Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bs (ahem)

I tried to make plans to watch a Bullfight in Barcelona with my Boyfriend on my Birthday--and not just because of allure of the alliteration. For a number of reasons, it didn't work out. One B at a time:

B #1: Barcelona
I learned that bullfights in Barcelona are notoriously uninspired and touristy. Barcelona is Catalonia, and depending on who you talk to, Catalonia is not Spain and does not care to carry out Spanish traditions like the bullfight. It would be sort of like going to a lobsterbake in Utah. Or a jazz festival in Connecticut. You could do it, and it might be pretty good, but why bother?

B #2: Boyfriend.
My boyfriend's response to the idea was, "I don't want to go to a bullfight. Just because I'm in Mississippi doesn't mean I am going to attend a lynching." Hmmm. I wonder if we'll be in CT during the jazz festival . . .

B #3: Birthday.
I still contend that it would be a memorable way to spend a birthday.

B #4
I was sort of relieved when my boyfriend refused. I don't think I really wanted to go at all, but I am curious. When walking across Spain, I noticed that nearly every little smoky bar in every tiny town has gatherings of old men watching bullfighting on tv. It inrigued me. I would sip my Cola Cao and try to figure out just what they were looking at. Sort of how I feel when people in the U.S. watch golf or bowling. Or when a toddler is staring and pointing and I follow the gaze and find nothing there.

Anyhow, once I got the old men talking, I could barely understand them because there was so much vocabulary and nuance involved in the whole thing. I wanted to condemn the sport, but I didn't understand it well enough to do so.

I think that's how I feel about much of traveling. If I don't understand some cultural phenomenon, if it disgusts and alarms me, I need to try to participate in it, especially if it makes me uncomfortable. That isn't always true. I won't be performing any female circumcisions or foot binding, but there are ways I could push myself. Still, where does the line between respecting a culture end and basic morality begin? And if you can answer that, can we apply for some kind of patent or copyright together?

But really, that's the joy of traveling for me--facing the discomfort and acknowledging when I can't endure it and figuring out what the balance is. When I should be tolerant, when I shouldn't.

One day, I'll go to a bullfight. I'll probably be disgusted with the event and with myself, but at least I'll know why.

No comments: