Third Culture

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In our guest room a flag hangs from the wall above the bed. No, not a yellow and red flag; this one is red, white, and blue. You know—the stars and stripes. My dad bought Mario this flag to remind him where he should (eventually) settle down. My dad would like it very much if we moved back to the US, preferably yesterday. It has a prominent place in our home, this flag. Why?

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On the Road to Salamanca

The bus rumbled along the highway, dusk quickly approaching. We sat side by side, our fingers curled together, leaving the day behind us. Weary but content, we sat in silence, the silence of two people who have everything to say to each other, but not necessarily at that moment. It had been a long day: up early to catch a morning bus, a long walk around town as they wind bit at our cheeks and hands, a hearty lunch, and all of the things that go along with meeting someone, someone special, for the very first time. By that point, I was exhausted but we glanced at each other and smiled with a sigh.

The evening sun tinged the horizon amaranth, gold, and orange. I grasped his hand, searching for the words I wanted, needed, to say to him. I hadn’t picked out a special place or time to say them, hadn’t analyzed my feelings, hadn’t thought about his reaction. I only knew that I loved him. And so I told him—there, in the bus, speeding along the A-66 towards Salamanca: “Te quiero.”

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I didn’t start learning Spanish for love. I did it out of curiosity, because I needed a language to complete my high-school degree, because it was what was expected of me. But I mastered it for other reasons: it challenged me, it made me think about the world differently, it allowed me to see into the soul of another nation, of another people. I mastered it in the end because of Mario, because for him I stayed here, because for him I made my second home in Spain, because for him I packed up my whole life and changed it forever when I told him, standing in front of our friends and family in a church built in the 13th century, right in the heart of Zamora: “Sí, quiero.”

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Yes, I do.  I do promise to love you, to be there for you, to remember the important things for you. For you I will overcome the frustration that I sometimes feel when I can’t think of the right word, when I can’t remember the proper phrasing. Yes, I do.

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My motivation for learning Spanish has varied over the years, but my one constant has been love. Some may consider it cliché to say that love makes you do crazy things, and it is, a bit. But love can also make you do daring things, things you would never have had the chance to do had you not bitten the bullet, got right back on the horse after it threw you off, and said to life and learning, “Sí, quiero.”

On the day we were married, the priest—a friend of Mario’s—talked to us and all our guests about love. Moving to another country for someone? he said with an intensity shining in his dark-brown eyes. That’s love. That’s love, friends.

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Learning a language is frustrating. The first part is enthralling, when you learn by leaps and bounds, huge gulps of knowledge. But then comes the slow part, when you feel as though you’re dreaming about running, desperately trying to move your legs faster, but you just can’t. It’s a slow slog; it can seem fruitless. I know this feeling all too well. I still struggle with fast speech and gender; I still slip up almost every time I open my mouth. But with Mario there, and his family alongside him, I see the purpose. Without him—without them—I’d haven given up already.

Here’s to learning a language for love, whether it be love for a significant other, for a husband or a wife, for the little English-learning children who attend your local elementary schools, for a fellow church member, for the person who lives down your street. Learn a language for a love, and learn it for a lifetime.

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This entry is a part of Kaplan’s Inspire Language Learning Blogger Competition. I’m not that interested in winning a Macbook, but I am interested in sharing my story. After October 29, you’ll be able to vote for me on their Facebook page if you so choose. Thanks, readers.

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Also, please visit Vaya Madrid—I’ve just had my first article published: Tales of a Transplant.

Sí, Quiero—The Spanish Version of “I Do”

Fueron felices y comieron perdices.

 

As I wrote previously, planning for my wedding here in Spain wasn’t always enjoyable. But July 7, 2012, was the best day of my life. It started at 8 a.m., in a hotel with my mother: showers, breakfast, and jittery nerves. Next came the hairdresser.

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The before short

Next, at 10:30, came the makeup. I’m not really a makeup person, if one can be a makeup person, but I left satisfied, even if I seemed odd to myself (“me extrañaba”). After that, it was back to the hotel to get dressed and try to calm down before leaving for the church. I had a very special ride.

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The people loved it

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Mario hung around and greeted the guests before I arrived

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Dad helping me out of the car

In Spain, the bride can be seen by the guests before the wedding (traditionally), if not the groom. Mario was quickly ushered inside before this moment.

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Happy to see Mario at the end of the aisle

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Photo credit: José Antonio Fernández Sánchez, Mario’s cousin

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Photo credit: José Antonio Fernández Sánchez

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Tables were arranged by state names. We were Indiana, of course.

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Guests were wearing red bandannas for San Fermín.

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Our families at our table, fit for kings

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Giving the boquet to Colleen, my future sister(-in-law), who’s getting married in September to my brother, Seth

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Parents learning how Spaniards dance

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Shouting so he can hear me

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Favorite picture!

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Dad and daughter, end of the night

I keep looking back on that day, that whole week, as this magical moment, a moment that turned out more perfect than I could have hoped for. I feel so lucky to have these people in my lives, people that will scream, “¡Vivan los novios!” and “¡Que se besen!” until they’re hoarse, people who will dance for hours with you, people who will make you videos with hilarious childhood photos set to the tunes of Que viva España and Born in the USA, who will take enough photos of you to make you swear off photos for a year, who will gift you a trip to Italy, who will accept you into their family like any other person (despite your foreignness), who will do mountains of paperwork for you while you’re on that honeymoon, who will buy you flowers and jewelry, who will cry until their eyes are dry during the ceremony, who will write special essays to read at your wedding … these people, you people if you are reading this, are the reason that day was the best day.

The honeymoon, by the way, was wonderful. And wonderfully hot. I think next time we’ll get married in September; July is way too hot.

Just Married

We’re leaving for Italy today, a honeymoon I’d only imagined in my dreams.

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First stop: Venice

The wedding was also a dream: chaotic, beautiful, loud, and full of laughter and dancing, which are the same things, really.

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I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day, a better man, a more loving family (Spanish or American).

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See you after Italy! Blogging and honeymoons that involve Venice, Florence, and Rome don’t really mix …