Saturday, September 22, 2012

Santi and El Guiri

I awoke this morning on an Airbus A330 as a rugged landscape opened up outside my window pane. This was my first view of my new home, Spain.

Stepping off the plane here in Madrid was so different than my first experiences in Bologna, Italy two years ago. I had a sort of confidence and comfort in my language abilities that I'd gained at SAIS and the CSA in Guatemala. I knew where I was going. Most importantly, I knew I was on my own and I was perfectly fine with that. I hailed a cab, checked into my hotel and walked down to a local mall to pick up a new charging cord for my computer - no problems.

This afternoon I received a call from the coordinator of our program that is helping sponsor the contract with Santander. Santiago asked if I wanted to get a cup of coffee and quickly tour around the city. I told him I'd be delighted to. He asked if I preferred if he spoke in English. I told him to speak whatever language he felt more comfortable with, but I preferred Spanish.

Santiago and I sauntered down to a Pan Quotidien where I ordered an Americano to try to reset my internal clock. On the way we discovered our mutual fascination with 19th century history and a shared penchant to go on and on about European identity politics, Visigoth kings, the Spanish royal family, etc. Our coffee and tour of the city turned into an hours long expedition visiting sites along the way, discussing Spain and correcting my creative vocabulary. We stopped in a VIPS with terrible service (but tasty sandwiches) and got carried away on the subjects of the US election, European political integration and our stereotypes about each others' countries.

Eight hours of constant Spanish conversation in later, I (El Guiri) bid farewell to a new friend with a good feeling about just how much I'm about to learn.