What I'm Thankful for this Thanksgiving

Celebrating Thanksgiving in Spain

It isn’t that I’m counting, it’s just that I’m counting. My phone tells me how many days I have been here, and I enjoy the momentary marvel I get when looking at the number. And we are already at Thanksgiving and 77 days. Woah.

77 days today. To some that might seem small. To me that seems acceptable. That’s two months and then some. Two months of figuring it out, of exploring, of writing and taking shameless selfies. I’ve probably consumed well over twenty bottles of wine at this point and who knows how many ounces of bread and potatoes.

And of course, it being Thanksgiving and all, I wanted to take a moment to be thankful for the things I’ve learned and the people who have always supported me.

1. I’m Thankful for Hilarious Moments that keep me Laughing.

This past weekend I went into Logrono to get my NIE card, which will basically allow me remain in Spain for the remainder of the year. You get a ticket and sit in a large waiting room until your number is called to go back and pick up your card. Some of the girls who are also teaching in Calahorra happened to be on the bus, so we all went together.

We are sitting, waiting, and I put my things down and holler that I’ll be right back, I just need to use the restroom real quick.

I proceed through the door next to the waiting room, close the stall door shut, take care of business, then attempt to leave. Attempt because the door will not open.

Thought process: Okay, that’s strange. I mean I can’t be the only one that has had to pee in here today. No, wow, that’s really stuck. Okay, let’s pull at the bottom of the door that’s too small a gap for me to crawl under. Okay, let’s shake the frame ah shaky but nope, still won’t open. No, no, don’t panic. They will notice you’re gone for longer than a normal bathroom break. Unless they think something is terribly wrong. Oh my God. What if they never come to find me? What if I’m stuck in here for hours. And there’s the claustrophobia, kicking right on in. The walls are closing in. No, no, stay calm. No, don’t stay calm. Shout for help. Yell.

I proceeded to yell for help until a gentlemen poked his head in, thoroughly confused and concerned, to which I explained the door would not open. Off he goes to fetch help, bless him. And four guys, two ladders, three credit cards, and one fatal push later, I’m free. Twenty minutes of my life I’ll never get back and a strange, hilarious memory that will live on. I’m the girl who was stuck in the bathroom. The entire waiting room was concerned, and I was able to get my appointment right after my freedom, being introduced as the girl who got stuck in the bathroom and needs her card right now.

Not only did one of my friends come and make sure I was okay, she also recorded some of the prime moments.

I'm laughing so hard, I'm crying.

2. I’m Thankful for Being Able to Travel

I feel so lucky that my work schedule allows me five days off every other week. And I’ve honestly started to really appreciate it as more and more travel opportunities present themselves. Part of my goal with taking this new job and new path was to spend more time traveling and losing myself in other cultures.

Traveling, though, isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. It can be stressful and expensive and time-consuming when planning. I’ve experienced all of this first hand. I’ve missed flights, missed trains, traveled for hours by bus to get to an airport to wait and wait for the plane to board. Slept in some horrible hostels and learned the value of earplugs and an eye-mask.

But all this, in the end, actually makes the experiences I get to enjoy much more amazing. I’ve stood at the edges of countries, looking down into the plunging waters of the Atlantic. I’ve said a prayer in a church built-in the 13th century. I’ve walked along the same stone paths that Romans walked, stared up through the iron bars of the Eiffel Tower, dipped my toes in the cold waters of the Mediterranean. I’ve consumed a beer in Germany, a pint in Ireland, a glass of white in Italy, a glass of red in Spain, champagne in France, and of course enjoyed the food that went along with it.

I’m so incredibly blessed to have friends who have shared these journeys with me, and vastly thankful for the strength and courage instilled within me that has allowed for solo travel as well.

I’ll never stop being thankful for the places I’ve been able to go, and the others that are still yet to come.

3. I’m Thankful for Family and Friends, for They are Everything.

In Spain, the Spanish have an overwhelming belief in this. The children stay home till they are 30, and if they move out they visit frequently. It is so common to find a generation of families all in the same small town that their great-grandfather first built his farm in. They believe in being together, and to me, they are richer for it.

Families in the States don’t think along those same lines. Especially in the north, in the many great cities that house children and adults alike from all around the world. There is an expectation of discovery and separation that encourages youth to leave home and perhaps put many miles between themselves and it.

Example A.

And while there are days I wish I was home, there is also always a great comfort in knowing I have a home waiting for me. My family is there. They are loving me from afar. Skype doesn’t do as hugs could, but it’s enough to hear them speak, to keep up with daily life, and know that I still have a spot in it, despite the miles between us.

At the same time, I have to thank them. Thank them for having faith in me. For believing that I could undertake this thing that I was never actually sure I could. (Though I talked a fantastic talk.)

To my father who didn’t question my quitting my job or filtering through my responsibilities to do something awesome. To my mother who didn’t cry when I turned to walk towards the airport and who handed me a gift of love and support by inviting my friends to see me off. To my sisters who message me almost every day to comment on daily life, assure me I’m missing nothing, and carry on in our usual way of complaints, frustrations, celebrations, and successes in life. How small an ocean seems when nothing at all has changed. And to friends who have shown their love in an ever-growing number of ways. From a simple Skype call, to a message, to a note, to a box of absolutely necessary goods to keep me sated during my time abroad.

It’s because of them, my family, that I even bother to jump when I could, just as simply, stand still.

  1. I’m Thankful for feeling small and finding it the biggest joy yet. For making mistakes that make me feel so deeply humbled. For meeting new people and feeling instantly comfortable with them, strangers though they may be. And for forgetting to care and finding it the most liberating of all.

On my most recent trip to Ireland, pausing inside a cafe to take tea during my exploration of the Northern coast, I met two woman doing the same. They both were in their 30’s and from Ireland. It was their first time exploring the north, and they commented that they couldn’t believe they had waited so long.

We began to talk, each sharing stories of places they had been and life. Commentating on the strangeness of it.

“I think it’s time to settle down, though I never thought I would settle where I had grown up,” one had commented.

“I think our roots always bring us back, no matter how far we go.” My ever dramatic response.

“I wonder what it is about traveling that makes us feel so, I don’t know, good?” she follows with.

“It’s because we forget to keep caring. At home, surrounded by normalcy and expectation, we care. We care what people think, what clothes we wear, what we sound like, what our job is. But when you travel, it all goes to the bare minimal of just making do.” I continue on with my dramatics.

She had burst out laughing, nodding and gesturing to her friend. “That’s exactly it! That’s exactly it.”

I can’t say that in that singular moment it all became clear, but our conversation did make me see the truth of it; why I even wanted to do this. Why I wanted to quit my job and take on a new one that was more travel and less work. That was more chaos and less organized.

I was tired of caring.

Not in the way that it sounds, but in the way of always trying to please. Please myself. Please others. Please expectations. In a strange way, being away from that all almost makes you care more, but more about the important things. The things that really matter.

Thanksgiving in Spain

Tonight we will be hosting a very large group of people from all over- Australia, Bulgaria, Spain, The USA, France, England, Ireland, and I’m sure some countries in between. It’s going to be a very different, non-traditional Thanksgiving, but one that will still be full of friends, laughter, and good food. (Minus the turkey though because if you ask for one here they will wonder what on earth you would want it for.)

So thank you Spain, for your never-ending challenges, friendships, and for leaving the world-wide open. I’m thankful for all that’s happened and all that’s yet to come. #ayearinSpain #chessyendingforthewin