Foreign dialogue

I come to Madrid to get lost. Walking through El Rastro – the Sunday flea market – is a crush of people. It isn’t always possible to stop and peruse the stalls you want to, the movement of people doesn’t always permit it. So I gave myself up to the ebb & flow of it and let myself be carried. An insignificant one in a tide of many. It is liberating to blend in with a crowd in Madrid and I’ve never felt lonely doing so.

The language barrier leads me to feel lonely, but the people, the city and the feel of Madrid don’t. The language thing is really all about my own insecurity and embarassment at not being able to step into someone else’s world with speech. This makes me feel very vulnerable and I have a hard time dealing with that.

The other side, however, is that every communication is a gift, for which I feel immense gratitute. I’ve tried a lot harder to communicate with people this time in Madrid and it has paid off. A potted mixture of Spanish words (badly pronounced), a wryly confessed “no hablo Espanol”, some patient English and well thought gesture have relieved my isolation. Every time I pluck up the courage to wear my ineptitude (rather than clumsily hide it or hide behind it) I get an unrepeatable, precious sharing, a rush of deeply felt gratitude for the moment/kindness/humanity and a ridiculous sense of achievement. It is really difficult for me to be so vulnerable, but it is also really important.

After years of thinking being strong meant holding on to everything so, so tightly, I’m finally learning about the courage needed to let things go.

Note: trying to explain what ‘bugger’, my favourite swear word, meant to a Spanish friend was particularly entertaining … !


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