Time Is (Maybe) An Illusion
It’s a curious thing, time here in Spain - it seems to follow the speed of light while still lingering around the so-called ticking time clock that we all at least once in our lives watched with fury, waiting for something else to begin. My days at my Spanish high school are starting to become a routine as well as the names of people there (I wonder if it’s a coincidence that I can only remember those of the English-speaking teachers…). This grudgingly brings me to my struggle with reconciling my pre(or mis)conception that I had at least somewhat of a hold of the Spanish language and culture. In reality, I have found the lack of English to be the bane of my existence here as ironic as that seems being that I am an English teacher. Now, I know I am exaggerating, but I can say for certain that I understand what it’s like to feel different, even alone at times but still part of a larger community and family. And surprisingly I have found ease knowing I may never fully assimilate into this community even though it will always be there.
Looking back on these past few weeks, I am able to focus on my two non-exclusive reasons for being here: (1) to teach english and leave a mark on this small town and (2) to explore the beautiful country of Spain and take advantage of my time off from Dartmouth. And thus my desire to travel led me to the heart of Madrid for a weekend where, for the first time not only was I able to hold multiple English conversations and get to know others teaching abroad with this program, but finally stepped into a big city that I could perhaps call home one day. Madrid has taught me the value of relationships, beauty in nature and architecture, and the liveliness of a cosmopolitan but yet tranquil city. Being with my host family in Ponferrada or Salamanca for a little getaway or spending an afternoon in León (the closest city to my little pueblo), I am slowing beginning to realize the beauty of life in Spain. With that I can say I made the right choice (few of you know about my internal conflict of whether or not I should come here, but rest assured that I wouldn't have changed a thing).
There are many things that defined life in the United States that I have always taken for granted (one being peanut butter) and hardships that come with living within a culture that’s not yours. Little things people do (or don’t do) help you better understand your own roots and open your mind to change. At Dartmouth I could never imagine spending an hour in a bar just sipping coffee and talking to people - there’s so much I could have done in that hour - but here I cherish it. And that’s where this whole time perception comes into play. It’s hard for many Americans to simply let go of time and live in the present rather than planning out every day to ensure top-notch productivity. Ask the average Dartmouth student. Taking hour-long paseos and stopping at a bar or cafe to tomar algo seems like a surrender to time but instead is more of a gift from the latter. And a gift I'm fortunate to accept.
Yesterday at lunch with my Spanish family, they explained to me why people burn receipts. Actually burn receipts from places such as the grocery store. Because if these tiny pieces of paper fall in the wrong hands, things can get messy (i.e. your neighbor will find out you’ve been buying just too many bottles of whiskey and share the news of your newfound "alcoholism" to your other neighbors and family). Small town woes, as I’d like to think. This helped add more context to the strength of relationships and meaning of time here. It's interesting to live in a place where people know and care about everyone else, which is something I picked up very quickly at my school, to the point where personal shopping habits become a target of gossip. Instead of telling myself to make every moment count I find it better to tell myself instead to just breathe and watch what happens. Carpe Diem and cheers to more 6am adventures!
Esperen por una versión en español.