Thursday, March 24, 2011

Living “Spanish” for the Sower:

I have had SO MUCH STUFF going on lately...

Some of the awesome stuff:

-My family visited me!

-They brought me peanut butter!

-I got to see Barcelona Futbol Club play Sevilla!

-I bought three dresses!

-Consuelo made Gazpacho!

-I'm going to Portugal this weekend

Some of the not awesome stuff:

-I got a pretty bad cold last week, including a nice little fever (I blame Consuelo's germs for this one).

-I have had midterms last week, this week, and next week.

For that reason, mainly, I have not been able to blog lately.

BUT- here is a guest column that I have written for The Sower, Concordia's Student Newspaper. Some of it you all will have heard about, some perhaps not. Anyway...Enjoy:

Living "Spanish"

This semester I have vacated my Ruth C suite to study thousands of miles away from Concordia, in Seville, Spain. I had been planning to study abroad ever since I submitted the paper to my advisor, that sold my soul to the Education Department, with the word “Spanish” scribbled in as one of my concentrations.

When I arrived in Spain, that was still just a word on a piece of paper, tucked neatly in a filing cabinet. However, because I am living here, I have had to adopt that tiny word into a whole lifestyle.

All of the sudden my life did not revolve around going to TLEC, to Chapel, to Janzow, Repeat; it revolved around...Spanish. And let me tell you something: there’s nothing like throwing yourself into a homogenized, foreign culture to show you that you really don’t know that much Spanish.

I remember when I got picked up by my host-mom, my Señora, Consuelo. After a week of orientation, I had seen presentations and been on tours of the city, all led by the CIEE (Counsel on International Education Exchange) Study Abroad Program staff. Although all of that had been in Spanish, I hadn’t had many one-on-one encounters with Spaniards. Now I would be meeting the woman with whom I would be living for the next five months of my life. Let the communication confusion begin.

Most Spaniards know a little English, especially the younger generations. Consuelo basically knows one word in English: “table.” However, she half the time she forgets the word’s meaning and will just repeat it until she remembers, or until I finally point to the table to end the strange, furniture-inspired chanting. Needless to say, we communicate in Spanish.

When I met her, we had exchanged a greeting of besitos, or those European, cheek-kisses (yes, people really do those). Then we started with some small-talk in the taxi. That’s where the humbling experience that has been this semester began.

Although I’ve studied Spanish since eighth grade, it has been a little challenging actually living “Spanish.” Within five minutes in that taxi ride, I managed to confuse the entire conversation by mixing up the number fifty with fifteen. I remember Consuelo had a confused expression on her face, but I didn’t realize my mistake until a week or so later. We laugh about the silly mistake now, at least I think that’s what we’re laughing about when we reminisces about that day... I could be confused still.

Language is like liquid inside our minds, sloshing back and forth to change forms at any instant. It’s difficult to control this stream of consciousness and make it bend to fit a specific paradigm, in my case Spanish. However, difficulty is almost always worth the momentary trouble. Vale la pena, as they say here.

Seville makes me think of beautiful words like río (river) and sueño (dream). I still think about the expanse of the Nebraskan sky at dawn, but this semester has been an amazing adventure of words and experiences. I have fallen in love with a city of orange trees and its beautiful language. Of course, I continue to make grammatical mistakes and I’m clearly a foreigner here, but I almost feel like its all becoming my own. I hope that others at Concordia, who have similar dreams, will go through all the tedious planning and have their own language adventure. It is worth it. Vale la pena.


  1. Here's the deal, when you write and publish your book, I'll read it.You may ask "what shall I write about?" and I say, anything at all, if you write it they will come... and read it. Table, Table, Table!

  2. I am so proud that you got your story published. <3

  3. Your blog posts are so beautiful, Liz. I would pay to read them. I hope to follow in your footsteps, since I really love the Spanish language. I think I would like to become an English as a Second Language professor.