A Spanish Affair

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You must have had a good time in Madrid last summer to want to come back again, a friend commented.

That’s true. I had a grand time here. It’s one of those trips that I didn’t expect anything but found something, and now seeking to find if it’ll happen again. The Spanish affair, an infatuation, a hope, a chance, a dream.

It happened on a little street off the main high street in a nondescript building in a place named after the greatest novel by the most celebrated Spanish writer.

Here in a small room, just me and another, we played by the rules and sweat it out, fumbled, laughed, got it right sometimes and often wrong, moments of frustration and elation, and at the end we both agreed we had a fantastic time and will certainly be back again.

It may sound deceiving but this is what I come back for – Spanish language lessons in Don Quijote.

This time I’m with two twenty-somethings from Italy and China. It does feel like I’m out of place with these lads but hey, there’s not barrier in learning.

On the first day, we had to introduce ourselves, name, nationality, age, reason for taking Spanish. Not remembering my número correctly, I announced that I’m 70 years old. The sweet-faced teacher dropped her jaw and got me to write out my age, which she didn’t believe and decided that I’m only 35. I love the Spaniards.

When the lessons began, it was a rushed revision from last summer – the pronunciations, the conjugations, the wicked irregulars, the unforgiving accents, and the entire alien environment with the three students trying to figure what the teacher was saying in our respective English, Chinese and Italian. If only we could see thoughts.

Monday was good. The teacher spoke slowly and our phone translators worked.

Tuesday was a struggle. Spanish words flew at us at increased velocity and somehow all our phone translators were not functioning properly. It was like all our brains stopped functioning and our humanly intelligent faces became blank expressionless white paper plates attached to our necks. This is not working. I’ve got to buy a traditional dictionary from a book store if I can find one these days.

At the end of the normal classes, we have an optional hour’s talk on Spanish culture. Monday was on Spanish festivals, last night was on Goya.

I skipped Goya to meet my brother’s friend whom we met 12 years ago in Marbella. It was great seeing her again and her partner who owns a rock band and plays in concerts around the country. A couple of drinks, some tapas, a couple more drinks and what a merry night it was. Slept like a baby.

Now I’ve got homework to do – write about my neighbourhood and my job. Let’s see what I can cook up with my limited Spanish.

Hasta mañana. Until tomorrow.

Joan Yap

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