It’s autumn 2009. There is a slight chill in the air, and we are walking up my favorite street in Salamanca. It is a long climb, this street, one that leads to the cathedral, which reigns atop the hill like a mighty king. I huff and puff as Mario talks. I love the way he talks: his rolled Rs, his throaty jotas. But when he utters an unfamiliar word, I stop him. I’m 22, going on my second year in Spain, the world is at my feet, but I still have so much to learn—from him, from Spain, from everyone and everything. And so we’ve become accustomed to this: him speaking, me interrupting, him explaining, and then returning to the topic at hand. Listening to him was much more than just getting to know (and love) him; I was learning about Spanish and Spain at the same time.
Before I met Mario, I didn’t know what enterarse or tiquismiquis meant. I was unaware that I can be a total sabelotodo. (In my defense, so can he.) I had no idea that peli stood for película, ofi for oficina, and pisci for piscina. I used to always say fin de semana, but now I just utter finde. I sometimes joked that his favorite word was efectivamente, and that word has—effectively—become a part of my vocabulary, too.
Mario’s family has taught me new words as well. I learned adrede, pringar, and cebar. Not to mention Zamora’s own fréjoles, which means judías verdes or green beans. Mario’s father has attempted to teach me some “village” words, which my mother-in-law tut-tuts, because what use would that term have in the rest of Spain?
All along, Mario has been by my side, teaching me without me realizing it at times. We watch Spanish television, and he explains the cultural connotations behind a certain phrase or way of speaking. We eat at his aunt’s table, and he tells me about the history of the dish or the reason why a certain thing is eaten on Fridays. We go to bar, and I learn that a mini is not really miniature sized. We attend a wedding, and I get the hang of certain social mores. We chat on Skype whilst discussing the words I’ve been studying. (I always love sneaking in a new term!) We read books about idioms and linguistics and have fascinating discussions about their origins.
I am blessed, and I do not use that word lightly. Many people find the love of their lives, their best friend, or their media naranja. I’ve found that too, but with an added bonus: Not only is Mario my husband, my friend, my running partner and personal motivator—he’s also my teacher. I’m his too.