After a week of learning about the history of this beautiful nation, visiting ancient castles and cities, and basically living the Princess Diaries dream, our group had formed strong bonds – I suppose that sharing endless baskets of pan (bread) and trying not to get lost along the winding cobblestoned streets of Toledo and Avila will do that to you! We shared rooms, shared meals, shared stories, and shared some pretty incredible experiences.
And then we got to Oviedo.
Upon our arrival in Oviedo, our group went from existing as a single entity to existing in sixteen very separate, very alone, very individual pieces. We stepped off the bus, grabbed our luggage, met our host families for the first time, and were whisked off with new people to new houses in a new city immersed in what felt like a completely new language. It was terrifying.
Here’s a little secret: stage fright doesn’t just happen on stages. It happens when you’re talking to your host mom for the first time. And the second time. And sometimes the 72nd time! But, if you’re as lucky as I am, you’ll get a second chance. And a third chance. And sometimes a 73rd chance!
That first day was hard. But, like most things in life, it got easier. My host parents were consistently patient, enunciating clearly and using simple explanations and charades to clue me in when I was clearly clueless! My vocabulary expanded from simple nods and repeated utterances of “Sí” to informed expressions and verbal reactions. Slowly but surely, I began to truly learn the Spanish language.
Now, the Spanish language isn’t simply words and grammar and punctuation. It isn’t simply an “¡Hola!” in passing or an “¡Hasta luego!” on your way out the door. It isn’t simply a “¡Vamos a la playa!” or a “Tengo MUCHO hambre.” It is living. It is breathing. And it is everywhere.
To me, the language of Spain is the way its people go about their everyday lives. It is the comfortable walking pace that allows all of your senses to participate in getting you to your destination. It is the time that is taken at meals to enjoy rather than to simply eat. It is the clothing fashion that is not meant to communicate status, rather to communicate the regard one has for oneself. It is the evenings that patiently wait until the sun goes down (which is around 10pm) to begin with dinner and end with laughter. It is the trips after class or work to the beach town of Gijón. It is the trips to the gym. It is the spur of the moment hikes. It is shopping. It is exploring. It is walking through the park not to get somewhere, but just to be there. It is every moment of every day because every single second counts.
Over the past couple of weeks, each one of us has become more familiar with the language of Spain. We have navigated bus stations and grocery stores and host moms and waiters with increasing grace and accuracy (thank God). What’s more, we have begun to find our place in this big little town. We have our cafés, we have our beaches, we have our host families and we have each other. And I can’t speak for the rest of the group, but I have a feeling that this adventure is just getting started.