Saturday, September 28, 2013

I'm Not in Texas Anymore

After almost 24 hours of traveling, I got to my orientation in Madrid on Thursday afternoon. There's a 7 hour time difference between Spain and Texas, but I slept so little on the plane that I haven't been too bothered by jet lag. Here's a few of the interesting/different things that have happened so far:

The lights in my Madrid hotel room only turned on when the hotel keycard was in this card reader deal. When I first got there, I flicked all the switches, not understanding why none of them worked. I was in the very last room at the end of the hallway, right next to the housekeeping room, so the two ladies in there told me to put my card in the reader. I'm guessing they got a good laugh at me not being able to even turn the lights on.

The view from my Madrid hotel room.
I already almost lost my U.S. phone when I left it in the lobby after using the wifi (which was only free downstairs for an hour before I got kicked off. Thank goodness my Soria hotel isn't like that also or I never would have gotten this posted). After a frantic search, in the dark, through all my bags, I went down and found it in the chair where I’d been sitting. So no more putting phones in pockets for me.

Where I am right at this very moment.
Today I caught a bus to the airport to get on another bus to my city. I slept for about half the trip, but what I saw of the Spanish countryside was beautiful. I had thought a little about staying in Madrid an extra day since I was already there, but I really wanted to get here and get settled. And also not carry my luggage all over Madrid. I did, however, make the decision to walk from the Soria bus station to my hotel. It's only an 18 minute walk according to Google Maps, but that didn't take into account pulling two full suitcases over bumpy, noisy cobblestone sidewalks. I got a lot of funny looks then too.

When you don't have any plates, tea cups will do just fine.
I walked around for about an hour and a half this afternoon, but it started raining so I didn't get any pictures. Hopefully tomorrow the weather will cooperate. I kept seeing people in running gear in the same area and 30 minutes later, I almost walked straight into the starting line of a race. Oops. I bought some fruit and bread from a tiny grocery store for dinner (and breakfast tomorrow) since the hotel doesn't have any kind of kitchen and so many of the cafes were closed until 7. Now that it's dark and rainy, I really don't want to go back out to find anything more substantial.

Trying new foods for dinner! The Spanish chocolate bread really doesn't compare to the delicious chocolate pudding served at the Madrid hotel buffet.
Overall, I have had a fantastic 3 days. I still can hardly believe that I'm living in Spain! Apart from hearing everyone speak different languages. We'll see how long it takes before I start dreaming in Spanish :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Lasts

Well, I'm pretty much all packed, which means that I've moved into the what-am-I-forgetting stage of getting ready to leave. It probably doesn't help that I'm writing this at one in the morning when I really should be sleeping. All the preparations that I had a week to put together are suddenly scrambling around in my brain, trying to all be remembered. Go to the bank, grab that bag, don't forget to find those Spanish notes.

This is the last post I'm going to write stateside. The next time you hear from me, I'll either be in Madrid or Soria, the town where I'll be teaching. As a result, I've been feeling sentimental about everything for the past week, which is not at all how I usually operate. It hits me in waves, the idea that I'm really about to leave everything behind and move across the world. I can still hardly believe it's real; I keep dreading someone's going to tell me it was all a mistake.

And then I come across one of the lasts.

The last hymn I'll sing at my church.

The last time I'll hug my little sisters.

The last time I'll drive by my old high school.

The last movie and TV shows I'll watch at home.

The last time I drive my car.

The last, the last, the last.

It's the little things, I guess, that remind me what I have to give up to reach for something bigger. I have thought endlessly about the things I'll miss while living overseas. And what makes me uncomfortable about leaving is that I'm missing these moments for my own personal satisfaction. I know this time, at least, that I'll see my immediate family at Christmas, and that I'll be coming home in July. But someday, I don't think I will come back. Someday, I'll have my last day as a resident and I'll come "home" a visitor. It's hard to wrap my mind around that, so usually I try to avoid that worry.

But today, that's what I've been thinking about, when I've had a moment to pause. One second, it makes me want to laugh, the next I want to cry.

