Music to my Ears

Six years ago I began learning Italian because I had nothing to do. It may sound like a lame excuse, but it was the truth. I had just moved to Mexico and needed to start doing something to settle down. The Italian school of the embassy was just a few blocks from where I lived, and, since I had always wanted to learn more languages, it seemed like an excellent idea. I began classes and the biggest challenge I faced at first was learning a language in a language that was not my native language. Although I had always spoken Spanish, most of my education had been in English and switching to Spanish to learn Italian was a bit complicated. I had to not only learn Italian vocabulary but also how to say verb, noun, pronoun, past, future, etc. in Spanish in order to be able to understand what I was learning. Thanks to my knack for languages, I was speaking, reading and understanding Italian very quickly. I spent a month in Venice polishing my Italian and reading as much as I could. After about 2 years, I was certified to teach and translate Italian.

I must admit that Italian wasn’t a language I had been eager to learn. I had always imagined myself speaking French; I have this strange fascination with France, the French and Paris, of course. Although a good French school was just as close to home as the Italian one, for some reason, I started with Italian. Six years later, I find myself wanting to speak and hear Italian. Perhaps it has a lot to do with the fact that my father-in-law is from Italy so I hear Italian often, I constantly eat Italian food and it is a language I KNOW. Once I warm up, I really enjoy speaking Italian.

Yesterday, while I was on the bus to my evening Dutch class, I overheard what was music to my ears. An Italian couple was seated behind me, the woman was upset about something and she was telling the man. In Italian, things are always told with a lot of emotion. I don’t really know what happened or why the woman was upset; I simply let the sounds and the emotions serenade my ears. It was five minutes of the best language symphony with curse words and anger and emotion and very fast talking. Once they left the bus, I realized what a treat it is for a language lover like me to live in Europe, where the sounds of so many languages can be heard in the train, on the bus, walking down the street and among friends.

I remember… (Part 1)

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There is one question that I always find too complicated to answer. When I hear it, I have to take a deep breath, I have to hold on to something. The answer is never easy nor short.

Where do you come from?

This may seem like a simple question. One we ask every new person we meet. We want to know where they come from because we think that will give us an idea of who this person is.

Where do I come from? The question takes me back to every place I have lived in.

I remember riding my red tricycle around our apartment in Mexico City while my sister ran or danced or jumped. I remember sitting in my uncle’s apartment and staring at the coffee table full of newspapers while my family talked about the latest news or a new book. I remember going to school in my uniform and winning a swimming medal. I remember missing school when my little sister was born and my dad sneaking me in the hospital to see my mom.

Where do I come from?

I remember moving to a nice house that appeared so big compared to my little body. I remember going to school and missing out on Physical Education to take remedial English classes. I remember making new friends and taking care of and losing the class pets over Christmas. I remember going to football games with my friends and planning for college.

Where do I come from?

I remember moving to the dorms afraid of starting over. I remember meeting new friends and not knowing who would remain a friend after college. I remember taking exams, writing essays, failing my first class, and selling back my books to go shopping. I remember the boys making hamburgers on sunny days and laying in the quad instead of going to class. I remember walking across the stage and receiving my diploma.

Where do I come from?

I remember moving back to my childhood home and feeling out of place. I remember driving back to see my friends. I remember spending mornings at Starbucks writing while my sister was in school. I remember driving late at night for some food or just to drive around.

Where do I come from?

I remember the long drive to our new/old home. I remember Christmas dinner with my family. We were confused, happy, agitated. I remember buying furniture, taking classes, trying to make friends. I remember finding a job, buying an apartment, traveling to the beach.

Where do I come from?

I remember flying to this new place with my cat hoping we would both survive the flight. I remember unpacking and waking up to a new place. I remember trying new food, missing old food, hearing new sounds, learning a new language, learning to cook dinner.

Where do I come from?

I am from here and there. I was born in one place, grew up in another, studied somewhere else, started being an adult in a fourth place, and creating a family in a fifth one. My heart is split up to fit all the people, the sights, the smells, the tastes and the sounds. I don’t come from one place, but at the same time I come from them all.

Where do I come from?

I lost one nationality, but I have gained many more.

It’s the little things in life…

Moving to a new country has brought about very interesting challenges, some of which I didn’t expect. I expected that making friends would take long, that the food wouldn’t taste the same, that I would miss my family and friends and even my bed. What I did not expect was the challenge distance puts to take care of little things, like losing an email address connected to a landline or the dumb file to access the website for my income tax declaration. In the midst of taking care of these things that just seem tremendously important at the moment, I, of course, took a break to check facebook and blow off steam. As I opened my account, I was taken back with a message. It was from a former student wishing me a happy teacher’s day. That short message that must have taken her less than a minute put everything into perspective. Perhaps losing an email and itunes account is not a big deal after all. New accounts can be made, but the gesture of one teenager half way across the world cannot be replaced. My heart is filled with joy and gratitude for these little things in life!