Amy B. Smoyer, PhD

Prison Food, Incarcerated Lives, Health & Social Work

A Bowl of Cherries


Spain to Accept European Rescue for Ailing Banks, NYT, June 10, 2012.

If you are reading the Sunday New York Times today, you may be reading about the Spanish banking crisis.  "La Crisis" as they like to call it around here.  Or you might be just be doing the crossword puzzle and thinking about what to have for breakfast.  I am having cherries for breakfast as the harvest has just come in at Jaime's parents' garden and they go bad quickly so everyone's gotta eat a half kilo a day. Tough task.  But, alas, I stray from the subject at hand...

Having lived here for almost 9 months now, you might think I have some kind of thoughts or opinions on the Spanish economic crisis, but I don't.  First of all, thanks to the Internet, I read the same US news that you do; I don't really read Spanish newspapers and we don't have a television. With friends and family, it is a subject I try to avoid.  The news is all pretty depressing and there is little the common person can actually do about it, so conversation seems futile.

But last week, the subject came along and sat down right next to me, so it was impossible to avoid.  A young friend, maybe 30 years old at the most, bright, interested and interesting.  Speaks Spanish, English and French fluently, graduated with an advanced degree in Psychology and has basically never found work.  He described his most recent attempt to get a job at a customer service call center for a large Spanish retail store.  The position, which paid 800 Euros($1K) per month required fluency in English and one other European language as calls would be fielded from all over the EU.  Over 400 people applied.  He sat through multiple interviews where he was asked typical HR questions about his strengths and weaknesses.  He translated two long documents into English and French.  He answered mock phone calls to demonstrate his language skills. Everything seemed to go smoothly, but he didn't make it to the second round.

A lot of the unemployed people I have met here seem to have stopped looking for jobs which always seemed kind of lazy to me.  Come on, now people, make an effort! But then Mr. Effort himself paid me a visit and now I kind of get it. A brief glimpse at the prospects for this smart young man makes you wonder what's out there for the formerly incarcerated, the uneducated and the untrained.

Will the transfer of money from this bank to that one fix this all? Who knows. But living with kilos of cherries in my kitchen for the last few weeks, I can tell you this. They say, "Life is a bowl of cherries." Life is sweet, shiny and delicious. Perhaps. But if you don't eat the cherries right away, or at least wash them well and keep them dry, they start to rot. Mold starts on one and spreads to the others. They get brown and juicy and smell really bad.