Going Out With Friends
The encounters I have on the days I write greatly impact the stories I choose to tell and the ways in which I choose to present them. I woke up this morning thinking I would write about my daily routine, but the course of my day shifted the cadence of my thoughts entirely; what was originally meant to be a one-on-one escapade with my friend Sole became an adventure with four of the nicest girls in my grade. Sole and I had just stepped out of the Alcazaba, making our way to the center of the city slowly. As we found our way to the main street in the center of the city full of clothing stores and major brands, I heard a familiar voice shout my name very loudly from across the street. I was so pleasantly surprised to see my friends Irene and Natalia with Irene (there are two Irene’s in my class) and Margarita. In the moment, I was really struck by how fashionably dressed they were; this is one of the biggest differences I keep noting between the United States (or the Bay Area at least) and Europe. They ended up taking me to El Corte Inglés, which is the equivalent of Macy’s or Nordstrom in the United States. We had the best time talking about Spanish toys that they played with when they were younger and comparing the English and Spanish pronunciations of names such as Google (gOOgLEH), Youtube (jOOthOObEH), and more.
I initially planned on writing about some moments in class that stood out to me, but meeting my friends in the city pushed itself to be the pinnacle of my day, thus embedding itself as a memory to be published through my writing. At this point, my Spanish skills are slowly promoting themselves from a beginner level to an intermediate conversational level. I can successfully hold a conversation in Spanish, although there still exists an ocean of vocabulary and slang I don’t know; I’m still getting used to the rate of speech here as well although my brain is starting to identify the individual parts of sentences that once just sounded like a blob of sounds.
The first photo is from my friend Sara’s birthday party in March. I had the best time going out with her to an Italian restaurant and getting to know her friends. The photo below is from today; these are lovely classmates Margarita, Irene, Natalia, and Irene (pictured left to right) who accompanied me to the shopping center and patiently showed me everything. They were so incredibly sweet, telling me many times to call them if I needed anything as I walked back home by myself.
I played the “Meet My Teachers” video for my friends in class; well rather, my English teacher Juan played it upon ‘popular’ request at the end of class. My classmates really enjoyed the video, but really what stood out for me was my classmates’ reaction upon hearing me say “madre mia”. As I’ve been absorbing more Spanish vocabulary day by day, my brain has also been picking up Spanish expressions, phrases, and slang with “madre mia” being an expression (equivalent of “oh my goodness” or “oh my gosh”). When I was interviewing my chemistry teacher Carlos, he told me that he had been a teacher at the school for twenty years to which I responded with “madre mia!”. I remember specifically hearing my classmates say, “acho, ha dicho ‘madre mia’!!” (“bro, she said ‘madre mia’!”). It was so rewarding to see how proud of something they were of something that slipped out of my mouth unconsciously. It really hadn’t struck me specifically until that moment either of all the phrases and expressions I’ve unknowingly been picking up through constant listening. I even said my first curse word in Spanish naturally for the first time a couple days ago, and everyone lost it again; they were so amused and proud.
In the spirit of April Fool’s day, I messed with a couple of my friends in Spanish for quite possibly the first time today. With today being the last day of Walter (the other exchange student), my friends Dani and Patricia asked me in class today when I was leaving. I told them I was leaving next week, and the genuine look of sadness on their face both tickled me with laughter and made me so happy. I felt bad really quickly, so I told them it was a joke and that I was leaving in June; as soon as I told them it was a joke, they both looked both proud and annoyed at the same time. Patri even called me “una española de verdad” (“a true Spaniard”) because I embraced the Spanish attitude of making jokes all the time. They taught me a few colloquial Spanish verbs regarding trolling others and gossiping, and I don’t think I’ve ever talked to either of them as much I have today.
Most of the kids in my class did not talk to me at first. Of course, there were those who did (like Javi, Lucia (both Lucia’s), Elena, Alberto, and so on), but the majority of the class was rather intimidated by the fact that they couldn’t speak English well and the obvious language barrier hindered our potential friendships. Now that I’ve grown to understand quite a bit of what is said in class, I’ve been able to partake in more conversations than other. I remember talking in class today with Miguel, Elena, Lucia, Patria, and Dani when Miguel loudly told me that I should invite the six or seven people in the class whom I like best to come to my house in the United States. Dani even asked me to name the five people I liked best in the class, and I still can’t tell if the look of sadness on his face was genuine or not when I forgot to add his name to the list. We all talked about Oreos, Migas (a Spanish bread dish), soccer in the United States, and Los Angeles. I’ve never seen them be as interested in learning about San Francisco, but their curiosity really warmed my heart. Earlier in the day, Patri and I had been chatting about the differences between the Spanish and American educational systems (a topic that comes up quite a bit with the education system in Spain changing now), and I was so surprised at the level of conversation I could hold.
Most of the days in Spain have been routine, but it’s the smallest of surprises that implant memories in my mind and inspire me to write. I had such a special time today with my friends whom I happened to encounter by chance, and I’m so glad I did because it opened the path for me to write about the fun times I’ve experienced in class. When the inspiration strikes, I am not only able to choose the light I wish to shine upon my experiences through my writing; I am able to give myself a chance to reflect and absorb the incredibly fast pace at which my semester is moving. What seemed to be trudging along is flying by and some nights I find myself imagining the gloomy spirit of my last day here. I still cannot believe that in three months, the day will come when I have to walk away from these friendships and the life I have built. As I try to continue soaking in the moments each and every day, I only pray for more surprises along the way that illuminate the inspiration present in the mundanity.