Meeting Locals (one faux pas at a time)

This weekend was the first time in Spain I’ve had the opportunity to converse with locals (outside of waiters, the ISA staff, and my host mom). With it came the unfortunate, but expected, social blunders that come with any traveler to a new country. For example, while I was waiting at the wrong bus stop (another story for another day) a woman came up to me and started chatting with me. I was too proud to admit that I did not understand what she was saying, and ended up replying incorrectly to her question. We both left confused.

That night was the Bolivia vs. España futbol game. Due to yet another miscommunication, I ended up sitting by myself for the game. Strangely, it ended up making the expierience even better. I was surrounded by Sevillanos and an excited energy for the game. People stood and sang proudly during the national anthem, cheered wildly at every point, and did the wave. It smelt like smoke, sweat and summer. I was able to blend in a little bit (I think) because I wasn’t there speaking English with anyone. The enthusiasm seriously rivaled how San Antonians are feeling about the Spurs right now.


I wore a team shirt to the game, so on my walk home, many people asked how we did. At first, out of self preservation, I ignored them, and people were offended. Then I understood what was going on, and was able to reply in kind, and let them know “we” won! I felt like part of the community in that moment: we were all rooting for a common goal.

Sunday, Host Mama Caremencita took Marissa and I to mass with her. The neighbors came out and met us, and the father made the adorable little twin girls kiss us hello.  On the way to mass waiters popped out of the doorways to say hello. Marissa and I ignored them, but Mama Carmen chatted them up like only a true grandma can. Later, she told us that boys looking at girls like that is not a Spain thing – it’s a southern Spain thing. Interesting. Then we made it to the historic church.  Mass is the same everywhere – right? Sort of. The church itself was goregous and ancient: adorned with paintings and sculpters and a monstrance that would make my priest from back home drool. Oh – and the guy who started the home for poor elderly people attached to the church? He’s up for cannonization, no big deal. I thought I’d be prepared for the Padre Nuestro since I’ve been saying that prayer since I was a little girl. I was wrong. Instead of saying it in unison it was a free for all. People started and stopped as they pleased. So I didnt get to show off my awesome Spanish praying skills. “Paz” was the other part of mass I thought I’d be ready for. But when it was time, I didn’t know whether to kiss, hug, or shake hands. So I went with a combo deal.

Social interactions with people who are from a different culture and speak a different language are terrifying, humiliating, and downright confusing. But that’s what makes surviving them so gratifying.

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