Co-teaching in Spain is an experience akin to being cast in a two-man show, for which only your co-star has the script, just as the curtain is rising. I can’t say I was wholly unprepared as I had taught in Chile before, but…well, yes, I was wholly unprepared. But more than that, teaching in Spain comes with certain idiosyncrasies that made my year as a Language and Culture Assistant at a Spanish bilingual public school a hilarious, frustrating, enjoyable, and confusing experience. Continue reading
I recently went bra shopping. I wasn’t looking for anything fancy, just a comfy casual contraption that would give my subtly-endowed bosom a little shape, a little support. Browsing the racks of Women’Secret, Spain’s answer to Victoria’s Secret, I found a few options and hit the dressing room.
Before we go any further, here’s a breakdown of my time spent in dressing rooms:
5% trying on new clothes and deciding against them
5% removing gunk from the corners of my eyes
90% evaluating the outfit I wore to the store
I tried on the first few bras to no avail. But the last option, a simple cotton thing with no padding, seemed perfect for me. It felt right, and when you know, you know. I looked down to check the price and what do I see glaring up at me but a tag that reads “MY FIRST BRA.” At 23, I’ve been in bra jail for at least 11 years. This was not my first bra. I quickly removed it, put it back on the hanger, inconspicuously returned it to the rack, and made a beeline out of Women’Secret into bra-less ground, hoping no one else in the store noticed I had just unwittingly tried on a child’s bra.
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My first run-in with adulthood came when I was around 9 or 10 years old. Noticing the first tiny hints of ladyhood popping up on my chest, visible even through my coarse polyester school uniform shirt, my mom gently suggested that I might start wearing a bra. I immediately rejected this idea. My refusal was in no way related to my feminist ways; I was simply not ready to enter the bra stage of my life. I was just one of those kids who enjoyed their childhood so much that I didn’t want it to end prematurely. I still had time.
At school, my best friends and I would half complain/ half brag to each other about our mothers’ sudden perception of us as young ladies. We were all receiving similar suggestions from our mothers and we all felt the same: It’s too soon.
The issue was laid to rest intermittently but always came back. All the girls in my class would change for PE together in the girls’ bathroom. The ones who already wore bras would change out in the open in the sink area while those of us who were still fighting the good fight would change our tops in the stalls, or out in the sink area facing a wall.
Not too long after our “Bras are so ridiculous” informal pact with my friends, it was PE as usual. I changed in one of the bathroom stalls and when I finished, I came out to see my best friend Miriam standing in the sink area with her shirt raised above her head, chest full of bra. “Traitor!” I yelled. Miriam had gone the way of the moms.
Things were never the same after that. It became harder and harder to resist the moms’ casual comments; to be the only ones sneaking into a stall in the bathroom before PE; to hide our chests through our school uniforms; to pretend it didn’t hurt like hell when we would playfully punch each other or accidentally run into things chest-first; to resist the urge to go shopping for “unmentionables,” as my mom would so discreetly call them. Some of us reached a sort of compromise by wearing camisoles instead of bras but eventually, we all gave in.
I don’t remember the day I gave in to The Bra, but I’m sure it involved a trip to the Limited Too. My little sister, three years my junior, was always much more eager to grow up than I was. Around the same time I got my first bra, so did she. We would go to the Limited Too together and browse the brightly colored sparkly training bras and fight over who got which, since we obviously could not get the same ones even though they’d be under our shirts.
I’ve since come to terms with adulthood, but bras and I still have our days.
As some of you know, last winter I moved to Chile and taught English in a Chilean middle school. This was my second time in middle school (I also attended one between the ages of 11 and 13) and I noticed some things this time around that I failed to pick up on the first time. Middle school is a lot like a fight club: Everybody’s always sweaty, equipped with questionable morals and reckless attitudes, and every five minutes, someone loses a tooth.
