I was a happy nomad but I didn’t know Spanish. I was nothing more than a tourist, experiencing the surface of the cultures I was visiting.  I was having the time of my life but the most simple of aspects was missing from my adventures: The ability to immerse and appreciate at a different level. 

 In a way, I felt a kind a personal guilt knowing that my inability to communicate was robbing me of the ‘full monty’.  That’s when I decided to learn Spanish, and I had no idea that the process was about to change my life. 

Christian Oscar Robinson – Founder Blink Spanish Immersion School

I have never dreamed a lot in my life.  Most of my childhood memories faded a long time ago.  With that, having dreams used to be nothing more than an infrequent, yet welcomed surprise.

This memory is a vivid one.

       The three year-old monster I was

I was three years old, and like many kids, I was full of both curiosity and fear of the vast world around me.  I had been babied by my tenured parents and my four overly-protective older brother and sisters.  With constant re-enforcement of all the ways the World was going to kill me, I was scared of all the ‘bad’ things: The strangers that would kidnap me if separated from my parents for even a few minutes, the watermelon seeds that were surely growing inside of my stomach, and the fact that if I didn’t go to sleep – Santa was not going to leave me any gifts.  But fortunately, I was born with a disease called curiosity – a sickness that can drown any and all provided warnings.  By the time I was three, the warnings simply morphed into invitations to experience more.

My mom had always warned me not to leave the yard when playing because, well, I was three.  Even now as my mom suffers from dementia, she still hasn’t forgotten to end each visit with one or all of her motherly warnings: Be careful, drive safe, or to eat my vegetables.

It was a hot summer day, and my mom was busy tidying our home while I played in the yard.  Unguarded, I began to explore further and further from the home, before I knew it I had ventured nearly to the top of our steep drive.  The warnings from my mom, family, and Sesame Street had evaporated and my mind was captive by my three-year-old curiosity.  That’s when for the first time (that I remember) I saw the tops of the tall cottonwood trees that lined our long drive. It’s my first memory of something as simple as realizing a new perspective – how the beauty of a tree is a different kind of beautiful when looking from a different angle.  When I reached the top of the driveway, my focus quickly fluttered from the treetops to the limitless things I could see beyond the boundary of my dangerous outside-of-our-property line world.  Who were all these neighbors?  Do you think there might be toys or candy in the neighbors’ mailboxes? What all could I find if I ventured from house to house.  And without thought, I crossed the line.  As I wandered through the poorly manicured gangly yard of a neighbor, I was floored by yet another surprise, but this time it wasn’t a good one.  DOG.  BIG DOG.  THE WORLD’S BIGGEST DOG. The truth is it was only a Labrador, but to me it was nothing less than a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  The dog, maybe 20 meters away gave a brief growl, a deafening bark, and charged.  Frozen in fear for a brief second, the tears shot out of my eyes even before my legs started to run.  The dog was closing in and my young life would surely end momentarily.  I should have listened to my mom, she was by far the most beautiful and bestest mom on the planet.

The monster of a dog hadn’t yet ripped me to shreds, and as I ran the urine now spilling from my shorts was of little concern.  I knew that in a few steps I would be in heaven sitting atop the clouds with all the other dead people – at least that’s how I had imagined heaven would be.  As I crossed the property line separating our front yards – still a good hundred yards from the safety of my garage – there was a deafening and horrifying scream.  But the scream was not mine, it was the scream of the dog who was about to eat me.  As I turned, I saw the dog laying on its’ side convulsing and wincing in pain.  A miracle delivered in the form of the massive 1980’s electronic shock collar inhumanely wrapped around its neck.  But I wasn’t advocating for PETA, I was free.  Covered in piss and emptied of adrenaline, I scurried down the driveway, wailing and screaming. I knew the stout smell of urine wasn’t something I would be able to hide from my mother.  Hearing my cries my mom sprung from the garage door embracing me firmly.  The smell of my mom’s clothes along with her embrace (firmly involved in this memory) was always a comfort, and the warmth of safety quickly quelled my fears and cries.

And that’s where the memory ends.

For me it’s not necessarily an important memory, though none the less it’s great to have.

The significance, is it’s a memory that was lost for more than 30 years and I found it while studying Spanish.

The experience of waking up in my Medellin hostel at four in the morning and remembering this was by far more profound than the substance of the actual memory.

It was vivid.  It was exact.  It was unlike any memory I had ever had of my childhood.

This is my mom. Watching a loved one slowly lose their capacity to learn/remember is something that has inspired my learning experience.

At the time, I had been studying Spanish intensively for five weeks, and the week before was one of the hardest of my life.  I couldn’t sleep because my mind was constantly navigating the endless gauntlet one finds when learning the endless Spanish conjugation charts.  I had been half sleeping and half stuck in an ‘Inception’ world where my thoughts could neither regress or advance because my mind was stuck inside a conjugation, expression, or word I was unsure of.  Every night was filled with hot flashes and night sweats.  Why in the hell was I doing this?  It would have been easy to pick up and head to Ecuador to explore and party with the other backpackers, but I didn’t because I had found a challenge that I wasn’t about to give up on.  And just a few days later, this memory came to me from nowhere.  Though of little significance, I consider it – within my own existence – to be a profound and spiritual experience.

I would soon realize that it was the process of learning Spanish that was awaking a part of my mind/brain I had not used since my childhood – no need to be technical, but the part of the brain we use to learn languages often lays dormant and unexcercized for the rest of our lives.  Awakening it unleashed a cache of memories that still to this day trickle to me one-by-one as I continue to learn and exercise my brain.  A beautiful thing.

My mother has now been suffering from dementia for over 10 years.  Witnessing the effects of dementia first-hand will give you a deeper respect for the brain and just how important preserving it is. For this reason, anything I find that strengthens my mind is nothing short of a miracle.

With that, my obsession of language only grew, and one year later I opened Blink Spanish Immersion in Medellin, Colombia as a labor of love more than a well-thought business plan.

Spanish has allowed me to connect with my travel experiences in a more immersive way.

EVERY student who dedicates enough time and energy in learning can experience things similar.  Of course it’s different for every mind, but it’s always a beautiful, personal, and impactful experience.  At the school we don’t give this to you, it’s something that you earn.  This opening and expanding of your mind is only one reason to learn, there are many others – but to me this is the most special.  So, if you’re interested, whether it’s in my school or another; I encourage you to just do it, do it right, immerse, and study hard.  The rewards are great.

Cheers to amazing memories and vivid dreams.  Cheers to opening the world to 450 million people you couldn’t communicate with before.  Cheers to learning Spanish!



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