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Closing the Yearbook

I’m going to be honest. Last October, I thought I had made a huge mistake. Every action and decision over the past year and a half had been about getting me back to Sevilla. It was all I could think about. But I kept reminding myself that it was not going to be the same this time around. I thought going back to the city I missed so much would instantly cure that little pang I felt in my chest every time I thought about Sevilla.

The first few weeks was like walking through a ghost town. Every single street and place reminded me of the people I had shared this experience with and were painful reminders that they were not here with me this time around. That little pang in my heart definitely was not going away, it was worse. There was our old school, filled with a new crop of American students, like we had never even been there. There was the park bench I sat on that one night and we talked until the sun came up. There was our favorite bars that we probably frequented way too much. It was so surreal to be standing in the exact same places alone where I was once surrounded by some of my dearest friends. I could not believe I had signed myself up for this daily emotional torture. I could not stop the constant strolls down memory lane. Should I have gone to a completely different city and started over? When I used to hear about people that moved back to Spain to teach English who ended up going home early, I didn’t understand it. But now I realized that this definitely is not something for the faint of heart.

But slowly, these places became my own. There came a point where I decided that I needed to stop living in the past and as my friend would say, “close the yearbook,” or be miserable for the rest of my time here. I couldn’t keep comparing the two experiences or wishing everyone was back here with me. My first time in Sevilla was like the honeymoon and this past year was when the real relationship began. I have a life here. I have Spanish friends, a Spanish bank account, a job I wake up for every morning, grocery shopping, a cell phone, rent and bills to pay and responsibilities. I wasn’t partying every night with a big group of American college students and traveling all over Europe every single weekend. Now, we get confused for locals. It was no longer the fantasy world, it was the real deal. Studying abroad in a foreign country is entirely different from actually living in one. It is impossible to say which one is better because I got so many good things out of both experiences.

I never thought in a million years that I would ever be a teacher, but I actually really enjoyed it. There were some days when the kids were bouncing off the walls and I wanted to rip my hair out… but for every day like that, there were even more days where I left class with a big smile. I discovered that even 7 year olds have a good sense of humor. I got to celebrate every birthday and lost tooth, offer comfort when a classmate unexpectedly passed away, share my culture and language and be a part of these kids lives every single day for a year. My school is in a very small isolated pueblo. Most of their older siblings don’t stay in school past age sixteen or ever leave town. I got to show them that there is a big world out there and being able to speak English opens even more doors for them. I may never see my students ever again, but I will always think about them and hope that they are going on to do big and great things with their lives.

So here we are, in my final hours in Spain. I apologize for how dreadful I was at updating this blog, but it was hard to motivate myself to sit down and write about it. It always seems like there is way too much to say. And sometimes, you just have to get out there and experience it and live in the moment. Reflection can happen later, or in my case, on your last day in Sevilla approximately 30 minutes before you internet gets turned off.

It is hard for me to be totally bitter about leaving because I feel so lucky that I even got to come back. Most people will never get to do that. Last time, I felt like I hadn’t gotten my fill of Sevilla and there wasn’t enough time. This past year, I got to come back and have a do-over. I got to do everything I didn’t get to do last time, and do it better. Coming back here was not an easy process. But if I hadn’t, I think I would have always wondered “What if?” No matter what happens in my life from here on out, I got to pack up (again) and live in one of the most beautiful cities you could ever imagine. It was something I worked towards for over a year. It was something I made happen. This was the scariest, hardest and most rewarding thing I have done. Cliché or not, I learned so much about myself. I feel like after this accomplishing this, anything is possible.

I cannot believe I have to say goodbye to Sevilla again. Trust me when I say that it does not get easier the second time around. It is impossible to explain what this place means to me and how much I will miss it. And I think if I try right now, I am just going to start crying like a baby. All I can say is, in Sevilla instead of saying someone is your soulmate or other half, they are your “media naranja,” the other half of your orange. (The city is line with orange trees what do you expect?) Sevilla es mi media naranja.

Thank you to everyone for all the support and never letting me feel like I was forgotten about. Thanks to my parents who didn’t laugh at me or tell me no when I called and said I wanted to move to Spain, again, Thanks to my friends who made it so hard to leave, but make me feel even more excited to see them again (very soon!). Thank you to all of our Spanish friends who were always looking out for us. And I will be eternally grateful for Sevilla and everything it has brought into my life. It is only a goodbye if you want it be.

