We are celebrating our Espanaversary today—one year in this land of olives, bougainvillea and white-walled pueblos.
Physically, I have changed. My hair is longer, and I’m more inclined to wear scarves, skinny jeans, boots, harem pants, and feria dresses than in the past.
I have eaten: the eggs of cuttlefish, squid ink, fried squid, raw squid, a pizza with a fried egg on top of it, snails, and enough jamon to make me grow a snout.
I have drank shots of ainse (at a public school), brimming glasses of rubijitos (in a moving vehicle), and countless glasses of cafe con leche (in every cafeteria in Chipiona).
I have met people who are my family of choice—the soft-spoken Texan, the snarky Dane, the woman with the Hawaiian name and kind heart—and so many others. The people of my community, younger and older, military and civilian, who walk with me.
And then? There’s the Spanish folks who share their language, their music, their homes, and a thousand kisses and smiles. All Gratis.
I’m overwhelmed. If I think too hard, it makes my world blurry, and my chest tighten a bit.
I’m humbled. I have much to learn about language. For every day that I communicate with grace, there’s the next day, where I walk into the store and order, “Light Cocaine” instead of Diet Coke.
I watch teenage girls walk down the streets with their grandmothers, inching along, arms entwined. There is no resentment, no eye-rolling or strain. Hunched together like two ends of a parenthesis, they form a unit, unbroken. And I think of my thirteen year old self, and I cringe, a bit.
I watch my neighbor, Alfonso, suspenders hitched over his short-sleeved, button-down shirt. Each day, he tends his grape plants or his flowers, talking with his son, often with a glass of vino at the ready. Every morning, we share a “Buenos Dias,” and remark on the sun or the cold or the wind. We both try.
My children and I hunt for sea glass by the beach, and walk along the paseo. Already, children from school call their names, and very soon, my sons will run to them.
I find community here, one brave, error-filled gesture at a time. I buy my bread, and my fruit, and my fish. I schedule a playdate with another madre, or paint the playground at the school.
And I second-guess myself, and wonder why I’m doing something so foreign and hard.
But then, I begin another day. Another week. Another year, in this beautiful land that whispers my name.