Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Week 10: Four Things I Learned This Week in Spain

{view from la Alhambra}

This has been the fastest and best summer of my life. It seems like I say that every year, but in all honesty, I can remember every day I've been here in such detail that it seems impossible that three whole months have passed by. While the last days of summer are always the sweetest, I'm never quite ready for the season to end and having to come to terms with leaving Madrid and Spain really isn't making this any easier.

{el Generalife}

1. Separation anxiety is a thing. Really, thoughI'm not ready to leave. There's so much about my life in Spain that has opened my eyes and made me think: the differences in the ways children are raised here, the importance of history and the rich and deep history that Spain has, the differences in women's issues between the now three countries I call home, the ways that race is regarded, etc. These are things I haven't even touched upon in my posts here, but that's because I'm still learning; I would never want to put a half-informed observation on here, never want to risk offending any one person, never mind a whole country and culture that I'm not yet a part of. I learn so much every day that I'm here, even on the days when I go about my routine of spending the morning with the kids, having lunch, and hitting up the same cafe and shops in the city center. But as much as I have learned, I know that my journey isn't finishedI still have so much more to learn to gain from here and I seriously CAN'T leave. You see that right? I HAVE to stay here longer. I'm basically obligated to. Realistically I'm fully aware of the fact that I can't stay here any longer (at least not without a visa), nor can I just take a semester off of GW to continue being an au pair in Madrid. In all honesty though, knowing that doesn't make leaving any easier.

{Casa de Zafra}
2. Goodbyes are a bitch. I have gotten so incredibly lucky with my host family that it almost feels too good to be true. My host parents are so considerate and accommodating and always go out of their way to make sure I am comfortable and happy and that I am getting the most of my experience. They've taught me so much about Spanish history and culture and have endless recommendations and words of wisdom. The amazing thing about the au pair-host parent dynamic is that they're not completely authority figures in the way that parents are; they're like cool, older friends who know so much but still get where I'm coming from and what it's like to be nineteen and want what I want. Mine are both such incredibly intelligent and kindhearted people and I've had some amazing, fulfilling conversations with them. Real, good conversation is one of the most valuable things to me and I've appreciated everything they've done for me, every opportunity they've provided for me, while I've been here. I'm so sad to be leaving them and to not know when I'll see them again. 

And let's not forget the kids! I've learned so much about them these past ten weeks and I mean, you can't help but grow to love them. They're incredibly sweet and adorable, even at their "worst." They're both going to grow up to be such amazing people and it hurts to think I won't get to see it happen. It's impossible to live with such an amazing and inspiring family for three months without getting attached, and I expected as much coming in. I just didn't know it would hurt so much to leave. Would it be a tad bit clingy if I moved in forever and never, ever left?

{view from Mirador de San Nicolas}

3. Being a romantic doesn't make you hopeless. Javier and I were discussing how dating differs across countries and cultures and we got to talking about flattery and compliments. He taught me the words halagos and piropos, which describe excessive, flirtatious flattery, used when a suitor tells the object of his/her affections that he/she is beautiful or smart or funny or whatever. I told him how behavior like this can sometimes be not only annoying but also offensive. Why use words you don't mean? Why ruin them or debase them or devalue them by using them when you don't fully and completely mean the sentiments they convey? If you tell someone that you love them you (hopefully) mean it. In the same way, why call someone beautiful or kind or inspiring or funny if you don't mean the compliment in the fullest and most sincere way possible? And this goes beyond romantic relationships, too. We should use our words consciously; otherwise we risk doing an injustice to the words themselves or to the people we share them with. And in the case of my conversation with Javier, the excessive nature of using words all willy nilly detracts from the very compliment, turns it into something that isn't the simple act of one person offering a kindness to another, one person expressing their interest for the other. It's an insult to words and an insult to the person you're throwing them at.

Javier responded by laughing and saying that if he thought a woman was beautiful he was going to tell her; if not, he sure as hell wouldn't tell her she was ugly. I laughed and told him that was besides the pointthe issue is when you use words you don't mean one hundred percent, when you throw around compliments and words of love and affection when they do not fully or accurately reflect your true feelings. It's dishonest and insulting. We're all adults here. There's not need to feed each other sugarcoated lies, sweet and meaningless compliments. Javier just looked at me and smirked. He explained to me, in Spanish, that he thinks the issue here is that I'm a romantic.

{hello MTV, welcome to my crib}

I looked at him and scoffed. Me? No way. I mean when you grow up on a diet of Disney and Bollywood, you can't help but have a certain appreciation for fairly tale romances. But then you grow up and mature beyond that. I sometimes joke that any bit of romanticism I hold is balanced with just as much cynicism.

But after I explained this to him, he pointed out that I clearly valued sincerity very, very much, that honesty and truth in words and sentiments were important to me. I couldn't disagree; I'd said as much myself. But he pointed out that the world doesn't exactly work that way. I nodded. This was true, too. He just looked at me and told me to be careful, that "alguien puede hacer mucho daño," meaning that someone could easily hurt me, and that I should remember that life doesn't work the way I wanted to. After all, not everyone regards and values words and their usage in the same way.

I was shocked. Javier barely knows me. Our conversations barely skim the surfaces of our strong opinions and beliefs; the most interesting thing Javier knows about me is that I don't eat meat. And while this is particularly rare and "exotic" in Spain, it's not exactly some groundbreaking truth about my soul.

{Palacio de Dar al-Horra}

And yet here this man was, clearly having figured out something I wasn't too happy to know about myself. But I guess just because I'm a *shudders* romantic doesn't mean I have no hope, no control, no sensibility. I don't expect the world to be a better place than it is and I don't live my life with some idealistic hope and vision of what it should be. I know what I want (in this case, for people to value words as they deserve to be valued, and to recognize the weight that they hold) but I'm not so blind as to think that my dreams are reality. So I guess this is me coming out in the open as a romantic. But hey, it's okay because any sense of hope you throw my way I'll be sure to knock down with a healthy dose of cynicism and skepticism. Because I'm no Carrie or Charlotte; I'm Miranda, goddamnit.

{bus ride to Granda}

4. Granada is perfect. I went on my second solo-travel trip this past weekend, and while Granada doesn't have a beach, it is an amazing city. I lucked out with the weather and managed to avoid the stifling humidity that's common in the South during this time of the year, and I found a pretty good hostel and cheap bus tickets. I spent my days in Granada exploring the Alhambra and other monuments around the city, walking through the most beautiful streets, and eating at great cafes and bars. My favorite thing about Granada is definitely the architecture. The city is characterized by its Islamic historical legacy and you can see the Spanish-Muslim influence everywhere. I loved letting myself get lost in random streets all over the city and just appreciate the unique houses and buildings everywhere. And because the city is so hilly, I got to see some amazing views, extending from the city outskirts all the way to the mountains.

{check out the hands on this one}

I have two weeks left and plan on finishing everything on my Madrid bucket list this week. That way, my last few days in this city will be spent just redoing my favorite things rather than rushing to fit everything in. Hope you are all enjoying the end of the summer!

{Casa del Chapiz}
{merienda at a cave in Sacromonte}
{el Bañuelo}
{el Generalife}
{more jardines}
{la Alhambra}
{la Alhambra}
{outside el Palacio de Carlos V}

{la Alcazaba}
{exploring los jardines del Generalife}
{Corral de Carbón}
~ V
Read also:Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5Week 6Week 7Week 8, Week 9

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