Aprendiendo Espanol – Dia Nueve

Some of this post will be in Spanish. It might not be perfect but now that I’ve been studying Spanish for 9 whole days, I think I’m ready to try to convey my deepest thoughts in my new-found language. I must first apologize to my Mom and Mrs. Taylor, who has lived next door to her for 50 years and was my second Mom as a kid. Ladies, you’ll have to use Google translate, or the like. to decipher the paragraph below to gain all the wisdom of the universe. Yeah, I know that’s a long shot. Well, let’s see.

Ultimamente, por nueve dias he hecho estudies Espanol. Pasado semana mi professor ensenar en una bar cerca en Benimaclet. Gradualmente soy aprender. Actualmente, todos los dias soy en clase en Benicalap con Britanico expats. Hoy ser divertido y mucho informativo.

Pasado semana, he hecho el colapso. Miedo mi nunca aprender Espanol. Una dia yo estar no capaz de Espanol. Como hoy yo se hecho apriender algunos verbo conjugation y numeros desde una a mil.

Estoy en limite de Epanol. Muchas gracias por paciencias.

Whew! Ok, that took everything I had. I don’t have the correct accents and the little Spanish ‘n’ with the wavy thing over it on my laptop keyboard. And I am totally sure it was mostly crap since my present perfect and past v. future-tense is still in a state of continual flux. Not to mention that on a daily basis I forget about 90% of what I learned the day before. But, I’m really trying.

Today, after class the other students were grumbling. Even with my terrible Spanish, the consensus is that I’ll fly past the rest of the students any time now. I asked them why they thought that since mostly I just barely muddle through.

‘Because you actually want to do it. You’re focused, and you study.’

This seemed like a curious indictment. But they are right. I do study alot and I am actively engaged in the class, whether it’s being held in a bar (not as uncommon as you’d think) or in a classroom. Just FYI, the wine helped when the verb conjugation got a little harry. And the ‘arse’ verbs are exactly what they sound like. Every day, after my daily lesson I would head to the bar to pay and the bartender would ask me how my Espanol was. More than once, after a tough session, I wondered why he had to ask since there were times I saw him actively grimace. Sometimes, almost sadly he would give me an encouraging thumbs up. Out of pity.

But I will crack this Tiger Nut. I am the most annoying patron of any bar or restaurant. If the waitress asks me something in Spanish, I repeat what she just said to me and then I answer her back. At first, they seem concerned – like I suffer from some sort of brain anomaly – but then they realize I’m trying to learn the language and they help by correcting me and sometimes going out of their way to provide other opportunities to learn new words.

Mostly, I just shake off the shame of looking like a fool. Tonight, I’m transcribing my notes and building some new tables to help me better remember from one lesson to another. Later, I’m going to treat myself to a Spanish movie. I guess my fellow students are right – I will do this. No existe nada que pueda parame!

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.

I Just Gotta Do It

In an effort to continue my journey in the Spanish language, and to make things easier, I have acquired a new Spanish tutor. He’s British but he is a fluent speaker. I’m pretty sure he will help me get back up on my kindergarten bicicletta with the Espanol training wheels.

I had fallen off after our horrible non-intensivo, intensivo class. And I had avoided getting back up. Sure, I have labeled everything in our house with their corresponding Spanish words. The delivery guys have found this amusing when they came in to deliver various things and pointed at my visual prompts taped to walls, light switches, chairs, windows – and laughed. But it’s working for me in a passive sort of ‘learning without trying’ kind of way.

But even I knew it couldn’t last. I would eventually have to jump back into the river (yeah, I’m mixing metaphors) and swim in Spanish language waters again. My new tutor seemed like a good choice since he spoke no Spanish 3 years ago and is now teaching Spanish to several people I know. I’ve watched their impressive progress, so we met and started off our new working relationship.

He also has a Valencian girlfriend – I’ll call her Marta – who is a chef. Her English and my Spanish are, if not equally as bad, they’re living in the same dodgy neighborhood. So she and I met with another friend of mine to do an ‘intercambio’. They have these little meet ups all over Valencia – usually at a bar – and they advertise for native English and Spanish speakers to get together over drinks and alternate speaking in each other’s languages. The theory is that everybody will get better.

Now I haven’t dated in decades. I never really knew how to do it anyway. Meeting a stranger, finding something to talk about, going to the bathroom and calling a friend asking them to call your phone in 10 minutes with some sort of emergency, and finally leaving. But at least it was in a language you knew. The attendance of one of the general ‘bar intercambio’ seemed too much like a speed date, but much, much harder. Finding a topic to discuss with someone you can barely communicate with over drinks in a dark location, then sifting through the your terribly limited vocab, stringing together sentences like a toddler and them moving on to the next person. And struggling to do it all again.

