My first brush with Spain was when I was very little. Someone had given my dad one of those yearly agendas that had photos from all over the world, the theme that year being children. There was this one photo of a group of Spanish girls about my age, dressed up in traditional costumes, hair pulled back with flowers, earrings, and those long knit shawls that I think are called mantillas. They were against the backdrop of some marvelous old stone church or other in the countryside. I was hooked. For some reason, I preserved that picture. I think I even gnawed at it in hopes that I would end up there, through the sheer force of my will and my newly-acquired canines. (Do 8-year-olds have canines? Don't know.)
Years later I had a friend, a sailor who spent nine months of the year sailing up and down South America. He had had to learn Spanish and had several language books; so what did I do but cleverly persuade him to part with one. (He had moved on to Portuguese.) It was in this way that I got started on vocabulary and basic grammar. I had a lot of time in those days, in fact due to the circumstances I had to stay home. And then one afternoon I watched a t.v. show on the famous walking pilgrimage of Spain, ending in a town called Santiago de Compostela. Again, my only desire was to somehow defy the laws of physics and find myself there. Alas, I did do my research but was beaten before I started. I didn't try to gnaw on the t.v. though, maybe that would've worked this time around.
Youth being what is is, I eventually found a way to escape. Not to my beloved Spain, but to another country, one which actually ended up paying me to stay and study there. Har har. But for some reason it's only now in my third innings here, so to speak, that I have really endeavored to master the language again.
And while master is not quite the suitable verb, I can now stumble along in rudimentary espanol. In fact, I frequently get mistaken for a Mexican chica and become engaged in conversations with perfect strangers. Sometimes I have to sheepishly declare myself when the speaker gets too carried away and rattles on at 90 miles an hour, but most of the time I pull it off. Now to come up with a good Spanish name. Celestina Garcia? I like that; it's the name of the character I played in a school production aged 9, in which my sister had to slap someone, but that's another story.