Ahh, my favorite holiday season has already come and gone, and the next one has already begun—quite early I might add. The day after Halloween Santa’s workshop was already set up at the mall. Remind me to stay away for the next 2 months…
I LOVE Halloween. Virtually everyone who has met me knows this. This year was my first foray into couples costume territory, and it was no cake walk. We couldn’t agree on any ideas, dragged our asses all month, and ended up getting in stupid fights about nothing. What was supposed to be lighthearted fun turned into some very real tension. Probably because we both love Halloween so much. Two stubborn heads equal two idiots sometimes.
In the end, we pulled ourselves together, (mostly due to his creative thinking), and had 3 pretty awesome costumes. But we both HATED the bickering. It got me thinking: doing things together helps build a relationship’s foundation. It helps you learn about each other and grow closer. And even if it’s something you’d rather not do, making the effort shows what lengths you’ll go to just to see the other person smile. Seeing them so happy makes it all worthwhile.
But keeping certain things for yourself is just as important. And as the relationship develops, steering clear of certain situations becomes a little less difficult. Without this delicate balance, you’ll end up fighting over who gets to be Max and who’s the Wild Thing for Halloween. In the middle of Wal-Mart. Very loudly. Strangers might even come up to you and say “she’s gonna kill you, you know.”
That didn’t really happen…..
So in all seriousness, don’t discount the importance of doing your own thing. And in all goofiness, read the listicle below. And feel free to add to it!
Closing this chapter wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t take the time to say thank you. The past 10 months has been a journey of self-discovery for me and the ride wasn’t always easy.
But so many of you stepped onto the ride with me when I left home back in September—and even more of you hopped on along the way. You sent me cards and messages of encouragement from across the pond, and you grabbed a coffee with me down the street when I was having a bad day. You kept me in the loop about what was going on in your world, and you helped me explore new parts of it.
Everyday here I woke up to all of your love and kindness right above me, in the form of birthday cards, Galentine’s Day cards, souvenirs from that weekend trip to Amsterdam, and all sorts of just-because trinkets that you’ve all given to me over the past 10 months. Thank you for splashing my world with some color, and for helping me to create a space where I knew I could always have you with me.
To every family member and every friend from Spain to New York, thank you for being such a big part of who I am–and more importantly a part of how I was able to get to where I am today.
I’ve never been too good with change. It always sparks in me a nostalgic longing to relive things all over again. But as I sit on my suitcase to force it shut and sweep up my last hairball on the floor (this poor apartment has seen us lose a lot of hair these past few months), I realize that this chapter is ending at the right time. It wasn’t too long, not too short. And it wasn’t written just for me, but by me as well.
I have no idea what the future holds, and that is quite a scary feeling. Maybe that’s why I often see change as a negative thing. I’d like to change that as I move forward. I’ve never really had a plan, so why start now I guess? Flying by the seat of my pants, with my hair on fire if you will, has led me to great things—including all of you who got me here. And that’s pretty good incentive to keep on going in the spirit of planlessness.
I will be seeing all of you soon, whether when I get home tomorrow or when I come back to visit. So let’s simply leave it at that: I’ll be seeing you.
The past few nights have left me tossing and turning, getting little sleep and waking up with the drizzly morning rain that I’ve come to love and hate. Like the past 200 mornings, I woke up today in my comfy little room, in a city that has grown to feel equally as comfy. Today I didn’t climb out of bed to start my day like always (which normally includes rubbing my ribs where the springs in my prison cot of a bed poke me every night like a torture device). My mind snapped to attention early once again, but before I could even open my eyes I realized that I had forgotten to close my curtains the night before. The blinding sunlight seeped through my eyelids, and when I finally opened them to let it all in, I was greeted by the beautiful view that I haven’t seen through the rain for sometime. There outside my window was the mountain, a statue of Jesus standing guard at its peak. There were the clotheslines strung across balconies, brightly adorned with the stories of the week before in all their cotton glory. And there was a sense of peace and early morning tranquility that I could almost touch. It was another Sunday morning here in Spain, characterized by deliciously lazy starts to the day and relaxation.
