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Few Spaniards in California

By Darcie Khanukayev

The AVE made its jolting halt into Joaquín Sorrolla; “I’m almost home,” I thought to myself, tired, jet-lagged, yet deeply content. Just a quick walk to Estació Nord and onto to Xativa!

While on the train passing orange groves, mountains, and church towers, I reminisced about my trip with Spaniards in California. It had been a dream come true for them to visit the fabled land, at least, mostly.

The group was astonish with the immense contrast between the highest point in the snowy Sierra Nevada and the lowest, hottest point in Death Valley.

The variety of people and styles was a surprise. In San Francisco, we discovered it’s legal to be nude in pubic. During the Gay Pride Fair that took place, a man walked by with a transparent cloth covering him. And a girl passed with paint as her “covering”.

“I feel bad for them”, expressed Sofía, “it’s so cold here!” I remember, too, suppressing an urge to give them a jacket as I pulled mine tighter around me.

A large restaurant whizzed by the window and brought me back to the present, at least for a moment. I fell back to my thoughts, chuckling; ordering in restaurants had proven to be a rich language and culture learning opportunity. I remember Juan looking at the menu, eager to try his first typical American breakfast.

“Why do two eggs cost so much?” he asked.

I explained, “The menu includes toast, potatoes, and meat with the eggs.”

Little did I realize that was the beginning of a long breakfast-ordering learning curve.

“How would you like your eggs?” asked the server impatiently.

Juan looked over at me fearfully.

“Look, Juan, in America, you have to choose between eggs that are ‘sunny-side-up’, ‘over-easy’, ‘over-medium’, ‘over-hard’, or ‘scrambled’.” His horror intensified as the server tapped his pen on the table, waiting.

I shooed the server away, and we plunged into an advanced lesson on ordering breakfast. Once we covered the eggs, we moved onto the toast: whole wheat, white, sour dough, biscuit, or bagel? And then the meat: sausage, chorizo, bacon or ham? Finally, we got to the potatoes: hash browns or home fries?

The server returned and had almost finished taking everyone’s order. I felt the teacher-glow of witnessing my students’ success. The server then glanced at María, pen poised patiently to take the last order: “I would like toast with baguette bread and olive oil, please, like in Spain.”

“Ma’am, we don’t have that here,” replied the server impatiently.

At that moment, the jet-lagged, hungry and disappointed María had to accept that she was no longer in Spain nor the fabled California!

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