I won’t ever be living this experience again. That really hit home with me today. I know I’ve said it a couple times before, but there will be no returning to my study abroad fall semester in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. The life that I’ve built here will be gone in a couple weeks, and I’ll return to (an equally wonderful and amazing, don’t get me wrong) life in the US. It’s a weird notion to finally come to terms with. It’s almost like as soon as you finally settle into your new habits, you realize that the time is ticking on how long they will last for. Words can’t even begin to describe how thankful I am for the time I’ve spent here, and even more for the life I’m going back to. I feel so blessed to have both: such a once-in-a-lifetime experience here in Spain and yet a life filled with people I love so much back in the States I can’t wait to get home to it. I feel like that’s a very apt sentiment as the other day was Thanksgiving, but let me back track and give some background as to what prompted this realization.
Today was my final day of tutoring with the kids I’ve been helping with English since September. If I’m completely honest, I was excited about it. I love the kids, and I always have a fun time once I get to the lessons, but it could be kind of a hassle having to hop on the bus after classes to go teach lessons and not getting home until closer to 7:00 that night to start my homework and whatever else I had to do that night. A couple weeks ago, as I looked at my schedule for the upcoming final weeks, I realized that I honestly don’t have time to give lessons after this week between all of the final projects and presentations and exams and well, everything, hah. So, I told the parents that today would be my last day. Well, it hit me as I was walking down the stairs after I finished my lessons with the first two kids (before I move on to another house) that I wouldn’t be doing this again. When I got down the stairs, Kristina (the mom of the kids) gave me a present of ferreo rochers, which she had no way of knowing are my absolute hands down favorite candy in the world. I usually only eat them on special occasions like my birthday or Christmas. And suddenly, I was hit with a thousand sentiments at a time- that I wanted to say thank you for giving me my favorite candy, thank you for your kindness, than you for letting me teach your kids, and even more thank you for being part of the amazing experience I’ve had here. And, before I knew it, I was thanking her in the most eloquent words in Spanish I could muster up. In that moment, I could speak Spanish like I’d spoken it my entire life. I wasn’t worrying about my grammatical errors or if I had sufficient vocabulary to express what sentence I wanted to say. I wasn’t translating my feelings into English and then into Spanish. No, I just spoke the wonderful feelings I had in the only language she would understand, and thusly it came across in beautifully spoken Spanish. I can’t express how great that moment was. All of a sudden everything made sense- the reason I’m here, the language I’ve been working on tirelessly for weeks, my life, everything. That simple moment was one of my greatest accomplishments here in Spain.
But, if that was the experience of saying goodbye to the two families I only tutored twice a week, how am I ever going to say goodbye to Cristina who has guided me through this process? To Fausto, who always had a joke and I’m convinced literally knows everything about everything? To the people I’ve met from the States who are experiencing this alongside me? To my amazing host family, whose love and kindness has known no bounds? Saying goodbye to come here was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but now I know that saying goodbye to go home is going to be equally as hard. I just hope that I’ve touched their lives in the way they’ve touched mine during this experience.
But, thankfully, I still have a little over three weeks to find those words. So, onward to less sappy things like what has been happening in my life here, haha. Well, last weekend was my host mom’s birthday and we had a wonderful party for her. We ate some delicious fondue and spent the entire night laughing and talking until at least 2 in the morning. It was a great party, and I really felt like I was part of the family during it. I loved it. I know it’s going to be one my best memories here- it kind of completely encompassed my host family and how wonderful they are. This weekend, on Friday, my host family and I went to a Thanksgiving party at Chelsea’s apartment (she took part in the CIEE program when she was an undergrad and lived with my host parents; now she’s here doing the grad program.) It was an absolute success! It was the first Thanksgiving my host parents and sister have ever celebrated (obviously, haha) and they seemed to absolutely love it. I made sweet potato casserole and cookies that looked like turkeys with the help of my host sister that morning which was such a fun experience getting to cook with her. We cranked up the music and danced and laughed while we were baking which made me feel like I was back at home during the holidays doing the same with my family. It was pretty funny actually because I completely forgot that Spanish ovens run on Celsius instead of Fahrenheit and therefore baked the sweet potatoes in record time of ten minutes at roughly 515 degrees Fahrenheit hahaha. Ooops. But they still were absolutely delicious! There was this crazy mix of people at the party- and therefore a crazy mix of food. We ate chicken (Spanish ovens are too small for those big turkeys), rolls, stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, zucchini parmesan (haha), quiche, Spanish tortilla, croquettes, empanada, sweet potatoes, green beans, and mac and cheese. THEN for dessert we had apple pie, pumpkin pie, banana bread, chocolate cake and tiramisu. I would say it was a definite success as I’m certain I gained around 50 pounds from my two plates of food. We told my host family that it was tradition to eat at least two plates of food, which it definitely is. It’s a Thanksgiving I know I’m never going to forget, even better the main common language between all of us was Spanish so I was able to spend a Thanksgiving dinner speaking Spanish and meeting people from Italy, Australia, other parts of the States and well, from Spain.
Last night, I went to see a play with one of my friends, Sarah, called Far West. It was really funny; the entire story was making fun of old Western movies in the States and all of the parts were done by only four actors. I loved it, I laughed a whole lot at the hilarious antics on the stage. Definitely was a really fun weekend, but now I have a montón of homework to finish for these last couple weeks of class. I honestly can’t believe it’s winding down right now, I can’t even express my excitement to go home yet my sadness knowing that I have to leave! What a crazy life I live. I’m just so thankful for all of it. See you in a few short weeks US!! Besos!