I have 15 days left in Granada. Fifteen. Quince. That is 360 hours. I have 360 hours until I say goodbye to some of the most wonderful people and one of the most wonderful places I have been lucky enough to get to know.
Therefore, I am not going to write about my trips to Morocco or Santiago de Compostela just yet. They were magical and probably life-changing, but I just don’t have it in me. Besides, I will probably be able to do a better job in person with most of you. Everyone else…I’ll probably have some time over the summer and want to wax nostalgic and this gives me the perfect excuse.
So, what am I going to write about? I will start with this very important thank you to Amy Templin, who studied abroad last semester and helped me with everything from picking a program, to (very last minute) packing, language barriers, hostels, and getting this blog going. Some of her best advice (that she didn’t know she gave) was about this very alarming time when you suddenly realize that it is coming to an end.
What she did was, instead of thinking about all of the things to miss, she made a list of the things to look forward to about being home. I’m happy to say, this wasn’t very hard. In fact, some of these things I have been looking forward to for a very long time. However, I will warn you that this is rather long, a little bit sappy, and contains a few peaks into my psyche (sometimes a scary place to be). So I don’t blame you if you turn back now.
Without further a-do, 10 things I am looking forward to about being back in the US: here goes….
1. Fillet, Asparagus, and Crab Cakes
So many people describe studying abroad as a life-changing, soul-altering experience. I might not go that far, butI will go so far as to say that I was able to come to terms with some parts of myself that all of my friends and family will simply look at me blankly and say “well…duh, Katie.”
One such example is how I have come to terms with my pallet. It’s a magical and super-snobby beast that has decided it likes only delicacies and rich flavors. Of course, my parents figured this out when I ordered Steak Diane at age 10. Ten years later, I’m finally embracing it.
My favorite word to describe Spanish food is “hearty.” I feel like it is just the perfect description for this most peculiar Mediterranean-Medieval mixture that the Spanish have come to define as their unique cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, there are some plates that I absolutely love, and am going to prepare when I get back to the States. But let me just sum it by saying that I nearly start to salivate at the though of red meat, a plate-full of fresh vegetables (NOT drenched in olive oil), and ACTUAL BEER. I’m already planning the meals I would like for the first few weeks of being home, and let me tell you, you should start asking for an invite now.
As someone who has never had a problem with language, and moreover, someone who has always enjoyed expressing whatever I wish to express, I can say that not being able to do so has not been easy.
What’s that old saying about never knowing what you have ‘til it’s gone? OH BOY DO I MISS ENGLISH. I miss English because I miss the power that I have with that language. I can say exactly what I want to say, when I want to say it. I can use as much or as little diplomacy as I want, I can add flowery descriptions, I can tug at emotional heartstrings, I can do ANYTHING. Social situations, scholastic situations, even simply being able to order exactly what I want, will once again be smooootthhh sailing. While I can get myself through essentially any situation in Spanish, the ease and comfort and effectiveness with which I can communicate in English…that I have missed.
3. Big dogs
It didn’t take me long to notice this one – Spain is seriously lacking in big, beautiful dogs. This makes sense because the people live in dense cities and small “pisos,” and smaller dogs really are more practical. However, the dogs also just aren’t as beautiful.
As it turns out, Americans have an unusual attachment and fondness for our four-legged friends. The Spanish think we’re quite odd for saying that dogs “are man’s best friend;” to them, dogs are dogs. Don’t get me wrong, they don’t mistreat their dogs, but there certainly is a difference. And I can’t begin to explain the odd looks I have received when I wanted to stop and pet another person’s animal. Needless to say, I’m ready for some quality Dodger time.
4. My own room
So one thing that I learned about humanity my freshman year of college is that people are not meant to live together. I think it’s against our nature and is the worst thing you can do to another human…
Now, I have heard testament to the contrary, so I will concede that perhaps some people are designed to share quarters, but let me tell you, I do not fall into this category. After an entire year of sharing a room with someone, I am REALLY READY to be by myself again. I am ready for waking up when I want, without having to be quiet and get ready in the dark. I am ready to go to bed when I want, without having to ask to turn off the light or attempt to stumble quietly (oxymoron?) at 4am from a Spanish fiesta. I am ready to relax as you (I) am completely unable to do when you’re constantly aware of another human’s presence.
Not to mention, how ready I am for my big, memory foam mattress and for all of my pillows that permanently smell a little bit like chlorine from the hot tub. I am ready for my beautiful bay windows and also the black-out curtains that I can cover them with. I ready to have all of that suburbia-American sized space to myself, and to choose to share it only with the cat.
