The Curious Case of Francisco Nicolás

Imagine a twenty year-old kid, a kid from some small town in the Midwest, say. Say that he’s studying at Georgetown University Imagine this kid has grandiose visions of himself. And so he finds a way to pretend he’s a VIP—a CIA agent, the godson of Nancy Pelosi or former President Clinton. Maybe he even tries to scam some people out of a considerable amount of money.

Well, something like this did happen in Spain. Recently, it came to light that a young man now referred to as Pequeño Nicolás (Little Nicholas) has forged official documents, pretended to know and advise senior Spanish officials, and told people he was an agent of Spain’s version of the CIA, the CNI.

Of course, Spaniards have had a field day with this. The memes are rather hilarious, especially if you understand a bit about Spanish culture.

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How Speaking Spanish Influences My English

I was having a conversation the other day with Mario—in English this time. (It varies.) We were talking about my trip out west and an animal I encountered along the way: a chipmunk. In Spanish, the word for chipmunk and squirrel is the same—la ardilla. Note the article. It’s feminine. So, I was talking, and I said, “He had a mouth full of twigs. It was so cute!” And Mario replied, “I think you mean she. It’s la ardilla, after all.” Of course, he was halfway joking, but it still made me laugh. It made me think too. It’s so funny how learning Spanish has helped me understand my own languages: the quirks, the interesting word origins (etymology is so fascinating!), and just grammar in general. Guys, we do have a subjunctive tense in English. So pay attention.

Tamias striatus

The Whole Gender Thing

In Mario’s worldview, all animals with a female article should be referred to as females. I once called a snake a “he.” I don’t know why; it just came out. But nooooo, he insisted, snakes were shes. Same goes for la cigüeña (the stork) or la nutria (the otter). It made me wonder why, in English, we refer to cars and boats as she and most animals as he (until we know better).

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A Life Lived in Airports

I recently mentioned to my mom that I hate airports. Her reply? “You picked the wrong guy if you really despise them!”

Touché.

Departures Madrid Barajas AirportMy most-frequented airport, Madrid Barajas

What is it about airports that brings out all the feels? The airport environment is heightened somehow, as though they put something in the water or air. The arrivals area is decidedly more cheerful than departures. At the arrivals gate you see signs: “Welcome home, Katie” held by the cutest set of parents and dimpled younger brother; “Mr. John Smith” held by a blankfaced businesswoman; “Happy anniversary” accompanied by a 20-something young man holding a boquet of tulips. These people are awaiting the arrival of a loved one, a business associate, a girlfriend or wife. The hugs are numerous. The tears flow. No one seems too impatient or upset.

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