Your Spanish Friend

A few weeks ago, I told you about my long weekend in Madrid staying with Guadalupe (click here for the last of several posts on that trip).

Guadalupe and a few of her friends can communicate fairly well in English. Other of her friends are fluent — and probably have a much better academic knowledge of English grammar than I do… than do I… than I… In addition, some are also fluent in French, German, and Italian. One friend is even fluent in Hebrew. All I could remember how to say in Hebrew was, “What’s this?,” “I go to Hebrew school,” and “Koopy is a good monkey.” Phonetically, that’s “Koopy cove tove,” if it ever comes up in conversation.

Putting Koopy aside… The core group of five professional women started a business together called “Your Spanish Friend.” They host people in their homes and offer a few days or more of immersion in Spanish conversation while sharing the city of Madrid from an insider’s view.

This all sounds like an advertisement and I don’t mean it to be that. I just thought I’d let you know about it in case you’re interested. Although Guadalupe and I had recently become friendly, we weren’t close friends and really didn’t know each other very well. I agreed to go up for a visit and was kind of nervous about staying in someone else’s home (not my favorite way to travel) and spending so much time in such close proximity to a fairly new acquaintance. I also love to travel independently, so didn’t know how I felt about being taken around Madrid by someone else.

The entire visit was a revelation. First, the homes are large and elegant. I had my own beautiful room and private bath. I know people with apartments smaller than that. So, staying in Guadalupe’s house was like staying in an elegant B&B — with the added benefit of feeling part of a family (and being able to eat whenever I wanted). We spent the entire weekend speaking only Spanish. At times, my Spanish was comical, but I can’t believe how much I improved, and how relaxed I was the entire time.


You may remember the photo I shared of Guadalupe and her friends. They are all gracious, fascinating, classy, relaxed, warm, kind, funny, knowledgable. I could go on an on. I fell in love. I told San Geraldo even he (yes, even he) would have had a great time.

This is not a shameless plug since it’s not about me. Check them out at and on Facebook at (You may recognize some of the photos. I sent all of mine to Guadalupe.)


During your next trip to Spain I know you’ll be asked about Koopy the monkey (he comes up all the time, as you can imagine): When asked, all you need to say is:“Koopy es un buen mono,” because Koopy is a good monkey.

Speaking the Language

I’m immersed in Rosetta Stone Spanish for Spain.  I studied Spanish for 7 years starting when I was 12.  You’d think I’d be passably fluent, but it’s been a really long time since I’ve used it beyond a very superficial level.

I was in Spain on business about four years ago.  During that trip I spent an hour in a taxi with a driver who spoke no English.  We spent the hour in conversation… in Spanish.  At the end of the hour, the cab driver told me I did really well.  I said, like a 2-year-old.  He said, no, 5.  Trust me, he was being extremely kind.  After completing Level 1 (of 5) of Rosetta Stone, I feel like I now speak and comprehend Spanish like an at times slow and at times gifted 2-year-old.

I look forward to fluency.  I’m not very patient.  I’m no perfectionist.  I’m quite good at slapping something together and saying, “That’ll do.”  But I don’t like not being able to do something perfectly immediately.  The big difference between me and a perfectionist–in those situations when I can’t immediately do something perfectly–is that I might just throw in the towel.

But I love languages and I do pick them up quickly (I hear them as music in my head).  So, although I’ll get frustrated with my lack of fluency I won’t stop working at it.

Jerry speaks Russian.  We don’t expect that to come in very handy in Spain.  So, he’s counting on me to be translator (everything is relative) when we visit Andalucia in January.  Jerry’s sister and her husband rented an apartment in Nerja on the Costa del Sol last summer.  One day when they were out for their regular morning stroll, they were greeted by the owner of the local grocery.  As they walked by, she waved and said, “Buenos dias!”  Our brother-in-law waved back and said, “Aloha!”  I don’t think he’s going to be of much help.

Once we move in May, we’ll both immediately enroll in language immersion programs.

In the meantime, we are also trying to understand everything (well, a lot) about Spanish history and culture.  Jerry is the academic in this household.  He can get himself lost in any, dry, non-fiction tome.  And he can then quote information and statistics for years after.  I barely got through one academic hard-cover on Spain and I returned two others to Jerry after the first chapter.

I keep hoping to find a historical novel to give me all I need to know in a format like Michener’s “Hawaii.”  Michener did actually produce one book on Spain. Unfortunately, it was a work of NON-fiction.  In the meantime, I’m reading every travel guide and have just found a book “The New Spaniards” that holds my attention.  Surfing the web provides an endless source of info in as small or as large a bite as I’m interested in at any given time.

So, now it’s off to Peet’s for a newspaper and a cup of coffee.