People keep telling me that they are sad my time in Spain is coming to an end and the adventure is over. I don’t know what they are talking about. I think the real adventure is just about to begin. There is nothing more exciting, liberating and terrifying than starting an entirely new chapter. I’m ready.

Besos!

Descanse en Paz.

Last Thursday, I came back to work fully refreshed from my week long break. I had just had a wonderful weekend in Madrid with friends and felt like my battery had been recharged. I just had to get through the next week of school (and survive a weekend in Cadiz celebrating Carnaval) and then my mom would be in Spain. So many exciting things to look forward to.

The plummet from cloud nine was a fast one. As soon as Silvia (the teacher who I catch rides with to school some mornings) walked out, I saw it in her eyes. She frowned and didn’t reciprocate my bright and cheery “Buenos dias!” And I knew something was wrong. She immediately tells me that over break, one of the students at school had passed away. My heart dropped to my stomach as I asked her who it was. Please don’t let it be one of mine, I thought.

Out of the six classes I teach every week (two 1st grades, two 2nd grades and two 3rd grades) my 3rd B class quickly became my favorite by a landslide. All of my classes are great and the kids are all so sweet and make me laugh, but 3B has always stood out. I work with them during my last hour on Thursdays and my first hour on Fridays. My day off is Wednesday, as opposed to most of my friends who have their free day on Friday, so that means I am always going to bed early and making the trek to work alone on Friday mornings when everyone has already started their weekends (Bitter, party of one?). I have always said that the one saving grace is that first thing in the morning, I get to be with my favorite class.
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Wow, can you believe that Christmas is already here? When did that happen? As I sit here religiously checking all the news and weather sites to see if our flight to Belgium is cancelled tomorrow (people have been sleeping in airports all over Europe thanks to this VERY white Christmas) I figured it is about time I shared some of my holiday experiences abroad. Also, I am terribly behind on keeping you all up to speed on my life! I think I know what my New Year’s resolution might be…

Last year, I studied abroad in the spring time, so the only holidays I missed celebrating back in America were Easter/my 21st birthday (which happened to fall on the same day), St. Patty’s and Cinco de Mayo. All totally bearable, if not more fun, to celebrate over on this side of the pond. I thought missing college football season was going to be tough on me this fall, but in some sort of sad denial I forgot about the Holy Trinity of holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. And how they all come one right after the other.

Halloween

I was definitely spoiled with four years of Halloween at ASU, arguably the biggest holiday of the year back in Tempe, with celebrations that usually spanned over two weekends. Halloween is relatively new over here in Spain. The kids at my school were so excited to hear more about it and learn how Americans celebrate it. I put together a silly little power point about it (aka a ton of pictures of candy, pumpkins, witches and skeletons) and they loved it! When they heard about Trick-or-Treating I think they had a heart attack. PEOPLE JUST GIVE OUT FREE CANDY?
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Fútbol, football.

I think it’s safe to say that football has been the recurring theme this week.

You may be hard-pressed to find me out late on a Monday night (Tuesday wakeup calls at 6 am come painfully early) but that all changed this week with two words: El. Clásico. When FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, the #1 and #2 ranked teams, face off in a blood bath. It is by far one of the most anticipated matches of the entire year. Everyone sprinkled across this marvelous country has their fierce loyalty to their local teams, but that all seems to get pushed to the side for a moment when the Superbowl of matches comes around. And perhaps this year it was even more intense, considering roughly 90% of the reigning World Cup Champion Spanish National team was hand picked from the starting lineup of these two teams.

Marji and I fought our way into the overflowing pub and somehow lucked out and were actually able to have a view of the screen. We also quickly discovered we were two of maybe ten girls there. I remember saying the entire month of July how sad I was that World Cup was only every 4 years. I loved waking up at ungodly hours to get a good seat in a bar. I loved people screaming and running around waving flags, even if they had only decided to start liking soccer 2 weeks prior. Because honestly, I can’t get enough of drunk soccer hooligans. They have a very special place in my heart. And they cheer, curse and boo for every game how us Americans cheered for the FIFA Final (and USA when we were still in the running. Sorry, too soon?). And while some artists prefer to create their masterpieces using oils and canvas, Spaniards weave together strings of obscenities in such beautifully complex ways that all you can do is just sit there in awe. No hurt feelings, just pure admiration. And the most offensive combinations always seem to incorporate mentioning someone’s mother. Don’t even go there.

