Monday, December 12, 2011

Oh, Spain...

Today is a day that I miss Spain. Perhaps not Spain, but Spanish. Or, perhaps, my Spanish friends. Or even just the experience of being overseas. There are so many aspects of exchange that no one ever really explains to you, or that you truly don't understand until you are in that particular moment. Exchange was so much more than just going to another country and going to school. It was and still is a life changing experience, that has taught me so much about myself, life, God, and the world that he created.

I can't believe that it's been so long since I left Spain. I had coffee with one of my friends today, and we were talking about coffee, and I started remembering a cafe that I used to go to, that would give you a free croissant with every coffee... It was such a fond memory, and I just started crying. There are moments where I just forget how much I love Spain. It truly was the small moments that made Spain the Spain that I love.

I was at work the other day, when I served a customer who was planning a trip to Spain. It got me so excited, and we were able to talk about where she was going to go, what she was going to visit, and her expectations for her trip. It got me thinking of my Spain, of my memories of the country that has gently shaped and molded who I am. I have forgotten so much of Spain. So many little things, that used to be so normal, I have to think hard to remember. Driving home today I remembered that in Spain there are no 40 km/h School Zones. When I was in Spain, that was completely normal. Today I found it unusual. I can't believe that I have reached a point where I am beginning to forget aspects of Spain, where the Spanish way is beginning to feel foreign, when, a year ago, I felt like a Spaniard. I miss it. I honestly miss it. I had the most challenging year when I was in Spain. I had a challenging host-family situation, that made me grow up in many aspects, and meant that I had to learn how to be my own best friend. Exchange wasn't an easy thing. I was looking at my diary, from it's entry a year ago today, and it said (translated to English):

"I want to say, 'Enough. Enough already.. I'm going now." Sometimes, I want to go to Di's house, or go to Jordan and stay there till February. But, as I say this, I know that I'm not going to leave. I'm not going to give up. I hope that by the time I come back to Australia, I'll look at who I am and be content with that. When I think of all the things to do, my body sits up a little straighter, I feel a little lighter... Sometimes life throws things into our lives - somethings by our own consequence, some things that we didn't plan at all. But I so pray that I will be able to take the life God has given me, and do something worthwhile with it."

Although it was difficult, it was unbelievably fantastic. I was able to see and experience so much. I got to spend an hour today talking about all of the things that I loved about Spain. About walking to school and seeing Moncayo, the snow capped mountain in the distance. Driving to France through the Pyrenees Mountains, covered in snow. Traveling to Burgos, Leon, Santiago de Compostela, hearing the different languages, experiencing the Basque culture. All of the coffees, my friendship with the owner of one of the cafes. Ordering a cappuccino and instead getting a shot of coffee and whipped cream. Walking the winter streets, smelling the roasted chestnuts being sold on ever street corner. The timed pedestrian lights. Walking everywhere, everyday. Watching the flamenco. Speaking Spanish. Eating Spanish food. Having Spanish friends. Walking to the Jesus statue in Tudela, and being able to see the whole town, beautiful in its architecture and culture. The funny bins. The bread, oh, the bread. Buying Javier little presents. The pipas. The lolly stores. The cobble-stoned streets. That I lived in a town over a thousand years old. The bridge crossing Tudela, and the history it held. Seeing original Goya artworks everywhere, and finding it normal. Traveling around Europe, discovering the smallest and biggest things about those places and about myself. Spanish friends. Coffee with my Spanish friends. Taking an hour over delicious ice cream to learn how to say 'I laughed at them' and 'They laughed at me'. Coming back to school after the summer, surprising everyone with my ability to speak Spanish. Watching Spanish movies. Going to the movies on a Monday, eating Burger King, and then stuffing ourselves with lollies, and spending an hour to walk home, because it was so windy. Oh, the wind, how I miss how windy Tudela was. Tudela was incredibly windy, all the time. I miss walking everywhere, rain, hail or shine. Reading Harry Potter in Spanish. I miss it. I miss it all so incredibly much.

It was at about this time last year, that my Spanish had really reached a point where I was confident in my speaking skills. I entered into November with the confidence and ability to speak and communicate easily... my thoughts were so easily and comfortably always in Spanish. November was when my Spanish dreams became nightly, where I began to tell Spanish jokes. December was a month in which I finally felt like I was Spanish. Everyone says that it is during the last couple of months that your exchange experience is heightened, because your language skills have finally arrived, and they were so spot on. My friendships really blossomed, and I felt... at home.

Today I miss Spain. And I think a part of me will always miss Spain. But that's ok. Because I will always carry a bit of Spain with me, and I know I will always be a little bit changed because of the Spain that showed me how to celebrate everything, to rejoice, and to take time to enjoy the little things.

"It is such a weird feeling, knowing that I have three months left of my exchange, which will go really quickly, and then I'll be in Australia. I am beginning to understand how little time I have left, and how I need to keep grabbing everything my exchange has to offer with both hands. Exchange is not easy, but I think I've been given an extremely incredible year. Here I am, in another country, living a culturally different life as a local, speaking a different language and gaining a second home along the way. Some days are great, where I don't have trouble speaking, where I feel like I'm progressing everyday, and other days where I feel like I haven't improved at all and that I should just pack up and give up. The excitement of the adventures, the family, the friends that await me in Australia are so alluring, that I need to tell myself often to focus on the now. On the today. On Spain, and what it has to offer. Before I came to Spain, I was petrified of the whole year aspect of the exchange. I thought that a year would mean that when I came back everyone would be gone, that everyone would forget that I existed... that if I left, I wouldn't come back to the same Australia. I can't say that nothing has changed and that it'll be like I never left, because I don't know that yet. I don't know what going back will be like. All I know, is that there was no reason to be petrified. There is no reason not to go for the year. I will have Australia for many more years to come (I hope!), but I will only ever have Spain, this experience, this time of my life once. That is a blessing that I still don't comprehend. This year has been the perfect year for me, filled with so many good times, so many challenges, so many events that have made me grow up a little. So many times where I've realised how much I need God in my life, how I need to follow Him, and celebrate the life He has given me. Life here in Spain has shown me a new type of celebration, a new type of joy, a celebration that is as old as this country, a joy that is as strong as its people. A joy that I pray I've been able to bring into my life, so that when I come home in February, I'll be able to have a little bit of Spain and the people I love dearly with me. There is a warmth here, that I love. A passion for life, a sense of 'eat now, work later', that both infuriates me and makes me laugh. Spain is filled with contradictions. Spain makes me angry, frustrated, but also content and joyous. Australia will, hopefully, be seen with news eyes. Eyes that have come from a country that celebrates everything, enjoys everything, that loves everything, that is passionate. I hope I will be able to see Australia with these things in mind.

Sometimes I wish I could bring Tudela back to Australia. It would make things so much easier."