Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Week 9: Five Things I Learned This Week in Spain

{la playa}

The sadness is starting you guys. Just a few days ago, I was complaining about what I would do to fill my time here. My routine was beginning to feel monotonous, especially when all the au pair friends I made here left and I had to sort of start over making new ones. And here I am, with only three weeks left and already sad about all the goodbyes I'll have to say to the people and places in this city I've called home. I've started focusing on what I'll miss so that I have time to especially appreciate it and fully come to terms with having to leave. This way, I (hopefully) won't be a tear-stained mess at the airport, and I'll be able to leave without any regrets. Here's what I learned this week:


1. Poetry jams are freaking amazing. While I've taken some creative writing classes in which we've had to read our work aloud, I've never actually gone to a poetry reading. This past week, I went to one in the city and absolutely loved it. Most of the poems were in Spanish, and while I could glean the meanings of most words and the overall project of the poem, I knew I wasn't getting all I could out of the experience. That is, until the last poet went up on stage. This guy was just amazing. He performed his poems in a way that was unique from the other presenters, relying on music, pop culture references, and even humor in his pieces. He spoke in half English, half Spanish, and kind of yelled and sang his words rather than saying them. His words didn't sound hokey or forced or pseudo-intellectual or like he was trying to play the role of some tortured artist; it all worked and all the elements of his performance blended so well together. To give you a better idea of his performance, his first piece on the Age of Information included references ranging from Hannah Montana to Ulysses, while his second was performed to the beat of "We Will Rock You," and required the audience to get involved. I'm definitely going back before I leave (hopefully this week!), and I'm going to start going to more poetry jams in D.C. when I get back.

{wandering Valencian streets}
{streetlights in Valencia}
2. Traveling alone. Friends have been recommending solo travel to me from the start, and because I feel so safe in Spain (even without a cell phone that has internet access!) I decided to give it a go. I went to Valencia this weekend, and while the beach itself was quite dirty, I had such a great time. I woke up when I wanted, ate whatever I felt like, and I did what I desired. It sounds so simple, but it's more liberating than you'd think, and as much as I love traveling with friends or family, I definitely want to travel alone more often. I didn't feel lonely even once, and I loved being able to take in the city at a pace and level that fit exactly what I felt like in the moment.

{perfectly blue skies at the beach}

3. Speaking Spanish. I only just realized this week that I won't be able to speak Spanish every day when I go home. I don't have room in my course load to take any more Spanish classes, and of course I won't be able to walk the streets of D.C. and greet every shop owner and server in Spanish. Doing a language exchange has helped me so much and when I'm back in D.C., I'm really hoping to meet with a fluent native speaker who I can speak with for a couple hours a week in just Spanish.

{beautiful balconies}
{Valencian architecture}

4. The importance of having time to yourself. When you live on a college campus, chances are that you don't get a lot of "me" time. I generally spend my days around my roommates, drowning in piles of textbooks (or let's be real, spending hours skimming through Buzzfeed articles), at an internship, or out with friends. And when I do have a few moments alone, I tend to waste it catching up on TV shows or reading crappy books to distract myself from how stressed I am, rarely letting myself just sit down and think and enjoy time by myself. And as much as I love everything about my life back home, sometimes it's nice to break away from the bubble that is your college campus or your city or even your friend group. It's nice to be able to take a step back and just reflect on what matters to you and who you are outside of your setting. And when you have a commute that forces you to spend three hours a day alone and inside your head, you get to think, a lot. I've done so much reflecting about myself, my goals, and what's important to me and it's been huge for me. I've had some breakthroughs and a whole list of things to focus on for this upcoming school year, including but going beyond just the academic. At first I used to resent my stupid bus schedule. Missing one bus can sometimes mean waiting one or even two hours for the next. But now, I really value it. It's amazing to have time to reflect on your day as you return home, or on your weekend after a trip to a new city. While I won't have that when I go back to D.C., I'm now going to make a more conscious effort to really unwind and think, rather than using TV or books to cope with stress.

{puffy clouds at Nuevos Ministerios}

5. What home feels like. I used to go to India every other summer and I would straight up bawl at the airport each time I arrived and left. When I left, it was because of all the family I was leaving behind and because I didn't know when I'd be back (especially considering it's now been six whole years since I've been to India), but when I came it was because I just felt an overwhelming sense of home. I don't consider myself to be an overly-romantic person, but the idea of feeling so incredibly connected to a city in which you're nothing but a tourist, in feeling such a sense of home and belonging and love, of it hurting because of how much it means to you and how happy you are to be backall of that is just so sentimental. And now I miss India every day, and it seems like as more time passes the more often I think about it. The streets, the corner shops, the smells (both good and bad), the dogs, the homes, the heat, the smell of the freaking rain. It just hurts because of how much I want it and how long it's been since I've had it, especially since I'm so connected to it. I was born in Bombay, but there is so much more to why I think of it as home.

And now that I've been in Madrid and I'm so incredibly aware of the little time I have left, I'm starting to get that sadness. How long is it going to be until I step back on Spanish soil? How many years am I going to be haunted by memories of everyday, mundane details of living here to the point where it hurts? I knew before I came here that I was going to fall in love, but I think at the back of my head I always regarded this as a sort of romantic idealization of a country I knew nothing about; I didn't take myself too seriously. And for a while I thought I was right; for a while I worried that I expected too much of this trip, more than any place can offer a person. But here I am, with only three short weeks left (even midterms are longer than this!) and I'm sad because it's going to hurt not only when I leave, but for weeks and months and years after. And I know it will, because it already does.

It took me less than a month after moving into college to call D.C. home, but I don't think until I missed it as much as I do this summer that it ever fully and completely became home. I starting longing for my city and my monument runs and my cafes and my friends and my cupcakes and my metro the way you do when something truly becomes yours. But all I've done while I've been here is just breathe the city in. I've had hardly any responsibility and when you don't have an internship and a full course load taking up all the time you have to think, you get to relax and just open your eyes and take it all in. I love this country and damn it, three months just isn't enough.

{driving through miles of sunflowers}
I'm struggling to cope with the fact that I leave so soon, but I'm more motivated than ever to make the most of my time here. I hope you guys enjoy the rest of your week!
{arriving in Valencia!}
~ V

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