My resolution to be a bit more productive this week with the blog wasn’t really successful… I will try again next week!
When I move to a new place, regardless if it is a new city or a new country, I have two indicators to gauge / measure my integration; when I start randomly meeting people in the street that I know (an earlier indicator might be that I recognise people in the street but I don’t actually know them) and when I can give directions to people who are lost. The second indicator is of course not just depending on my knowledge of my surroundings but also of the local language.
The first person I started to recognise in San Juan was an old woman who would always walk by my bus stop on her way home from the supermarket. She also recognised me and we used to say “buenos días” to each other. I don’t take the bus anylonger since I finished my Spanish lessons at the language school in October, and I kind of miss the old lady.
However, every time I walk to Starbucks or l’Alliance Francaise I walk by an old man sitting by a shopping trolley in the same spot every day. I think he is homeless but I am not sure. He usually sells various trinkets from his trolley and most people seem to know him – they say hello to him and exchange a few words while walking by. I do the same nowadays, and I get worried if I don’t see him in his usual spot.
This week I was sitting in Starbucks with my Spanish teacher talking about my weekend and telling him that we had made new friends, a French-Swede A and his Puerto Rican wife, when A appears just in front of me saying “Hej” – needless to say I was a little shocked and asked if he had heard that I was talking about him!? I probably seemed really confused – and I was, not knowing if I should speak Swedish, Spanish, French or English when introducing him to my teacher!
I asked of course my Spanish teacher afterwards how you say “Speak of the devil” in Spanish and it is “Hablando del rey de Roma” (Speaking about the Roman king) . In Swedish we say “When you talk about the trolls…[they are standing in the hall]” Check out this Wikipedia link for similar expressions in other languages!
This morning I had another random encounter when walking to Starbucks and I met my neighbour S. Nothing strange really but it is actually the first time (in 1½ years) that I meet her in the street. During my lesson in the coffee place, my teacher L and I talked briefly to a Spanish girl who was sitting with her laptop at one of the tables. She told us that she was just visiting Puerto Rico and that she lives in Florida. She and I exchanged a few impressions of Puerto Rico & the US compared to Europe before leaving.
Imagine my surprise when I met her in the service elevator in my apartment building 20 minutes ago!! I was just going down to throw away the garbage bag and she appeared with her boyfriend carrying some boxes. She said “Hola, qué tal?” and I answered her but I didn’t really figure out who she was until they had stepped out of the elevator!
So, do all these encounters mean that I am fully integrated in San Juan? Well, probably not but I am working on it – and I have been able to give a few directions but sometimes I still have to answer “lo siento pero no tengo idea” (I am sorry but I have no idea [where that is]).
And of course there are a lot more factors that play in for a full integration, the ones I have mentioned are just the first steps… Integration is probably not even the correct word anyway, maybe “settling in” is a better expression!