I didn’t love teaching in Chile. I experienced a sort of colegio culture shock. (Colegio is the Spanish word for school). Class sizes in Chile are somewhere around 45 students and as a co-teacher, I’d have to deal with upwards of 20 of those students at a time, on my own, in my own classroom. For each hour and a half period, I would take half of the class for the first 45 minutes and the other half for the last 45 minutes. The students were prohibited from having books or writing utensils in my classroom as I was to use my time to improve their speaking and listening skills. I had to engage them solely through activities and games. Sometimes this worked like a charm. Usually, it did not.
I pride myself on my ability to command a room (if that room is the kitchen and the thing I’m commanding is a sandwich, not people’s attention). My classes in Chile were nothing like my kitchen. The students were about as interested in learning English as I am in listening to someone explain how to play Settlers of Catan. I did not see the fruit of my labors during my time in Chile and I’d like to think it wasn’t all due to the fact that I was a first-time English teacher with no experience and no training. It had to have been something else!
The toughest part of the job was that in order to foster an environment in which the students would only speak English, my students were not allowed to know that I speak Spanish. The only thing less effective than yelling at a group of 11 years olds in their native language is yelling at them in a foreign language. Remember how worried Lucy would look when Ricky began yelling at her in fast Spanish? That is fiction. In real life, being oblivious to the content of an aggressively loud message softens the blow quite a deal. So my students were impervious to my English reprimands and remained rowdy and uncontrollable until I would finally kick someone out of class. Then they would shape up for around five minutes.
On days when I would stay with my co-teacher in the main classroom, I noticed some things about Chilean classroom culture that I couldn’t help but find extremely strange. Here are some things I could not have predicted about Chilean middle schools:
- Every single student in Chilean schools–be it public, private, or semi-private– is required to wear a uniform. Usually, these uniforms look exactly as you would imagine a semi-inappropriate more-for-Halloween-or-a-Britney-Spears-video-than-for-school uniform to look. I too had to wear uniforms from pre-school through high school and, unlike my Chilean counterparts, I looked like Gumby swimming in Paul Bunyan’s business casual clothes. Not cute.
- The kids were completely OCD about the order of their notebooks. It is truly astounding how much more time and effort they put into having perfectly organized notebooks than actually focusing on the content. Facts by Elyssa: Chile is the #1 market for White Out. At any given moment there would be a cartoonish cloud of school supplies flying through the air as students hurried to cover up their mistakes, draw perfectly straight lines to partition their notes, or color their capital letters red (I never really got a good explanation about this one).
- The students were once required to make pamphlets about a famous poet in preparation for an upcoming event at the school to celebrate his work. In these pamphlets, students would write the poet’s name, copy a poem of his, and then make a collage of pictures cut out from catalogues, newspapers and magazines. Juxtaposed with words about love and nature were pictures of blenders, dogs in bathtubs, pictures of carpet samples, smartphones, cupcakes, and sports cars. I spent all week walking up and down aisles of desks being baffled by the students’ picture choices, hoping they were as ironic or poetic as the poems themselves. This absurdness is probably more of a universal middle school phenomenon than one specific to Chile.
- The school implemented monetary penalties for rule breaking. On most classroom walls was a poster board outlining various standard classroom rules i.e. raise your hand before talking, complete work in a timely manner, respect your classmates, and of course the first and most important rule of middle school: don’t talk about middle school. On a smaller construction paper next to that was a list of penalties and monetary amounts for breaking said rules. 40 pesos for speaking over someone else, 60 pesos for a late homework assignment. I had no idea how this was allowed or what the money went toward, but I hoped it sponsored school supplies, which brings me to my next item:
- Toilet paper and hand soap were brought in by the students and left in the classroom, not the bathroom. Anytime someone went to the bathroom they’d have to unravel some toilet paper from the class roll to bring with them. (And we all know what more than four squares means…). I don’t understand how the hand soap thing worked. I never saw anyone take the bottle with them and it wouldn’t really have made sense to squirt some soap into your hand before using the toilet so I’m pretty sure hand washing was not a standard part of their bathroom routine.
Sidenote: This is important to me. If I ever have enough money, I’d like to sponsor a scholarship that gives free hand soap to people who are ill inclined to wash their hands, on the condition that they actually wash them. EVERYBODY should wash their hands after going to the bathroom. It’s just plain gross not to. Your nether regions are not germ-free. As Outkast would say, “I know you like to think your shit don’t stank, but lean a little bit closer. See, roses really smell like poo poo-oo.” Wash your hands.