5. Peace and Quiet
While this ties into the previous one in a rather obvious way, it also goes a little bit farther. After a semester in DC I thought I needed some peace and quiet. I think this is the only time I have ever longed EVEN MORE for peace and quiet.
It’s one of the most beautiful aspects of Spanish – and especially Andalucian – culture, but it is also one of the most tiring and leads to a general wearing-down process. The Spanish love to live life in the street, and so you are always surrounded by gibber-gabbering teens and grandmas alike, and don’t forget that there is no personal space here. Needless to say, this only intensifies as you go inside to a restaurant or bar, which are simply overflowing with tapas-seekers, beer drinkers, story tellers, musicians, and any number of semi-circles being invaded as another group wiggles up to the bar.
Unfortunately, there is actually very little respite at home. The constant music of the city comes from the street sweepers, garbage trucks, motorcycles, and mopeds, all of which echo in the small, cramped streets. The only break from this? The crying babies I live with.
Like I said, I could use some peace and quiet.
6. Being in the same time zone as (most of) my people
Although simple, I really do look forward to being able to pick up the phone, send a text or an email, and know that we are in exactly the same place and the same time. I don’t have to calculate and coordinate in order to have a simple conversation, and I look forward to not having a bombardment of emails around 2pm when the U.S. wakes up.
7. A Government that works
I am sure that all of you reading this in US scoffed (maybe a chuckle if you’re in a good mood), but I am here and ready to defend this statement. I don’t mean to be too critical, but being in Europe, and particularly Spain, I have come to truly appreciate what our Founding Fathers were able to accomplish. I’m going to be honest, it seems more and more like a miracle with each passing news story I come across here. Our government is by no means perfect, but comparatively, we really are leaps and bounds ahead. I’ll leave it there, but can’t wait to use all of English-language skills to wax profound with you over a nice shrimp cocktail and glass of white wine.
This one took me a little while to put my finger on, but it’s one of aspects of the US I am looking forward to most. For a few weeks, I couldn’t figure it out but something just didn’t feel right. Walking down the streets, at the gym, in bars and cafés, something was missing. Finally, I figured it out: everyone looked the same. Not in a racist, I can’t tell the difference because they’re all Spanish way, but in a very real, logical way. Spanish people are all Spanish. Americans are German and Irish and African and Chinese and Polish and Italian and Mexican and Japanese and all sorts of combinations and mixtures of these heritages.
I know it sounds cheesy, but I have noticed the difference every day I have been here, and I can’t wait to be surrounded by all sorts of faces, body types, skin colors, hair styles, and the general hodge-podge of beauty that is America.
9. Friends, and South Carolina
Alright, here come the doozies. I’m very good at having long-distance friendships and relationships because that was how I grew up. Although it doesn’t feel like it, I have actually been away from Charleston for a year now, and that is too long. I miss my friends there: chatting for hours over coffee instead of doing homework, popping into my roommate’s bedroom to see if she needs a study break, going out for “one” beer at CFB, and all of the wonderful memories I have created with some truly special people.
However, thanks to modern technology, staying in touch with people really isn’t that hard. What remains impossible is coming up with a way to satiate the missing of a place. I have been to a lot of amazing, breathtaking places this semester, and I can still say without a doubt that Charleston is my favorite town in the world. There is simply no place like it, and I do love it so. The surrounding low country filled with marshes and winding rivers, lazy days paddle boarding through the changing tides, the palmettos, the thick air scented with jasmine, the cobblestones and the sound of horses’ hooves clopping as carriages roll past… I could go on forever, but I won’t. I won’t be going back right away, but even being just a little bit closer gives me some comfort.
10. Family, and PYC
There’s no place like home, and the people you have at home are your family. For the first time, I am missing some of my favorite moments and days and people up at the lake, and I have to say…it hasn’t been easy. Yet, when all is said and done, it will be okay. It will be okay because it is home, and when I picture myself at my happiest, I am there. I am there with the people I love, gathered around the grill, on a deck, at the picnic table, or out on the water. It’s a windy day, a calm evening, a beautiful sunset, or a lazy August afternoon. I’m barefoot, sun-burnt, or warm in front of the fire. All I need to do is listen to those voices I know and love, tell old stories, make new jokes, compare tan lines and boat stickers. These things are such a part of me that even when I am missing, I am there, in the place that will always be home and the people that will always be family. Although it never seems soon enough, I will in fact, be seeing you soon.
I am impressed you stuck with this to the end! I will only be writing one more blog post while here and it will be the other side of the 10 list – the ten things I am going to miss most about Spain as I say goodbye. Thanks for being a part of this with me.