When Granadans answer the phone, they generally do not say “Hola,” but rather say “Dígame,” which means “Tell me” or “Talk to me.”
Many consider that just another aspect of the infamous Granadan “get to the point” attitude of conversation, but more and more I want to invoke it to tap into the rich background I am discovering here.
Living as an expat, we are part of two communities. One is the organic community of Granada itself, for which we are taking Spanish and trying to learn the cultural norms that have shaped this city for over a millennium.
The other community is somewhat inorganic, or at least composed of disperse, non-native parts: the expat community itself.
We come together periodically, often over tapas and drinks. The common language is generally English, but a conversation, even one sentence, can roll into Spanish, then French, then Arabic, even Thai, without missing a beat.
We bond over our commonalities, we compare notes on struggles in acclimating, and generally support each other. But I also revel in hearing each person’s background story as to how they came to be sitting here, at the same place and time, by some great cosmic coincidence.
After spending a life-time talking, I love just saying “Please tell me your story.”
So far, some of those stories include:
– A British teacher from Cornwall, who, aside from bonding with my wife over Aidan Turner’s shirtless scenes in Poldark, came here to teach.
– A Frenchman who traveled the world in the military and now repairs motorcycles and scooters (and who promises to teach me “the joy of badminton”).
– An Armenian who used photography as a means out and now leads photography expeditions for people around Africa, claiming that he has been chased by nearly every deadly animal on that continent.
– A Syrian refugee to France who wants to become an actor but says, despite his accent-less French, he cannot get any roles other than “sinister Middle Easterner” (He hears America is more open-minded about casting; I told him about Hamilton).
– A young couple who have backpacked all over Southeast Asia and now have turned their passion into a blog and business arranging bottom cost trips for fellow backpackers.
Many more stories are out there (Jiab is pending lunch with a Thai woman who was a Qatar Airways flight attendant, and we await the novel a former New Mexican Spanish teacher is writing here). There are just so many experiences, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to hear each of them.
This world, with a collective soul composed of over seven billion parts, has so many stories to offer, like a living library. All we have to do is get out of our usual circle of noise, shut up and prepare to listen, and then say the magic word to someone, Dígame.