2023 Summary: Part 1

It’s the end of December, and I’ve barely blogged this year, so I’m going to do a wrap-up for the year. 2023 was an extremely full year. There was an absolute ton of travel and a lot of being usefully bilingual.

There was so much stuff that I’m splitting this into 5 parts.


At the beginning of February, I went to Belgium to speak in the Elixir/Erlang track at FOSDEM. My friend Nelson was also speaking on that track, and so our mutual friends Pablo and Diego came up from Spain to attend the conference too. We all stayed in the same hotel and stuck together the whole time. We introduced Pablo and Diego to Ethiopian food (Nelson had already tried it with me when visiting DC last year), and we all went to the only Cuban restaurant in Belgium our last night there. After explaining to the Spanish guys what we think of when we hear the word “tamal” (corn meal, with a stuffing, wrapped in a leaf), Nelson and I were very surprised to learn about tamal en cazuela, which is a casserole: no stuffing, and no leaf. It was tasty, though! Speaking Spanish even came in handy in Belgium in the “I don’t speak French, you don’t speak English, any chance we both speak Spanish? Oh good!” way.


(Diego, Pablo, Nelson, and me)


I started March in Mexico City, where I was speaking at Code BEAM Lite Mexico. With Pablo and Nelson’s encouragement, I’d submitted my proposal in Spanish and translated all my slides into Spanish. Some of the other non-Hispanic speakers included a couple phrases or little jokes in Spanish in their presentations, but when I got up, I said “voy a hablar en español, porque estamos en México, y…bueno…puedo hacerlo.” (“I’m going to speak in Spanish, because we’re in Mexico, and…well…I can.”) It went ok. I was nervous and spoke a bit too fast, and I didn’t do enough pausing-to-look-at-the-crowd. But I had added a better introduction than when I did the same talk in English a few months earlier, so there’s that. Having spoken on a stage in front of 100 people in Spanish, I was now feeling very chill about the Spanish proficiency test I was scheduled to take a month later. If I can speak for 20 minutes in front of 100 people, surely I can speak for 4 minutes in front of 2 examiners.

I knew I wanted to arrive at least a few days before the conference to do some sight-seeing and get into the groove of doing everything in Spanish. Turned out, there was a UNAM women’s soccer game a week before the conference, so I showed up in time to go to that. After the game, I had dinner with Raúl, Lorena, and Carlo in Coyoacán. I was very pleased with myself for being able to participate in a 4-person conversation in Spanish, because back in June 2022 in Spain, I could only listen along and not contribute. (I couldn’t form sentences fast enough before the conversation moved on.) In hindsight, I did fine with this in Belgium a few weeks earlier, so I don’t know why it seemed novel in Mexico. Within a few days of arriving, I was thinking in Spanish.


(Lorena, me, Raúl, and Carlo)

I got to meet my friend Federico in person. We have either known each other for a year or for like 15 years, and we aren’t really sure which it is. We definitely have known of each other for about 15 years because we were part of the same online community. Anyway, he grew up in Mexico City, so he made the trip into town and showed me around. We visited a few museums together, ate plenty of tasty food, and saw a folk dance performance. And of course, he came to the conference


(Me and Federico)

New York City

In April, I headed to New York City to take the DELE exam at the Cervantes Institute. DELE means “diploma for speakers of Spanish as a foreign language” (but in Spanish). As a diploma issued by the University of Salamanca, it doesn’t expire. I took the test at the B2 level, which (as a point of reference) is the level I would need if I wanted to attend a university in a Spanish-speaking country. After the exam, I went to see Six on Broadway. I immediately declared I was done studying Spanish and now moving on to enjoying Spanish.

So, that’s when I started studying Italian.


Also, I got about 3/4 of the way through making a 1780s dress in time for Fort Frederick Market Faire at the end of April. Ok, a pair of bodies and the dress. And I didn’t start until after the exam, so this was two weeks of nights-and-weekends work. I was sewing in the car on the way there, and there were probably still some safety pins in the dress when I was wearing it.


(Annalee and me)