1. ¿“Estás cansada?” (“Are you tired?”)
Yes. Sí. I’m not just tired, I’m exhausted. Although I’m not naïve to jet lag and adjusting to a time schedule six hours ahead, nothing could have prepared me for the extreme exhaustion that only Spain can bring a person. Upon arrival, I, along with the other students, was full of coffee and adrenaline and the innate desire to explore an unknown city and a new culture. Immediately we started wandering the streets, passing skyscrapers and old buildings and immaculate parks. We walked and explored until our feet were sore, our breathing heavy, and it wasn’t long that sleep became a pesky necessity that took a backseat to the surrounding activities and attractions. I think I can speak for our entire study abroad group and say how on earth are we going to survive this? I guess the obvious answer would be to start prioritizing our wellbeing, but it’s not as easy as it seems when clubs don’t close until six in the morning and wakeup calls are a brief two hours later. It seems that all we can do is drink copious amounts of café and count down the days until siestas are added to our daily routine.
How innocent that greeting was in the confines of the classroom when it was steadily followed by a simple “¿Cómo estás?” Unfortunately, as soon as I stepped off the plane in Madrid, that little word transformed into a catalyst for stuttering speech and wide eyes. The people of Madrid speak quickly and confidently, and I, the elitist Spanish student I thought I was, immediately forgot seven years of information and could hardly stammer a response. I knew Spain would put me in my place in terms of speaking ability, but I had a little more faith in my abilities before I was thrown into the lion pit to fend for myself. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little or maybe speaking Spanish in real situations in a really new city is downright terrifying. Either way, every time I receive an “hola” from a waiter or metro attendee or passerby, my heart flutters and I attempt to respond coherently, ignoring the stutters and constant corrections. No matter how fluently I think I sound, my words are usually responded to with an “English?” I must be pretty obvious. Either way, I remain undeterred from my intense desire to gain bilingualism and intercultural awareness; it may just require a little more time and a little more brain power than I had initially expected.