Tengo dos amores (with apologies to Josephine Baker)

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When I first heard “J’ai deux amours” by Josephine Baker I understood the song as an abstraction: a song expressing the feelings of an incredible entertainer from the US who had to move to Paris to come into her own. Now, the song has a much more personal meeting.

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I never expected to become so attached to a city and its people. I did not expect the intoxication that comes from being able to communicate in another language other than your mother tongue (no matter how many mistakes you make in grammar and pronunciation). And like Josephine, often times, I was treated better here as a stranger then I was in my country of origin.

So in my final blog for this site I will let pictures take the place of words and I will let Josephine Baker express more fully what I wish I could.

Published in: on June 24, 2010 at 1:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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El tiempo pasa muy rápido!

Where did the time go?! One day I arrived a stranger in a strange city and the next day I turn around and soon I will depart what has become familiar.

I don’t know exactly when the transformation occurred. Somewhere over the past 17 weeks I went from being the person who asked where everything was and was barely understood and even less understood the answer; to being a person that people ask where things are. The other day a woman asked me: ¿Dónde puedo coger la línea 10? The shock to me was I understood her and even more shocking to me I told her where to go to catch the train and she did not look at me like I had just spoken Greek. I helped a tourist who could not figure out how to pay for the Cercania line (a suburban train system) and told him where to wait on the platform. Random people speak to me, as well as the bus drivers I see every day on my way to SLU or Pozuelo. I know people’s names and the regulars on the bus sit and “charla” with me for our 20 minutes together. I read “20 minutos” every weekday and weekends we visit with friends in the park.

I have not gone half the places I wanted to or accomplished as many goals as I have set out for myself. My book has languished, but I have presented research in Spanish and next week I present a research paper in English in Valencia related to my book project. I am not fluent in Spanish, but I feel confident in my ability to handle situations in the language and I have even debated emotional topics like Gay Marriage, Plastic Surgery, Taxes on the Rich, Religion and Private versus Public Education (more about this one in a future blog) in Spanish.

Most importantly, I have made a few friends. The pictures of the places will be there for the viewing. But holding people in your heart who have helped you navigate the system; invited you to lunch to extend your contacts; shown kindness to your child; made sure that you had something to do on a weekend when you had no idea what to do; shared a box of grits (if you don’t know, don’t ask); allowed you and your child to hang out and watch some TV in English, provided an emergency number “just in case” and patiently conversed with you in Spanish as you developed your communication skills; these are the things that have made my time here special.

And yes, quite frankly, I am ready to come back to the States: to family, to the familiar. But, as I look ahead to the things I want to do in my time that has passed to quickly here I know that there are things and people who I will miss in Madrid.

Published in: on May 28, 2010 at 7:43 pm  Leave a Comment  
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