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"Effort yourself" to learn some Spanish

Seville, Spain, March 2001 —

When I went in to speak with Mauricio, the owner of Mex Rock restaurante mexicano, he said we would give it a try in a couple of days "to see how you move in the kitchen."

Naturally, this meant I had a job, barring outlandish disaster. So, cool. I had a job in Seville. This was in early March 2001.

Your coworkers speak some English, he said; so you shouldn't have any trouble — "But you really must effort yourself* to learn some Spanish." Of course, I agreed — I was in Spain.

On my first day at work, I was in the kitchen with Eugenia, a woman from Madrid who would become a friend. Eugenia couldn't put three words of English together.

On the floor, only Rie, a Japanese girl, spoke a functional English. The others on the floor were Gaston from Argentina (what an accent that is,) and Carlos and Paco, cousins from Mexico. The other cook, with whom I worked on the second day, was Juana, from Seville (and what an accent that is — very difficult.)

How we ever learned to work together, I can't even remember. We liked each other, I believe was the key. My Spanish was minimal. I don't know if that's even the word for it; I'd had three hours of class per week for one year, 16 years prior—and had been in Spain for about two months. I didn't speak the language.

But, with whatever combination of pointing and showing and repetition and food-service instinct (it's not difficult with a little cooperation) — well, we did indeed work together.

We also played together, out for some late Spanish nights around town, from that first night when we all went up the street to Al Ambique for cervezas.

Eugenia and I came to spend a lot of time together for coffees and beers, sun on the rooftop terraces of our flats, trips about town on her scooter, different unique bars in addition to the regular ones, and a couple of great flamenco performances.

Eugenia talked a lot, and didn't mind me mostly listening most of the time. Being a Madrileña (a person from Madrid) — and therefore of a clear accent — Eugenia was a good conversational teacher.

I learned quite a bit of Spanish from her, and from working at Mex Rock — and from going out afterward.

—I lived in Seville from 24 December 2000 until 17 June 2001, when I flew to Dublin.


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* In English, you'd say "make an effort" to learn some Spanish.

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