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I discover that Cuenca remains a very formal society and my Spanish progresses, poco a poco

Some great news, at least for me. I really love my little apartment on the river and with the lease expiring in June I have been worrying about being able to find something that will fit me so well. I was in Rentalsdaves logo Cuenca office last week and the Philadelphia owner was asking if I would be willing to stay another year as he is not returning to Cuenca this year. Oh, yes, yes, yes!!!

Having little contact with the more formal ways of Cuenca I was really taken aback the other day when my Spanish teacher Maria Elena told me about written invitations, which go out for special events, such as weddings, and even for family parties.

For married couples, the envelope must have the name of the husband first and (seven months of co-habitation makes you legally married for most purposes in cases where there is no legal ceremony). If the invitation is for the man only, it will show his name only; if it is for the husband and wife, it will have his name with “y esposa” (and wife) added; if it is for everyone in the family, “y familia” (and family) added.

The view of the courtyard from my apartment.

The view of the courtyard from my apartment.

On the other hand, if the invitation is for the wife only, it should have her name first but be followed by “de” (of) and the last name of her husband. For example, it might be addressed to Señora María Martinez de Ordoñez. If it is to a widow who has not remarried, it must have the former husband’s name but with a cross beside it to denote his death.

The rules here are very formal, and very male-oriented, according to Maria Elena, and they apply to everyone, not just those of the higher classes. And since there is no regular mail delivery, the invitations are delivered by hand.

* * * *

My learning Spanish continues to move along. Like an overloaded barge being pushed up the Mississippi by an under-powered tug. When the current slows down a bit it goes a little faster, but mostly it just barely moves and only by watching for a period of time can you be aware that it is moving.

But, however slowly, it is moving — a more complete conversation with a taxi driver this morning; a sudden comprehension of a Spanish phrase confirmed by using it in writing. A couple of months ago for my class work I began translating these writings into Spanish. At first it took two hours to translate a paragraph and then another two hours in class correcting it. “A perfect translation of the words, but it doesn’t make sense in Spanish,” Maria Elena would tell me. And I need to remember that “have” means to possess, so you can’t have dinner, you eat dinner.” The red corrections nearly overwhelm the writing. But the corrections are becoming fewer and this morning we went through a page and a half.

During the lesson there are times of frustration when I have to be told something that I already know and times of pleasure when a whole line is correct, just as I wrote it. But at the end of every class there is a realization that, however slowly, I am progressing.

Since I am the tugboat, if I want to move faster it is up to me to add power to the boat. Most importantly, I need to be comfortable with whatever my speed is.

Cuídense and love, Dave

 

About the Author

David Nelson, spent 30 years growing up and getting educated in Oregon before moving to the Oakland, California and the East Bay area, where he practiced worker’s compensation law, representing injured workers, for 40 years. When he retired from his legal practice, he worked another nine years as a part-time gardener before moving to Cuenca.