Stop Whining

OK. I had my pity party. I missed home on the 4th of July. Seems like that’s a good day to mope when you’re so far from neighborhood fireworks and bar-b-que with friends. But like one of those blow up clown dolls with the sand in the bottom, you gotta pop back up.

And some really good things happened yesterday. First off, Jeff found he had run out of his blood pressure meds and that he could put off no longer going to the Farmacia near our house for a refill. He took a deep breath and took the bottle down there and explained what he needed. His old prescription was $30 a month. The new one? 3 euros for a month supply and no prescription needed. They just handed them over. He was giddy and now no longer intimidated by going to speak to a pharmacist.

I went to my Spanish lesson yesterday and it went swimmingly. Well, maybe I felt like I was swimming because I was in the blistering heat with dripping wet humidity. But my teacher felt I’m making good progress. We’re meeting up again today to keep the momentum going.

Then I took Emilie to have her sports physical so she can be cleared to play when she returns to school in the US. I swear it’s a racket, these sports physicals, but Jeff and I had found a clinic where there was a rumor that they had a Dr. that spoke English, so we could explain why the hell he needed to fill out this form with a bunch of weird questions like ‘Do you feel safe in your home?’ and ‘Are you ever sad?’. Things he’s supposed to ask her so that he can determine if these might impact her playing basketball or hitting a tennis ball.

So we went – they require no appointment – and muddled through in my lame Spanish at reception. I was feeling more confident after my lesson so I tried out a couple of new words and phrases. More on that later. Then we went and sat in the waiting room. A Dr. came out and we heard English. Like American English. I turned to find him chatting with an American couple who had just arrived and needed some medication.

He finished with them and then called us to his office. He spoke to me in Spanish and I answered him back. We waited outside for him to finish with another patient and then he came out and ushered us in. We sat down and he asked why we were there in Spanish and I told him, in English, and he asked if I was Spanish. I told him ‘No’. He said he was so surprised because my accent was so good he thought I was Spanish. Well, can I just say I LOVE THIS DR. He could be the worst Dr. on the planet but his compliment went a long way yesterday. I sat up a little taller after that.

It turns out he was born in Valencia but grew up in Tallahassee, Florida. He went to FSU and then moved back to Valencia to be near his parents. His wife is Valencian and he has two daughters who don’t want to live in the US. So Tallahassee’s loss is our gain.

We finished up with the sports exam and then met some of our friends who moved here last week from Seattle. We had worked together at a previous employer and they had been planning to move here with their daughter before we ever made our plan. Neither of us aware of what the other was plotting. So it all dovetailed nicely. And ironically, we met at the Portland Ale House on Salamanca, which is a mecca to all things Portland Ore. in the US. I grew up in Portland, and so did Pete, so we recognized all the photos and the marque outside.

They have great burgers and beer and it was fun to be surrounded by University of Oregon flags, Timbers paraphernalia, and old street signs and license plates I recognized. The owner is from Portland and he’s done a great job in bringing a little of it to Valencia. My family should get ready because when we visit the US in September they’re all getting Portland Ale House t-shirts. Seems right.

The burgers made Jeff’s day – best burger and fries in Valencia so far. And it was fun to hear about Pete and Ryan’s adventures in getting settled. They’re off and running, and loving living here too.

So I bounced back from my whining 4th of July. And it just goes to show you that the universe is listening. It knew it needed to throw me a bone yesterday and it threw me a whole handful. It’s time to get back to work.

Lifeguard Wanted!

In the US there is a saying ‘Being thrown into the deep end of the pool’. This means that a person goes from being on solid ground, to being in over their head with whatever thing they might be confronting. This could entail being expected to do something that you’ve never done before, as though you’re an expert. Its an apt expression since it often will include panic and hyper-ventilation. Both of these things we experienced in full today in our Immersion Total experience.

We went to our first Spanish class at our local ‘Escuela de Espanol‘ and I can say that we’ve not just been thrown into the deep end of the pool, but the ocean! Holy mackerel, we are lost. I would have shouted ‘Ayuda! Me estoy ahogando en espanol!’ (Help! I’m drowning in Spanish!!) if only I’d known how to say it. And I am drowning in Spanish. And so is Jeff. No es claro. And Jeff’s innate need for understanding the ‘Why’ of anything and everything is wildly unsatisfied because the instructor will not speak to us in English – at all.

We got there early and the room was set up in a circle. We have people from Holland, UK, Ukraine, Libya, Russia, Italy and us, in this class. The instructor came in and immediately wrote a few Spanish sentences on the board, began talking rapidly, and then asked each of us to say what she had written, but modify it for ourselves. It’s was our names, home country, what we like and what we don’t like. I stumbled through it and so did Jeff.

Then she wrote some other things on the board that I recognized from +Babbel and Rosetta Stone, and it started to make a little sense. I looked over at Jeff and he had that ‘Whaaat The…??!!’ look on his face as the instructor asked him question after question and he had zero clue what she was talking about. Other people were confused too. The guy from the Ukraine had already checked out.

We did some work sheets and then we had to say our letters to each other. My vocabulary isn’t bad but my pronunciation could use some work. Jeff’s pronunciation is really good, but he has a hard time teasing out what our instructor is saying. He began to correct my recitation of the alphabet. This is good, because for about a week now I’ve repeated everything he says in the limited Spanish I have, and I think it’s been making him a little crazy. Revenge is a dish best served cold, I guess.

On Saturday, he asked me ‘Where are the bikes we’re picking up?’ referring to what bike share station we’re going to.

‘You mean ‘Donde esta Valenbisi biccecletas‘ we’re picking up?’

Sure, it’s incomplete pigeon Spanish, but it’s how I’m learning and it’s helping me to more quickly conjure up what I might need to say to someone who doesn’t speak Ingles. When I do, I usually get ‘The Look’ but oh, well.

After our 2 hour lesson today, we left the school knowing we will be back there for two more hours every morning this week. Jeff’s head was spinning. We had learned to words for thief and plumber. Kind of obscure since I am perpetually trying to avoid both of those things in my life.

‘I didn’t understand half of that.’ he grumbled.

‘Yeah, me neither, but that’s why we’re taking the class. If we understood it, we wouldn’t need it. We just have to go with the flow. It’s not a college class and we’re doing it for ourselves. Our future livelihoods won’t depend on it.’

I got a ‘Hrmpft’ as a response.

We got home and had a little lunch. We’ve signed up for 3 weeks of intensive classes and I think Jeff is counting down the hours. But in the end, we’ll be glad we did this and the school we chose is flexible if we need to continue or go back for additional instruction – which is almost guaranteed.

But first we need to get through the initial part. The part where we surrender to the fact that we don’t understand, and that the goal isn’t getting it perfect, just good enough.  ‘No comprende‘ is going my constant companion in this course and I’m OK with it. Maybe we need to drown a little, so we’ll start kicking and head for the surface so we can breath the air in Valencia. Spanish air. It will not be easy, but I know with time it won’t be as ‘Dificil‘ as it was today.