So, I received an newsletter from my Ministerio de Educacion (a general mass publication of course, they didn’t actually take the time to answer my personal emails from this week) that informed me, among other things, that I would not be penalized for being late to start my school year there if I had “visa related issues.” Considering that so far, my “visa related issues” have been directly related to their tardiness, I’m very happy that this concession will be made.
I’ve set aside my panick attacks and have given myself license to dream about strolling through the sunny metropolitan streets of Madrid, wearing an excellent pair of walking heels and a breezy dress with big shades. The outfit is important because the LAST time I was in Madrid (April 2008) I was by myself, on day 4 of a 5 week-long backpacking excursion through Spain/Morocco/French Riviera/Italy/Greece- and if you’ve ever lived out of a backpack, it’s pretty hard to look cute on a fixed repetoire of 4 shirts, 1 pair of jeans, a skirt, and a cardigan- and everyone wants to look nice in a city where everyone else looks nice.
As I daydream, my list of concerns is growing even faster than my pile of shoes to pack. Some of the most rampant recurring are:
1. What if I can’t understand their accentos?
As an estadounidense, most of my exposure to hispanoblantes has been with Mexican, Ecuadorian and Peruvian dialects, and so my speech and comprehension abilities greatly reflect my ears (and tongues) preference for the clear and rhythmic patterns that I’ve been hearing for the past decade or so. The strong lisp and crazy shorthand contractions that I associate with Spanish Spanish require me to concentrate really hard, I’m talking brows-scrunched-together-lips-soundlessly-mimicking-words kind of concentration, haha. Ah well, if I can acclimate to the Brummies from the Black Country (basically, the scourges of all of Englands many dialects,) I can get used to the Spaniards.
2. Slang, slang, and more slang.
I’ve got the skinny on what NOT for the most part from friends that have spent significant time in Spain (Alicante, Sevilla, etc) but I’m still pretty apprehensive about embarassing myself.
Example: Apparently, in Spain the verb “coger” (to grasp, to catch) is used allll the time, and in a completely innocent sense. Anyone that knows their Spanish from south of the border would probably snicker just a bit to hear somebody say “Voy a coger un taxi.” Were you really that desperate? jaja.
I realize it is a natural part of the learning process but no one likes to look like a jackass.
3. Vos this, vos that.
Plainly put: I have no idea how to use the vosotros form, of anything. Blame me, blame my gringa high school teacher, blame my profesores (except for Maureen, she’d kill me if she saw that) but I just don’t get it.
4. Finding an Apartment
The last time I lived abroad, I did so in student housing, with pre-assigned roommates, 40 other Americans from my home university, and a programme director (or Grandma, as we sometimes called her) to hold our hands through the “trials” of living in a foreign country (ummm…it was England. They speak English there, for the most part.) This trip is going to be significantly different, as I will be responsible for finding my own apartment, living with roommates that most likely will not share my native tongue, and I won’t be blissfully funding my lifestyle on copious amounts of student loans (ohhh, those were the DAYS.) That being said, I’m rather excited about this prospect of hunting for the perfect piso and the possibility of meeting some really interesting people. Spanish cragislist, anyone?
In short, it’s time to hit the books for a little refresher course before I go. And maybe watch a few movies to get myself in the lisp-y mood. Maybe I’ll watch the oh so awesomely creepy Pan’s Labyrinth for the 50th time. Looove it.