Only it was my last of these mornings here in my comfy little room. In my comfy little city.
Unlike other Sundays my roommates won’t be filling me in on my crack at the Ellen’s Dance Dare the night before (HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW ABOUT ELLEN’S DANCE DARE?! Please watch.) I’m not trying to sleep off the tequila shots that allowed me to do the dance dare, nor am I planning on taking my beloved siesta in a nearby park. Instead, I’m trying to squeeze (quite literally) the past 10 months worth of life, memories, sadness, happiness, and impulse purchases into 2 suitcases. And I still have the more difficult task ahead of me of saying goodbye to the place that has housed it all for me.
But it’s never really goodbye if something or someone has become a part of you, is it? So in the spirit of gratitude and not regret, of cya later and not goodbye forever, I’d like to share with you all why Oviedo has become so special to me and so many others.
When you run into your friend on a Saturday morning and she tells you that she isn’t going out that night, a quizzical look usually leads to the following exchange:
“What do you mean you aren’t going out?! It’s Saturday!”
“I had cider last night.”
“Ohhh. Dude, you should stay home. Feel better.”
Which leads us to reason #1: Cider might taste like piss, but everyone is at some point seduced by its charms.
Everyone who has lived in Oviedo has their Cider Night, which usually leads to outlandish drunk behavior and leaves you feeling like you’re on the edge of death for at least 24 hours. The beauty of this Asturian delicacy is that while the first sip springs to mind a comparison like the one above, every sip that follows goes down like water. Because cider is poured in shot-like quantities, your natural instinct (especially if you’re an American who has frequented the house party circuit) is to down it quickly, leaving a few drops to dump out on the ground. A lot of Spaniards shrug off this tradition and choose to slowly sip their cider.
Maybe I should’ve taken their lead on this one—but instead I casually began to throw back glass after glass of the stuff…
What resulted was (clearly) my Cider Night. There may have been others, but I will only admit to the one.
I was told I couldn’t even put my shoes on the right feet by the end of the night. Notice I say “I was told” because I clearly don’t remember. A drink might have hit the wall during an intense dance to “Accidentally in Love” and I might have done something in a bar that I’ve claimed that I NEVER do (those who know me well will easily figure that one out). The night might have ended in tears, but it was by far one of my favorite nights here. Case in point: Cider Night = tasting pee + pure joy + falling over + deathlike hangover + a proclamation that you will never drink the stuff again. Which all equals you going back for more in a week’s time.
2. The kids in Oviedo will teach you more than you could’ve imagined. And call you out on your horrible grammar.
In between going to class and volunteering, I worked with 9 Spanish youngsters as an English tutor. It was a great way to make some extra cash to fund my travels (and many shopping trips to H&M), but I am a far better person because of each one of those kids. I remember helping one of my girls prepare for a science test, and I knew she was ready. A few days later she told me she got a perfect 10 and threw her arms around my neck, and I felt maternal for the first time in my life. It sounds crazy, but working with these kids made me see that I definitely have it in me to comfort, support, and nurture someone whose life and dreams seem so tiny. I might have sighed in relief at this realization, but knowing that my poor children will have to eat Lean Cuisines because their mom can’t cook…I still have to work on that one.
My kids taught me so much more than how to be maternal. They taught me about football, and Game of Thrones, and all sorts of cool things that I was oblivious too. (Did you know that in chess Martín’s king can never be taken? Neither did I until I was educated by said 6 year old). I enjoyed hearing about the perfect test scores and seeing the light bulb go off when they finally understood the past tense, but bonding with them and making them laugh was even more rewarding. I remember being just as hooked on Snowman Adventure as they were.
That’s not to say that things always went smoothly. Some of them were quiet, some of them had sass, but all of them had that filter-less honesty that kids haven’t grown out of yet. So on occasion when I had to get tough and speak in Spanish, whatever sense of authority I possessed was lost as I was told that I couldn’t roll my r’s and all seriousness dissolved into laughter. My phone was taken, focus was sometimes lost…but it was all so much fun.
