Mar 14, 2022 • 1M

Being A Big Sister

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Vismaya Gopalan
Living & Studying in Spain - Junior in High School
Episode details

Carmen and I like to conduct little musical sessions together. Here I am playing the guitar while Carmencita sings the beautiful song “Dos Oruguitas” from the recent Disney movie “Encanto”.

Encanto was the first movie I watched with my little sisters, and it almost perfectly aligns with so much in my life at the moment. Encanto was released in November of 2021, and I remember telling one of my friends in school that I really wanted to watch it because I absolutely the genre of story-telling that is magical realism; in magical realism, inanimate objects and the world alike come to life to speak to the character and sprinkle magic on the mundanity of the ordinary. Everyday I am in Spain, I often stop to still grasp the reality of my situation, often adding my own magic into the objective vision: living in such a charming little city, it really feels magical every time I discover how something has fallen into place or how things align in the most mysterious ways. Here in Spain, I am often asked what my name means (given it is not a typical Spanish name), and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the meaning of my name (Vismaya means “wonder” in Sanskrit) translates to encanto in Spanish.

Living with Catalina and Carmen has been nothing short of an encanto. I have learned more from my two little sisters than I thought possible. Part of what works well for us is that freedom that Roberto and Laura give us. I am allowed to take my little sisters for walks, go to the supermarket, go shopping, or even go on runs with them. They love coming with me because the only two other people they are allowed to go out with on a regular basis are their parents.

We usually have our most fun on Friday or Saturday nights when we are allowed to stay up late. Carmen has discovered all sorts of fashion and house decorating games on my iPad that she loves to play. Her current obsessions are two songs: “Niña de la Escuela” by Lola Indigo and “Dos Oruguitas” from the movie Encanto. I “hang out” more with Catalina, as she’s older and she’s more comfortable spending longer periods of time away from her mother. Catalina also speaks very well in English for her age, so we converse in English; she likes practicing her English with me, and she understands very well all the Disney channel shows that we watch.

Whenever we go out on family excursions, Catalina always holds my hands and shows me around; she loves to practice her English, and she tells me that she loves having a big sister. I recently went out to buy a birthday gift for one of my friends, and I happened to see a couple really beautiful small headbands that I decided to pick out for Catalina and Carmen: Carmen hasn’t taken off her flower headband for the past four days :) We also love to take Polaroids; all I have to say is that it’s time to take a “special photo” and they both will come running up to me from different corners of the house ready with their poses.

Often, we play puzzles or watch movies on Saturdays (when we’re not going out). In the picture above, we did a puzzle of the movie Moana. Every day after school, all three of us eat lunch together (usually with Laura), after which the girls rush to get ready for their after-school classes. Little Carmen is often hesitant to finish her portions, but she does eat if I feed her or if we compete to see who is the fastest eater.

I remember being so pleasantly surprised when I first met the girls because they were not at all shy to introduce themselves to me; in fact, they ran up to give me a hug at the bus station, which was very endearing in itself, as I can only imagine how excited they were to welcome a big sister into their lives. Before I arrived in Spain, I remember video calling my host family, but I barely spoke to Catalina and Carmen. Instead, I spoke to Roberto and Laura who told me how excited Catalina and Carmen were to have a big sister: apparently, they had planned to do many things with me like have a pajama party and dress up their dolls.

Referencing the word encanto again, I truly have learned so much from Catalina and Carmen. Being an only child myself, I have never had to share a bathroom with my siblings or even share my possessions for that matter. Now, almost everything I have, I share with my little sisters, and it works the other way as well. Every night of the week is allotted to one of us for watching TV so we don’t fight (although I rarely engage in these fights). All three of us get the same dessert every Saturday as well. Apart from sharing, I’ve truly grown to expand my patience, whether it be when I’m not in the mood to play and I have to listen to my little sisters yell “PLEASE” a thousand times or when I have to actually comply with my promises, such as sharing my iPad with them for an hour.

The word encanto has more meanings that just “wonder”. It also signals “charm”, “joy”, “spell”, and “delight”, depending on the context. My little sisters have brought me so much joy in the short time I have known them. I was very unsure of what it would be like to live with a host family that had two young children, as I had expected to be living with a family who had a child of my own age. Looking back, it is such a beautiful thing to be able to see things through the eyes of young children. Often, they unabashedly ask me so many questions and genuinely take the time to make me feel better if I’ve had a bad day by sneaking me a cookie or taking me to the park. My imagination has soared in the short time I’ve known them by being constantly stretched through our imaginary games and tales. I am so lucky to be a big sister to such beautiful little girls, and I can’t wait for all the adventures we’ll have.