All the small things and Thanksgiving without a turkey

Have you ever had a moment in your life where you just feel happier than ever, like you could just burst because you’re so full of emotion? That you’ve finally realized that things have fell into place, that every single moment is being encapsulated in your brain? That you can finally let go of all the crappy things, all the plans you’ve made and just let your life take its course? Geez, I sound ridiculous, but I have done an incredible amount of smiling this week. (An incredible amount of working and partying, too, resulting in seven hours of sleep between Thursday and Friday nights, but anyway…).

I had one of those moments on Thursday evening. I met my boss Elizabeth from WLS at a bar for a coffee and we sat for a while waiting for David, my other boss. I could have been using that time to sleep (which I really needed), workout, clean the house…but I was happy to have a friend and drink a really strong cafe con leche. I completely forgot about the millions of things that needed to get done by the start of the next week, and it seems I’ve adopted the “mañana, mañana” attitude of the Andalusians – I’ll do it tomorrow.

WLS was collaborating with FARBEN, a cultural integration company run by a German man named Mattius, and helping out at a short film festival in the town of Sanlucar la Mayor, about 10 miles outside of Sevilla and just a few south of Olivares. David’s mom drove the three of us, plus two little Ecuadorian boys she babysits, to the venue. Sitting scrunched between David and the little boys, Michel and Carlos, listening to Spanish pop music and Elizabeth singing them, staring out the window at a beautiful country with beautiful people, I was instantly happy. Something inside of me just felt right, like everything in my life had finally started to add up. I had a rough summer, but I made the right decision in coming here because I can finally push those things out of my mind. Here, I’ve established myself and have numerous friends. I love my job, good and bad things. I delight in the little things, like being able to sing the words to a Spanish song in the car or in a bar. People at bars and shops know me from my frequent visits. Every single day brings a new person, a new place and a new reason for me to be happy. I couldn’t imagine not having done this. Working a real job is not for me at this moment; I can work later.

Speaking of the future, I met with my coordinator, Nieves, last week to discuss how things were going at IES Heliche. Martin often feels that his students aren’t learning anything because they’re so noisy. He asked if I had the same problem, and I do to an extent. He then proposed switching classes and schedules at the end of the term next month. I won’t let him do it. I’ve started to feel really comfortable with my students and the teachers, and I finally understand their level, how to plan an effective lesson and how to find the classroom I’m going to. I have to say I’m lucky – I get to teach in a small town that’s SO Spanish it’s really Spanish, my coworkers are supportive and funny, and I’ve found it’s a really good fit for me. I mentioned to Nieves that I’m dreading the end of the curso because I’ll have to go back to the US, at least until the start of the next year. She gave me a puzzled look, and I told her that I was heavily considering coming back another year and resuming my job if they’d let me come back. Really, I want to delay the real world another year and be Spanish a bit longer, and I want to see how the bilingual program plays out. Nieves gave me a hug and said, “Yes! Yes! We’ve been so impressed with you and Martin and the students love you both! Please come back!” Why would I go anywhere else? Even with the long commute, often before the sun comes up, I look forward to going to work. Why would I want to break up the flow I’ve got going?

road to the fort that sits off the coast of Cadiz, the oldest continually inhabited cities in Europe

After an all night party in Huelva after a Thanksgiving dinner with chicken, Eva and I went to Cádiz, braving 12 degree weather and a rain storm to see the coast. It amazes me that it was her first time outside of Sevilla in three months or so. I’ve already been to two other countries and several other cities! I was happy to spend time with her, though, because I really will miss her when she goes back to Germany next month. And it was wonderful seeing Cadiz – it’s just two hours from Sevilla, but it feels worlds away. More exotic, more laid back, more colorful. Spain is a country that’s much more complex than people imagine. Just as the US changes character from north to South, East to West, Spain is the same. The differences between Castilla y Leon, where I studied, and Andalusia, where I live now, are endless. But I like the change. That’s why I cam to Spain in the first place – a change and a challenge.

All week, I taught my kids about Thanksgiving. I joked around with them that I was thankful for sunglasses because Spain is sunny and manchego cheese because it’s three times as expensive in the US, and they laughed. But I am incredibly indebted to Aubree for letting me know about this program, lucky to have a great piso with really great roommates, to have a family that supports me through this even when they miss me, to have found some really nice friends, to be able to travel and experience new things and let go of all of the negativity I had all summer. In the four months between graduating college and moving here, I always saw the coming year as a big wall. I didn’t know what was on the other side, nor who. It approached quickly and grew bigger and bigger. There was a lot of uncertainty in whether or not I would be happy here and whether or not I made the right decision. But it’s clear now that I have. I have to take the good with the bad, deal with the dog poop on the street and questioning my Spanish skills constantly, adapt to not having an oven or hair that behaves. If nothing else, it makes for a kick ass story.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

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