3. Beer at 11am is perfectly acceptable when it’s essential to the learning process.
Oviedo has a university town feel with so many young people coming from all over the world to study Spanish. But it isn’t just the foreigners that are looking to improve their language skills; so many Spaniards are looking to learn English as well. There are a lot of tandem programs set up so that native speakers of both languages can get together and chat.
I’ve always felt a little more comfortable speaking in Spanish after a beer or a glass of wine. It relaxes you just enough to wash away your fear. Notice I said one glass—anything more will lead to word vomit and the mistaken belief that you are fluent…at least for me…
This attitude meshes perfectly with a particular Spanish philosophy: what better way to celebrate your tandem date/lunch break/the fact that it’s Tuesday than by having a nice beer?
I was lucky enough to have several tandem partners during my time here, complete with many (well spaced-out) alcoholic beverages that helped me learn so many useful things. Do you think a vocabulary class would’ve given you all the slang words to describe the female anatomy? You’d be surprised how many there are in Spanish. And would a translation teacher really tell you how to call someone a pain in the ass? Ok, I know I said useful, but maybe the word inappropriately should’ve been slipped in there first.
I want to finish this one by thanking all of my tandem partners, who have become dear friends to me. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your knowledge, supporting me, and making my time here in Oviedo so much more enjoyable!
4. You will have to deal with real life. And there is no better way to learn.
Living abroad isn’t the piece of cake that some might imagine. Of course I’ve had the incredibly good fortune to travel and meet some wonderful people. But I also had to deal with everything from setting up a bank account to dealing with a landlord who spoke not a word of English. So, imagine the horror when one Saturday morning, this happened:
After our tub gave birth to a big foodbaby, we got in touch with our landlord to help us find a plumber. After several phone calls, drama over the bill, and a day spent with our arms elbow deep in mystery water, everything finally got fixed. Us girls were happy to relish in the Heineken keg we had bought from the store hours earlier—14 euros well spent. And months later I still haven’t forgotten the Spanish word for plumber. Navigating the ups and downs of life is truly the best way to learn. Although clogging your shower with your food isn’t something I recommend.
5. The best things come in small packages.
Oviedo may be the lesser-known sibling of the mighty Madrid and the bustling Barcelona, but its character and quirks shouldn’t be tossed aside.
Need to grab some milk? Just throw on your (best looking) shoes and head to the grocery store down the street. Itching to go shopping? You’re only a 5 minute walk from the stores. Dying to go dancing? Don’t worry, Calle Mon is close enough so you won’t lose your buzz. There’s an ease about living in such a walkable city that I appreciate as a child from the land of Chevy and Ford.
I have gotten to see all kinds of things on my walks that have made up the fabric of my everyday life here–like the peacocks on the loose again in the park or the statues I would pass on my way to class. Like the dogs who are dressed better than people or the serenely sleeping child that face-planted out of his stroller on the way down a set of steps. (He didn’t even wake up, so don’t worry he’s fine!). Smaller cities mean that you often run into people you know, which means that the girl at the printing place strikes up a conversation with you, and the waiter at your favorite café gives you an extra tapa. It makes you feel like the city you have planted your roots in has told you to stick around as long as you like.
6. Finding “your place” in Oviedo is easy.
Anyone who has spent time in Oviedo has their favorite café, their favorite plaza to spend time in. The city offers you countless places to grab a good cup of coffee or snack, but there are a few that will always be close to your heart. The same can be said for the bars you visit on the weekends. Oviedo has a vibrant nightlife, where making friends with the bartenders and DJs isn’t just easy, but it leaves you strolling through the door at 8am Sunday morning.
Whether they gave us free shots, played Gettin’ Jiggy With It for me for the 10th Saturday in a row, or simply greeted us with a smile, they helped to make our nights unforgettable. A special thank you to our favorite guy of all time, David. Playing No Scrubs in a alternative bar for us was the ultimate test of friendship—and you did not disappoint!
7. Because there’s no place like it anywhere.
And that says it all. So to my second home I say gracias por todo y hasta luego xx
It’s hard to believe that it’s already June 1st. 9 months ago, I was avoiding packing up all the things that I’d “need” while away when all I wanted to do was fold up my friends and family, zip them into my suitcase, and bring them along. They were what I really needed. Last September I wasn’t at my best; in fact some of you probably remember that I was quite a mess.
