It is possible to walk through several countries in the space of five minutes. Europe, as you know, is much more compacted than the U.S. Actually though, I was referring to the international flight phenomenon. I've noticed that you generally have two categories of travelers on these flights. Natives returning home, and tourists/businessmen. The natives are animated, excited to be on the home stretch and at last surrounded by their fellow countrymen. The tourists are generally more reserved, ready to get their show on the road, secretly double-checking to make sure they have their passport several times. In general, airports tend to be cold, disinterested places in which everyone has his own destination. But listen carefully, and you can catch an uncensored glimpse of the country you're about to spring upon.
I recently realized that, as wonderful as it is to be suspended 5 miles above the ground, soaring toward some unknown adventure, cram-packed with 100 fellow travelers in a tiny seat, I really dislike flying in general and airports in particular. Having been a tenacious traveler in my younger years, this was a surprising realization, and mulling it over, I was perhaps a little less excited than usual to fly into Washington Dulles to await a 7-hour international flight.
Enter Spaniards. Natives, going home. They are, by nature, animated people (imagine the Spanish mother stereotype and you're not far off), and the airport only made them more so. I collapsed in my chair, tired of traveling and prepackaged sandwich in hand, and just listened.
The lilt of the words caught me, and the lisp, for which my students continually laughed at me, enveloped me in a bilingual fog of ecstasy. The men were as expressive as the women, making much of little. Children ran freely. Parents doted on children. The area was relaxed and light hearted.
Ah, Spain, I thought. It's good to be back!