An American in Seville

Thomasmeyer, Eileen

On a chilly day in January, I waited nervously in the hotel of my study abroad orientation for the arrival of my señora, the woman with whom I would be living for the next four months.

After a short wait in the lobby that seemed more like five days, my name was called, a kiss was planted on each cheek and off we went.

Although she’s in her late 60s, Margarita was sprightly, and despite my protests, she eagerly grabbed one of my suitcases that easily weighed half as much as her.

As we walked, it was at once determined that “Eileen” was a bit too much for the Spanish tongue to wrap itself around. Just like that, walking through the streets of Seville, I became Elena, my Spanish alter ego.

We were quite the pair Рme with wet hair and a look of pure confusion on my face and se̱ora dressed in a perfectly coordinated outfit Рeach of us dragging enormous suitcases through the street, making an inordinate amount of noise as we searched for a cab.

Once we arrived at her apartment complex, I was given the grand tour of her abode, including a grand photographic introduction to her family.

It was an odd transition to go from an independent, busy student to the doted-on and sometimes nagged hija, or daughter, that I have become, a return to childhood that I had not been expecting.

I resisted at first, trying to do silly things like loading the dishwasher and leaving without a formal announcement of my departure. But as the weeks passed, I came to accept and respect the system that Margarita has down to a science after years of hosting American students.

She makes me laugh on a daily basis, whether it’s talking to herself about the plan for her day or waxing poetically about the poor, abandoned heel of bread since it can’t decide where in the loaf it comes from.

Our shared love of chocolate has brought us even closer, so the arrival of a package from home with Girl Scout Cookies and Peeps was quite the event.

I mentioned in passing that my sisters and I sadistically like to put Peeps in the microwave to watch them explode, and the next thing I knew, I was demonstrating this phenomenon for an enthusiastic audience.

Margarita has become more to me than just the woman I live with. The little things she does for me, from celebrating my 21st birthday with a cake and presents to calling me “Elenita,” the diminutive and loving form of my Spanish name, have really made me feel at home.

We share things about ourselves in bits and pieces. It’s fascinating to hear her take on subjects ranging from politics to religion to a news anchor’s ugly new haircut.

Although I may not understand everything that señora says, I do know that even in the silence of each others’ company, there’s a sense of companionship for which I will forever be grateful.