So Marta and my other friend and I decided to form our own group and avoid the bar scene. The upside of this is that Marta comes right from work and brings food. Amazing food. And she brings bags of it. So I got home last night after our intercambio bearing gifts. Jeff is starting to see the upside of my new found commitment to my Spanish studies.

We spent the first 15 minutes speaking Spanish – or my version of it. And then we did 15 minutes in English. I learned how to have rudimentary smack talk in Spanish about Germany losing in the World Cup. Adding to my vocabulary for things like ‘perdedor’, ‘juego’, ‘presumir’ and much more. And Marta learned how to talk about driving and parking in Valencia, all in English. She learned new words and phrases like ‘Son of a Bitch’ and ‘asshole’ and ‘line hugger’. Things that will stand her in good stead if she decides to drive in Los Angeles at rush hour, or tries to park her car on the street in San Francisco.

We’ve decided we’ll meet every Wednesday and help each other. Sure, I’ll learn a bunch of stuff and the meet ups are tasty. Perhaps I’ll even bring Emilie with me for a few of these get togethers, because I think she could use it too. Just now our apartment buzzer rang and Emilie answered it in the kitchen. After moment she held out the hand set to me and in a bored-teenager-tone said ‘It’s a Spanish person’. I was so astounded at her need to tell me that  – and her apparent surprise that the person on the other end of the phone would be anything other than that – I broke out laughing.

But it’s not really funny. We need to be able to communicate much more effectively. And I think it’s time I took Emilie on the journey with me. Clearly, her new beach volleyball friends aren’t pushing her to use the little vocabulary she possesses. My goal is to be able to go to the Doctor with an interpreter and to get a newer version of our Padron in preparation for our driving license tests. If I can speak enough Spanish to accomplish that it will be major milestone. Or un hito importante!

Spin It!

Day 2 of Spanish went a little better – for Jeff – than Day 1. After yesterday, I had lectured him on ‘keeping and open mind’ and just ‘going with the flow’. So we walked down to our class again and he grumbled the entire way.

We got to the escuela and were the first to arrive. Jeff staked out his spot and the class ended up being about a third of the participants as the first day. Kind of like college. It was pretty clear that the rest of the students decided to bale. My supposition is that they got their parents to pay for a ‘Go to Spain and Learn Spanish’ trip, and after one day they were at the beach.

Day 2 started much like Day 1. The instructor came in and started speaking to us all again and we barely understood 2 words. Then she wrote some things on the white board and we, again, fumbled around. The others in the class were struggling too. Jeff was stoically silent. I didn’t think it was going well. Perhaps I would find him on the beach with the other students by Day 3.

Then, about 3/4 of the way through the class,, the instructor directed her attention to Jeff. She fired a question his way and he rattled off a full sentence in perfect Spanish about how motorcycles are much louder than bicycles. Huh? The instructor praised him loudly and explained to the rest of us why it was perfect. or I think she did. He beamed like a prize Pomeranian and looked over at me, smiling slyly, then went back to taking detailed notes – clearly trying not to laugh at my incredulous expression.

Then she asked me a question that I understood but stumbled in my answer because of the revelation that Jeff was better at learning Spanish than me. It’s not a competition, but tell that to my husband while walking on the way home. He was glowing. I was chewing glass.

‘I was just ‘keeping an open mind’ and ‘going with the flow” he said, ironically.

‘Yeah? Well, how did you spew out that lengthy sentence. None of us could have done that.’

‘Listening. I sat there an listened to what she was saying and what other people were saying and I figured it out.’

Ugh! We went home and since I have signed up for the gym, I decided to walk the mile and half down there and burn off some steam. I got to the club and they did the initial check in and took my picture and gave me my pass. Then I went up and found an open elliptical machine and got on it, firing up my usual work out playlist. I haven’t worked out at a gym since we’ve been here so it felt good to hear the music and do something I’m good at.

The personal trainer came over and after determining I couldn’t understand her, she went and got another guy who explained how it all works and told me there was a spinning class in 15 minutes. So I did the elliptical for 15 minutes and then went to the Spin class. I had no idea what it would be like but I thought I’d give it a try. It was a killer and it was in Spanish.

The guy kicked my ass, while ensuring I am clear I do not understand ‘Spinning Spanish’, and an hour later I stumbled back the mile and a half home. 2 litres of water later and I was asleep. This means I missed yoga – which I’m pretty sure is the antithesis of why I went spinning in the first place. But no matter.

I sit here tonight content. I’m drinking a glass of wine, I know Jeff will not be skipping Spanish class with the others, and I’ve been studying my notebook. He’s in for it tomorrow. I’ve got 3 sentences queued up and ready to go. But only if she asks specific questions. But I’ll worry about that tomorrow.