01 May Adventures in Language
This excitement soon faded, just as a huge mountain assent loses its appeal after an exciting send off. My excitement turned to frustration at the never-ending feeling of it all; it gave way to the feeling of drudgery as I struggled to make sense of this new world around me and how to communicate with it. There were moments, like beautiful mountain vistas, or sunshine in the rain, when I grasped a phrase, managed to pronounce something, to be understood or actually followed what one of my friends said! As I studied I had moments of dancing around and spinning again, as I took breath and realised that I wasn’t thinking so much and my sentences flew and people I spoke with exchanged genuine smiles with me rather than ‘encouraging sympathetic ones’! But inevitably again there are always dark days when I’m stuck in the night wandering alone or lost in a forest in cold wet muddy boots. I feel the despair that I will “never ever remember this or that verb conjugation! I will never master the subjunctive or the imperative! and I will NEVER EVER, EVER sound intelligent again!”
Then there are also days when I reach a summit, like today, when my ipod was on shuffle and the same Shakira album came on (long abandoned and forgotten) and to my surprise I understood every word! I got a little shudder of joy and smugness then, but also within that joy, I felt a little flat as suddenly I realised suddenly how dull the lyrics were! I suppressed a giggle at my then ignorance of something I saw as so exotic. I ponder these feelings and reflect where I am at. Is it a shame I have lost this excitement? Then I draw another breath, No! I remember the other day in our local library when I read the words of Gabriel García Márquez in its original language, which moved me to tears as it was so beautiful! I realise that there is more I can gain! If I can climb that mountain there is more of ahead; deeper friendships, more understanding of the context of where we live and great, great Spanish and Catalan literature! Maybe the exoticness and delight is now in what I may obtain?
However I cannot be complacent, my excitement needs to be tampered with reality. I may have come through the clouds and found myself at a summit but only then to realise it is like climbing in the Himalayas or cycling through the Alps, there is almost always another mountain looming behind the one I am on, its top again shrouded in clouds. Does my heart sink at this? Yes inevitably! But then again my heart flies at the challenge! I am wiser five years in and I am beginning to understand the process, it is not easy, sometimes after the hacking though the undergrowth and wading icy rivers you need time to rest and recover. Some days you need to put up camp and take a break, retreat to your native language and take a comfort stop. Like climbing or cycling mountains you need to pace yourself. However I will also not lose sight of that summit and I will aim for the heights, and most importantly I won’t forget to take stock and enjoy what has happened along the way. Each step needs to be viewed with pride. You need to reflect on where you came from and how much you have learnt. The journey is arduous, long and at times the path stony and full of thorns but it is spotted with beauty and great views and the rewards of the destination are unfathomably great!
Fleur moved from the UK after giving up a much-loved career to bring up her children abroad. After initially missing their old life, and struggling with the adaptation process, Fleur says she would now struggle to leave Catalunya after falling in love with the life and people. She has now re-invented herself as a writer and blogger.