Adrian cried twice this week before school. The teacher yells at him, he sobbed, because he can’t write his cursive letters yet (in Spain, kids learn cursive first–in the U.S., kids don’t learn it at all ). That the teacher is a man when Ado is used to his cuddly pre-school teacher Miss Erica doesn’t help, nor does the fact that, while Ado does speak Spanish, his vocabulary is weak. My nieces, seasoned Spanish schoolgirls, reassured me that most of the time when the teachers yell, they are joking. But nothing seemed funny in the face of my son’s tears.
So much is different here than just their school, a Catholic public school in the middle of town with not one bit of green space. One night, standing on my balcony, I saw three teenagers in the shadows outside our front door. It took me a moment to realize they were peeing in our doorway–all three of them–and a wave of outrage sparked an entire Spanish sentence to form spontaneously. ”Proximo vez,” I shouted, and they looked up in genuine surprise, “Usa los aseos, cerdos!” Next time, use the bathrooms, pigs! Nobody ever peed in my doorway back home.
More than the yelling and urinating though, the biggest difference is more country versus city mouse. No one hurries here and multitasking is minimal. When I took Ado and Griff for a riding lesson at a nearby stable, I was the only mom snapping photos and checking email. The others were just sitting in the shade, drinking coke or coffee and watching the kids parade around on the big, white Andalusian horses. Afterwards, Griff, Ado and I climbed into a big pen with four goats, two pigs, five ducks, three guinea fowl and I’m not sure how many guinea pigs. All the owner did was warn us not to turn our back on the goats.
And while I can’t say that people are happier here, they do seem more spontaneous. It’s common to see dancing in the streets, fueled by a lazy afternoon of drinking cold Cruzcampo… on a Wednesday. What I do know is that at this time in my life, I ‘m digging the Spanish vibe rather than the American one.
Other than Adrian’s few tears, the kids seem to be straddling both lifestyles effortlessly. When I ask Griff to name his favorite thing about Spain, he immediately says school, even though his teacher yells too and the only playground is a bare rooftop. Of course, a mother’s fear is that she chooses badly for her children and somehow scars them for life. And Ado’s tears hurt more than my own. But somehow I think they’ll be ok.