When I first moved here, I cryptically put a counter on my phone. One detailed how many days I had been in Spain, the other how many days I had left.
Well, today that counter says one. 265 days in Spain and only one more left. A weak number, that. A huge one in comparison to that small digit sitting there staring back at me. Because while I know where a year went, I still can’t believe it has come to an end.
Right now, in this moment, it feels like no time has passed at all, but as I sift through the memories I begin to realize that the passage of time was sweet and not always so swift. I begin to realize all that I was able to do with the nine months I was afforded.
I read back through these last months and I feel the ways I have grown. I also feel the ways my heart aches at the thought of waking up tomorrow and catching the train that will take me away from this small town that has become my second home.
There is something so bittersweet in the end. On the one hand, I’m excited for the adventure awaiting me this coming month. ( Shout-out to Laura, Michelle, Adrienne L, and Adrienne S for tagging along on this epic trip!!!) On the other, I can’t bear to leave something I’m not sure I’ll ever get back.
The people, the teachers, watching and learning and growing in a way I never thought I would be able to post-college. The way people open up to you and friendships are forged in just the small time we get. The way the children use your name as a sort of mantra, endearment, and command because they can’t fathom attempting to speak anything more than that one syllable, even though I may have tried to coax a sentence or two all these months.
Goodbyes are never easy. And I often refer to my good friend Winnie the Pooh and his infamous quote that still holds so true for me: “How lucky I am to having something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” And that’s how I feel. Lucky. So incredibly lucky. I feel like I could hold this year in the palm of my hand and it would glisten with all sorts of memories and emotions and people- that it might just overflow from the sheer mass of experiences and lives that have filled it.
Words can’t capture it. Pictures can’t hold it. The mind can’t wrap around it. It was friendship and food and wine and adventure and drama and laughter and tears and frightening new places. It was novel.
So without further ado, here is my enders list of things, not unlike my earlier list (so long ago wistful sigh) of things I am oh so thankful for.
25 Things in 265 Days
Here’s to my apartment that I never thought I would find. It has been the place of friendship, parties, and plenty of space to simply live.
To the friends and amazing group of people who made this year unbelievably remarkable. From weekend trips to nightly parties, to celebrating our varied holidays, to pulling pranks, to the people who have made my small town incredibly big.
To the teachers who taught me how to be a teacher, something I swore I would never be. To their friendship and language barriers, to their questions and kindness. To the food they fed me day after day.
To the children. The ones you drove me crazy. Who never stopped talking. Who threw things. Who refused to speak in English and mocked me in Spanish. To the ones who gave me hugs and wouldn’t let go. The small ones who handed me folded up pieces of paper covered in hearts. The crazy ones that made me laugh and question my sanity all at once.
To the friends who helped me learn some Spanish. I may have failed incredibly well, but you did inspire me to keep trying. (Define fluent for me, will you, because compared to that three-year old Spanish child over there…)
To the planes, trains, and buses that got me across some borders. I got to travel to some amazing places. Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, and a large array of cities in Spain. Each place more different and each experience a bit crazy.
To the festivals that filled my weekends with memories and traditional Spanish culture. I got to celebrate like the Romans used to during the festival here in Calahorra, and I can only do that here in Spain.
To the playground right outside my house with all those screaming children. Believe it or not, it did get old, and we yelled at them from our window and seven-year old’s, turns out, know how to flip the bird and make crude gestures very efficiently… slightly offended, more entertained.
To the books and Friday movie nights with the roomies. Free time was a breeze with good literature and good friends to fill it.
To the food that I questioned at first. The small pinchos that never filled me and the strange parts of the pig I’m still not sure about.
To the consumption of wine I got to drink. I will miss the Thursday communal taking of wine and food with friends, but I will cheers to the fact that we did it so consistently and copiously.
To the things that proved true: “I now know that the human spirit is actually far stronger than I realized. I can handle things I didn’t even know I would experience, and realized the power of mind over matter.” When I wrote this seven months ago, I didn’t truly realize how much this would become a mantra. From missed trains, to all-nighters, to language barriers, to the frustrations of teaching, to this week in which I have had to begin my long good-byes. There is a strength that comes from experiences and living in the moment knowing you will have to leave it. It’s been a blessing to experience such a thing.
