Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Greece, Part One (Athens)

I cannot emphasize enough the contrast between my first welcome to Spain and the one I received this time around. Whereas I first arrived in Spain in September 2011 with two large suitcases (one of which was missing a wheel for whatever reason), with a limited knowledge of Spanish, and with no idea where I was supposed to go, this time I was greeted at the airport by Susan and Dani and got a ride by car directly to the apartment. Along the way, we talked in both English and Spanish, and I even got to impress/insult Dani with an elaborate Spanish blasphemy that I had learned in my wonderful profe's class last year. Although the weather was grey and wet, the welcome I received this time around was a warm cup of hot tea compared to the sweaty, sun-burnt, exhausting lack of a welcome Madrid first gave me.

To be honest, I was somewhat worried about living in a bigger city too. I've never spent more than a week or so in a big city, so the prospect of spending the next three months here was somewhat terrifying. I'm typically a fan of smaller towns, even if they lack as many options for gluttonous activities. Fortunately for me, Susan has been living in Getafe, which is a much smaller barrio of Madrid. So, as it turns out, although Getafe is just a few train stops away from the city center, it's tranquil and uncrowded here. Plus, this is the view from our terraza:

Susan and I had a very enjoyable anniversary weekend the weekend after I arrived. We took a stroll through the nearby park, Los lagos, and made a trip to Sol, in the city center. We cooked a delicious meal of salmon and rice on Saturday evening, where we learned that sometimes companies use cashews when making pesto, and are much less likely to make that abundantly obvious here. Thankfully, my allergic reaction was extremely mild and, from what I could tell, entirely external. On Sunday, we ate at a nearby Japanese restaurant in Getafe and got some sushi that was overpriced but riquísimo.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Here we go again.

After spending a couple of years trying to figure out what's next in this strange journey we call life, I've met with the good fortune of having the opportunity to return to Spain for a few months this summer. As I pack up my suitcase and get the last of my things together, I can't help but reflect on my initial journey to Spain in 2011. How much can change in a span of only two years!

* At this point, I no longer face a seemingly-insurmountable language barrier. Before, I was hoping to improve upon a very basic linguistic foundation. I've since immersed myself in two different Hispanic countries and I've practiced with native speakers from all over. I've formally studied the language from a more technical perspective. Now it's possible for me to be focused on adding colloquial phrases and idioms to my repertoire.

* I now have a TEFL certification and a lot more teaching experience. I spent a year in a MA in Teaching program and did student teaching at the high school level. I then went to Costa Rica last summer and obtained my TEFL certification, allowing me to professionally teach English to people in other countries. If the me of today met up with the me of 2011, I'd have a lot of suggestions and ideas for myself that only experience has taught me.

* I've traveled to Central America! In addition to studying different dialects in the classroom, I've managed to live in another Hispanic country and pick up on their dialectal differences and compare them to those of Aragón. I hope to study more of those differences within Spain now that I have a firmer grasp of the language and a wider sample group.

* And perhaps one of the more exciting differences is that I'll have a travel partner along the way (Susan!), something that was severely lacking in some of my previous adventures. Traveling alone was something that I became accustomed to during my time in Spain. It was an experience that challenged me to learn more about myself and to do a lot of self-reflection. However, there is a sense of longing for someone else to share those experiences with when you're on the road alone. I look forward to Susan's good company and the new memories we will make together.

I'm excited to reunite with Susan and some of my old friends from Teruel. I can't wait to make new friends, either. Unfortunately, experience doesn't truly dull the pain of navigating airports and being sedentary for over eight hours at a time. It's a small price to pay, I suppose.

¡Adiós de nuevo, Kentucky! Nos vemos dentro de poco.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

And so it ends...

My last week in Spain was spent teaching and going to goodbye dinners. There was little time for sleep, which, in conjunction with the intense heat outside, did little to help my mental and physical state. When I did try to squeeze in a siesta, I was interrupted by the sound of open windows being forced shut and open again by the wind. I couldn't lock them shut because then I'd be too hot to sleep. As a result, I was kind of zombie-like for a solid four days. I enjoyed the company of students and colleagues and friends, but by the end of the week, I was having extreme difficulty concentrating on half the things they were saying. And while I had absolutely nothing planned outside of a few relaxing hours of packing, I was convinced to go hiking on my last day in Teruel.

It was Friday and the weather was incredible. Unfortunately, it was incredibly hot too. I prepared by applying sunscreen to every exposed part of my skin except for the back of my neck. I would later regret that decision. I met up with my friends, Libby and Eva, and we went hiking to the ruins of a small Iberian village about two miles from Teruel. There were signs posted that informed interested passersby about the history of the site, but it was entirely too hot and I was too sleep deprived to focus on it. I did find various pieces of broken pottery and Eva lectured me on the differences between Iberian creations and Roman handiwork.