August 12, 2002

8/12/02 Hacinas

My first day at Spanish school

Morning came way too soon. Nati and I drove into the city, and while she went to work at city hall as a secretary, I went to Amparo's apartment for my first Spanish lesson.

I am her second American student, and her fourth student since she opened the school. For now, she is the only teacher and classes are held in her living room. But she has hopes for adding more instructors and more classroom space. After three hours, my lips are very tired because we worked mostly on pronunciation. Amparo said that the Spanish think English is an easy language to learn but they have most of their problems with pronunciation. I am trying to make sounds and use my mouth in ways it hasn't had to do. Very hard work.

Amparo tells me to give it a chance and I will be speaking Spanish, instead of just translating the words in my head, in two or three weeks. I told her my skull is pretty thich and the brain small, so it might take four or five weeks.

After class, Agnes and I went for a walk to nearby village. And because I had left my hat at home, my face and head are quite sunburned. The Spanish all take evening walks, called a paseo. I was sad to learn that Agnes is at the end of her two weeks here and is driving back to Germany to attend the University. On our walk, we used my little Spanish and her little English to talk about our families and life at home.

By the time we got back, Amparo had specially prepared a rice dish common in Valencia where she grew up. Later we talked about my contradiction of being a finicky eater. I told her that I was trying everything put on my plate, tasting everything at least once. She didn't believe I was that finicky at home because I cleaned off my plate. But then she said I could never be a finicky eater after I told her about drinking fresh goat's blood on my summer in Kenya.

Again, because of the upcoming festival, the second of three nights of storytelling was going on tonight. This story storyteller loved to involve the audience and it wasn't long before she decided to involve me. Amparo and Santi quickly told her I didn't understand her because I didn't speak Spanish. So, she began to speak English at certain parts of the story, always directing those words specifically at me, much to the audiences delight. I knew she was getting some laughs at my expense but I didn't mind. José said "Now everyone in town knows the American, Jim!"

My hosts are letting me turn in early. I sit here at midnight writing this. One reason I came at this specific time was to be here in Salas for their local festival. José and Nati are joining a peña, a sort of social association of which many peñas make up a large part of the festival. And they have invited me to join. This is not common, so it's a great opportunity to see part of the Spanish culture few foriegners get to see.