To the twelve-year-old who robbed me after I brought U.S. money to show and pass around. Afternoon break rolls around and a student enters the classroom, upset because they found a quarter on the playground which means someone stole it from me. Their outrage that one of their own would do such a thing was as warming as the fact that they returned it.
To the friends that made the journey to see me and spend time in my small town. I had two wonderful visitors that made my year. Elizabeth, my twin, traveled to meet me in Italy, where we had an epic adventure. And Megan visited me in Calahorra. (The only person from home to actually witness my life in this small town.)
To the Spanish fashion that I still don’t understand and can maybe never get on board with. I will say this though, the Spanish like their shoes like they like their fiestas- over the top and bursting with color. I’ve never seen so much pom-pom and fringe.
To the waters I dipped my toes in- the Atlantic, the Bay of Biscay, and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
To the art of mastering the selfie-stick and accepting the fact that no matter how absurd you look holding one, it for sure beats the awkward wrist twist selfie. (Which also looks just as conceded as using a selfie-stick, btw.)
To the group hug from around 50 sixth graders and so many wonderful notes and pictures to remember my year and students by from all my classes. (And there were like 25 classes…)
To the art of winging it. For so long the need to over-plan ruled my trips and destinations. But I’ve learned that the best kind of adventures happen when you are least expecting them. Explore without knowing where your feet are taking you and when you find that view or that perfect cafe or that cobbled street take a minute to soak it up. The best sorts of places are the ones off the map.
To watching the grape vines of La Rioja go from full, to bare and stark, to budding. I regret that I won’t be here to see the grapes come into color, but I feel in this small way I’ve come full circle, and that’s a beautiful thing.
To going home over winter break and pulling off the most epic surprise with family and friends during Christmas Break. Something that I will always look back on with a smile.
To Calahorra. I’ve learned that small town doesn’t mean small life. Cheers to you Calahorra and all your strange quirks.
Cheers to my amazing roommates. I can’t even begin to list all the stupid things we’ve done, but it was everything to come home and have a glass of wine while we talked over our days, to the plans we made and the adventures we took. To the movie nights and family dinners. To the giant (GIANT) grasshoppers that always made their miraculous way into the house and the absurd amount of pranks and notes that got slipped under doors. To the memories. And to the future trips that we all have yet to take. #SANSEB
To the 36 day trip through parts of Europe with some amazing people who have selflessly used their vacation time (and left their jobs…haha) to join me. This epic journey is about to commence.
And lastly, to this past week and how it’s okay for good-byes to be the hardest. When I first moved to Spain, I was overwhelmed, stressed, and not a little bit home-sick. I thought that feeling would never go away. But it did. Slowly but surely, I made a little niche in this big country. I learned the basics of the language, started to abide by the strange day-to-day schedule, soaked up those three beautiful hours of siesta, held onto that hunger until two in the afternoon and nine at night. I love the view from my apartment and the tall rising mountains that changes colors depending on the sky that frames it. I enjoy the bus ride through the small towns of northern Spain and watching the old men sit outside with a cigarette and beer in hand. The shouts from the soccer stadium around the corner from my house every Sunday, and most recently all the little girls dressed as brides for their first communion as they walk the streets surrounded by a gaggle of family members. And yes, even the screaming children that roam the playground in the courtyard below my window at all hours of the day. This week has been a hard one filled with good-byes. Hard good-byes. And that’s okay, because if they weren’t hard, this wouldn’t have been the experience it has been.
So here’s to tomorrow and my train to Madrid and my plane off to Scotland. It’s an unparalleled amount of emotions. Sadness, anxiety, excitement, happiness… I jumped and now I’m going to jump again. And jumping means good-byes and changes. But it also means opportunities, and I never would have learned that if I hadn’t first taken that trip across the Atlantic and landed in this small little Spanish town.
So cheers to you, Spain, and all that you have been.