pre-intermediate level. Some of my other friends were placed in there too, so I was happy. We had to be back at 11am for a meeting, so most people just went to a cafe and sat for 2 hours. Relaxing, but we were wondering why we had to wake up at the crack of dawn when we were just going to be sitting around all morning. It gets worse. During our meeting, they tell us which groups we're in. They don't say the level of each group, but I get the impression that my group is higher than my level. I'm not with my 2 friends and I have heard some of the people in my group speak Spanish...way above my ability. Then they tell us that our classes are going to be from 1 to 5 every afternoon. Hold on one second. Are they telling us that not only do we not get to eat lunch with our families every day (lunch is at 2:30 for most people), but we also don't get a siesta?! Not okay. People are sending e-mails and asking the directors why our classes aren't in the morning like the other group. This is all happening during the 2 MORE hours we have free until our classes begin at 1 (the meeting at 11 lasted 15 minutes). At first I was concerned about missing lunch and the siesta, but then I called my madre, had a successful conversation with her in Spanish over the phone, and learned that she would just fix me a bocadillo (large sandwich) to go every day for lunch. Not bad. It's also not weird to take a siesta at 5:30...crisis averted. That is until we get to class. I was right - the people in my class are way above my ability. Some majored/minored in Spanish in college, others have spent more than a month in Spain, it's just bad. I learn a lot by listening, but I'm not getting any practice speaking because it's too embarrassing. I don't care what the Spaniards say - it's embarrassing. I start to get a headache from the stress of my class when the director comes in to give us our new schedule. Now our classes will begin at 3 and end at 7. What? Is this for real? We still can't have lunch with our familias because we have to leave 30 minutes before to get to class, and now the chance of a nap is getting closer to 0. People are really pissed now, but it's starting to get ridiculous because everyone already complained once. I told my madre about our new schedule when I got home, and she was just as shocked as we were. While every person in Spain is inside hiding from the heat during the hottest part of the day, we'll be walking to class.
At this point in the day, I was exhausted, annoyed, and pessimistic about the coming weeks. I went into my room to call my mom or sister and complain about it, when my Spanish madre came in. She told me I needed to take a siesta because I had been up since 6:15 am. I told her I might take one in a little bit. She replied with, "No. You can talk with your family later. Now, you need a nap!" (in Spanish). Once again, I was forced to take a siesta. Beautiful. I haven't been forced to take a siesta since I was 9 years old at my Grandmother's house fighting the quiet time with all my might. I wasn't fighting this time...I laid right down and slept for 90 minutes. When I woke up, I had a new perspective. This 3:00 thing might not be so bad. I'll be able to sleep until whenever I want, walk around town and do Seville-type activities all morning, go to class and better my Spanish, and then come home, have a rest, and have dinner. Sounds like a pretty good day to me. And that's exactly what I did yesterday. I didn't have to set an alarm, which always starts the day off better. I woke up, ate breakfast, and walked to el centro. I took a self-guided tour of the Cathedral and then walked to El Parque de Maria Luisa and read a book for an hour. Then I walked to school, ate my delicious cheese, lettuce, tomato, and olive oil bocadillo, and had class. I also decided that being in a class that's one or two levels above me might help me to learn more quickly. After class, I walked around downtown Seville with some friends and bought a pair of sunglasses and some earrings. Then we went to a deli and had a beer. Only in Europe will you find a place that serves ice cream also serves beer. But then again, beer is served everywhere...even McDonalds and Burger King.
All in all, it has been a good start to the week. I'm thankful for the Spanish classes and sometimes have to keep reminding myself that I'm in Spain - no pasa nada. I think the American phrase that emulates this saying perfectly is "it ain't no big thang". So, adios, and whenever you feel embarrassed or annoyed or like you should be apologizing, just adopt the Spanish attitude and remember: "no pasa nada".
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