Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Echo

*Clack, clack, clack.*

My sandals click-clacked on the tiled floor of the airport. The boarding window was closing and I was late.

As I ran past everyone on the moving walkways, heads turned. People stared and and asked questions with their eyes. Questions like,"Who is this girl?"and "Where is she going?"

I was aware but oblivious to all the of attention at the same time. I had a question too. My question was, "I have to leave but how soon will I return?"

I also had one last serious talk with Europe before I boarded that plane and left it behind yet again. I thought, as I raced through the airport to my gate-all eyes on me-, "I hope you remember me, Europe. Just as these sandals echo on the walls of this airport, I hope my presence here echoes on the walls of your heart."

As soon as I boarded and tried to brush back my tears again with arms laden down with carry-ons, I switched to thinking and speaking in Spanish. I secretly didn't want the flight attendants on my TAP Portugal flight to speak English to me. I also had hopes of sitting next to a Spanish speaker but that didn't happen. I actually had two empty seats next to me and plenty of room to stretch out. There were plenty of shows and movies dubbed into Spanish to keep me company so I survived the lack of a seat mate just fine. It was a tad boring at times during my almost 9 hour flight.

Upon take-off, however, I was a bit of a wreck. The tears and emotions started building up in me the afternoon before when I said 'hasta luego' to three great friends. As I boarded one plane after the next and made my way farther and farther from the wonderful city of Sevilla and its people, I let the tears come. I didn't have sunglasses to hide behind this past time but that was alright. Everyone on the bus out to my plane in Sevilla could tell that I was sad. That I didn't want to leave. If they didn't notice my tears, they certainly could infer my sadness from my body language. I let Europe see me bear it all, in hopes that it wouldn't send me away on a jet plane again.

(This is what my suitcase looked like post-trip.) Have you ever seen so many tags on one bag?

In the end, it let me go but I had something to say before I left. It was not very romantic or flowery as I think back on it. It was simple and straight to the point. My intentions were clear.

"Hasta luego, Europa...Quiero tomarte por la mano y besarte. Quiero dar un paseo contigo y comer un helado, tu y yo. No quiero despedirte. Por favor, no me olvides. Por favor...."

I'll let you translate my words if you'd like. They might seem silly but they were true. Thanks to experiencing more of Lisbon and other new parts of Spain, I feel like I can safely say that I miss Europe. I still have much to learn about that continent but it has dug itself a home deep within my heart and skin. I can't get rid of it even if I tried. It's just not going to happen.

Have you ever been so deeply affected by the environment around you that when the time came for you to leave it, it drove you to do something crazy? Something as crazy as almost wooing it with poetry?....

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Adiós no existe / Never Goodbye

Flashback to June 1st.

Well, whether I like it or not today is the first day of June. I talked a lot about how long my return trip to Spain would last...but here I am almost at the end. I spent four months here the first time and this trip has lasted just a little over a month. Each trip, regardless of its length, has been so special and meaningful. I thought coming back and reaching the end of my journey again I'd be able to put my experience into words...nope. I still can't do it.

Honestly the only way for you to understand what it's like to live abroad is to experience it yourself. You will learn an incredible amount of things about yourself and others along the way. Always keep your guard up and use common sense but open yourself up to new experiences.  Talk to strangers. Enjoy the hospitality of the country you're in and return the favor.

Some of my favorite people on this earth are the Spanish. Anyone from any other European (America too) country comes in second. I just love how carefree, understanding and patient Europeans are. I'm going to miss a lot of things about living in and visiting Spain again. I can't quite explain it but, as I told my brother a couple weeks ago, I fit here. And if my bro not being able to recognize me in his own hotel lobby was any indication, I don't know what is. haha I have my good days and bad anywhere yes, but overall, I have never felt so comfortable in a country that is not my own. We don't always agree with one another, Spain and I, but I love it just the same.

I love how I can sit by a quiet bank of the Rio Gudalquivir around midnight while listening to music on a local radio station and writing in a journal and not have to fear for my safety. I'm always aware of my surroundings  but I'm not hyper aware like I am sometimes in Jacksonville. The thing that I love most about Spain (and pretty much any other European country) is that anyone can go anywhere at whatever time they please as long as they have two feet to walk, ride or drive themselves there. It has been so freeing to have that kind of mobility again...4,500+ miles away from home. That feeling alone makes me not want to go back but that's another story.

