Being an Alien

Mon 16 Jul 2012 00:31
When I'm in France, I can get by.... my French is very bad, but, as is the same for many people, I can understand more than I can speak, and I have a certain amount of words to draw on to make myself understood. However, my Spanish, is almost non existent. 

It's true, I can say "Mi Madre está bien pero mi Padre tiene un resfriado" - "My Mother is well but my Father has a cold", for some reason learnt off by heart age 13, however, I have never had the occasion to need this phrase. What I do need are "Please may I have", "where is the toilet?" (in fact, I have realised (except for 'WC' which I don't know how to pronounce in Spanish, French letters are said differently, surely Spanish ones are too?) I don't actually know what the word for 'toilet' is..) "I'm sorry, I don't understand" etc Oh, and I need numbers beyond 10! 100 would be helpful, then I can stop buying fruit and vegetables for two of us in multiples of a kilo, and swap to hundreds of grams instead!

I can do some pleasantries now - Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank you, Good morning, Good afternoon, Goodnight, and I can count, if I run through them in my head like a rhyme, up to 10. However, I still feel such an alien. I guess it must be like before I could read (I can't remember, it's too far back), all these things written all around one with no idea what they are saying - guessing by the pictures. When I flick through a paper in a cafe, I have 'read' it by guesswork and the pictures! All this life passing around me, conversations drifting in and out of earshot, and I am in an oblivious cotton wool cloud in their midst. We spent some time on a crowded beach today, and even the chatter of the little ones playing meant nothing to me (obviously, no one's mum was fine, nor did their dad have a cold today!).

But it makes everything an adventure. Just doing the shopping, asking directions, responding when someone asks you something. There are clues and codes to figure out and make sense of. And all these interactions provide so many opportunities for the people around us to show their kindness, friendliness, generosity, willingness to help, sense of humour. We have found the Spanish to be such lovely people. Almost without exception they are welcoming, patient and forgiving. They are delighted when they can make themselves understood by us, or when they understand what we are trying to say, and go out of their way to be helpful.

And what's lovely, is the realisation that this is what it's going to be like, so many new languages and different ways of doing things, we'll pick up some basics and rely on the good nature of all the lovely people we shall meet to help us muddle through.

As we have internet, I'll add a picture. Here's Spike, with the port behind him, wondering what the heck those seagulls are squawking about!