June 5, 2016
This morning as I sit in reflection of the past week, I realize what a success it has been. Through the hustle and bustle of activities, events, and daily life.. is it too easy to forget all that has come and gone in each of the fleeting moments that have passed. But, in my oblivion, I almost missed something so huge that I find it incredible that it almost snuck by. A simple but substantial milestone, a little something called IMMERSION. Our family has collectively engaged in the first steps of immersion! We have put ourselves waaay out there this week. We have overcome (or at least ignored) any insecurities that have previously been hindering our progress.
Let’s begin with the kids. Peanut is 3.5 and we have just finished our 4th week of Unschooled Preschool. Here at home we have been talking about “D” week, and with all that it entails…I try to give her and her 2-year-old brother, at least two new Spanish words to learn.
Their words were Dance and Dinosaur inEnglish..translating to Bailar and Dinosario in Español. As part of their social and cultural activity for the week, I decided to push them a step farther… asking Peanut to use this a word in a phrase that she could use to speak with others in the community. I hoped that if she did, Monkey would mimic her; as he often does. When I told her that we were doing an experiment of sorts, one that involved dancing… her face lit up with anticipation! Two of her favorite activities in one, oh what fun! Her “assignment”was to approach members in our community and ask them “Quieres bailar?”. This phrase in English translates to “Do you want to dance? “. Not only would this get her speaking in Spanish, but it would actively engage her with other people and she could have fun guessing before hand, if they would participate or refuse. What a wonderful time we had 🙂 Do you know that not a single person refused?! What a testament to this community! Each time, the response of her question was nothing less than a broad-faced grin and a look of astonishment. After the first approach, Monkey quickly caught on and was eager to participate as well. Initiating a connection and being understood was such a confidence and morale booster for Peanut. Throughout the week, she continued to experiment with the word bailar (to want). By the week’s end, she was speaking at the bakery “Quiero jugo y pan, por favor”. Meaning, “I want juice and bread, please”. As well as asking numerous children to either dance or play with her. “Quieres jugar?” Translates to “Do you want to play?”. We are so thrilled for the kids to be gaining this type of independence in our new world.
My husband, Carlos, is a native Spanish speaker and has no social qualms to speak of, but he also had a big week in immersion himself, having opened his first international gym location; here in our new hometown. While he has been in the fitness industry in the US for over 20 years, he says that opening a gym in this culture is different. The members wait in near silence, devouring his every word and action. The desire to learn is intoxicating, and therefore, the aspect of coaching is infinitely rewarding. Onlookers gather at the door and crowd around the gym’s trademark red flooring, each person as eager as the next..to gain knowledge that will enhance their passion for health and fitness. The members here are WILLING to exercise, they don’t need to be “sold” a fake image of the future. They have an innate understanding and realistic expectation, that this will be hard work. And that the hard work will reap great rewards.
As for myself, while I have been studying Spanish through reading and writing, I have doubted my ability to speak… and therefore, have only attempted to do so on sparse occasions. Many people have encouraged me, that yes, I will speak eventually.. as it will become necessary. Well, it did indeed become necessary this week. And I surprised myself! Late one morning when Carlos was busy at the gym, the produce truck arrived and so did the habichuela man. The guard managed to communicate to me that they had arrived. I scrambled around the house trying to find money, meanwhile scouring my brain to find something I could say! Much to my dismay, I couldn’t find even a single coin or a single word. I felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead as I began to panic. As much as I wanted to just close the blinds and hide, I couldn’t do that. People were waiting. I couldn’t be THAT gringo! So, I scooped up Monkey, slipped on my sandles and scurried to the front gate, shouting to Peanut that I would be right back. I stood at the entrance and found 5 expectant Ecuadorian faces peering back at me. And then…I spoke.. in Spanish!! A few sentences poured from my mouth as I quickly explained that my husband wasn’t home and that I didn’t have any money, but yes, I did need and want the fruit and habichuelas. Really?! Did I just say all of that?! In Spanish?! All five of them looked on at me, eyes wide and mouths open… and then burst into smiles and applause. In the process, thoroughly embarrassing me and frazzling me beyond speaking any further for a few minutes. But then, the guard said he would pay for what I needed until Carlos arrived home. So, I proceeded to select the lima beans, papaya, watermelon, pineapple, and granadilla. I even asked how much we owed! 🙂
And there you have it..a week of social and language immersion. I can hardly wait to see how the following weeks will unravel now that the process has begun!