But 12 months ago, I was even more of a mess.
As the calendar once again reads June and I look back on the past year, I realize that I’m not exactly where I thought I’d be. I didn’t end up earning my Masters Degree as planned. I didn’t travel to as many places as I wanted to. I still have moments where I doubt myself and what I think I deserve. I still compare myself to others around me and more often than I’d like to admit I’ve broken down, whether out of heartache, frustration, or just fucking because.
In other words, I’m only human. I knew that coming to Spain wasn’t like in the movies; a montage of beautiful buildings set to a Michelle Branch song (even if only in my mind) wasn’t going to magically make me feel like myself. I knew that it would take more than just a change of scenery. I’m too much of a feeler to shut myself down so easily—and according to some, that’s ok…
“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.”
Wise words, my man. Loving strongly sometimes leads to the most extreme sorrow, so powerful that it causes what you swear is tangible pain not just in your heart, but deep down in your soul. Those of us who love this way, we can’t help but face our sorrow. For us it’s impossible to ignore its presence. In facing it we second guess our decisions, overthink the irrelevant, and sometimes have more ugly moments than pretty ones.
Feeling better takes time and not much else. I’ve come to accept this fact, although I find it to be the most unjust and cruel part of it all—that trusting in time is all we can do. But there is another truth hidden underneath the sadness. Facing everything as it comes and making sense of our feelings is the only way to get better. Letting it all out, no matter how long it takes, is the only true way to arrive at a more peaceful place.
That being said, every journey towards healing has its share of stumbling blocks, some looming larger than others. Mine has had everything from pebbles to boulders. 365 days into my journey and I still have days when I choose to focus on the boulders that are in my way instead of the many pebbles that I’ve crushed as I’ve moved forward. If each pebble represents a tiny victory against my sorrow, when added together they represent mountainous amounts of progress and growth.
I may not be 100%, but I think I’ve underestimated the power of my pebbles.
So What If I Don’t Have My Masters?
It’s never been easy for me to walk away from doing something simply because I didn’t want to do it. I’ve always tried to stand by my decisions, but if you know something isn’t right for you, doing it just to prove that you can is an injustice to whatever your true purpose is. And if I’ve taken anything away from this decision, it’s that sometimes being your own professor in the nonconventional school of life can be just as rewarding. If that means giving yourself an A for making it through your first Spanish doctor’s appointment by yourself, awesome. And if it means giving yourself an F for not remembering the word for “plumber” (when your poor friend told you 20 times in a row—story to follow), even more awesome. You’ll never forget the word again. So hey, you’re the professor…change that F to an A.
Seeing the World: Quality Over Quantity
Traveling isn’t about ticking every country off a list. For me it’s about exploring new cultures and taking a piece of each place with me when I leave. That can be done on a trip to Dublin, or by enjoying the famous cider of Oviedo (along with it’s glorious hangover). Taking a piece of this city with me has been just as important to me as any exotic place I could go to for the weekend. And it’s been wonderfully effortless.
Don’t Focus on Self-Doubt. Look at All You’ve Done!
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why are we (me most of all) so quick to discount all those little pebbles? Why do we believe that we deserve less than other people? We have to give ourselves credit for the things we accomplish, especially when we aren’t feeling our best.
I was lucky enough to see my mom over spring break when she came to visit me for Easter. I was so excited to share in her first trip to Europe and to show her exactly why I love Spain so much. After getting over her jetlag, we left Oviedo and headed for Sicily and Valencia, Spain. By that point finding the cheapest flights, organizing hotels, and navigating my way through airports had become second nature to me. There were several times that I caught my mom looking at me with her teary-eyed “I’m a proud mama bear” look.
“Mom, what’s wrong?”
“It’s just amazing to see you in your element. You are doing something that not a lot of people can do. You know what you need to do and you just go.”
When I stopped and thought about this I realized that I had achieved so many of the goals that I set for myself during my time abroad.
Now I know that I can take care of myself.
