Sometimes I feel like an anthropologist-- an anthropologist in a far away land studying the culture of a people group and learning their language. Okay that sounds a little dramatic, but since I do spend the majority of my day at home without a car, I don't have a lot of English-speaking people to interact with. And believe me, Miami is a completely different culture than the Midwest one I'm used to so it does feel a little foreign.
It was a very hard transition moving from Topeka to Miami right after the honeymoon. I'm still transitioning, but the first few months here were some of the hardest I've ever experienced. Here I was, a brand new wife back from spending a week in a beautiful exotic island with my new husband, and he had to go back to work. I was missing my family and friends a lot, especially during the day when I was at home all by myself. I often went over to spend some time with Ofelia and María and use the Internet at their house, but there was a very obvious language barrier. Even though I studied Spanish in high school and college, the Cuban dialect is very difficult to understand. I wanted to be able to have a real conversation with my new in-laws and to communicate my love for them, but I couldn't. It was incredibly frustrating.
They always fed me a lot when I visited and I came to realize that it was their way of loving me. Cubans just love to feed you! :) So one day I brought over a chocolate cream pie for them and that was a new way I could show them my love. Chocolate is a wonderful bond. I began to bring them other treats and I've become known as the baker in the family.
When we are over there, Israel usually acts as the translator and that's how we communicate. But on the days when it's just me, I have to force myself to understand and speak Spanish. Poco a poco (little by little), I am understanding more Cuban words and picking up more phrases. I've reached a point where it's finally easier, and I feel more confident speaking Spanish.
I just came from next door where I took over our laundry, and I talked more with Ofelia and María more than I ever have. They served me some plantain soup and Cuban bread and they told me how to make bread pudding. It was really encouraging when María even told me that I was learning and practicing more Spanish. Baby Christopher (who is close to being a little boy now) is learning Spanish first and English later, and so we exchange short little phrases together. Whenever he sees me, he screams "Tia! Tia!" and the largest smile crosses his face. I love that kid.
I imagine an anthropologist in the field would feel the way I did the first few months here, but after a while they start to bond with the people and really enjoy the culture they're surrounded by. And I've come to love the Cuban culture-- their passion, their loudness, the way they express themselves, the tasty food, the Cuban music and dance, everything. I've even started leaving off my "s's" on certain words. I guess I'm becoming a little Cubanized after all.