Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 22nd 2010/13

(Another post written on the road)

Three years ago today I woke up early in the Madrid Barajas International Airport. I only had a few short hours left in Spain at that point and I was fighting it. I didn't want my time here to end. Unfortunately, no matter what I did, everything around me (my one-way bus ticket to Madrid, my farewell Facebook status-haha-and return plane ticket to Dayton, OH) all declared that I had to leave. I technically could have stayed until mid-July (when my student visa officially expired) but with no place to live and a lot of luggage on me, in reality I could not stay. In many ways I was very sad to leave this beautiful country, all the friends I had made and all of the wonderful food behind. Nevertheless, I knew in my heart that I'd be back...but when, how? Well, those questions remained unanswered for long, long time. Until last winter, that is.

I couldn't tell you how happy I was when I bought my roundtrip tickets (wish it could have been a one-way~haha) to Sevilla in late March of this year. The feeling of joy that swept over me was incredible. I have honestly never been more excited about some thing or some place in my life until I lived in Spain. But, at that moment, after I clicked 'book,' that was it. I was returning! Even when I experienced trials and difficult times in my life over the last 3 years, the one thing that always got me through was my desire to go back to Spain one day. Now, if I could just snag the attention of one of these Spanish guys (or European, doesn't matter) and bring him back to the United States with me that would be fantastic! haha :P

Anyway, let's fast forward to May 22nd, 2013, shall we? I woke up in the train station in Málaga, Spain, after having spent the night there. Why? Well, I missed my bus out of here the day before and missed the window to book a seat on the last bus of the night. I did have a friend here but she was gone this past weekend and I found out that she lives in a small town outside of Málaga. Coincidentally it was the same small town I was staying in (Rincón de la Victoria) but I found that out later. :-/ By the time she got back to me, it was too late for me to stay with her. The bus station was way too small and a bit crowded already so I tried the train station. It was very clean, safe and spread out. The McDonald's, its free Wifi and I became reacquainted once again. I have missed more buses, trains (metro) and planes than I have missed you guys or my family this trip.

Haha, okay, that's only partially true. It sure feels like it though with how quickly time is passing by and how I keep finding myself in one new adventure after the next. My point is this, though: as I compare my life on this day three years ago to now, not that much has changed. I spent at least one day/night lugging all of my stuff around a city I was only vaguely familiar with, didn't sleep in a bed, had to charge my phone and computer in a public place with lots of people around and watching me and yet.....I'm still head over heels for this country and its people. I guess when you're in love you don't think clearly or logically all of the time. I haven't actually been in love before so I'm just going by what I've been told.

One thing I've been reminded about this time around is how versatile and flexible traveling has made me. Sure, I get just as riled up as the next person when I get to a gate or platform and either see a bus pulling away from me or a gate attendant shutting the doors to a plane I was supposed to be on. However, I don't like to remain angry for very long and would rather channel that energy into figuring out a Plan B or what the next logical step is from that point. I also don't mind if I have to sleep in my clothes, sleep in a booth with my scarf draped over my eyes in order to block out the harsh lighting, brush my teeth in a public bathroom and have to lug my rolling suitcase around a good portion of a popular European city. Nah, that last one gets extremely annoying I have to admit. I have small callouses on the palm of my hand from rolling that suitcase around if you can believe it! Overall, that's good news for my future husband though when (not IF, haha) we go trekking or backpacking around Europe or South America one day. Things have calmed down now that I'm rolling back into Sevilla this evening once again. Tomorrow my brother arrives (en route to Morocco) and I couldn't be happier!

Tomorrow is also a new day. A clean slate. Tomorrow is May 23rd and I get to wake up in Sevilla, Spain. Not Dayton, Ohio or Jacksonville, Florida -not that being in either of those cities is bad. It's just not my reality for a change. I get to wake up and continue my dream of being in Spain. It's not ending like it was three years ago. In many ways, it has just begun! Y al momento, estoy muy contenta. Un abazo a todos! :-)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Weekend Away...

17 de mayo de 2013

Writing while on the road… (if I can see it, that is)

Don’t worry, I’m not driving and writing at the same time! ;)

Another weekend is upon me here in Spain. After last week’s disaster, I hope and pray that this one goes much smoother and is less stressful. I’m on my way via bus to the beautiful beach city of Malaga so it should be, right? Now, that this rainy weather is clearing up, it should be just fine. Seeing a spectacular rainbow (arcoiris) up close on the way here is also a good sign. J
Anyway, as we get closer and closer to my weekend destination I’m reminded of the first solo excursion I took 3 years ago to Ronda, a small, charming pueblo blanco that is well-known for its bridges and bull fighting ring. The town itself is in fact built on a cliff. The panoramic views of the mountains and river that runs beneath the town are something out of a storybook. I only spent the day there but I did just fine as far as getting around and speaking Spanish went. I did so well that a “cute” old man proposed marriage to me!  haha