- As I am a gringa from the United States with pale skin and fair hair, my young students– who weren’t used to meeting gringas and believed we were all related—would constantly ask me if I was personally acquainted with Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber (incidentally, who are Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber?).
- I often get mistaken as German, Polish, Czech, Swiss, British and even somehow Spanish, but for the very first time in my life (and probably the last), one second grader asked me, “Are you from Japan?” I will forever cherish that moment.
A Crusty Toothpaste Production. Written November 2013, relevant today.
I have inflicted upon myself the type of mental trauma that one can only get by binge watching the entire final season of Breaking Bad in a two-day period. One day, I hope there will be therapists that specialize in TV-induced psychoses, but for now I’ll have to resort to writing therapy.
My last few weeks (yes, this has been going on for a solid few weeks now) of near constant Netflix and TV streaming have brought out the very worst in me. I’m unwashed, malnourished, sedentary. I’ve been antisocial and on the brink of falling into the type of mild depression that comes with subjecting oneself to hours and hours of hardcore TV violence and alienating any and all human interaction with the exception of, naturally, the check out lady at the nearest grocery store who keeps me in snacks.
I realized I hit a low point when I was finishing off a box of cookies in my bed and accidentally tipped it over, causing an avalanche of crumbs to fall on my sheets. I have but one pair of sheets and have neither a dust buster nor a vacuum (what am I, rich?) so I proceeded to take my fun-sized lint roller and roll the cookie residue into the garbage can. Three lint roller sheets later, my bed still covered in cookie mistake, I gave up and decided to go full-speed-ahead with a hand sweep. Holding the garbage can between my knees at the edge of the bed, I swept the remaining crumbs–and all evidence of my patheticness, I hoped–into the trash bin.
But I cannot erase the memory of this weekend. For the rest of my life, I will simply have to admit to myself that I once invested in a block of cheese and then proceeded to lay into said cheese with my teeth, chomping off bites as though it were an apple or beef jerky. No matter how straight I made my bite marks, there’s no hiding the fact that these incisions were made with TEETH rather than a knife like a normal human.
Evolution ends with me. Nay, it reverses. My posture is so terrible that I am actually becoming an un-erect human. What were we before homo sapiens? Neanderthals? Orangutans? Well I’m becoming whichever version of human existed before we stood upright. My most favorite position (regular, not sexual) is laying on my bed with my head propped up by three pillows so I can see my laptop resting on my stomach. Falling asleep with a laptop on your lap is the new falling asleep with a book on your chest. When I do sit in a chair my body is so hunched over that it takes, roughly, the shape of a question mark. If our species ends, I will take full responsibility.
Another thing I’ve easily fallen into is shirking. Colloquially defined as “one of the vocab words I actually remember from high school,” to shirk means to avoid doing something one is supposed to do, such as responsibilities, such as replying to emails from former bosses in a timely manner, such as answering Whatsapp and Facebook messages from dear friends, such as laundry, such as hair washing, such as writing to family members, etc. I cannot tell you how many bridges I’ve burned because I shirk. I don’t mean to do it, and I hate myself for it, but the habit of the shirk is ever so hard to get out of once you slide back into it.
I’m stranded on Bed Island, a victim of video streaming services and blocks of cheese.
For some people, it’s an empty beach at sunrise. For others, an isolated cabin on a rainy mountaintop. For still others, the corner table of a familiar diner; a late night ride on a quiet subway car; a childhood home. For me, it was Madrid. Madrid was my happy place. Madrid was a place where everyone was good and everything was fun; where I was carefree. And then I met Tere.
I moved back to Madrid at the end of August in order to find a good apartment before my job started in October. Eight days and 15 apartment viewings later, I had it down to two, which happened to be located in adjacent buildings: Calle Ruiz 13 and Calle Ruiz 15. Both had a perfect location on a relatively quiet street near the metro in my favorite neighborhood, both had a quaint balcony onto the street from the bedroom, and both came with two roommates. In each apartment, I was only able to meet one roommate since the other was out of town. I had to make a decision before their returns or the apartment might be offered to someone else. I decided to go with Calle Ruiz 15, since the guy showing me the apartment, Nacho, was a sincerely nice, laid back guy and proved to be a great roommate. But then, after moving in, I met Roommate #2: Teresa the Witch.
