So after an exhausting, exhilarating yet oxygen-deprived four months, there I was breathing again. With my breath still slightly haggard and color returning to my face, I knew I needed to change my schedule. So, I quit one the academy jobs (I forgot to mention, I was working two academies…one doing home visits and the other just four hours a week in a classroom…I’m sure you can guess the one I quit–yes, the home visit one). I tried to find balance in my new life. I withdrew from Maria, which is a whole other bag of worms, and I tried to be more present in my flat with my roommates in order to garner a better understanding of each other and continue building friendships. In my work, I turned my focus on quality rather than quantity. This mantra succeeded, and I improved significantly in the second half of the year. However, less classes meant less money and with my six month grace period up on my loans in December, I was no longer raking in money and living generously in the wonderfully inexpensive city of Badajoz. My entire salary from the government then went to my loans. It continues to today. The price of higher education, man. Blows my mind. That’s for another post, though. In short, I entered incubation and recovery mode and ate a lot of Burritos, Nachos, and Tacos.
Whilst I was trying to find clarity, my brother leaving left me in a massive rut of homesickness. I was sad. I was still exhausted and I was confused about my relationship with Maria. It was terrible timing, because she had broken up with her boyfriend essentially for me, and had been waiting anxiously for me to come back from my ventures. But I knew I couldn’t let these be a determining factor in answering the many questions I had to ask myself. I needed to be selfish. Did I really want to start something with a Spaniard? What would happen if I decided not to come back next year? What if I wanted to change cities? And this wasn’t just a Spaniard, but a woman. A devoutly Catholic woman, at that. I had lived in Spain long enough to realize that the perception of Spain as a rigidly Catholic country wasn’t true. Yes, there is homophobia and derogatory name-calling and subtle discrimination, but that isn’t any different than the circumstances in the United States. In fact, on a political level, Spain is a hell of a lot more liberal when it comes to the LGBT community. But still, I didn’t know her family so I had to ask myself, did I want to dive into a possible nightmare and drag her through the process of “coming out” to her family? Was I prepared for dealing with another girlfriend whose family did not accept or support her? That was one thing I did not want for sure. Also, would I be bringing her into a crisis of faith? Was I the freaking Devil incarnate designed to tempt the faith of this girl? Yes, my thoughts went there (See “Crisis” above).
After about a week of waiting for the mud to settle in my head, the only thing that was clear to me was that I missed her light and energy in my life. From the first day we met, we haven’t gone a day without speaking, even during that time…which, if I’m honest, may have clouded my decision making (sorry I’m not sorry). I asked her to have a coffee, and for the reasons concerning the future I planned on telling her that it was better to just be friends. We met and went to this horribly themed British-Safari Bar. I tried to remain serious but the comically colonialist display going on in that bar was too much to handle. I also tried to be cold, and unmoved, but the moment I looked her in the eyes I realized I was trying way to hard to avoid the inevitable. So, I invited her back to my place and the rest is history. No, I’m kidding it didn’t happen like that. We talked, then we went back to my place where we talked more. We are women, after all. Two weeks later, on Valentine’s Day– yes, I’m horribly cheesy romantic– I gave her a potted flower, a cactus, and a card asking her to be mine. Over a year later, I could burst into tears about how happy I am with her. I’m one lucky son-of-a gun.
Semana Santa and the Final Stretch
After I decided to commit to Maria, life was a bit easier. I felt solid, full. Everything turns a bit more rosy when you have a partner in crime. We planned a big trip to the North of Spain for Semana Santa (holy week, Spain’s version of spring break) and had the time of our lives. We visited Vitoria, San Sebastian, Santander, and Oviedo/Guijon. We fell in love with San Sebastian and have vowed to own a house there one day when we are wealthy. Quite possibly a nice summer spot for my mom and dad to retire (fingers crossed). I like to dream and dream big.
After Semana Santa, I received news that I was accepted to come back to Badajoz again the following year. I made arrangements to find an apartment and talk with my new schools before I left. I found a flat two floors above Maria’s and was stoked that I was going to be living so close to her. Little did I know I would end up abandoning the flat to move in with her and her parents (I never wanted to be a “Uhaul Lesbian” as they say…but I think it’s different, and I have some of the best roommates ever…and a sweet brazilian cleaning lady :)).
One day over tapas and beer, Maria and I were talking about how to make the most of the next year. Maria is fluent in English and has her C1 certificate (C2 is the highest…and that without having lived in an English speaking country for more than a month) and gave private English classes while she studied for her Nursing degree. So the idea occurred to us to start an academy together. Students would receive the best of both worlds: a native speaker to work on pronunciation and a titled, fluent teacher with thorough knowledge of grammar and learning the language…not to mention we’re young and fun. We did the math and it was the best way to capitalize our time and be able to save for the big trip next summer to America. So, we thought, with the help of delicious food and beer, why not?
The time came to pack my bags and head home for the summer. While I was excited to go home, naturally I was also sad to leave Maria for three months. Maria accompanied me to Lisbon to see me off for the summer. In the airport I was filled with a mixture of nerves, excitement, and dread. After having to rearrange my luggage, leave behind my guitar, clothes, and some shoes I was running late for my flight, so our goodbye was briefer than we would’ve liked. As I handed my passport and boarding pass to the attendant and walked down the winding path to the terminal I was biting my lip hard, trying not to cry. I looked back and waved goodbye one last time. At this point, I couldn’t handle it. I bawled my freaking eyes out all the way to Boston. But, at last, I was home sweet home with my entire family present for my cousin’s wedding. It was another bittersweet experience. As for Maria and I, we spent the next three months falling more in love through a computer screen.
So there you have it, a very LONG and overdue summary about my first year in Spain. I’ll expand more in the future about aforementioned experiences, trips taken, food tried, and lessons learned during my first year abroad. Now, we’re really almost caught up and this is just the beginning of the adventures I plan to share with you. So stay tuned!
If you have any feedback, questions, suggestions, email me or comment below! Thank you for reading!
Back to Spain
Adventures in an Academy
A Spanish Christmas
My Favorite Spanish Foods