My desire to live in Spain has always been unexplainable to me, it was simply a feeling, drawn to a country I didn’t know much about. After my first month in Spain, dealing with the challenges moving to a new country brings, I often asked myself, “Why Spain?” I was struggling through a long distance relationship and trying to find my place in my small town. I loved the beach and my high school but I felt uncomfortable with all the time I had. What was I going to do? I’m from America- I’m not used to having time to relax because gosh darn it, I have to be productive all the time!
Over time, I slowly embraced this opportunity to relax, watch TV to help improve my Spanish, read books and spend time with new friends. It took me several months to be ok with not having a plan for weekends I stayed in Roquetas. I would freak out a bit if I wasn’t hopping on a bus or getting in a car to go somewhere for the weekend. When I returned to Spain after a visit home for the holidays, I made a deal with myself, I would stay 2 weekends a month in Roquetas at a minimum. I soon learned and appreciated the joys and fun that happens when I open myself up to possibilities and have an open schedule. Friends would unexpectedly invite me somewhere or my new teacher friend would include me in her plans, something that wasn’t possible when I wasn’t in town. The beauty of what happens when I Let Go…
I was reminded that if you want to create community you have to be in your community and seek opportunities out- I want dance and yoga classes? I’ve got to start asking around. You want to make friends? You have to be in town. And like anywhere you live, creating community takes time and effort, it’s not a snap of the fingers. Sometimes it feels daunting and tiring but always well worth it in the end. My Spanish has improved because of it, (it still ebbs and flows- good speaking days and not so good) and some of my best memories have been with friends enjoying the Andalucian lifestyle of eating tapas, drinking and spending time with friends because moments are really all we have.
There was also an unexpected turn when I returned in January when my flat mate told me he was moving out. I first viewed his move negatively and was frustrated and angry by his decision. But life has it’s ways of working out and after unsuccessful attempts to find a new flat mate, I came to love living on my own. Something I wouldn’t have done on my own nor could I have predicted I’d live alone in Spain and am grateful to have had the opportunity to do. Sometimes life seems to know best!
Living in Spain has also surprised me in a way I never could have guessed or imagined: it has taught me about a culture I grow up in, a Latino culture that I often didn’t understand and now am slowly putting the pieces together. Interestingly enough, my good friend whom I met on my first day is Mexican and she has provided me insight and background on a lot of things I had experienced growing up but lacked context, and therefore understanding. (Seems the good friends I’ve made here have Latino/Hispanic roots as if the Gods are conspiring for me to learn as much as possible about my roots!)
I grew up with a very Chilean father, distinctly Latino yet growing up I had no idea what having a father from a different country meant. He was just my dad. Chilean and Spanish culture have there variations and differences but there are a lot of similarities. Similarities that remind me of my dad daily and I’m grateful to finally be aware of how much culture has been apart of my life. Culture that has surrounded me, caused conflict between my father and I and yet has made me who I am today.
Sometimes we don’t know why we have specific dreams or impulses to do something or go somewhere. Just like my travels in Africa, my dream to live in Spain didn’t seem to have any foundation of where the desire came from. Living in Spain seemed to be intuitive, a place to learn my next lessons in life. I’ve learned a lot about myself this year but I’d say one of the most important has been realizing how powerful and important culture is and providing insight into my own roots. For this I’m deeply grateful. I give a big thanks to having a supportive family and great friends who always encourage me to follow my dreams, even if it leads me far away from them.