Since returning from Europe I haven’t blogged. First came jet lag, then the cold and cough, and then all the other activities that make up an ordinary life, but don’t always inspire me to write. Three weeks passed, and friends tired of asking me what was my favorite part of the vacation, probably because my answers were as exciting as a summary of a trip to the dentist. Ultimately, I pieced together different experiences and realized what made our two weeks in Seville special for me, namely, making connections with Spaniards. This means I have a couple more Spain blogs in me.
There’s something wonderful about knowing a language that’s not your own, even if you don’t know it perfectly. When you speak the other language you become someone else. What a shock to meet the new me shortly after take-off on the plane from Amsterdam to Seville.
I am only outgoing with people I know. I rarely talk to strangers on an airplane. (An exception occurred when I sat by a white-bearded man on a plane to Honolulu, who was a professional Santa Claus. He even had a business card to prove it.) On the flight to Spain I sat next to two men comparing the length of their thumbnails, which was all it took to get the conversation flowing between them. (My poor husband was stuck alone in the back row because we didn’t ask for seat assignments quickly enough.)
Right way I knew the secret club the men belonged to. But that doesn’t explain why I didn’t open my book and ignore them as I would normally. Instead, I leaned over and said, “Do you both play flamenco?”
They smiled and said yes. One man was Spanish and the other Dutch. The latter spoke fluent Spanish, and the former spoke little English, so there was only one language available to all of us. I’d picked up enough information about guitars, players, and flamenco from forty-six years of marriage to a guitar maker that I could speak comfortably about the subject. The Spaniard played flamenco and classical guitar and sometimes traveled to the U.S. to play at events for his sponsor, Bose. He even gave me his latest CD. The Dutch musician was going to Seville to play at a memorial. I asked him how much time he devoted to flamenco, expecting him to say he had a day job to support his habit, since Amsterdam isn’t a flamenco hub. Instead, he said that flamenco was his life. Imagine getting something that personal out of someone on an airplane. The old me could never have done it.
When I boarded the plane I assessed my Spanish skills as adequate. As we landed I knew I was better prepared than I realized. Both of my seat mates were kind, friendly and willing to engage in a long conversation with someone at least one generation older, if not two. This made for a good introduction to Spain. If they were representative of the rest of the country, we would be fine. And we were.
I just checked out a book on flamenco at my library. The old me is back, but the interests that came from my weeks as the new me are here to stay.