Before I embarked on my journey back to the Iberian peninsula, I sat down and etched my goals for the school year to help give me direction and perspective for how I wanted to spend my 9 months abroad. I knew, “Returning to Spain is a golden ticket for me to pursue a lot of personal interests and goals. This year provides an opportunity to expand my skills and try new things!
Here is a recap of what my goals were and if I managed to accomplish them/what came from them.
1. Take Spanish classes.
What I hoped: This time I know fluency doesn’t just happen by being immersed. It takes a lot of dedication, time, effort, and practice and less speaking in English with expat friends… Persistence: Despite finding classes at the Escuela de Idiomas, having numerous issues registering for classes because of my expired residency card and a secretary who wanted to create problems rather than solutions, to registering thanks to the help of a teacher to attempting to pay numerous times for my classes to finally calling to pay by phone to learning that the day before was the last day, “You lost your place, you can’t do anything about it” to calling the Spanish teacher to explain the situation, having fellow teachers call the director of studies to the basque government being called to talk with the Director of Studies to ask if I could audit the Spanish class with 1-8 people (depending on who showed up) and being DENIED.
Honesty in Spain usually doesn’t get me anywhere and being honest caused me to lose my opportunity to take classes for 9 months for 80 euros. Staying persistent: I asked around and found many organizations that help immigrants, took many a placement tests only to be told my level was too high and I’d surely get bored… but I signed up for a class anyway that met 4 nights a week for 1.5 hours, I lasted about 3 months before I decided my evenings were too valuable to give to basic classes. Boredom doesn’t lead to much learning.
LOSS/WIN: In the end, I resorted to reading magazines, writing summaries of what I read, watching TV, listening to Podcasts and radio stations and speaking at every opportunity I had. Like anything in life, some days and weeks went better than others… I also learned just how damn persistence I am. I don’t believe in the word, “NO”
2. Take Cooking classes Fail: I browsed the offerings of the local civic centers but cooking classes weren’t an option. I also found an alternative local cooking class with courses on the weekends but I often was traveling when they offered a class I was interested in.
3. Get involved within my community
What I hoped: So you know I love food. I love eating food, tasting food, cooking food, growing food, and I love learning how things are made. I want to get involved within the food scene, whether that’s shadowing a goat cheese maker or assisting at the local farmers market. WIN: I started off the year with a bang with asking around and learning about food organizations. My initial idea was to volunteer for an organization or lend a hand once or twice a week but it turned out differently than I expected. I volunteered a few times at a local farm 15 minutes outside of Vitoria but with the S&*%*y weather, prime agriculture time is May- September… not months in Vitoria.
I’d be lucky to volunteer starting in April. However, by chance while at the farmers market on Thursday and Saturdays a student of mine spotted me and called me over. Turns out her parents own a parcel of land outside the city. They grow organically and make a living selling the fruits of their labor to locals twice a week. WHen I showed my interest, he questioned me not making it easy for me to just come on by and check out his farm…until I told him I was a farmers market manager and he saw the website of my fellow organization. The following week he stopped a conversation when he saw me at the market to ask me a favor: to come by his farm and attend a casual meeting to share ideas about how to improve the market. A man full of ideas, I’d often go to his stall with the intention to buy but instead find myself waiting my turn and then talking for half an hour until his wife would say, come on, now we have a line and I’d still be without my veggies. He has invited me to events, shared his many ideas for possible projects and raves about me to fellow shoppers, introducing me whenever possible. Turns out one of my private class students is on the board of directors for a co-op organic food store. She keeps me up-to-date on food happenings and food politics that seem to plague every corner of the earth- small farmer and artisans vs. big corporations.
4. Get my groove on
What I hoped: I love to dance. Always have. Give me some good beats and I’ll be grooving on the dance floor while friends queue for liquid courage at the bar. I want to Hip-Hop and salsa up my life! WIN: My first few weeks in Vitoria-Gasteiz, I passed by dance studios offering dance classes to inquire about prices and hours. Interestingly enough, by chance a fellow auxiilar invited me last minute to try a complimentary class of Belly dancing and I was hooked. Sure, it’s damn sexy and Shakira can shake her hips so do they don’t lie, but this beautiful dance is super challenging!
5. Visit 3 new countries
What I hoped:Last year I traveled a lot. But guess what, I only visited 3 new countries + discovering Spain. I had the joy of visitin my friend Sarah in Ireland, camel riding in Morocco and and enjoying azulejos, Gloomy porto skies and Lovely Lisbon charm in Portugal with my brother. This year, I unexpectedly visited Istanbul, Turkey, followed through with my plan to visit my friend in Belgium and I’m still unsure if I’ll hop on a plane to visit Finland as I’ve been longing to do since Halloween 2011. I still got a few weeks left but by the time you read this, plans will be made!
6. Write write write.
What I hoped:I plan to write even more on this lovely blog and big Gulp: start making a conscious effort to take it to the next level- Getting published on other blogs, websites and publications. Big dream would be to have an article published in a travel magazine. If I’m going to dream, May as well dream BIG! WIN: Well, I decided not to take my blog to the next level after much internal debate and questioning if I want to be a part-time blogger. As for reaching out and publishing articles on other blogs, I managed to take the leap! I’m proud of myself. However, as for contacting magazines, my tail is still between my legs. Some days I’m full of confidence and other days, time escapes me as well as feeling ready to take rejection, and crafting a magazine proposal. Maybe one day…
7. Make friends from all around the world
What I hoped:This year I’d love to have more of a social circle- people to cook with, watch films with, practice Spanish with, share my common interests with.
WIN: I’ve been lucky to meet some awesome folks this year, some Americans, an awesome Canadian, a couple from Catalonia, some Vascos, and a cool Spanish woman. I unexpectedly had a partner in crime for intercambios (language exchanges) 1-3 times a week, friends to cook meals with, friends to go on unexpected day trips with and to roam around the city and pintxo hop every now and again. I was also lucky to meet an awesome gal with the same name and travel with her for 9 days in Asturias, who plans to move to the SF Bay Area around the same time as me.
Sometimes things in life aren’t just coincidences…
Do you make goals when you start something new? If you made new year resolutions, how are they going?
Are you Following Imroamingtheworld yet?!?