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Journal 1 – ¡Así es la vida!
Gallery 1It’s Saturday afternoon, and my oldest host sister is at our house, along with her husband and two young children. We sit down to eat at around 2:30 p.m., our usual time for lunch. I try to block out the sound of the adults yelling at my four-year-old nephew to stop jumping off the couch and to come to the table to eat.
What I’m really trying to listen to is the news, where they are talking about the latest car bomb attack in northern Spain by the Basque separatist group ETA. My host mother tells me there’s nothing to worry about in Cádiz. Things like that only happen in Madrid and in the Basque region of Spain.
As I finish my lunch, I think about when I hosted a Spanish student in September 2001. The first day she came with me to school was September 11. We spent the morning watching the news as the towers collapsed, and then we went home from school early. I assured her that that was not a normal school day.
That afternoon she called her family to let them know that she was OK and that she wasn’t close to any of the attacks.
My thoughts return to the present as my host mother commences her twice-daily ritual of encouraging me to eat more fruit and bread. "Come una naranjita, Lindsay. Cógete más pan." I take an orange from the basket and start peeling it, filling the air with a sweet aroma. My eyes drift back to the TV screen, where a woman is crying beside a blackened and gutted car.
Así es la vida. That’s how life is. That’s what my host mother always says when she watches the news or when she talks about her late husband. Things happen, but life keeps going. A month ago I packed my life in a bag and moved it across the ocean, but it didn’t end there. I’m sometimes homesick and often confused about why Spanish people do the things they do, but my life keeps going, as surreal as it seems at times.
Over the next four months, I will recreate my life within the framework of a new context, a new culture, a new way of being. I will never truly feel Spanish as I walk down the street with my blonde hair and blue eyes, but I will gradually start to understand the reasons behind the parts of Spanish culture that still perplex me now.
At the same time I’m coming to understand the peculiarities of my own American culture as I try to explain it to my host family. I am more aware of how it has shaped me as my culture of origin, but I’m also less attached to it. In all of my pilgrimages as a double language major, I’ve begun to view my identity as being rooted not so much within the borders of my country as within the kingdom of my God who remains the same no matter what language I’m praying in.