I speak German with a Spanish accent

OK so I don’t speak that much German anymore, but I wanted to use the title to make a point.

It’s been a weekend of thinking about my roots, and I realized I haven’t revealed too much about my background on here.

Managua. Judging by my size, probably sometime toward the end of 1977.

Managua. Judging by my size, probably sometime toward the end of 1977.

I’ve probably mentioned in passing that I’m from Nicaragua. I was born there, raised, and lived there for most of my life (save for a short stint in the Washington, DC area when I was in elementary school) until I came to the United States for college at the age of 18.

I moved around a lot after that. California, DC again, Nicaragua, Spain, then London. Then back to DC where we’ve stayed put for the last five years.

You probably wouldn’t know by looking at me – or by hearing me speak – that I’m not American. The fact of the matter is, I didn’t even get my green card until 2012. Up until then, I was living here on work and study visas. I have fair skin, light eyes, and a fairly pronounced American accent when I speak English.

I’ve been thinking randomly about Nicaragua all weekend. On Friday, my husband and I went to a concert – a Nicaraguan folk singer was in the area, and another Nicaraguan couple invited us to go (oh yes, my husband is also from Nicaragua).

Most of the time, I don’t really miss Nicaragua. I miss my family and the few friends I have left there, but I’ve gotten really settled in my life here and for the most part have become pretty Americanized. I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by family here – two cousins, their wives and their children – and when weย want a dose of family togetherness we make plansย with them and hang out. Our kids are roughly the same ages, my cousins (both male) and their wives are awesome people, we share a lot of the same interests, and I really enjoy spending time with them.

So anyway, I miss my parents and my brothers, and wish my son D had more exposure to his grandparents, aunts and uncles on both sides of the family. But, you know, for the most part when I’m here, I’m HERE. And I’m happy. I’ve made this my home.

I don’t know how to explain it, but when I’m here I don’t go around touting or seeking out my Nicaraguan-ness. I almost forget it’s there sometimes.

Nicaraguan beer. A symbol of Nicaraguan-ness.

Nicaraguan beer. A symbol of Nicaraguan-ness.

Except on Friday during this concert, it was clear to me it’s very much still there. Listening to this man’s songs – many of them revolutionary songs from the seventies and eighties – brought tears to my eyes. I’m not very political and I don’t really care about the lyrics or the message behind the songs. I only care that they are SO Nicaraguan. They reminded me of everything about my childhood, from standing in line at the supermarket to get toilet paper like we did in the eighties, to climbing up the coconut trees in my back yard to pick the ripest fruit, crack the nuts open with a machete (borrowed from our gardener), and drink the water straight from the source.

In fact, I was leaving yoga today (fourth class of the week, by the way. This new studio is really motivating me to keep at it) and at the studio I saw they were selling a brand of coconut water. I looked at the price and just had to laugh. I could get better stuff for free from my parents’ back yard.

But anyway, I digress (as I am apt to do on occasion). The point of the story is that somehow, buried deep in there, my Nicaraguan-ness is always there, even if I don’t take it out to show too often.

It’s a little bit like my German. I took a full year of German during my MBA, and while I don’t speak that much of it anymore, any time I do I’m reminded that despite my full blown assimilation to this country, despite my heavy American accent, my colloquialisms and my American lifestyle reside much closer to the surface than my Nicaraguan roots.

I speak German with a heavy Spanish accent. Not an English accent, a Spanish one.

When I least expect it, when I’m least in control, my roots start to show.

And I’m proud of it.


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