Un Mes

Today is the one month mark of being in Spain. Sometime, about 3 weeks ago, my life seemed to hit the fast forward button. Well, no wonder, I have been a busy girl! I have joined the local girl’s volleyball team (a compilation of early-20-somethings) who are “serious” about volleyball…well, sort of. Practices are three days a week, MWF, (Mondays being from 9pm-11pm, dang those Españoles and their crazy late schedules!) with games on the weekends. We always tend to get sidetracked during practice translating words from English to Spanish, and visa versa…laughing at pronunciation errors and other various mistakes. Their favorite is yelling, “Shut up!” to each other (don’t ask me why) and we all start cracking up….coach rolling his eyes at us. There is a great sense of comradery on the team, something I am extremely unaccustomed to from my days of playing girls sports in the states. They are warm and caring towards each other, supportive, interested in each others lives, massage and care for injuries for each other, go out to dinner or drinks after practices/games…there is no divide between “good players and bad,” no bitterness, no cattiness…they treat each other like sisters. I have started meeting with a few of them a couple times a week (informally at the park or at the gymnasium etc.) for a session of intercambio de idiomas (i.e. exchange of languages). They have the same problems as I do in Spanish: we have learned, understand and practiced the grammar and vocabulary, but have trouble forming sentences and ideas when SPEAKING…the “putting it all together” part.

But oh, how hard I have been working at learning this beautiful language. I am in school for 4 hours every day and then come home and do at least another hour of work…deberes (i.e. homework), buscar las palabras y las frases en el internet que no entiendo (i.e. looking up words on the internet that I don’t understand), memorizing new tenses…past, present, future, conditional. My cuaderno (i.e. notebook) is sort of a hodgepodge of language acquisition, notes from class, random things in English I want to know how to say, words or phrases I jot down while eavesdropping on the ladies next to me on the metro etc. Although it’s incredibly fulfilling and wonderful to be learning a new language, it can be extremely exhausting too. The past few weeks I have been experiencing consistent headaches from what I am calling “Spanish Overload.” By the time I sit down with my family at night for dinner, I am so incredibly tired of Spanish, I just say “Dominique’s is in Spanish overload right now” and my Au Pair Parents graciously switch to English, or speak Spanish to me like I am a 3-year old (slow..and drraawwnn ooouuuttt)…they are so good to me. Sleeping has not been much easier either. I remember 2 months ago while I was working double-time at two jobs trying to save up for this trip, I would have dreams about waitressing (i.e. not being able to get to every table, not getting drinks out on time, food coming out cold etc). Now, I am dreaming in Spanish. I wake up in the middle of the night conjugating verbs, new vocabulary I had learned that week, going over possible scenarios in my head and what I would possibly say. Do you ever wish your brain had an “on/off” button?

But, putting the headaches and the sleepless nights aside, I am happy to say that I HAVE noticed an incredible improvement. #1 – in my understanding of whats being said around me (I still freeze up a bit when questions are directly asked at me, but my confidence is getting better), #2 – reading comprehension is speeding up, #3 – speaking, although it is no where near where I want it to be, I can convey basic opinions, thoughts and ideas with people who barely speak any English. As one of my new volleyball intercambio friends told me, “You’re vocabulary is good, it’s your grammar that needs work.” Well, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

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