Oh, he went there.

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Mal tiempo, buena cara.

A few weeks ago, during one of the first truly rainy and cold days here in Sevilla, I stood underneath the protection of my school’s patio bracing myself for the 10 minute walk to the bus stop I was about to make in the pouring rain. My jeans were already soaking wet and my flimsy umbrella was turned inside out from the wind. Truly, an Arizona girl who could not be more out of place. While waiting to see if the downpour would ever lighten up, Jose Luis, my school’s English coordinator, walked up next to me.

“Here, on days like this, we always say mal tiempo, buena cara,” he said as he zipped up his raincoat. “Do they have a saying like that in America?” No, no we don’t, I said to him. But man does that sum up the story of my life. When life throws you in the middle of a storm, you just have to put on your happy face and carry on.

The forecast of heavy rain and fog this entire week, as well as missing Thanksgiving back in America hung over me like a dark cloud. Mal tiempo, buena cara.

The day before Thanksgiving, I went to SICAB, a trade show and exhibition dedicated to the Purebred Spanish Horse. In Sevilla, there are horses everywhere. Even Nacho, the 14 year old that I tutor, owns a gorgeous white Spanish horse named Romero. I miss riding and competing every day of my life. So the second I caught wind that there was a horse show in town, I knew I needed to go to get my fix.
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Un mes.

Wow, I have been absolutely awful about keeping up with this lately! It has definitely not been due to a lack of events worth updating about.

I cannot believe I have already been here for a month. It is odd how fast you can settle into somewhat of a routine, until it feels like you have been doing it for way longer than you actually have. My room is still pretty bleak, but Marji and I finally made a trip to IKEA to get some comforters for our beds in preparation for a winter with no heat. Sevilla apparently has not gotten the memo that winter is around the corner, however. I have been to the beach the past two weekends in a row (and this time around I didn’t have to wear jeans and a sweatshirt) and last night it was 80 degrees at 7 p.m.

I have come to the conclusion that October may be the best month to come to Spain. Every day is in the 70’s, nights and mornings are not unbearably cold here in Sevilla and it has rained maybe 3 days. And everything is beautiful. I walk around every day absolutely dying at the thought that no one from home is here to enjoy this. I thought I had it good when I was here last spring! I’m just waiting for it to all come to an end far too soon. Then this Arizona girl has to bust out the abysmal collection of “winter clothes” that she brought with her.

Home.

Once I was “moved in” and was no longer being abandoned in fields in the middle of nowhere in Los Molares (I’ve spent more time than I will ever confess waiting by myself at lonely bus stops because I would either be at the wrong one, or the bus driver would just keep driving past me and never stop to pick me up) I finally made plans to visit with my señora from last year. I had the best host family a girl could have ever asked for, and the idea of ringing my old doorbell and revisiting my “home away from home” is something I know not very many study abroad alums are fortunate enough to do.
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Tomando un descanso.

I just started working and I already have a five day weekend! I think I could get used to this whole working on a school schedule thing… Too bad it has poured down rain in Sevilla almost the entire time I have been on break. We are hoping that the weather reports are right and that Tuesday is sunny because we are planning a day trip to the beach. Today has been gorgeous. One of the bluest skies I have ever seen and I am currently sitting outside at a café enjoying this perfect weather and my day off.

Today I had to go to Plaza de España to the Foreigner’s Office to get my Tarjeta Identidad de Extranjeros (ID card for foreigners living/working here for extended periods of time). My program (thankfully) made an appointment for me but really gave me no other directions except “just go to the front and say you are with Sebastian”. When I arrive, I discover that this place is like the DMV on steroids. People arrive hours early to get in line and wait all day to get a number, and they only let in a certain amount each day.

When I get there, people are wrapped around the building like the line for Splash Mountain at Disneyland. I realize that if I walk past all of them to cut in front they will probably want to kill me. But after everything I have done to get here (twice)… I’ve just learned that sometimes you have to fake it til you make it. I decide that my best bet is to follow my own advice from my years of skipping lines, not paying cover and air kissing bouncers at clubs from Tempe to Vegas and just march to the front of the line like you belong there and name drop like it is your job. So I stuck my chin up, avoided eye contact from all the death stares being sent my way and went straight up to security. Sebastian was waiting for me and just like that, I was in.

This has definitely been a welcome break. I already needed one because my schedule is kind of intense.
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