Global Friendships in Madison

Our child and I are enjoying the last days of summer. Yesterday afternoon we went kayaking with my good friend Carolyn. I met this dear amiga at a Spanish conversation group 14 years ago. We three paddled in a rented tandem kayak to the wilder side of the lake. Amid the marshy reeds and cattails we often see great blue herons fly past, spindly-long-legs pointed back like dancers. Or we spy a hawk perched on a pine branch, its steely gaze penetrating the water, diving abruptly to snatch a wriggling fish from beneath the waves. We saw neither of those this trip, but were greeted by two deer munching white water lilies at lake’s edge.

Then we headed to a beach for a swim. The city boasts many sandy shorelines and lifeguards work from tall wooden chairs. The Madison lakes are flooded currently, so swimming was out of the question, once we saw the posted sign about dangerous bacteria levels in the water. The lifeguards were on break. But families were still playing on the beach. building castles, kids running to and fro in the warm sand.

As Carolyn and I sat and chatted, my child made new friends with an adjacent family. The young people set to building the biggest sandcastle ever. I heard their mom and dad speaking Spanish with their children and smiled. Our little one knows Spanish too. Soon mi pequeñ@ (my little one) was chiming in en español.

Another family arrived. The kid shed a t-shirt and ran in a bathing suit to jump into the sand-moving action right away. Then there were six children 12 and under, planning, laughing and working together in English and Spanish. A seventh arrival started clowning and put seaweed in her hair. I called out, “Mermaid,” then “Sirena.” A parent seated near us turned to me, “You speak Spanish?” I pointed to my friend and to myself and said in Spanish, “We both do.” (I used the wrong gender as I think about it now, “los dos,” rather than “las dos.”) That got a smile.

We introduced ourselves and began speaking with both hispanophone families in Spanish. In a funny coincidence, it turned out two of the four parents came from Honduras originally. Maybe that is why they were at the beach, since they come from a country the size of Virginia or Ohio that has two coasts. We had that in common, since I grew up in a state with more coastline than California, Minnesota of the 10,000 lakes. (Thanks to my sister for that geography fact!)

Carolyn and I planned to spend an hour or so at the beach. But we were enjoying chatting with new amigos and the kids were romping in the last of the August sun. Three hours later, we left just before sunset, promising to all meet again on the beach the next sunny day. Me encanta el verano, es tan juguetón. I love summer, it’s so playful. Will we meet other bilingual families sledding or ice skating in December? Since we live in Wisconsin where everyone knows how to dress in layers, I think we may.
By Burmesedays [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, from Wikimedia Commons

Gracias for reading Fake Flamenco! -Rebecca

Para leer este ensayo en español, haz un clic aquí.

Rebecca Cuningham

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