The terrifying part of traveling for me is not a fear of new experiences, but a fear of what will happen without me while I'm gone. The what ifs start piling up in my head, trying to keep me in place and complacent. It's bizarre to be battling theses thought while at the same time, trying to pack everything I can bring that I think I'll want 3, 6, 9 months from now. I keep second guessing myself on what I'm bringing - well, really just on which shoes I have room for. I suppose that's a signal for me to rest while I can. I've done the best I can in the limited amount of time I had to plan, and now I have faith that everything's going to work out in my favor.

As an old king once told a shepherd - in a Spanish town, no less - "when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." [The Alchemist, Paolo Coelho]

Friday, September 13, 2013

No More Visa Headaches

An update on Spain: I have officially applied for a visa!


I never quite realized how hard it is to arrange things like this until I tried to do it while also working full-time. Plus having to drive to Austin and Houston and dealing with annoying doctor's offices. So now I am done with all my paperwork and not working. It's just a 2-4 week wait until I can pick up my visa [as long as nothing goes wrong with the application, crossing my fingers and toes] and then I will be on my way! Which I guess means I have to start thinking about packing and hotels and apartments and all that jazz.


That kind of planning is completely up my alley. In my horribly boring high school computer class, we did a travel project using Excel and it was the most glorious few weeks of my life. Actually, thinking about that pretend trip - I even sent myself to Spain, along with France and Russia. Unfortunately, this time around I won't be able to fly first class and stay in 5 star hotels.

Someday, someday.

So that's what's going on with the moving out of the country preparations. I'm really hoping I'll be in Spain by September 27th since there's a program orientation in Madrid that I'd really hate to miss. There may be some program people that I can contact to speed up the visa process, but from what I've read, the bureaucracy around getting a visa is notoriously difficult. I'd appreciate any prayers and positive thoughts sent my way!

Monday, September 2, 2013


So this one time, in March, I applied to teach English in Spain for the 2013-2014 school year. [I also wrote blog posts more regularly back then...]

Then I heard nothing more than "Wait until next month and we'll have news" about it for, well, months.

And now I'm going to Spain in maybe 2 weeks. Which I found out not quite 2 weeks ago.

This has obviously caused me no end of hair pulling and panicked Googling as I scrambled to rearrange not only my mental image of the next year of my life but all the actual stuff that has to be done along with that. Pesky documents needed for a visa, bureaucracies and their confusing websites, telling the family I work for I'm leaving the country - and I haven't even begun to think about packing.

But a little stress now is only going to pay off big time over the next nine months because I GET TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY!!!
And I get to go somewhere that looks like this.
[At least, I hope this all works out. I feel like I can't get my hopes up until I've bought a plane ticket at the last minute just in case something goes wrong and they won't let me in the country.]

It has been a long two years since my glorious summer in Peru and I just about went crazy last fall calculating the time it would take me before I qualified for the Peace Corps [my original go-abroad scheme that sadly is not going to happen for a long time]. So as not-ideal as all this documentation and notarization and consulate stuff is, I desperately need it.

And that is not an exaggeration.

I've never quite understood how I came to be so uncomfortable with American culture. [Except for movies and TV. I already have all my shows set to record for the entire next season that I'll be missing. Thank goodness we finally have cable and DVR.] I mean, since I studied human development for three years, I have quite a few theories. But it's weirdly fascinating that, despite all the inherent privilege and cushiness in my life, I can't stand the thought of staying here forever.

Objectively, I know I could have a decent life in suburban Texas. A [small] part of me would rather stay and live la vida cotidiana, an average American life. But one of the most incredible things our culture gives us is a desire to strive for happiness. We feel entitled to live "happy" lives. To have "fulfilling" careers. To reach for our dreams. To have such lofty dreams in the first place. It's such a bizarre first-world, middle class goal.

I don't really know where I'm taking this. I'm just really [cautiously] excited about traveling again and I hope this isn't all ridiculously obvious and boring. I apologize if it is. I'm still having a bit of trouble articulating all the things I feel about getting closer to my international dreams. I always think this is partially because some people don't take me seriously when I say I want to move out of the U.S. Forever. Most people are looking to do the opposite of that.

So yeah. I'm going to Spain. I'll have a multitude of things to talk about so I will definitely be blogging regularly again. And sharing pretty pictures. And hopefully living my dream!