Calm down. Slow down. Don’t worry. Don’t hurry. Trust the process.
A close friend of mine sent me these words of encouragement before I left for Spain, and I have repeated to myself them every day since.
About two days before I left for Spain, my assigned placement changed completely. I was originally told I would be teaching in a primary school in a city. My assignment changed to a high school in a pueblo. Thank goodness I’m from a sprawling urban center in Kansas (note the sarcasm), or culture shock could have been even worse. I discover that the town I’ll be in has limited bus access, so I’ll have to be very intentional when planning any weekend trips I take. Not to mention I won’t know anyone in the town upon arrival.
Upon landing in Madrid, I expect to see my fellow Teach in Spain Volunteers waiting in the arrivals section of the airport (since I was told they would be). After meeting what seems like 50 people studying abroad, I determine that my group is not in this section of the terminal. Since I can’t find anyone from my program, I decide it would be best to call the program coordinator. I don’t want to use my cell phone because of the international charges, so I decide to use a pay phone. I need money to use a pay phone, so I decide to go to the ATM. The ATM in this terminal “no esta en servicio”. Great. Wait! I can access the airport wifi and e-mail the coordinator! That seems like a really good idea until my computer doesn’t detect wifi within the airport. Panic ensues! Well, I guess all I can do now is walk the terminal in hope that I find someone who looks just as lost as me. About 30 minutes later, my wish is granted. “Excuse me, are you here with the Teach in Spain Volunteer program? Yes?!” (NEW BEST FRIEND!) I finally find a functioning ATM and withdraw some money, but the airport payphones are a nightmare to use. Mi amiga nueva and I decide the best thing we can do is head back to the arrivals area and hope that someone will show up looking for us. We finally encounter the program coordinator about an hour and a half after our flight landed.
The Teach in Spain Volunteer group is a diverse group of people, and I feel so honored to be a part of it! While most of us are recent college grads, some are still in college, some have masters degrees, and some of us just want a break in our careers. Nothing bonds a group of strangers quite like jet-lag and confusion. It’s a really interesting situation to be in. You’re in a foreign country and you don’t know where you’ll be living, yet there are people are in the same situation. (NEW BEST FRIENDS!) You meet so many new people and you can’t remember everyone’s name, yet there’s a common experience that bonds you all together.
Being the only person that speaks a different language is hard. Really hard. I have the utmost respect for anyone who is courageous enough to move to a country not knowing the language. I understand Spanish when it is spoken at a moderate pace. Since I’ve been here, I feel like my brain is working overtime to try to keep up. I’ve realized I have to be very intentional when I listen. When the conversation is moving a mile a minute, I’m lucky if I can pick out a few words before the subject completely changes. When I finally do have something to contribute, the moment has passed. Oh well. Next time. There have also been a few times in which my brain has gone to autopilot and I tune out everything but English (I get really excited when a TV ad is in English).
Trust the process.
Despite what seems like me ranting for an entire blog post, I’m very blessed to be here. Everyone in my town is SO EXCITED that I am the Americana or Estadounidense. My host family and the faculty at the high school are amazing. The town is having its Feria this week. I would say that the Feria is similar to a county fair in the U.S. There are tons of rides, booths and food trucks for people to enjoy from 8:00 pm until around 3:00 in the morning. The head of the English department has taken me along with her and her family several times this week. Evidently, the Feria travels to different cities each week and will be in Albacete next week. One of the teachers at the high school wants me to come stay with her family and go to the Feria there. I’m so excited!
It’s been an adventure thus far, and I expect nothing less during the remainder of my stay. Today I officially started working with the teachers at the high school. They gave me some great ideas for presentations that the students enjoy. Next week I’m also going to get my schedule so I can begin planning some weekend trips with the other Teach in Spain Volunteers. We’re hoping to go to Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Cuenca!
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein