Because of two doomed years of Spanish back in high school, I remember how to say the following with extreme efficiency verging on fluency: gracias, de nada, and por favor.
Because my roommates back in GR think they’re funny, I recognize this phrase: necessito orinar.
And because I have watched Season 1 of Community, I know that hands are 90% of Spanish. (Gracias, Señor Chang.)
Unfortunately, even if I manage to speak a few words (as occurred when spanglishing my way through a conversation with my friendly taxi driver from the airport), they’re in a Mexican dialect, not a Spanish one. Once I’ve said anything, most of the people immediately begin to address me in English—preferring to stumble along in my language rather than hear me haplessly butcher theirs.
Julian (“Bean”) Delphiki, one of my favorite book characters of all time, is described once by Orson Scott Card as being fated to “always speak the language of the heart with an awkward foreign accent.” It’s an angsty line for me to identify with; but I always have, and not just because my fluency in Spanish is somewhat questionable.
Today I met Rosa, the housekeeper of Casa Alfareria 59. When I walked into the airy white building, lined with leafy plants and blue tile, she was all smiles and held her arms wide for a hug. Forget Spanish, hugs are where I really start to stutter. Back home, hugs are just one aspect of a girl language I never learned but could function without fluency. Here, they’re everywhere.
Yesterday, my Spanish education crash course commenced. Tomorrow, classes begin in how to teach English. And I guess today was my first tutorial in how to hug.