I started telling you a bit about the differences that I noticed when we were on the island Gran Canaria to life on the ‘mainland’ of Europe. Apart from their holiday habits, the Canarians seemed to feel and act a bit differently regarding another aspect of life, too: their families. While I have seen that in big parts of Europe, when you talk about one’s family, people think of mother, father and their children, in Gran Canaria, people are still closer to the joint families that we know from India. All in all, life there seemed a bit more close to each other, a bit less focused on the individual.
I got the first such impression from our friend Betty. Well, actually not, I just knew that she lived in an apartment that was practically a part of her mother’s house and that her grandparents lived next door. This in itself just showed me that this family was close to each other. While it may not be usual in the west, I have several friends who also prefer such closeness to their parents and family. I have experienced that as an exception though and when we came to Gran Canaria ourselves, talked to people, heard them talk to each other and saw how they lived, I understood that this island has preserved something which I believe is important: the possibility for family members to be close to each other! They know all their uncles, aunts and cousins, they meet their parents and grandparents regularly and most of all they really care for each other. It is more than just a formality, their family is important to them!
We went to Tenerife for three days of programs. One of these nights was a kind of a celebration night, a holiday called ‘San Juan’, and the man who had organized the program in Tenerife invited us to come to his village. Traditionally, the people made big fires along the coast but for some reason – probably because it was dangerous – it was now forbidden. The villagers did not bother very much though. We came down to ocean where black rocks led into the water and saw people sitting together, some going into the water for a late-night swim and others sitting around a fire. Actually it was a burning shelf but Betty told us that as children they used to walk from door to door on this day and ask people if they had any old furniture or broken things to burn that would make the fire bigger. So there it was, a fire and people, old and young, sitting nearby. The atmosphere was just so beautiful: an island village, families by the coast, swimming, eating, laughing and playing!
It is just a feeling that you get, of love, of warmth and kindness, which makes you feel happy about the fact that these people are together. That the family bonds are still valued and seem more important there than in many other western countries I have visited!
I don’t speak any Spanish but Ramona does and throughout the whole three weeks she told me how she first felt a bit strange but then started appreciating the way how she was addressed as ‘Mi niña’ by an elderly salesman around the corner whenever she bought fruit or vegetables there. It means ‘My daughter’ – an affectionate way to address a complete stranger, don’t you think? But it is similar to what we do in India, when we find a way to relate ourselves to the person in front of us, according to their age or the way how we got to know them. So anybody can become a brother, uncle, daughter or mother. An expression that we care for the other one as we would care for our family.
So don’t tell me that this is something that is only possible on this island. We can care. We should care. And if we do, we will get rewarded with happiness and love a thousand times!