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Hala, Madrid

My life is messy.

In the literal sense, as I walk into my apartment after returning from almost a week in Santa Pola, I let out a long, arduous sigh. My room looks like a bomb went off inside of it. I've tossed clothes everywhere while packing -- on the floor, the bed, chairs, any available, empty space -- , there is still trash that should've been taken out before I  left, my fridge contains a half jar of jam and about 3 eggs...

Instead of cleaning up my mess at 11:00 at night, I've decided to write instead. The mess can wait until tomorrow (life motto).

I want to tell you guys about the last week, and the last couple of months here in Spain. How radically different they've been from when I first began my journey here in August. What I´ve experienced, and struggled with, and learned.

Gah, what I´ve learned. If I could sum up this entire year in Spain it could probably be encompassed in that one statement. Which is honestly why I haven´t been able to write about it as much.. my head is constantly swarming with new information, moments, and stories I want to tell -- but where do I even begin? How do I wrap it in a bow and make it something concise and inspiring and worthy of one blog?

My problem is that I feel like this is impossible. Let me try to explain...

Earlier today I was sitting on the beach with some of my Spanish friends -- Raul, my Spanish student I met in the town that I teach in, who graciously invited me to spend a week in Alicante with his friends and family for the puente, his nephew Adrian, a 23 year old soon-to-be engineer, their friends they grew up with, Jano and Noelia (sidenote -- Noelia is my new favorite Spanish name), and Jano´s parents Rafa and Carmen. Carmen reminds me a lot of my own mother. Gracious, selfless, full of life when she´s around the people she loves. As she began walking towards the water, I saw her roll up her sleeves to take in the sun; and visions of my mother started flashing in my mind. Moments with my family, so similar to this one. On a beach somewhere familiar, in a town where I know the best places to eat and the best bars and where I remember digging sandcastles in the hot sun... I watch as Rafa, her husband, follows her with his eyes..his hands on his hips, gazing into the afternoon sun. And then within a breath he steadily begins to follow her to the rocks on the edge of the water. Another sidenote, the romantic in me died at this moment, especially when he sat down and joined her to overlook the sea, taking it all in after God knows how many years together.. They have the strong and quiet kind of love that I see a lot here in Spain. That familial strength that I´ve only ever witnessed in Spanish-speaking countries.

Spain has taught me a lot about that -- the importance of connections and relationships. Its also has inspired in me a profound love for intercambios. Exchanging languages, especially with a bit of understanding on each side, is absolutely incredible. Finding commonalities in our words and  our little terms and catch-phrases that we believe only belong to our own cultures. The shock and giddy surprise we feel when we relate to each other in that moment of connection. I´ve witnessed this in moments at my school sitting in the cafeteria gabbing with my co-teachers over food and hangovers (yup, everyone knows the meaning of that word), with my little ones who have their first crushes or get in a fight with their friends over the same things I did when I was their age, and with my Spanish friends that I´ve made here...singing Reggaeton songs or watching the Real Madrid game and Rafa looking over at me and saying ¨Victoria, esta es nuestra Superbowl!¨

If you haven´t watched futbol with a band of Spaniards yet, you´re seriously missing out on one of the best experiences, cultural and just in general..

What else have I learned in these past 8 months?

I´ve learned, with much lucha (struggle) how to start speaking up. I´m a generally quiet person. I only like to speak when I feel confident in what I´m going to say, and I only like to say something if I know that it matters. That it has a purpose. In Santa Pola, my friends Raul and Adrian challenged me to a day where we would only speak in Spanish. At first, I was really excited. ¨This is going to be good for me,¨I thought to myself as I went to bed that night. The next day when I woke up and walked outside to greet them, I froze. With Spanish and English spinning around in my head, I had no idea what to say and had no clue how to say it. Therefore, I didn´t say much. And although I did decently well early on in the day (to be debated, but I was proud of my elementary conversational skills), by the time we got to lunch to meet up with a few of their friends, I felt exhausted. Defeated. I sat and listened most of the 2 hours while we ate (which honestly is my preferred way of being, I love to observe).

But observing is only part of participating, only part of the challenge, only part of really learning.

So when we arrived a few hours later to watch the Real Madrid - Munich match at Rafa and Carmen´s, I decided to give it one last go. Carmen chose to sit down beside me during the game, and this weird feeling of calm came over me. I mentioned before how she reminds me a bit of my own mom, and I think this familiarity instantly flipped a switch in my behavior, in my mind. She started speaking to me and her son kept telling her ¨despacio, ma¨, but the weird thing is, I didn´t need her to slow down. Even if she was speaking rapidly, it was all making sense. Again, maybe it was the familiarity, maybe it was that patience, that grace I saw in her too, but I got it. It clicked, and we had this great little chat about something as simple and average as our daily work commutes -- but thats all it takes, guys.

Its as simple as that. That tiny connection filled my heart and I was overwhelmed with gratitude, and excitement.

I spoke up, and the rest followed...

 

I have two months left here in Spain. A weird mixture of sadness and readiness consumes me, like I´m sure it does the rest of us fellow Auxilliars. We´ve all explored and experienced and learned so much. We have so much to take away from this, and yet still a bit more to learn.

That is what I hope for the rest of my time left here. To keep improving my Spanish, to really dig in deep on the relationships I want to keep. To see and experience a few more things that surprise and move me.

But I do know one thing for sure.

Living and teaching in Spain has taught me more about life in one year than I think I´ve learned in the past 25 put together, and I am so grateful.

 

 

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