I’ve gotten my shit together and grown up.
I can depend on myself to solve my own problems.
And most importantly, I’m no longer afraid of anything.
Individually, these are all little pebbles. Or at least that’s how I had always looked at them. I never even put it all together until that moment. Thanks FT.
As for the question of how deserving we are, there really is no answer. There are people with the purest of hearts who encounter more bad luck than anyone should ever have to. And there are people who belong in the depths of hell that seem to coast through life untouched by negativity. We all make mistakes in life that leave us feeling undeserving of whatever it is we want. But all we can do is treat others with respect and kindness, without forgetting to extend the same courtesy to ourselves. What we think we deserve might not come to us, but that doesn’t mean we should stop striving to be good people at our core, nor forget about the things that we already have. It isn’t always easy, but focusing on the good will never bring us down.
No 2 Situations Are the Same–Resist the Urge to Compare
We all do this. For me it has led to my most self-destructive moments. But the only person we should compare ourselves to is who we are when we’re at our best. Doing otherwise will always result in an unfair fight. There will always be others in whom we see what we think we lack inside ourselves. But never forget that everyone has their own baggage, their own problems. No one is perfect. All we can do is try to let go of what we cannot change, instead channeling that energy into making ourselves better people. In my experience nothing makes us feel better than helping those less fortunate than ourselves.
Random Meltdowns? I think Leo Tolstoy Would Call That “Healing”
This goes back to facing our sorrow. Letting our emotions build up can be dangerous and set us back. Sometimes a good cry is the last thing we want, but it’s what we need the most. It could be guilt that’s eating away at us, or all of the “why’s” that we just don’t understand. Maybe we’re regretting a decision we made that we no longer believe in. Crying might not make it all go away, but it will release some of what’s holding us back.
This is probably the most nonsensical ramble I’ve posted yet, and I’ve probably written it more for myself than anything else. But for every other feeler out there, maybe you can relate! Maybe a year has passed and like me, you’re wondering why you haven’t fully recovered from whatever sorrow is weighing on you. Just promise me (but more importantly yourself!) that you’ll commend yourself for the little victories more than you’ll beat yourself up over the boulders. They may be blocking the way, but it’s only temporary.
One more promise: Live for those who you love of course, but make sure that you are living for yourself first. If you aren’t happy with who you are or where you’re at, make the decisions you need to that will get you there (within reason of course). Because in the end, we are the ones who live with those decisions. We are the ones who live with any regrets. And most importantly, we are the ones who we have to wake up to and face every single day. Live for your purpose, for your convictions, and for your love. If you haven’t found one of those yet, live for the hope that you will.
When I was in 4th grade, life was so much simpler. It was all about tech vests, taking care of my tamagotchi, and arguing with my cousin as the self-appointed leader of team NSYNC vs. her team Backstreet Boys. God it was great.
Paying attention in class was so uncool. Instead, it was all about doodling. It was the era of the doodle. Every girl had the inside of her planner covered with loopy flowers, bubble letters, and professions of love for Justin Timberlake back when he had macaroni and cheese hair. What is macaroni and cheese hair you ask….?
Anyway, while my peers seemed to have a knack for doodling, I could only ever draw one thing: the ever-easy yin yang. And a tree. Ok 2 things.
I’m pretty sure we all scribbled a yin yang or two across our notebooks back in the day. And we all have a basic understanding of what it represents; the good, the bad, a need for balance yadda yadda yadda.
But the cool thing about philosophy is that it’s all about perspective.
The last couple months of my life have been dominated by studying, eating, tutoring, studying, and um, more studying. And eating. In order to prepare for a big Spanish exam in April, I devoted most of my free time to getting myself ready. Because there was an oral part to the exam, a friend and I decided to study together. Every week we would meet to practice, share notes, and do all of that fun stuff. After taking the exam a few weeks ago, we decided to get together to talk about something other than verbs and idiomatic expressions. So over a beer one morning (it’s always happy hour in Spain) I got to know one of the most interesting people I’ve met here.
