Like smashing atoms against the hard spine of the Spanish dictionary I stare into the dark space where knowledge and understanding are supposed to intersect. We are three hours into this eight hour Spanish course and present perfect has been introduced like an unsavoury uncle who’s loquacious manner forces him to address your sisters newly sinuous form. He will later scoff at the seemingly innocuous gesture yet continue to drink too much and avoid the pleas to ignore family politics. Creating a particularly odious smell he will later jettison the situation only to repeat it at the next family affair.
I attempt to evoke my most erudite face and scrunch up my brow willing the power of osmosis to lap up this saline Spanish solution. As we begin to address past tense it forms another improbable column of confusion. Both its start and end point appear to be blurred and incongruous to all I’ve learnt so far. The permeable learning where no tangible structures are necessary to digest information seems so far away.
In the evening we take a break from the Spanish lessons and cook meals together as a family. The chores are divided up equally throughout the week and offer the opportunity to unite together and bond. The concept of evening meals as a family is a beautiful idea the marries both the want to cook the others a delectable feast, and also provides an opportunity to utilise your basic Spanish skills in town as you attempt to buy the ingredients you require.
I stare down in earnest at the two pounds of sugar peas I’ve purchased and glance over to my other open palm to remark on the squandered budget. I shake my head ambivalently to what I possibly options I now have with my soul ingredients greenish brown and unfurling sugar peas.
As we sit around to a uniquely ‘Scottish’ cuisine the tranquillity of our surroundings distracts the others from the food. Under the table we kick the pugnacious yapping dog that is our Spanish lessons and continue the evening in English, repeating in 5-minute increments just how lovely our new home is. Here I am far from everything yet close to all that I need.
The Spanish starts at its regular high octane pace with the introduction of countless new nouns and adjectives added to the table. Their weight causes an imbalance and forces me to concentrate on la montana’s in the distance instead of this teetering improbable free standing table.
Things spiral out of control in the afternoon as present perfect and future are merged together in a foul peanut butter and sperm sandwich. Everyone is sure that it is an unnecessary combination and one that is against the interests of the students. Yet we are forced to chew it down coughing on the thick salty gloop all the while holding back our gag reflexes as best as we can.
The website mentions it would be an intense introduction to Spanish. At this stage the only way to make it more so would be the introduction of electric shocks at hesitations and incorrect answers.
The afternoons are our own and we spend this one on a trip to Pablo Escobar’s old haunt. A luxurious villa that straddles the peninsula of land that juts out into the emerald green waters of Guatape Lake. The residence boasts 360-degree views from the turret that overlooks the now vegetated swimming pool. I cast my head back and fall into a daze trying to envisage life here 30 years ago… bikini clad women walking amongst the thick moustaches and trigger happen felons. Mountains of the purest coke piled ominously on worktops and tables fuelling hot-headed, ego-driven mad men to draw fire at an out of place fart or an accidently speedo incident. Latino music blaring endlessly from the speakers, punctuated only by the ringing of Colombian bullets fired carelessly into the night air…
As we bound back across the lake, Steve, our tour guide and boat driver, plays us his favourite collection of Reggietone top-charters. Pimpled and with the formation of a newly sprouted tash he sits slouched at the helm of the boat. His slick hair and smile ruffle in the wind. I catch his glance and sense a reticence behind those dark pupils. Laconic, unless responding to our broken Spanish, which is hurled his way like faeces from the monkey enclosure, I ponder whether he really could be the bastard offspring of Pablo Escobar.
Today we will graduate from Escuela Español. Paolo decides to join both the beginners and intermediates together encouraging unity and fuelling general lack of comprehension. She takes several pauses during the class to pack her bag, an escape she has no doubt been planning since she met this sorry bunch of gringo’s. After handing me the class test, a repetition of 22 common verbs we received yesterday that need to be conjugated, she leaves the class once more creating the perfect gap to cheat and use my notes. Out of protest I don’t use the book and manage just 7 verbs before curtsying and making my way to my safe place, the hammock.
In the evening we enter the town once more but now as graduates of the Spanish language; fluent in the life and culture of Colombia, and any other Spanish speaking country for that matter. In the centre of Guatape the lights are effulgent and sparkly with the Navidad spirt soon approaching. People dance in the centre to a live band and after a beer we join in, shaking our hips with almost the same vigour as the old men and women on the square. I smile and laugh, drunk not from beer but from happiness. The experience, like the language, is now attached to my existence by thick rusted barbs.