American in Spain

Connecticut Yankees in King Erik's Court

July 16, 2009

Today on my morning walk with Nora, I heard an American voice behind me. I slowed to eavesdrop, as anyone would, and heard a woman properly evaluate the filthiest bar in town as inappropriate for her business. I watched as they chose another establishment, and circled back around to enter the place myself and order a drink. I chatted with the waitress for a few minutes while I sipped my icy beverage. This waitress is one of Nora's biggest fans, and she'll drop whatever she's doing to come see Nora when we enter. Once the Americans had finished their tapas, and I my drink, I walked over and said, "Excuse me, but I couldn't help but notice that you're American. What on earth are you doing in Colindres?" I had been observing the American couple the whole time I was at the bar. They were in their seventies, gray hair, and very slightly hunched over. It was obvious that they had been married for decades, because not one word was spoken at the table. They read their English newspapers, sipped their beers, and ate their sandwiches.

The woman responded, "Well, we are Americans, from Connecticut, but we haven't lived in the US since 1968. We spend half the year in England, and the other half in France. Right now we're just passing through on our way to Santiago de Compostela."

Immediately they reminded me of my maternal grandparents, who traveled abroad frequently and remain eternally about 75 years old in my memory. The woman was soft spoken, polite, and articulate, asking me insightful questions about life in Spain. The man grumbled into his map that he'd been staring at for ten minutes, but closely observed the conversation, occasionally interjecting an interesting comment. He had already planned the general area where they would spend the night, just inside the border of Asturias, and asked me how long I thought it would take to get there. It took all my might to resist whipping out my iPhone and Google Maps, as I told him that you could make it in two hours without a problem.

The man went to the bar to pay, they both asked Nora's age and commented on how lucky she was to grow up bilingual, thanked me for stopping by to chat, and said goodbye. As they were leaving, I said, "Just to put in perspective how long you've been away from the States, today is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11."

"Wow," she said, "forty years..."