A few days after that trip I ventured north up to Madrid to visit my friend Kinsey studying there. I was excited about getting to know the city I flew into better and explore some of the surrounding areas. I did well getting around and seeing as much as I could see but time just flew by there. Madrid was so huge and there was a lot to see in the city itself let alone the surrounding areas. it was the second largest metropolitan city that I had I explored largely by myself. (New York City was the first.) I learned how important planning ahead and planning for the unexpected really are. Expect the best but definitely plan for anything that might happen.  Also, be open to changing your plans if necessary. Be sure to vow to come back to any beautiful country you visit. That always helps. I’m thrilled to say that I have done successfully done that now.
Back to the trip at hand: (after the bus almost got cut off by a dumb car). As I am still in Spain when I had planned to be in Germany, I decided to take this opportunity to visit a new place in Andalucia that I had never been before: Málaga  I have a friend from GBU (link) who lives here but she is in Cordoba this weekend. I’ll be staying here through Monday so I will hopefully still be able to see her, even if it is for just a few short hours. It might be the reason why Germany didn’t work out but I won’t focus too much on that.
As this bus has winded its way through rain, wind, mountains and several pueblos blancos , I’m reminded of how beautiful and diverse the landscapes are in this region of Spain. I’m actually venturing away from the traditional and heading towards la Costa del Sol (the Sunny Coast…doesn’t the English translation sound less magical?) Those who live in this part of Spain enjoy sunshine over 300 days of the year. The other main attraction that draws tourists here is the most obvious: the beach and the Mediterranean Sea. And the endless amount of wind, water and land activities you can do here!

I have only seen the Med. Sea from the side of road with my tour group in Morocco awhile back. That’s about to change here pretty soon. I’m always excited to see new bodies of water in any part of the world because, as I may have mentioned before, I didn’t see my first one (the Pacific) at 17. I saw the Atlantic at 18 years old with my family as they brought me down to Florida for college. If you are reading this and have always lived within 1-2 hours from any ocean, you might think I’m a little crazy for having waited that long to see it. If you’re a fellow landlubber, you can probably relate. I didn’t want to wait that long, believe me, but that’s just what ended up happening.

The bus is just now pulling into the city and at first sight it has reminded me of what Cadiz (a tiny beach town boarded by the Atlantic Ocean) looks like, but cleaner. I have a feeling that once the rain clears up fully tonight/tomorrow that this weekend will be very relaxing. And that’s just what I could use right about now.

Hasta pronto :)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Best Laid Plans

You might chuckle a little bit as you read some of this post. To preface, I will say that I'm going to be discussing a TV show and how it ironically relates to a part of my life right now. I won't spend this whole post talking about it but, if you have seen or are also a fan of the show How I Met Your Mother, and know that I'm a single girl, you know that I could easily go on for days making comparisons to the main character's life and my own. All of the similarities are quite ironic if you ask me.

I had plans to do sort of a Euro Tour this trip. Well, to make a long story short, that portion of the trip fell apart as I missed my flight out of Madrid this past weekend. It would have been my first time using Ryanair but I didn't even get there. They closed the gate doors of my flight just minutes or seconds after I got there. I would've arrived on time had I not sat waiting for the wrong metro car to the airport for 10 minutes, forgot to get my boarding pass stamped (some stupid policy they have) before going through security, gone through security twice and wanted to scream at the person who told me that the flight was closed. Thank goodness I didn't do the latter. Truthfully, I was too disoriented and overcome with sadness to have screamed. I tried resolving things with their ticket desk at the airport but the person manning the desk told me that I would have to buy another flight if I wanted to get to Italy and catch my next flight onward to Germany (which would have left Monday morning). You know how much that costs?! Well, it was a lot. I didn't have Internet at the airport so I couldn't check my bank account to see if I could do it. I only had this time frame of an hour to re-book with Ryanair before I would lose my "contract" with them (for that flight since I bought two separate flights for the way there). However, my brother, thank goodness, was in Madrid too with his university program. I figured it was best to head back to my brother's hotel, even though he wouldn't arrive until a few hours later. I had never felt so hopeless in my life. It's one thing to miss a flight in the US but Europe is a different story. And, when the airline is SO cheap that they don't even offer a standby service? Yeah, the next time I come back to Europe for a visit (or -crosses fingers - to live), I'm flying on more respectable airlines. I don't care if I have to pay a fare price that's comparable to the US, it will be worth it knowing that I will arrive at my destination safe and sound rather than going through what I went through this weekend.

