I’m in what I call a friend transition at the moment. It’s my fourth major transition, so I know what to expect. Of course I still have my friends in the States, although now almost none, and my friends in England. The thing is, they aren’t physically here with me (Thank goodness for whatsapp!). This time I’ve made it more interesting by moving to a country that speaks Spanish. Now, I studied Spanish for eight years from middle school all the way through university. I went to Spain for three weeks when I was 21 and had a great time chatting and partying with all the locals. I even managed a little romance with a cute Spanish guy who worked in a local bar. So in no time at all, I will be back to that level of Spanish, right? WRONG!!! I hadn’t spoken any Spanish in eight years and forgot more than I realised. Sure I could ask for directions, order at restaurants and have basic social conversations, but living with someone who’s first language is Spanish and frequently having Spanish guests over is a different thing. I knew pretty much nothing.
I went through a variety of stages. First, frustration, sadness and loneliness. I covered it up by smiling a lot and imitating the body language of others. Another trick I found less useful was to say “Si” to everything. I wasn’t always sure what I was agreeing too!! All these people were having a great time and laughing a lot. I had…hmmmm… no one. I had a Dutch sailor friend, but we were hardly ever in the same marina. When we were, we talked each other’s ear off!! Wow, how great! Communication where both people understood!
Second stage; you know how everyone is laughing? Yep, they’re laughing at me. They are making fun of me because I am stupid and it’s really funny. We can talk about her in front of her and she has no idea, that’s even funnier!! Total paranoia set in. Of course I don’t know for sure, but since I still hang out with the same people, I’m almost positive that was a false conclusion because they don’t talk badly of others!
Then I came to stage three. I don’t want to hang out with anyone and I’m not going anywhere with CC because I don’t understand and no one even knows I exist because I can’t talk. Then I’m on the boat alone and I feel really lonely because I don’t have anyone to talk to and clearly CC doesn’t like me because he would rather be out with his friends. Part of the paranoia still exists, just not as strong. What makes it more of a killer is that my friends are in a different time zone, so when I really want to talk, it’s the middle of the night for them. Poor me, right? So I studied and studied and asked CC more questions about how to say things and what people were saying. During this time, I went back to England for a month and wow, was it ever great!! I could speak to people all of the time and just relax. Such a novelty!!
On my return to Colombia, I moved into the next stage, where I’m at now. I guess the month of relaxing and studying did some good, because upon my return, I understood some jokes! I even understood a joke which was a play on words. Very advanced, right? AND I laughed at the same time as everyone else, not after CC explained to me why it was so funny. It was a miracle!
Some days I still don’t understand and don’t have the energy to ask because I would be asking about every other sentence. It’s weird how it works. Some days I understand almost everything and then the next day, I hear the same words but just can’t remember what they mean. I’ve learned to stop being frustrated by it because it doesn’t change anything. It just is what it is and one day I will remember again. The more relaxed I am about it, the more easily it comes. Like everything in life. Patience and acceptance really is the key to life.
We’re currently working a charter with a lovely group of Colombians. Thank goodness they are from a part of the country where their accents are easy to understand. However, I had just spent a significant time in the US and hadn’t been around many other Colombians besides CC. He changes the way he talks with me to make it more understandable, so the first day with the charter was tough. Luckily stage two never set back in so I wasn’t paranoid, but I did feel lonely and left out. One of the passengers is a great joke teller and everyone was laughing hysterically. Then at night, CC played the guitar while everyone sang. To make things worse, I wasn’t feeling well either. I decided to lie in the bow alone and listen from afar. I just didn’t feel like being an outsider inside of a group. However, I didn’t feel sorry for myself. I will admit, I was feeling lonely, but I just took comfort in the fact that a group of people were having a great time laughing and enjoying each other. I was a part of their group by enjoying from afar. And enjoying I was! The music and singing were great! I had heard some songs before because they are popular here and started to think of times when I was singing around a campfire with my friends. It was great to see people enjoy themselves. This group have really stressful jobs and work long hours. It feels so great to be a part of their enjoyment. After all, my life is pretty relaxed and stress free, it’s ridiculous to expect to enjoy every second of my life! So I sat staring at the stars and the beautiful moon which was almost full, listening and moving my feet to the music knowing that if I stick around long enough, I too will be singing these songs and probably telling jokes and making others laugh. I did it before and probably know more now about British pop culture than I do American! For now, I will just be patient and take each day as it comes. Some days I will feel like part of the group and some days I will feel like the outsider looking for my place.