This week has been a flashback to every Spanish 1 exercise. You know, the ones that seemed really stupid at the time, but now that you actually need them seem invaluable?
Example 1: The telephone conversation.
This skit is an eternal Spanish class favorite. The task? Write a phone conversation between two friends. Arrange a time and meeting place for an event. Do it memorized.
It seems simple, but when you actually have to do it… ay. When leaving Santiago today we were all instructed to call our host families and let them know when we would be arriving. My face drained white as I tried to figure out what I would say. Understanding Spanish is hard enough in person, trying to do it when you can’t see the person’s face is much harder. After about 15 minutes of conversation with a couple folks on how we would handle various situations, I just did it.
After going through my spiel, I realized that I wasn’t talking to Claudia (my housemother), but one of her daughters. She passed the phone off, and I went through it again. Important information learned from this conversation: a couple people in my host family can speak English. Claudia said something twice that I did not comprehend at all and after a minute, she translated for me. This lovely fact isn’t something I’m going to rely on, but is nice to have.
Example 2: Transportation
I distinctly remember airport vocabulary freshman year of high school. I also remember thinking about how pointless it was. At 15, I had never even been on a plane. Today, that airport/transportation vocabulary was invaluable.
After a week of schedules and of being shepherded around in groups, they sent us out on our own today (relatively). We were given addresses and told to find our own ways home. I’ve only been in a taxi a couple times in my life, so taking my own taxi in a city I know nothing about, to an apartment I’ve never seen, in a language I barely know, to live with a family I’ve never met was a little intimidating.
I sat in the car thinking that there is no way I could have ever done this even a year ago.
Example 3: Greetings
Unit 1, Chapter 1 of every Spanish textbook is greetings. It is by far the most-repeated lesson, and now from experience, I can say this is for good reason.
My housemother and her two daughters met me this afternoon. Introductions were mildly awkward because I couldn’t figure out how to open the door to the apartment building. I later found out that I really wasn’t that dumb, because the door really was locked. However, I did neglect to see the doorbell right next to the door, so….
a little bit of home
The apartment is nice and clean, and there is more storage in my room than I have stuff to fill. I very much appreciate the anti-clutter feel. After I unpacked, I joined my housemother and her five-year-old daughter for some leftover chinese food. We chatted for a bit, which helped the whole place feel more familiar.
As it turns out my housemother’s mother is also a student host, so another student in the program came over this afternoon because his family (grandparents to the kids in my family) was at work. Having another student here for a couple hours, helped me feel more comfortable too.
We were given careful instruction on how to find our way to our meeting in the morning and how to get to school. Then, my family physically took me to the metro station where I will have to transfer to a commuter train to get to campus and the bus station I need in the morning. (this was really nice). The five-year-old turned out to be quite the cute, little tour guide, because she explained absolutely everything on the way.
Example 4: Participation/Immersion
That’s what it’s all about, right? All those awful weeks of forcing myself to come up with something to talk about in Spanish class, so I could earn my participation points are actually coming to mean something. I have to talk, and I am.
I was a little embarrassed at dinner, because they were asking me which meal I wanted on the weekend. (They provide 2 meals for us each day. Program provides daily stipend for the other meal.) I understood what they were asking, but I didn’t know how to say I don’t know yet in a polite way. They have to plan meals, but I still have no idea what my day-to-day schedule will be like. I don’t think this is a big deal, because we are going to Toledo this weekend. I’m sure I can talk to them when I have a better idea next week, but it was still embarrassing.
Guess it’s all just part of the nosedive experience. Tonight, I hung out with my house sisters watching a little TV before bed. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my favorite show, Bones, is on here all the time. It was fun, because the little girl kept running in and out of the room. We talked about our favorite Disney princesses, and she pranced around in a fancy dress and her sister’s platform heels.
I think I’m my family’s 5th international student, and I hear that one girl came barely able to speak Spanish and left fluent. I want to be like that girl…