I don't know why the Germany part of my trip didn't work out. I really would have loved to have gone and visited my Spanish friend there. Experienced a whole new part of Europe and been in a country where I don't speak the language. I don't usually get to experience that. Also, who knows who else I would've met on my way and during my stay there. This is where the How I Met Your Mother part comes in. Luckily, my brother told me of a website that streams TV shows for free. I managed to watch the season finale episode (and get caught up on two episodes before it) and see what the mother looks like! I was very thrilled that that did not get ruined for me. I can relate to how Ted feels right now...he's lost hope and faith that his future bride is in NYC. Heck, I know I'm 10 years younger than him, but I'm feeling the same way. Why wasn't I supposed to go to Germany? Why am I still in Spain? I don't know when or if I'll ever meet the bilingual man I so desire to meet....well, that's not true. I've met many over the last three to four years but I haven't met a single one who was interested in me. I think it just comes down to bad timing. Maybe making poor or rash decisions as of lately might have to do something with it as well? At this point, I'm not sure.

I, like Ted, have gotten used to living on my own. I've technically been living on my own for almost 6 years now. I can make whatever plans I want, go to bed early or late, cook whatever I please and not have to worry about checking in with someone or making sure our schedules sync up. I suppose I can't write too much about the season finale episode as the fan community as a whole is complaining about too many people (including CBS) are spoiling the show's big secret. I will say this: Ted is deciding to move on with his life and is contemplating starting a new life away from New York. Right now he feels like that part of his life was only a chapter and it's time to finish it and start a new one. I'm not achieving a new milestone or making a career or city change but I do need to consciously move on from an adolescent way of thinking. I keep thinking that every cute guy (regardless of the country I'm in) I meet might be my future significant other. I need to move past this way of thinking and just let things happen. Of course I will focus on making good decisions and trusting God for direction but I need to stop overanalyzing every single person I meet in my life. Or every single trip I take whether it's as far as Europe or just to the grocery store near my house in Florida. It's utterly exhausting if you ask me. Not as exhausting as it was in the beginning of my first trip to Spain to switch back and forth from Spanish to English all day, though, but fairly close.

It would make me so happy and content if I could live here in Europe for at least a year. I feel like with the way I process information, sights and handle relationships, I would still need a lot more time here in order to be satisfied. Well, I probably won't be satisfied with just a year here.......but that's another story for another time.

So...maybe like in Ted's situation, the best is yet to come. Maybe I need to stumble a bit more and spend more time in this city in order to have that chance encounter I've been dreaming about having. Or maybe I need to wake up and pay more attention to someone I already know....or vice versa? If you are reading this and think I'm losing hope, I'm not. I've just lost my way a little bit this week. Having to forgo a seemingly well-planned trip can certainly make you think about everything in your life. Its direction, purpose, meaning....

For now I will give thanks that I am in Sevilla again, where my heart is most content. I also have a place to stay even though my travel plans fell apart. Por eso, doy muchas gracias a Dios!

Un abrazo a todos! :-)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Identity Crisis

By the time I finish writing this post, this will be the most English I have "spoken" in just a little over a week. It's so crazy to read that, isn't it? Well, trust me, it's even more mind boggling to be writing that.

The past few days here have been just wonderful. Coming back to the beautiful city of Sevilla has been my dream for so long. Now that I've been here for a few days, it feels like reality and I'm glad that it's not one of the virtual kinds. On each leg of my trip I had to keep reminding myself of where I was and where I was going. It didn't fully sink in until I saw my friend waiting for me in the airport and then later in the car as we passed by the road signs with familiar names and locations on them. As I visited the sights here, both alone and with friends, I took the time to soak each moment and view in. For the most part, I have already taken tons of pictures of each of the famous sights Sevilla has to offer, so it wasn't necessary for me to take duplicate shots. I opted for taking a few pictures of new things I hadn't seen or remembered in each place and for the rest of the time I simply enjoyed the view and how I could stare at whatever I wanted for as long as I wanted. Well, within reason of course, haha.

With each passing day, I have spoken less and less English. The house I am staying in right now (with a friend and his family--mother and two sisters), there are only two proficient English speakers and only one of them is native. ;-) There were about three days in a row (Saturday-Monday) where I spoke less than 100 words of English each day. Of course, I have thought in English from time to time but not often. Over the years as I aimed to achieve fluency in Spanish, I let go of the need to translate everything all of the time and simply took the leap to think in Spanish whenever I was speaking or listening to Spanish.

