Yesterday morning I went to have breakfast with my friend Sandra. She is one of the wonderful Spanish friends God has brought into my life since my arrival in Alicante, and it has been such a pleasure getting to know her. How did we meet? Randomly enough, while waiting in line at the TAM (Transporte Alicante Metropolitano) to recharge our bus cards (though not randomly at all, considering how our good God cares for His children!). When I first saw Sandra, I figured that this confident-looking, beautiful Spanish gal would hardly be much interesting in talking to me. But I said “hello” anyway and asked her where she was from, and as it turned out, she was extremely friendly and happens to be studying English as part of a tourism management degree. We exchanged phone numbers then, and from there we’ve developed a wonderful friendship that I’ve no doubt will continue once I’ve flown back to the States.
Sandra, like a number of patient friends here, has the uncanny ability—or, perhaps more accurately, makes a concerted effort—to speak in a way that is crystal clear and refreshingly understandable. (Which, considering my level of Spanish is quite an accomplishment on her part.) And if I am ever confused by a particular word or phrase, she is quick to catch on and to explain until I am un-confused. Sandra and I enjoy talking about all manner of different topics, but we also often end up simply discussing numerous different words, phrases, and language-features of both English and Spanish—a fascinating exercise for anyone who loves language. It has also been incredibly interesting to learn about Spanish culture from her. We talk about topics ranging from travel and entertainment to politics and systems of education, and I always come away from our get-togethers with an enriched perspective on Spanish culture. Sandra possesses an infectious sort of curiosity about the worl
d and a lively interest in travel and culture that seems to rub off on me when I’m with her.
During yesterday’s breakfast, after we’d chatted for a bit, Sandra kindly invited me to launch into a somewhat heated account of the difficulties I’ve been having with my prepaid phone. (I won’t bore you with the details, but basically, be careful if you ever use a prepaid phone in Spain—companies will swindle you for all you’re worth if you’re not careful. Such is the price of naivety, I suppose.) Anyway, once I’d explained, Sandra kindly offered to accompany me to the mobile phone store, which she subsequently did. Next, she took me to H&M and helped me shop for winter clothes. Several times during our three-hour outing, I felt the need to tell her that she really didn’t need to accompany me and that she should let me know if she had things to do and needed to go. Her response was, unvaryingly, that she wasn’t in a hurry and that she would be delighted to come with me. Which brings up a cultural characteristic that has repeatedly caught my attention
since I’ve been here: the Spanish always seem to have time for people. I mean, when was the last you accompanied someone while they ran errands or—as various neighbors have done when I’ve been with Spanish friends—woken up from a Sunday-afternoon nap to invite people into your home for tea and a spontaneous visit? This is type of hospitality and selflessness with one’s time that, to me anyway, seems comparatively rare in the US. It is, of course, important to be a good steward of one’s time and to strike a balance between focus and fellowship. But perhaps our priorities have become a bit skewed when we can find time to watch our favorite TV show each week, but don’t have much time to really love people and share our time with them? It’s food for thought, at any rate.