Hermione wasn’t fluent in Spanish, however successfully she’d fooled the airport immigration officer into believing that she was. She needed practice.
“What time are you waking up tomorrow?” Hermione’s host mom asked on Hermione’s first day in Costa Rica.
“A las cinco de la mañana,” Hermione answered promptly. “I hate wasting the gift of daylight.”
At that, Hermione’s host mom’s eyes rolled spontaneously into the back of her head.
While her vacation companions snored, Hermione would rise at dawn every morning, spread her notebooks, dictionaries, and Spanish movies over her bed, and study for a solid two hours before it was time to eat a traditional breakfast of rice and beans and walk downtown to her Spanish school. On campus, while the other students gossiped in English over recess and lunch, Hermione would instead sit beside the front desk and chatter away in Spanish until the receptionists had no choice but to turn away from their computers and continue the conversation. After class, she would wander the streets for the rest of the afternoon and speak with strangers who appeared to have nothing better to do.
Although Hermione’s initial intention was to learn Spanish solely for hospital-related purposes, her perspective shifted as she started listening to Spanish language songs on the radio. There was something so inherently breathtaking about the language, the effortless rhyme and rhythm, the flowing streams of syllables as they tumbled over her tongue. She could have chanted her shopping lists in Spanish and they would have sounded like music.
“¡Voy a reir, voy a almorzar!” Hermione sang at the highest notes of her vocal range one afternoon as she pirouetted through the school courtyard. Across the hall, Harry and Ron looked up from their essays with bleary eyes.
In her remaining free time, Hermione spent countless hours watching preschool potty-training shows in Spanish, reading children’s books in Spanish, and getting lost on the unnamed alleyways of Costa Rica using Google Maps on Spanish mode. The upside of it all was that there was suddenly an entire new dimension of people to meet and befriend. Even better, if Harry and Ron happened to be walking with her when she stopped to socialize with a stranger in the park, she had the satisfaction of watching their clueless nods and exaggerated grins while she embarked on a stimulating discussion about food and furry friends.
Her finest hour came on the day someone across the street asked her for directions. When he noticed the telltale signs of tourism (no doubt, a stuffed backpack and mud-soaked sneakers among them), Hermione saw him hesitate.
“Uh, ¿habla español?” he asked.
For the first time in three months, Hermione was certain that she would be able to understand the upcoming conversation, whichever direction it would lead – slowly, perhaps, and with much focus, but also with confidence.
“Si, señor,” said Hermione. “Todavía estoy aprendiendo, pero si. Hablo español.”