Now that I am back home, studying abroad in Madrid, Spain truly feels like something out of a movie, out of a beautiful dream, out of a moving story. It’s a wild and wonderful part of my memory.
I have stories about me almost getting locked in the metro post closing time, and feeding pink flamingos at the Madrid zoo, and watching a bull fight– history unfold right in front of me as the youngest ‘Matador’ on Easter Sunday got the ears of the bull as a sign of honor, a job well-done.
It was and is unreal to say that Madrid, Spain (in Europe!) was my home.
I was expecting questions about my experience being abroad. I was expecting my family and friends to want to hear stories. I was expecting them to want to know more about my life there, about the people I met, the places I’ve been to, the best moments, the worst moments, the funniest moments, the foods I’ve eaten, the things I’ve seen that I can’t get enough of, the things that ticked me off, the things that I miss about there, the things that I have missed about here. I was expecting and wanting their curiosity.
I’m patiently waiting.
Though I cannot be too disappointed, I practically told them everything after it happened, as I was excited to tell my stories over FaceTime and Facebook posts.
Being back home is actually: a lot of chores. Dentist and doctor visits. Seeing family, friends. Dates. Getting accustomed to doing things with my family again, with their new jobs and changes of their own. Finding access to all my American TV shows, etc. It isn’t as slow-paced as I wanted it to be; but it is a good change of pace being able to just do things at home or near home, without feeling the need to explore the city, spend money, or plan something. There’s a certain kind of peace in just being home-bound.
I miss the metro in Madrid and the button I had to press to get in. I miss the cauliflower and Lipton soups I had before the main entree for dinner. I miss the Spanish language all around me in speech, music, and store signs. I already know and feel that I’m losing pronunciation, or forgetting how to conjugate certain verbs, or hesitating prior to speaking. I miss writing daily in a notebook in all stream of consciousness. I miss the confidence I had in being abroad. Being: sure of myself, of my Spanish, of my decisions– because I had no one else to count on but myself.
I’m glad that I’m back for Pepsi cans at bodegas, though the design on the can is different than when I last left. I’m glad I get to see my mom in her uniform as a 911 Operator. I’m glad I got the chance to see my little brother graduate 5th grade. I’m glad I got to check out the new white truck my dad recently bought. I’m glad I got to see my sister work her make-up magic on a prom client.
A different, or new-world view? Of course. I learned that there’s a beauty in being able to communicate in two different languages, learn an immense amount of vocabulary, and adapt to vocabulary and conversations dependent on people and places. Not everyone in the world is sympathetic about what Trump and his administration is doing to our country. Many people are amazed that I’m from America, from an island called Puerto Rico, from NYC, and even from the Bronx. Some people will enjoy your company. A few won’t. And a good friend in Madrid told me something I’ll never forget. It’s a conscious effort to remember that people here grow up super differently than you did.
So with that, I vowed to listen better, to judge way less, to make a conscious effort to understand, and let go, because America is different than Spain. For better or for worse, and I chose to live somewhere different to learn about myself, this place, my home, and the world.
It was a conscious effort on my part to live the way Spaniards did to some extent, and my experience was much more memorable for it.
Instead of comparing Spain to America, I was immersing myself in Spain.
I was appreciating America.
And I was grateful to and for both places I could call home.