I'm reminded almost each day that this trip, though it may feel like an extension of my study abroad semester here, is completely different. My two good friends who attended a program through Cedarville University are not here nor are the other American students I connected with nor my roommates in Triana. It's just me and the local people I made friends with. I do have a couple friends who would like to practice English with me if we can find the time but other than that, I have no connection to any of the Americans students studying here in Sevilla. I can't tell how weird I have felt after coming to that realization. (Side note: Yesterday I realized that I really miss Triana and all of the familiar sights I would see each day on my way to and from class and at the school I volunteered at. It's so strange to be in Sevilla but not living in Triana!!! What's even worse is that they built a super ugly "skyscraper" a few hundred feet from my beloved neighborhood too. Ugh!)

This whole readjustment period (and feeling a bit under the weather for the last 5 days) has gotten me thinking about how I express my personality in English compared to how I express myself in Spanish. I'm more animated when I speak Spanish but there have been a handful of times that I can't find the right words to describe how I'm feeling exactly. I've gotten a good handle on telling jokes and being more candid while speaking Spanish but with all of these colloquial words and phrases that only exist here in Andalucia, it can be very difficult to make yourself be understood! But little by little, I'm adding more words to my vocabulary and assimilating pretty well.

One thing that's been bothering me is that, while I'm fluent in Spanish, I'm still not bilingual. I know it takes time to achieve that level of proficiency but it's still frustrating. However, it's not frustrating in the way that you think. As I stated above, I'm not the same person personality-wise when I speak English as when I speak Spanish. I don't feel like these last few days I have acted and expressed myself as a person who's in her "early" or almost mid-twenties. I'm finding that, while I can express myself as an adult very well in English when it comes to discussing social, political and economic issues (among other topics) but in Spanish? I express my opinions in a very basic way due to the fact that I have not yet grown accustomed to the necessary vocabulary in order to have those kinds of topics. I did, however, discuss gun control in America with a native Spanish speaker in a car on the way to a small town an hour outside of Sevilla fairly that's a start, right?

Regardless of the language(s) you speak, language can be the great robber of identities. It's something the vocabulary and textbooks leave out -on-purpose or not. While it's easy to achieve "head-knowledge" in a language, being able to express your personality and maturity level flawlessly is a whole different story. It can be achieved if you put your mind to it but be warned that it doesn't come easy!

It too is a journey much similar to the one I am on over here the deeper and deeper I get into my trip. Practice always makes perfect and if you have all of the necessary resources, people and motivation around you - why not jump right in? After all, we all experience an identity crisis in one way or another throughout our lives, regardless of what age are or what language we speak. That's good news because it means you're not alone! :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Friendships / Amistades

If you had told me 10 years ago that a few of my friends would consist of a young, professional pianist who is fascinated with place, a girl who looks like she should be a full-blooded American, a pen pal in France with whom my common language is not English but rather Spanish and a Brazilian turned Spaniard who tries to imitate Phil Wickham whenever he sings Christian worship music, I would've laughed in your face and called you crazy. I was practically the shyest girl in school. There's no way I'd have the courage to approach those people, even if they did sound really cool.

Well, fast forward to today and guess what? Those people listed above are very good friends of mine. On the contrary, that list just scratches the surface of some incredible people I have gotten to know over the last 10+ years. These friendships were not of my own doing but rather God orchestrating when and where our paths will cross. You may be surprised how you meet the people you meet in life. Sometimes you bump into them at school or at the neighborhood park. Other times you have go thousands of miles away from home before you meet your best friend. What's more is this: think of all of the couples you've talked to and asked how they met. Usually they tell you about some crazy chance encounter they had with each other and how, if they hadn't met that way, they never would have met at all. It couldn't have been chance, could it?

At times I get tired of hearing the phrase, "everything happens for a reason." But, just when I am about to lose faith in that phrase, my faith is renewed. I was supposed to graduate HS and then college in the years that I did (and so did-or will-you). I was supposed to be in Spain three years ago, taking the classes I took, traveling where I did, meeting the people I met. Even the ones I just talked to in classes or in the halls. It's all connected. I can't see where all of the dots connect yet but I will someday. It will be such an awesome experience when I can do that. What I have been constantly amazed at over the years is how I have managed to keep my closest friends by my side, even when we are separated by highways, interstates, state lines, forests, mountains, a gigantic ocean... The best kinds of friends are the ones where you can go months on end without seeing each other and then one day, reunite and pick up wherever it was that you left off at. They don't keep score of who stayed in better contact or who wrote the most letters or messages to the other or made the most phone calls....they simply just care about you. It's one of the greatest feelings in the world.

I hope, as you are reading this post, that you have the kinds of friends I described above. The ones who love you know matter what, give you clear advice and enhance your life in a positive way. If you find yourself taking your friends for granted, think of how miserable your life would be today if you had never met them in the first place.

That really changes your perspective, doesn't it?