Last week kind of sucked. That’s why you didn’t see much of me on the interwebs. My husband had to travel for work making a single parent out of me for most of the week. (And OUCH, I don’t know how real single parents do it. You guys are superheros). I got sick. It snuck up on me really fast, too. One minute I was fine, then I felt like I got hit by a micro–the ugly kind with graffiti. I was achey, feverish and nauseated. I felt so awful that it brought back traumatic memories of all-day sickness when I was pregnant with Squeaker. Except that would be against our five-year plan. Yes, we have five-year plans now. We’re spiffy.
Anyway, back to me. I was lucky that my husband’s cousin dropped by to help me out that day. I put Squeaker down for a nap and went out to ask her if she would be bothered if I laid down to sleep too. I must have looked bad enough because she came in to check on me a few minutes later. We took my temperature and I was rocking a nice 102 degrees.
Both of us piled into a taxi with Squeaker and proceeded to the emergency room, which felt like overkill but since sometimes it’s hard to get a same day appointment, we did it anyway.
The doctor came in and I explained what was wrong, or what I thought was wrong. He cut me off after a few minutes, “Are you from the United States?”
He explained that he had done his residency in Dallas and then had stayed for several more years. The nurse even got into it and practiced her English on me. From my weakened state, I internally remarked to myself how far I’ve come. It was once a great point of contention with me when Chileans tried to practice their English with me BECAUSE I SPEAK SPANISH and I have a DEGREE in Spanish and I live here so I can PRACTICE SPANISH (that was then, now I just live here). Plus, I also saw their attempts to speak with me in English as implying that my Spanish wasn’t up to snuff. But, now I’m much more mature. I think. And, when they are holding sharp objects, you do what you do need to.
After my doctor wrote off a prescription for some antibiotics, he asked me if I belonged to any women’s groups, or any expat groups because (and I quote) “you seem stressed and it would be nice to get out among your people and practice Spanish, yes? You want to improve your Spanish,no?” My people? I must have just stared at him because he shook my hand, wished me well and left.
Recently, I was walking with Squeaker and, since she makes me look more approachable, a couple with a large suitcase stopped me. They explained in Spanish that they were looking for a hostel.
“Around here?” I asked, also in Spanish. I started to explain that they would be hard-pressed to find a hostel here. Hotels abound, but across the street. The man interrupted me in English, “We want something ship. Not expensive.”
“Then, sorry,” I said, not bothering to point out his obvious error, or the fact that they were walking the wrong way, and shrugged. They walked off looking for a hostel that they won’t find. Would I have been nicer if he hadn’t interrupted me in English?
It got me thinking. Why did this used to (still) bother me so much? I think it’s that rarely when I hear a Spanish speaker in the United States, do I interrupt with Spanish if they started in English. Never have I implied that someone could improve their English, even if it’s the truth. And never do I assume I know where someone is from if I don’t ask, as in when I went to a friend’s apartment and the doorman asked me if I was going to the norteamericana’s apartment. Yes, but she’s the Russian kind of North American.
It’s reminded me that no matter how long I live here, or how good my Spanish is, or what my visa status claims, I will always be a foreigner– the gringa with an accent who needs a superfluous word in English to understand a simple conversation. Granted, I fully admit I would love to improve my Spanish and my accent. But must you imply that the years I spent studying (and still study) were for nothing? And, yes, I know that English is trendy and many of them are just excited to practice, but still! Now, I remember why I used to hate it.