Victor is from China and came to Oviedo in the fall to improve his Spanish. His kind face and giant smile show no signs of anything but positivity. When I asked him if he had been afraid of moving to Spain by himself, he shrugged his shoulders and responded casually as if I’d asked him for the time. For him, he said, it was a carefully thought-out decision that his self-proclaimed traditionalist mind carefully considered. And when he decided that something was in his best interest, he made up his mind to do it.
If only I had that much self-assurance…
As Victor explained more about his thought process, our tangents led us to the topic of religion. Now, I went to Bible classes and made my communion when I was younger, (I’m having flashbacks of terrible white dresses and disturbing baby Jesus head necklace charms), but today don’t consider myself religious. I’m more interested in the spiritual connection we have to ourselves and each other. Because in my opinion, philosophies we live by determine our values. And values determine how we treat others. And ourselves. Whether you believe in the words of Gandhi, or you still think that summertime is when you spend <3*~aLL dAy in Ur bAtHingSuit & aLL nIgHt looking 4 it~*<3, (thank you Firehot Quotes), everyone believes in something. Words, a feeling, an idea…everyone has their personal mantra.
As I was talking with Victor, he shared his with me. He asked me if I knew what a yin yang was, and immediately I thought of my schoolgirl doodling days. But as he started to explain the meaning behind the popular symbol, I found myself immersed in his story. I don’t think I can tell it as eloquently as he did, but let me give it a try…
A yin yang is composed of energy, naturally the bad being represented in the black half and the good in the white half. We always associate the bad with negativity and good exclusively with positivity, but can they really exist separately from one another? According to Victor and the yin yang, all energy, all emotions, all of life is connected by the good and bad. Just as the happy moments in life are necessary for growth and fulfillment, so are the bad ones. I’ve always believed this to be true; how will we appreciate anything if we don’t stumble a bit along the way?
This is why the white half of the yin yang has a small black dot and vice versa. Nothing is purely good, nor purely bad because we can always learn from each one’s respective counterpart. When it comes to making a decision or moving forward, focusing solely on one flow of energy can be dangerous.
But how can focusing on the good be bad? And Diana are you going to keep rambling on about a stupid yin yang…?
…Well to answer the second question that most of you are probably asking aloud….yes yes I am…
Why do we push ourselves to run that extra mile at the gym? Why do we quit our job or change grad programs? Maybe it’s because of a bad breakup, or because we just aren’t happy with the rut we’re stuck in. It’s often the negativity in our lives that motivates us. Of course looking at the glass half empty all the time isn’t healthy, but if we focus only on the good, are we going to continue challenging ourselves? Contentment doesn’t always equal happiness. And by challenging ourselves to be better or to help others, we are aiming for that happiness.
I find this aspect of the yin yang to be the most interesting, more for the influence that this negative energy in our lives can have than anything else. I believe that the way we carry ourselves during the tough times says a lot about our core. It’s very easy to smile and have a great day when all of the puzzle pieces of your life fit neatly into place.
But how often do the pieces all fit? Isn’t life more often lived with a piece or two missing? Hell, sometimes we say “fuck it” and throw the pieces in the air.
It’s ok to scatter them all over; it’s all about how we choose to pick them up.
It’s true that negative feelings about ourselves along with horrible experiences motivate us to do better. Maybe you want to pull a Pretty Woman and tell off someone who judged you too quickly. Maybe you want to rise above an ex who broke your heart. It’s ok to let other people light that fire under your ass. Sometimes we need that push.
But along the way, it should become about doing it for ourselves. Because at the end of the day, we are the true constant in our own lives.
As I sat engrossed in Victor’s explanation of this philosophy, furiously writing everything down, he mentioned that a yin yang is designed to be turning. Maybe I’m an idiot and everyone else knew this when we were in our doodling phase, but it’s so symbolic of the good and bad in life—and the vulnerability of both states of being.
A lot of us don’t realize what we want, how happy we were, or how lucky we are until something goes wrong. I am extremely guilty of this. Lord knows I’ve taken things for granted in my life, cursing the puzzle pieces of my life as I throw them all over. But talking with Victor about a silly yin yang made me see the importance of dealing with your shit. It’s all about finding the good in your life when you’re feeling down—because trust me, the majority of us are swimming in good 99% of the time. We just choose to focus on the wrong thing, overthinking and wasting energy. As Victor put it, solutions and situations are always changing. So the sooner we deal, the sooner things will come full circle like the yin yang.
