I will never forget my first Spanish lesson with Añita; she was my instructor in cultural lessons for the last two weeks at my Awamaki internship site. On our first day together, we solely practiced together through conversation about our families and daily lives in Perú. I will admit, our first meeting left me feeling intimidated by and judged for my lack of Spanish ability but, after our lessons continued for a few days more, I realized my emotions were clouded by my overwhelming insecurity surrounding my poor language ability. This feeling passed quickly, as I only communicated with Añita using Spanish and we began to relate to each other through jokes and storytelling. Between lessons on ‘present perfect’ and when to use verbs ‘ser’ or ‘estar,’ I also learned a lot about Añita and her family, especially during our trips to the market — she’d tell me her favorite foods to cook and eat, where her kids went to school, and some Peruvian history along the way.
A few days ago, I said goodbye to Añita after our last lesson together. That day, we had an hour and a half adventure walking and chatting in the town Ollantaytambo, where my internship site is located. Listening to her explain Incan tactics, watching her pick berries for her daughter, and seeing her two healthy cows in one of her chakras I realized how much I admired Añita for her intellect, strength, and kindness, as well as how quickly I grew close to her; despite my terrible grammar she managed to understand me for who I am, and not the version of me I have carefully curated through simple vocabulary to communicate with other Spanish speakers. Añita, I thank you for your words of encouragement and reassurance when I used ‘ser’ instead of ‘estar,’ our adventures around Ollanta, and for reminding me that even with a language barrier present, I can always be understood as Waideen.
caption for photos: our last Ollanta adventure