Oberlin Blogs

A letter to my Spanish host mom

October 28, 2009

Sam Jewler ’10

It's been almost five months since I finished my time studying in Spain, but I haven't been able to forget about it. Over fall break I went to visit some friends from my program at Smith College. We spent a lot of time reminiscing and listening to flamenco music, which sent warm pangs of heart-wrenching nostalgia through my mind. I wanted instantly to go back to Córdoba, to Andalucía, hell anywhere in Spain.

But at the same time I knew I could never go back to the feeling I had for those four glorious months. I was utterly carefree, exposing myself to a world of beautiful land, food, music, people, and tradition. I was learning that I really could learn Spanish, and use it to meet new people whom I never could have met otherwise. I was learning flamenco guitar and sevillanas dance. I was traveling all over Andalucia, one of the most diverse and fantastic regions of the world, and around Europe, which needs no introduction. And I was there with forty people my age who were sharing my mindblowing experience of growth and exploration.

There's not much I can do to quench my nostalgia, other than go back to Spain, which is not really feasible right now. So I figured the next best thing would be to write to my host mother, who I haven't spoken with since I left. She was an incredible host who truly treated me as if I were her own child. Not only did she constantly make incredible food and have truly engaging conversations with me (in Spanish, her only language), but she really cared about me. She'd constantly encourage me to drink more milk, and then she'd half-jokingly brag to her friends about how late I stayed out last night.

Described in the next paragraph.

This is my host mom Juani and I dancing at one of Andalucía's spring festivals, Romería. Despite my obvious ineptitude I frequently met Spaniards of all ages with just a few drinks and a dance. Also note the traditional Spanish garb, which on me had become haggard by that point but was still festive and beautiful on the woman behind me.

Anyway, without further ado, the letter I wrote her translated to English is below. If you want to challenge my Spanish (please do!) or yours, see the original Spanish below that.

Dear Juani,

It's been a long time since I left your comfortable house, your company and your marvelous country. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to write you. I know you remember how I'm late doing everything! But seriously, it's taken me a long time to be able to write you without being overwhelmed by nostalgia.

My trip through Europe with [Oberlin friend] Josh went really well. I think I learned a lot about the world, from the political system of Denmark to the possibly too liberal culture of Amsterdam. In Denmark everything costs a fortune because of their high taxes. But on the other hand the welfare state there is very generous. Of Amsterdam, I don't remember much. No, just kidding. It's a city that shows the good and the bad sides of a spirit of extreme liberalism. On one hand it's a picturesque city with an admirable history; where you can buy anything you could ever want. But on the other hand, being there is really intense. There's no way to escape what is sometimes too much craziness.

My summer in New York was great. I think I took advantage of my time there, like you always told me to. I wrote five articles that appeared on the website of the magazine, including two that were published in the actual magazine with a photo I took!

My social life also continued to go well there; I spent time with some friends from the Spain program [mostly girls, it had about a 45:3 girl:guy ratio], including with Rachel. Last weekend (October 23-25) we had a reunion with at least 15 girls from the PRESHCO program (and me, the only guy of course) at Smith College, where a lot of people from the program study.

My life at Oberlin is going well. I'm taking on more responsibilities than ever, as editor of the school newspaper, writing tutor for a class, and writer of a blog (a type of public journal on the internet) for the college. I'm also taking a class on literature and cinema from the post-Franco era. We're reading a lot in Spanish; we've read books by Javier Marías, Martín Gaite, Vázquez Montalbán, y Julio Llamazares (I love La lluvia amarilla).

How is everything in Córdoba? I hope it wasn't too hot over the summer [Córdoba is one of the hottest cities in Europe; people don't really go outside during the day in August], but I probably hope incorrectly. Do you have another student this semester? I heard from Encarni [a program director] that your health is good, I hope that's the case. Since my parents never came to visit me when I was in Spain they want to go there with me when I have some free vacation time! I want to show them Córdoba, Granada, Barcelona, and maybe Madrid. So maybe I'll appear in your doorway someday in the next year. Don't move away!

See you soon I hope,


and the Spanish:

Querida Juani,
Mucho tiempo ha pasado desde que yo salí de tu casa y compañía cómoda y de tu país maravilloso. Lo siento por tardar tanto en escribirte. ¡Yo sé que recuerdas como yo suelo tardar en todas maneras! Pero en serio, he necesitado mucho tiempo para escribirte sin volverme abrumado con nostalgia.

Mi viaje por Europa con Josh pasó muy bien. Creo que aprendí mucho sobre el mundo, desde el sistema político de Dinamarca hasta la cultura quizá demasiado liberal de Amsterdam. En Dinamarca todo cuesta un dineral porque todo lleva impuestos altos. Pero por otro lado su estado de bienestar es muy generoso. De Amsterdam, no recuerdo mucho. No, estoy bromeando. Es una ciudad que expone lo bueno y lo malo de un espíritu de liberalismo extremo. Por un lado, es una ciudad pintoresca con una historia admirable, en que puedes comprar cualquier cosa que quieras. Pero por otro lado, es muy intenso estar allí. No hay ninguna evasión de la que es a veces demasiada locura.

Mi verano en Nueva York pasó buenísimo. Creo que lo aproveché, como me aconsejabas siempre. Escribí cinco artículos que aparecieron en el sitio del Internet de la revista, ¡incluyendo dos que fueron publicado en la misma revista con una foto la cual saqué!

También mi vida social siguió bastante bien allí; pasé tiempo con unas amigas (hombres apenas hay) del programa, incluyendo con Raquel. El fin de semana pasado (el 23-25 de octubre) tuvimos una reunión con al menos 15 preshquitas (más yo, el único hombre, claro) en la universidad Smith, donde estudian Raquel y muchas más del programa.

Mi vida en la universidad Oberlin sigue ser bueno. Llevo más responsabilidades que nunca, como editor del periódico de la universidad, tutor de escribiendo para una clase, y escritor de un blog (una especie de diario público en el internet) para la universidad. También estoy tomando una clase de literatura y cinema postfranquista. Leemos mucho en español; hemos leído libros por Javier Marías, Martín Gaite, Vázquez Montalbán, y Julio Llamazares (La lluvia amarilla - me encanta).

¿Como está todo en Córdoba? Espero que no hiciera demasiado calor en el verano, pero probablemente espero incorrecto. ¿Tienes otro estudiante este semestre? He oído de Encarni que tu salud está bien, ojalá que sea verdad. Ya que mis padres nunca vinieron a visitarme cuando estuve en España, ¡quieren ir allí conmigo cuando tengo bastante tiempo de vacaciones! Quiero mostrarles Córdoba, Granada, Barcelona y acaso Madrid. Entonces quizá apareceré en tu puerta un día dentro del próximo año. ¡No te muedes!

Hasta luego ojalá,

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