When you finally reach that point you had been waiting for, when you land your dream job, or when someone important comes back into your life, the good that you took from the bad will finally makes sense. And you will realize that the best part of all is the feeling of inner peace that only you could give yourself. Well, you and time, because let’s face it; time does a lot for our perspective on things.
As much as I took away from my mini life lesson with Victor, I’m still a realist. If I thought that a yin yang was going to pull me out of the funks I sometimes find myself in, I’d be full of shit. But I know that even the darkest moments will pass. And having a little black and white circle to serve as a slice of sunlight in the dark is very comforting.
I hope all of you start this wonderful new month with a clear head and a fire under your ass.
Light bulbs that go unchanged for days. Random (alcohol induced) dance parties. Shower drains filled with hair. Bras and underwear drying on any available flat surface..
Ahhh, the beauty of living with roommates.
One of my favorite aspects of college was living with my friends. My constant through it all was my dear friend Meagan, who I met that very first day as I carried boxes of clothes and photos into my dorm room, sweating and overwhelmed. Whether it was in the dorms or in our own house, we always had the best time. There were freakouts, deep discussions accompanied by snacks, and of course drunk Jeopardy nights with Alex Trebec. There were tears, but more importantly there was so much infectious laughter, the kind that happens when you laugh so hard no sound comes out. We had different roommates every year, as well as honorary ones who stopped by all the time. Every single one of them made my time at Canisius unforgettable. As the memories replay in my mind every now and then, they’re accompanied by our study music, our going out music, and everything in between. We have our own little soundtrack, and every time I hear one of the tracks vibrate through my headphones, I’m taken back to a particular moment. A particular feeling.
When I first came to Spain as a junior in 2011, I stayed with a Spanish woman who became like a second mom to me. Her name is Concha and when I say she’s a character, she’s a CHARACTER. She doesn’t speak any English, but her favorite sayings happen to be “Oh my gaaaad” and “fucking fuck!” She’s got the important stuff down.
Living with Concha as a study abroad student was awesome. Katie, another Canisius student lived there too, as well as Concha’s two dogs Lili and Mateo. Lili was the sweetest thing and loved to cuddle. As for Mateo…picture Toto in miniature form with bipolar disorder. One minute he would happily wag what little tail he had, and the next he would try to bite your feet with 3 very intimidating teeth. Our favorite dinnertime activity was to pour some of Concha’s pasta sauce (which was the perfect shade of yellow) onto the floor and tell her that Mateo had peed everywhere. She’d then pick him up like a ragdoll and he’d growl, showing those baby teeth of his.
It truly was a house full of crazies.
I had an amazing relationship with Concha, so when she offered to host me again this year I was beyond flattered and accepted. I remember walking through the door back in September and it was like nothing had changed. She still threw out a “fucking fuck” every now and then, and Mateo still had that Jekyll and Hyde thing going on.
There are actually quite a few Canisius grads living and working in Spain at the moment. A bunch of us have plopped ourselves back in Oviedo, having fallen in love with it during our semesters abroad. 4 of us have formed a close group, and the 3 of us that didn’t already have an apartment debated getting our own place for the second half of the year. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense for me. I came here looking for responsibility and growth, and having a Spanish apartment would definitely be a challenge. Paying bills, cooking my own meals, dealing with the landlord…I foresaw many interesting experiences. And while I adore Concha, I felt it was time to challenge myself. In doing this, another student was able to move in with her in January. I’m beyond thrilled that she has already benefited from Concha’s silliness, wisdom, and love.
So after some searching online, the 3 of us found the perfect place. We’re about 15 minutes from everywhere we need to go; our schools, the train station, the old part of town. Most apartments for rent in Spain are furnished, so that’s a nice perk.
But my favorite thing isn’t the furniture.
And it isn’t the I ❤ Justin Bieber/Harry Styles love notes scrawled all over my bedroom walls.