While this has been a very fun and unique trip, my mind drifts to what awaits me in the States. My return will be much different than 2010. I'm not coming back this time laden down with souvenirs or an illegal carry-on (inside joke). I won't even be greeted by my parents or my childhood best friend on Monday. That's going to be strange. On the other hand, I am going to be coming back with my heart (I left it here in Sevilla in 2010, you know ;) and full of wonderful memories of time spent with friends, family and lots of sun, good food and of course, speaking lots of Spanish. I'm coming back amazed at God's faithfulness to me during this trip. I'm coming back even more in love with Spanish culture and the language. I didn't think that was even possible! I've heard so many beautiful and unique accents all over Spain. Each new Andalucian accent challenged me and forced me out of my comfort zone. I didn't like it at first but I welcome it now. I could get used to the Sevillano way of life long-term again. And the dos besos greetings,  too. :)

In the last week and a half, I have forgotten about meeting someone here. A month is not a long time in reality and a huge ocean separating my continent and this one doesn't make relationships any easier. I must say though that my desire to find a bilingual guy has only gotten stronger. I mean, I've invested 10 years into learning Spanish, doesn't it just seem logical to want to meet another (native) Spanish speaker? I think so. However, I'm not in control of that part of my life. What is up to me to figure out is what I learned from this visit and to focus on living in the present after I leave.

My first trip here was life-changing and I'll never forget it as long as I live. I think that's what happens to anyone who studies or lives abroad for a certain period of time. We never forget the impression our study abroad city has made upon us regardless of how much time we spent there.

This trip has been unforgettable as well. I feel like I can finally say that I lived in Spain. I have shopped for groceries, cooked, cleaned, washed dishes, lugged a rolling suitcase up and down cobblestone streets and across bridges, planned my own places to stay and which trips to take.Some of those things may sound boring but for someone who wasn't able to cook let alone her own dishes to the kitchen in Triana, it's been really refreshing to just live here. Of course I've still respected the rules of the houses I stayed in. But, I was able to go and do as I pleased and show my gratitude by keeping things neat and clean.. It might seem odd to you but for me, just to be able to do normal daily activities here (along with a bunch of fun and exciting things) has been really awesome. I know for sure that I could live here long-term...the question is, how and when? I'll be able to answer that one day, I hope.

Well, I'm going to wrap things up here and head back to my friend's apartment nearby. The best and worst parts of this trip were when my brother was here. Don't get me wrong, we had an amazing time together hanging out and seeing the city. However, saying goodbye to him was tough on us both. I don't usually get to see him in the springtime since moving away from home. I definitely don't get to kick it with him in Europe too often - if ever -but we were fortunate enough to do just that this year. I walked with him to the main street before we parted ways and he went off to the main bus station. After we said goodbye and he walked away, I started to walk back too right away but I couldn't. Instead I watched him walk farther and farther down that street as tears streamed down my face. They were a mixture of tears of sadness and joy but they were mostly of joy. It really hit me then and there just how blessed we were to have spent time together in Spain.


En las Goldondrinas, May 2013.

Never in my wildest dreams did I picture the two of us there together during my first of many trips back to Spain. .The words that flooded my mind and came out of my mouth (in English) were, "Thank you, God. Thank you." x2 As I made my way back to my friend's apartment, I didn't bother to hide my tears. I didn't care. This place is very special to me but the fact that I was able to not only come back but come back AND be here with my brother makes it even more special to me. For both of us. I don't know when we both will be here again at the same time but I now know that it is possible. I've gotten a little bit teary-eyed while writing these thoughts out but overall, I'm hopeful. I have never been filled with such hope the night before I leave a place that is so dear to me. A place that has once again seen me at my best and at my worst but accepts me. I can't say how I'll react as I say my 'hasta luegos' and make my way to the airport, but I know that one thing is for sure:

"Sevilla, it's never goodbye, just see you later!

Sevilla, nunca te despediré, siempre te diré 'hasta luego!"

Un beso.