Rasha al Raisi - Fran is the first Andalusian friend I made when I arrived to Malaga in 2014. He is a shopkeeper who owns a small grocery shop near the language school I attend. It was a Sunday when I landed, and everything was shut except for Fran’s shop. The school’s driver dropped me there to get some provisions for the evening. Fran was chopping meat when I entered and was clearly surprised by the appearance of an Asian looking scarved woman at his door. I asked for bread and water with my intermediate level of Spanish and a big smile to cover up for the embarrassment of having a foreign accent.
When Fran answered back, I was hit by a wave of a heavy Andalusian dialect that was hard for me to grasp.
The Andalusians are famous for swallowing letters (including D, R, S and T) and clubbing the end of their speech so almost everything sounds like “-ao”. My smile turned to that of total confusion as I didn’t really get what he said.
Fran noticed that and started speaking in a slower pace as if addressing an obtuse, which suited me fine except that the dialect didn’t change at all. He asked then where I came from and when I answered he asked if my country was in Africa. I decided to give him a geography lesson that didn’t work at all as he hasn’t heard of the middle east before.
I said that I came from Asia and we left it at that. I decided to buy some vegetables to make a salad for my dinner and I started asking some casual questions about the fruits and vegetables he had. When it was payment time I asked for the price of the chewing gum.
Fran winked saying that it was for free. I thanked him and hoped that we’d meet again soon.
When unloading my shopping bag in the students’ flat, I discovered that Fran had almost packed everything I touched or asked about in his shop. There were extra lemons, two types of tomatoes, pears and green peppers. I got worried as I thought that it was someone else’s bag that I took by mistake, and decided to go back and pay for the extra food that was in my fridge now.
It took me two weeks to locate Fran’s shop again as it was in one of the many corners that were on the way to school. I spotted it while being on the bus and memorised the route to it.
Fran was happy to see me again and when I told him about paying for the extra food, he refused and said that he just wanted me to try the Spanish harvest.
Later, I had the pleasure of meeting Fran’s wife, Nastasia who was a book worm and like many expats had read Princess and other books that talked about women oppression in the Middle East. Fran got to know from her that I came from an oil producing country, which truly fascinated him.
I also met his brother Juan who insisted on sharing cacahuetes with him. I declined politely as it didn’t sound too appealing, to discover later that cacahuetes were peanuts in Spanish. I also discovered that their third brother, Pedro owned the grocery shop next to my flat.
Fran and I remain friends on social media and comment on each other’s posts from time to time. Now that I’m in Malaga, I’m planning to pay him a visit soon and practice a bit of my (hopefully) developed Spanish.
Rasha al Raisi is a certified skills trainer and the author of: The World According to Bahja. firstname.lastname@example.org