Monthly Archives: December 2015

¡Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo!

We won’t be in Granada for the Christmas party at school or to eat 12 grapes while the clock strikes midnight on December 31, but we’ll be back before the Three Wise Men deliver presents late on the night of January 5.


El idioma

Irises blooming on the University of Granada campus. Just like in Minnesota, Granada has had an unseasonably warm autumn. It's also been very, very dry, which is bad for the ski season and for the water supply.

Irises blooming on the University of Granada campus. Just like in Minnesota, Spain has had an unseasonably warm autumn. It’s also been very, very dry in the south, which is bad for the ski season and for the water supply.

The language.

Learning Spanish was a big reason behind our decision to spend a school year in Granada, and Lou seems to be making a lot of progress. Last weekend we had our first intercambio—a playdate organized by parents who agreed that at our house the kids would speak English and at the Spanish kid’s house the kids would speak Spanish. Lou and the other boy seem to get along well, which makes us all happy, but Lou found it hard to resist speaking Spanish at our house, even when there were other American kids around.

Pete participated in NaNoWriMo again this year and wrote a 50,000 word piece of fiction in November. In Spanish. He’s doing well.

I can get by. Today, for example, I registered for a second session of Pilates through community education and for a badminton class offered by a university rec center. The process was easier now that I know how to do a bank transfer (online payment? nope, that’s not how it’s done), but I would describe my interaction at the sports center as ungraceful. I have moments where Spanish comes fairly easily, and many more where the right thing is in my head and the wrong thing comes out of my mouth, or where I just don’t have the vocabulary or the grammar so I don’t say anything at all. In a culture where people aren’t stingy with words, I feel my limitations acutely.

On the bright side, we’ve all mostly adjusted to the Granada accent (I can’t say southern accent because—as I’ve been told by Granadinos—there’s that much variation across Andalucía). Nearly every Spanish person I’ve met has apologetically explained that people in Granada speak too fast and cut off the ending of too many words (“Granada” becomes “Graná, and “él me ha dicho” becomes “élmadicho”). I dunno, sounds like what native speakers do.

I am also adjusting to having one additional set of verb conjugations that are only used in Spain (for “you all,” different from “you” singular and from “you” formal).

The lisp I was so afraid of seems pretty muted here, and with all the other things I have to remember when I’m speaking I almost never bother to do it.

My conversation exchange partners—and now I have three I meet with regularly—give me an excuse to work on my Spanish. They’re patient listeners and willing to answer my culture and language questions. And because we also speak in English, our conversations have a depth and parity that’s missing from my interactions with other Spanish speakers. I’d like to think we’re becoming friends.

Las elecciones

Sunday will be a big day in Spain: across the country, citizens will vote for their representatives in Congress. The next prime minister (el presidente del gobierno) will also be chosen, based in part on party representation in Congress.

This year there are four viable national parties instead of only two (other parties will also gain seats in Congress). If one party ends up with a majority of seats in Congress, they will put forth their candidate for prime minister for approval by the king and a subsequent vote of confidence by Congress. If no party attains majority status—which is what is expected to happen this time around—then the parties with the greatest representation in Congress will negotiate to put forward a single candidate and platform.

Although not directly elected*, candidates for prime minister have been touring the country and participating in debates, and they appear as the face of their party in campaign literature. I don’t know enough about Spanish history and politics to understand the important nuances, but what I see are pretty standard pledges to address what the average voter cares about: government spending, jobs and pensions, and access to high quality education and healthcare. I also see jabs at incumbent officials and parties in proposals to fight corruption, and pointed reminders that Spain is a unified, democratic country (a statement against the independence/secessionist movements in two provinces).

*If that sounds odd, it helps to remember that presidential candidates in the U.S. are also selected through a party nomination process and that, because of the electoral college system, we also don’t vote directly for them.

La copla

juanito valderrama

One of Juanito Valderrama’s best known songs is El Emigrante, written in 1949. His son, a singer known simply as Valderrama, is the first singer to appear in the video.

The Spanish copla is pop or folk music that reached its peak popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. It’s music that would be recognized by most Spanish adults—sometimes with nostalgia, as in the case of some of our acquaintances in their 50s who explained that la copla was music their mothers sang in the kitchen.

See and hear a modern take on El emigrante, a copla in the voice of an emigrant—of which there were millions in the years after the Spanish civil war (1936-1939)—promising to never forget his beloved Spain.

(My apologies for not giving the the artists and musicians due credit. The video came to me with no information.)


Un puente largo

We are just coming off an extra long weekend with two national holidaysConstitution Day was observed on Monday, and Day of the Immaculate Conception was observed on Tuesday.

During the puente we hosted a visitor, rented a car, and invited some Spanish friends* for movie night. We were also invited to a special multi-course vegetarian lunch cooked by our neighbor who owns a small restaurant. It was a very full weekend. (*They are all friends with each other, and we aspire to be their friends.)

On Saturday we went on an all-day hike in the Alpujarra with a Spanish-American group.

On Sunday we drove to the town of Alcalá la Real, about an hour northwest of Granada. My original plan was to visit three towns and see an olive oil museum I’ve become obsessed with, but I quickly realized that was far too ambitious. So we visited La Mota—where Neandertal man camped and where an uncovered Roman settlement, Moorish fort, and 16th/17th century Catholic church still coexist. Then we went to a restaurant for lunch and kicked a soccer ball around.

On Tuesday, after dropping our visitor at the Málaga International Airport, we drove to the beautifully kept town of Ronda, which is two hours west of Granada and situated on either side of a steep canyon.



“Send me a wasap [wuh-sahp].”IMG_1825IMG_1815

To my great pleasure, texting via What’sApp (a mostly free app) is often how basic communication happens in Spain when people aren’t face to face. It’s so widely used, in fact, that it was perfectly appropriate for
us to provide Lou’s school with a wasap number as our preferred form of contact.

Wasap conventions include liberal use of emojis. One also shouldn’t be too proud to make enthusiastic use of exclamation points!!!