Nope, it’s the view. There’s something very peaceful about waking up in the morning and being greeted by a beautiful mountain and the picturesque houses that are sprinkled alongside it. When I finally take a picture that does it justice, I’ll be sure to share it!
Living with roommates again has been an awesome experience. Throwing the whole foreign country deal into the mix has–just as I predicted–led to some interesting experiences. And I’ve collected some more nuggets for you all. This will be the “Having a Spanish Apartment” edition.
Ok, here we go.
Remember that old TV show, 2 Guys a Girl & A Pizza Place? Of course you don’t. But in order for my clever comparison to work, just nod like you do…
Our life truly is as the title suggests. I live with two roommates, Audrey and Alex, who are both from New York and work in Spanish schools as English assistants. Our friend James, who is also from New York, has his own apartment about 15 minutes away. But it’s not uncommon for him to stop by for dinner or just to hang out. We’re pretty much a 4 package deal, and I’m extremely lucky to have them here on this ride with me. Oh and the fajita place? That deserves its own nugget space…
Every group of young people has their own go-to meal. Mostly because they can’t cook. I’m proud to say that Fajita Friday was born out of this fact.
I am a terrible cook. I read recipes, I try winging it…my mom happens to be a fantastic cook and always tells me to add more spices. I swear, I could dump the bottle of basil in chicken cutlet breading and end up with something that tastes like stale paper. And horrible burns from using too much oil. I guess the Julia Child gene took one look at me and said, “uh, pass….”
Food isn’t too expensive in Spain, but the portions aren’t as big. Those gallon jugs of milk sadly don’t exist here and neither does the huge Country Crock butter tub. Sigh. So most people go grocery shopping a few times a week, stopping by to grab the necessities. And supermarkets, like most everything else, are closed on Sundays. Shocking, I know. Just imagine if Wegmans said, “Sorry we’re closed on Sunday.”
I don’t remember exactly when Fajita Friday began, but it’s what gets us through the week. Ever seen those Old El Paso fajita kits? Well, like Coca-Cola and Claire’s, (yes the store you bought all of your middle school chokers in), it too can be found in Spain. Just add chicken, peppers, onions, cheese, and voila! A meal that never gets old. I must admit, part of Fajita Friday’s appeal is due to the tequila shots that wash it all down. In fact, one particular night is now referred to as “Tequila Night.” More on that later…
Prepare to lose a lot of socks.
Spanish life is incredible. Naps are acceptable, wine is cheap (but delicious), and everywhere you look is a beautiful photo waiting to be taken. Aside from my friends and family, there is only one thing from back home that I miss to the point of tears.
And that’s a clothes dryer.
Most people in Oviedo live in apartment buildings, which leave little space for anything not counted as a necessity. A dryer falls into this “unnecessary” category. When you walk around the city, it’s very common to see clothes lines strung from window to window, adorned with colorful fabrics blowing in the breeze. It’s actually quite charming.
Until you have to do your own laundry.
The truth is, I never minded doing my own laundry at school. It’s not that complicated. But without a dryer, it’s more of a strategic game than a chore. If you want to wear that shirt you love on Friday night, you better wash it on Tuesday. You almost need a day planner to pencil in laundry day.
Like I said, for the most part Spaniards dry their clothes outside. Our apartment has a clothesline attached to the bathroom window, but my roommates and I still can’t bring ourselves to put our unmentionables out there. I started to think we were being paranoid—until I was walking home from class one afternoon and watched as someone’s whitey-tighties fell at my feet in front of several passersby. I immediately had nightmarish flash-forwards of my underwear on display in front of my building, and decided to pass on that part of Spanish life.
So, our dryer rack has become our close friend. Along with our couch. And our dining room table. And every chair in our apartment. For as many bras and shirts as I wash each week, I seem to put fewer and fewer socks on the rack. Either I’m hallucinating, or there’s a sock-eating monster living with us.
Life lesson: stock up on socks before going abroad.
Well my loves, this is where I leave you for now. It’s off to Amsterdam for the weekend! I hope everyone everywhere is having a fantastic week.