Weekly photo challenge: Foreign (3) – chameleon

How can I not write about Spain, when here I am, an Englishwoman living abroad?

An extranjero, ie a foreigner, a stranger, here, is anyone who isn’t local. Who doesn’t come from the same barrio.

Not just someone from a different country, but someone from Madrid, Barcelona, or the north Atlantic coast of Spain, are all described as foreigners.

‘Who’s that?’ we’d ask our neighbours, as someone we didn’t know would walk past.

‘I don’t know,’ they would reply. ‘A foreigner. Maybe from the north of Spain.’

The concept isn’t that different in the UK. There was local rivalry between different local areas where I lived, and quite nasty at times.

There was the southerners v northerners issue, the Lancastrians and Yorkists, separated to everyone’s relief, by the Pennines, and the national rivalry between Scottish, Welsh and English.

After ten years or so in our pueblo we are pretty much accepted by our immediate local community, which is the heart of the old town of the village.

We can be away for weeks, but people will immediately speak, toot their car horns, wave or whatever, as soon as we return. Of course, we are still foreigners, ‘Los Ingleses’ I suppose, but we have become part of the fittings.

Some years back, we were up in the hills with a Spanish friend, and we went into a local village shop. I came back complaining about the cost. ‘He took you for a guiri,’ said our friend.

‘Guiri’ is a derogatory term for a foreigner. The nearest English equivalent is wog, although there is no connotation of skin colour with guiri, just – someone who doesn’t come from round here and therefore to be dismissed.

The trouble with living abroad, ie away from the country of your birth, is that the concept of foreign becomes hazy.

Yes, the money is different, the language is different, the weather is different, the buildings, local flora and fauna, even the shopping hours are all different. But to me, they are no longer foreign.

Some years ago in Australia, we knew a Dutchman. He pointed out that the reality of being an ex-pat was that while you would never quite fit in with your adopted country, when you went back home, even for visits, you realised you had left it a long time ago, and would no longer fit there either.

So true.

I used to associate the word foreign with something exotic, luxurious tropical plants, different foods, exciting train journeys, a strange language that I couldn’t understand. The word was half of a double act – ‘foreign travel.’

These days, I never use the word.

But here, is I suppose, the epitomy of ‘foreign’ to the average English person in the street.

A chameleon in my garden. They are protected in Andalucía as a rare species. They are actually found in very few places, and our part of La Axarquia is one of them. The change in agriculture and destruction of their preferred environment means they are seen less and less.

But obviously my garden found favour with Mr/Ms Chameleon who was happily playing around my plantpot.

Interestingly, my neighbour doesn’t like them, or geckos, either, but she told me at length about them being protected and how important it was not to touch them.

So, here is my contribution for ‘foreign’ today, a protected endangered species in my garden.


14 comments on “Weekly photo challenge: Foreign (3) – chameleon”

  1. what a great mood! have never seen a chameleon live before. i remember seeing a gecko in Hawaii once.
    interesting thoughts about foreign/familiar/belonging/outsiders. i have sometimes wondered about which culture an individual belongs to – and quite happily heard of the term ‘third culture’ which is neither one nor the other but a new one which has some aspects of both, and some of neither. an interesting concept, and it seems to reflect the reality of expats quite well.


    • We get geckos all the time, you might remember that post where I wrote about the one who crawled across the bedroom ceiling a couple of months back (the post I mean, although the crawling was at a similar time too).

      Third culture is interesting. I think it is all about an attitude of mind, and being flexible. Some of the many things that attract me to Spain are really silly – excellent coffee and fresh orange juice (when we left the UK, coffee was still pretty terrible wherever you went), the music eg Amparanoia, the laid-back approach to life, the fact we can get a meal anywhere (even if it’s only tortilla, salad and chips – at least it is fresh), gradually it all just becomes part of daily life. I know I would miss it if I had to leave 😦

      I guess you must be second gen expat, which is even more interesting.

      To me there is a world of difference travelling around, and actually living in a ‘foreign’ country. Even when you speak the same language (allegedly) eg living in Australia – and Gibraltar for that matter.


  2. How lovely to have a chameleon in your garden, I’ve only ever seen them in captivity or on the TV.


    • He is cute, did you look at his feeties? They have these great grips, but they really look like hands. He’s not come back though 😦 It might be because we got rid of the nispero trees that were undermining the walls.

      I don’t know that we would have spotted him, if the neighbours hadn’t pointed him out. His camouflage is pretty good and he was moving slowly, when he moved at all. It’s not the same watching them on TV or in captivity (:() is it? I’m glad I got the photo, one of those rare moments.


  3. You, like your chameleon have blended in to your adopted environment, but unlike it your ‘foreigness’ is detectable by those who aren’t familiar with you. Foreign can depend on perspective. To an existing resident a newcomer is foreign, but to a later arriving resident, the exisiting newcomer is local… if you get what I mean. I imagine now when you go back to the UK, you find new things since your time, foreign… I think third culture is the way to go…


    • Sounds a bit like third rock from the sun ….

      I think your comment is totally accurate. We stand out more in Spain of course than we do in Gib. In fact partner stands out more than me as he is Celtic in appearance with blue eyes, grey hair, and celtic facial bone structure. I’m much more indeterminate, tall, slim, long wavy brown hair – I could pass for Spanish or Gibraltarian, and certainly have a lot of Spaniards approaching me in the street asking for directions in Gib. While a lot of middle-aged women have a souther mediterranean build (ie short and solid) you do see taller ones, as you do in Spanish cities. A lot/nearly all of the British women I know, tend to have short hair, often dyed blond, occasionally just grey. I don’t fit the mould. Or maybe I just change my colours like the chameleon when the mood takes me.


  4. An interesting perspective on ‘foreign’. The chameleon is not foreign to me though :-),
    But I might be considered foreign in the state I live in, here in my own country! because I speak a different language, follow totally different customs, and even look a little different!


    • I’ve read about people going into the national parks hoping to see chameleons, and not finding any so I feel quite privileged he was playing in my garden.

      If you were in Spain you would def be considered foreign with those characteristics!


  5. Love this pic, Ms. Gib. This is a new and interesting lizard. Actaully I don’t think we have any chameleons specis in Texas. (I’ll need to check that out) This one is quite unusual in appearance.



    • It’s scanned, so it’s not that good. from ye olde fashioned filme. But I wanted to share the pic with people. How wonderful was it to have a chameleon wandering around my garden? Even better than geckos!


  6. Thanks for sharing the link Kate. What a gorgeous Chameleon! I wonder if they see us are foreigners as well? LOL! We must look like aliens to them. 😀

    There were so many of them when I was a kid and now they’re so scarce. Actually sad. They are such beautiful critters. Thanks for sharing. 😀 ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    • You saw lots as a kid? Wow!

      I’m sure they would see us as foreigners if they thought about us, but like most creatures, I think they just get on with their lives.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I grew up in Kimberley and used to walk to school and find them in the trees. Some days we’d end up in school with about 2 or 3 on our shoulders, much to the annoyance of the teachers. LOL!

        I am sure they would and yes, they definitely would. So much we can learn from nature indeed. 😀


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