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Another Kind of Baby Boom

Mar
30
2006

It is time for me to be an ugly American, to throw cross-cultural understanding down the garbage disposal (machines that, by the way, are lacking here, if someone could fix that too, please), to put my foot down in a bold move saying, “Stop annoying me.”
The Valencians throughout most of March celebrate a festival called Fallas. The main part takes place during about a week leading up to St. Joseph’s day (March 19), when huge, sometimes several-story high papier-mâché figures are erected in the streets, to be burned down on the last night with a burst of fireworks. Throughout the month there’s also a daily fireworks noise show (just smoke to see, no pretty stuff), which gets sports-style commentary on TV along with a decibel meter, so everyone can keep track of how loud it gets, the idea being to get as loud as possible. The origins of this madness are supposed to be some pagan spring festival or city carpenters having an annual wood burn or something, but it really doesn’t matter; for natives it’s a traditional party.
Those parts are not so bad. As someone with issues about loud noises, but who enjoys a destructive fire as much as the next wanna-be hooligan, I could pick and choose what to participate in. The problem, however, is the local brats – I mean, charming children. Since the parents know they’ll all turn out deaf sooner or later, and they must figure a little second-degree burn heals eventually, the kids all seem to have fireworks which they delight in tossing whenever and wherever. At baby carriages, in parks, when you’re walking by, whenever. There were times this month when I heard seriously professional-grade fireworks booming in my neighborhood, I hope under some kind of supervision. Or maybe not.
At one point I saw my neighbor across the street holding her less than one-year-old baby and helping him or her to drop small noise-making popper fireworks off their balcony. Which is why when they had their own mini-fallas celebration at Son the Elder’s school, and another school down the street set off really loud booms in the middle, the Valencians didn’t bat an eye. They’re trained young.
Now I know the last thing any parent wants to hear is a comment on his or her child-rearing practices. However, and I say this as someone who fully understands it’s none of her business and who has no understanding of the pull of tradition and who’s used to a lawsuit-influenced overprotective U.S. culture and blah blah blah; still I say, this random firework usage is wrong, just wrong. And most of all it violates my basic rule on accepting cultural differences (at least the minor ones): they’re O.K. until they become a pain in the ass to me personally. And then, forget it.
Because why should I change? Well, maybe my profession. This has got to be a great town for audiologists.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 12:28 AM | Permalink

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