Greeting from Spain! That's a nice opener, isn't it? Sounds optimistic and expansive? One would never tell from it that as recently as last night I was gripped with the overwhelming feeling of "Oh my god. I'm here for a year! What have I done? Is it too late to go home?" Never mind that Spain has made itself much friendlier than it was twelve years ago when I lived here. Lots of English speakers (not that that helps my Spanish language goals) and there's far more brown people than there were before ( Last time, I went through serious withdrawal not seeing anyone brown for six months. I hugged the first Black person I saw after landing in the U.S.-- a TSA worker who was visibly uncomfortable until I let go). This time, I think it's because I've essentially shrunken my life to fit in two suitcases and a very narrow room in an apartment I share with seven other people. At age 34, one has to take a step back, look at that, and ask at least once, "What on earth was I thinking doing this to myself?" Five guys, one girl, all younger than me--much younger than me-- with that annoying anything-goes-take-it-easy attitude that I anticipate will cause problems with my going to bed at a reasonable hour.
In all honesty, I go through this every time I go away. And when I go home, I wish I were back abroad. So, I know I'll recover. This just happens to be the longest I've ever been away at the oldest I've ever been living with the most people I ever have in quarters smaller than in college. I mean, could you imagine at your age living back in the dorms with 20 somethings? That's a bit like what this is. Nevertheless, the change of scenery is doing what it does best--inspiring new introspection, revealing things about myself that were hidden when I was in the automated shuttle back and forth from work, kitchen, shower, bed. One of them--and please don't stone me for saying this--is that I ( and I think we all) have a little bit of Trump in us. Eek! What I mean by that is that we tend to assume things about people based on the way they look. I'm aware of how un-revolutionary that sounds, but it goes way beyond the familiar fight against black equals bad/white equals good stereotypes.
Case in point, I was at the airport on my way here and I saw this Hispanic family. I had a question about whether I was in the right line or not and so I asked them in Spanish. They looked at me like they had no idea what I was saying until they explained in broken English that they were from the Ukraine! They spoke Ukrainian! Really?? Now I find myself in this game where I'm guessing what language a person speaks by looking at them as they walk toward me on the street. "Ok, so she has freckles. She definitely speaks English." I can't explain where the logic comes from except to say that she reminded me of Punky Brewster and she spoke English. I almost always lose.
At any rate, I'm settling in nicely. I've enrolled in a ballet class, a bilingual Toastmasters that meets weekly, and applied for a library card. The temperature has dropped dramatically, so autumn has officially made its entrance. Work starts in October and I've found a small group of Christians that meet weekly beginning next month.