We made it back to the other side of “El Charco” just a few days ago. It’s taking us a bit longer to break free from the jet lag and adjust to the six-hour time difference (i.e., days starting at 4am).
Despite the cansancio and despite D.’s and my sadness at no longer having total access to jamón serrano, we’re still running high on fond memories of our month-long trip to Spain.
There’s so much to say, so many thoughts, that I thought I’d just put them all down together, potpourri style, in one blog post.
1. E.’s language development –
Basically, it EXPLODED, particularly the last two weeks that we were in Spain. Prior to our trip, E. had a vocabulary (in Spanish, her dominant language right now) of about ten words. But, after a few weeks in Spain, hearing only Spanish, that number quickly tripled. She began to immediately repeat new words that she heard D. and I say.
For example, while getting dressed with her one morning, I said, “Me estoy poniendo unas mallas.” And, without skipping a beat, she chimed, “Mallas.” Or, after spending time with her “abuelos,” who she had only seen once before, she began to refer to them by name, “abwi-wos.”
As a linguist by training and lover of all things español, it’s been incredible to witness her language development. On a side note, I should reiterate that her language growth has been a natural process. By that I mean that while her learning two languages is a priority (i.e., it reflects both her parents’ cultures), it’s never been forced. D. and I already speak Spanish together; we read to E. not because we worry she won’t get the input otherwise, but because we love books; and, I refrain from “quizzing” her (e.g., pointing to my nose and asking, “What is this?”) or from asking redundant questions, questions I know she knows the answer to (e.g., while reading a book asking “Where’s the elephant?”). I find those types of questions to be adult-imposed and performance-based, characteristics I’m trying to avoid in my relationship with my daughter. Language learning is (and, should be) fun. E. certainly had fun with it in Spain!
2. What I missed (yes, I missed my home country after only a month!) –
As my mother always used to say when we would return home from vacation, “the best part of traveling is coming back to your own home.” I couldn’t agree more! While I love Spain and enjoyed our month there, by week four of our trip, I was itching to come back home, to my routines to my “familiar.”
I missed speaking English.
I missed the diversity that urban living in the US brings – racial diversity, professional diversity, socio-economic diversity, parenting styles diversity, schedule diversity. Spain (and more!), a relatively new democracy, having been under a dictatorship for 40 years (until 1975), with a very short history of immigration, is in reality a far more homogenous country than the United States. I missed the American heterogeneity.
I missed the “What’s-your-story?” spirit that I just don’t find in Spain. Again, being a more historically homogenous people, Spaniards are more concerned with outsiders fitting in, or assimilating to the majority culture. I’ll give you an example. D. and I decided to use some of our travel money to hire a young woman to clean our vacation home. O., originally from Ukraine, has been living in Spain for over ten years. While she would clean, I would chat with her, asking her about her husband (a Spaniard), her three children, her family back in the Ukraine. I was legitimately interested in her life story, particularly since she was a foreigner living in Madrid, a shared experience between us. Apparently my interaction with O. caught D.’s attention; one day after she left, he commented to me, “I doubt any other family O. works for has shown an interest in her background story.”
I missed American TV. (Sadly, our TiVo did not record new episodes of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.)
3. All vacation is NOT created equal –
Ah, yes, travel with a toddler. It does not equal vacation, at least not the vacation that D. and I had become used to during the first ten years of our marriage. We’re already trying to figure out how to get Spain to come to us next year!
4. Random tidbits about Spain (that I’d forgotten or that just amazed me) –
I had forgotten that Spaniards use pierced ears has a clue to a baby’s gender. That meant E. got called every boy nickname imaginable at the playgrounds and restaurants and shopping centers (despite bright pink moccasins!). One young girl, genuinely confused, ask me pointe-blank, “Why doesn’t she have earnings?”
If you have a fever while staying at the hospital, you do NOT, I repeat do NOT, get a blanket. I had the unfortunate opportunity to visit not one, but two, emergency rooms (one in a public hospital, the other private), while in Madrid. I caught a nasty gastrointestinal bug, coupled with a brutal migraine. At the second ER, the nurse took my temperature, 38 degrees C. That meant I had to take off nearly all my clothes and that I was denied a blanket. (What the what?!?!)
It’s perfectly normal to drink a beer at 10:50am in Spain.
The jamón ibérico tastes even better than I had remembered.
9:30pm is “school year” bedtime for young children.
El sol. The Spanish sun. We had 29 days of it on our trip. It was glorious.
Unsolicited advice. (And, not getting offended.) “When are you going to have another baby, Audrey?” “You can’t just have one child. She’ll get spoiled.”
Family is everything. Ya os echamos de menos.