Trailer Park Nirvana image created by Stefany Kleeschulte.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Inadvertent ExPat

I have many excuses for not knowing Spanish.

It's difficult (muy dificil) to learn a new language when you're older (yo tengo muchos anos).

Especially when you've never studied (no estudio) a foreign language - not in high school, not in college. Nada.

And when you've lived most of your life in Portland, Oregon, and not around a lot of Spanish-speaking people. Had I lived in Tucson, I'd at least be familiar with words (palabras) for the things (cosas) sold at Target - clothes (ropas), shoes (zapatos), furniture (muebles).

And, lastly, is this: I never thought I'd be living in Mexico.

When I first arrived in Kino it was for two weeks, maybe a month. Since then I'm always leaving. Finally it dawned on me: I live here. I'm an expat.

Only took four years for me to come to that realization.

I shouldn't be so hard on myself about the language thing. I've met people from the United States who've lived here for years - 20 years, 30 years - who can't or won't get beyond buenos dias and gracias with maybe a cerveza thrown in. At least I try. I'm doing better and can pick up quite a lot of what is being said as long as it's said slowly and clearly. My vocabulary is growing. Although, really, my head is like a Pez container: it seems I only have room for so many words. When a new word enters, an old word has to pop out.

The words that do stick are words I need, words I've used. Memorization doesn't seem to work. So a word that's stuck is empaque. When replacing the screen in a window I needed that rubber stuff - spline - that is crammed into the track to keep the screen material tight. Here it's called empaque which means packing; I thought it meant rubber. (Back to the books on that one.)

I'm an expat living in Mexico. And as an expat I will make an effort to learn the language. I will continue with my online Spanish course and conversing with the locals. And when I study with a certain unnamed friend, I will not let our lessons devolve into this:

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