She seemed normal enough at the beginning. Not the friendliest girl (cough 30+ year old girl) I’d ever met, but she cleared a shelf in the bathroom for me so I thought everything would be okay. And then it began. Slowly, at first, just every now and then, I’d get an angry or aggressive message from Tere, always addressed to both Nacho and me in our roommate Whatsapp group entitled “casa.”
State of the apartment: Not a mess
A message from Tere, “Guys, the house is a mess.” It wasn’t. “I don’t know whose turn it was to clean but you have to respect the order of the list, and if not, switch with someone.”
Of course she knew whose turn it was. She made the damn cleaning schedule, probably slept with a laminated copy of it under her pillow and likely had it tattooed on her hip. I knew she knew it was my turn and I had a legitimate (I thought) excuse anyway, so I owned up to it.
“It was my turn to clean,” I said, “I was sick in bed all weekend and didn’t feel like cleaning. The house looked clean to me so I thought it could wait until Monday.”
I seriously don’t even know how she knew I didn’t clean. The house was, as I said, clean.
“I hope this doesn’t happen again,” she said, “The list is on the refrigerator and I cleaned first, so I expect the same on your part.”
Nacho chimed in in his typical cheery “let’s all get along” fashion, “It’s fine! You clean this week and I’ll clean next week.”
Tere retorted, “I prefer that you follow the order of the list on the fridge and if not, switch with someone.”
The list in question was one she made without consulting any of us, but whatever. I cleaned. I cleaned to, I hoped, her heart’s content.
State of the apartment: Normal
Tere happily messaged in the group telling Nacho that she had already cleaned the living room, guest room and hallways, all he had left to do was the kitchen and the bathroom. This was a passive aggressive reminder for Nacho to clean, but at least she put a 😀 and 😛 in her message to him and had even done some of his cleaning for him. I never got such treatment.
At just six days after her last hissy fit over our already clean house, I started to realize she might have some sort of issue.
State of the apartment: Still clean
Newsflash time with Tere: “Ok, guys. We share a flat in case you didn’t know…And I’ve been waiting and waiting but it cannot be that no one puts the dishes away (dishes she used), that I go to take a shower and there’s hair everywhere (wasn’t mine! Surprisingly, that hair actually belonged to Nacho. Who is bald.), that the toilet seat cover is up (The cover. Not the seat. Nacho and I both admitted to leaving it up, as was custom in our sane households growing up), and that someone left a piece of dental floss on the sink yesterday and it’s still there today. We live together and I, especially, like to have things the way I left them: clean.”
Dental floss. This tortured soul is flipping a shit because someone left an 8-inch long piece of unused minty string on the bathroom counter. Literally one of the smallest and most unobtrusive things that could be left anywhere. Dental floss. Give me a fucking break. I feel compelled to admit that I do not regularly floss my teeth, unless regularly means “when I eat popcorn,” which, okay yeah, is often enough I guess. But the point is: that dental floss was not mine. (Twist: It was actually Eduardo’s, my boyfriend who was visiting for the week and, bless his soul, could not have known that my roommate was a fascist dictator.) But, as usual, I cleaned.
A couple nights after Dentalflossgate, I was in my room when I overheard Tere, who obviously didn’t think I was home, yelling about me to her boyfriend (Surprise! The spawn of Satan is dating!). She was ranting about how she hated me, how if it were up to just her, I would have been kicked out of the house weeks ago, how she never wanted to live with a dumb foreigner again.
This sounds like the part of the story where I decide it’s finally time to move out, right? Oh, how I wish I had! Instead, I messaged Nacho saying, “I just overheard Tere yelling about me to her boyfriend. She hates me. I think I’m getting kicked out.”
He assured me that she couldn’t kick me out without his consent and that this is just who Tere is. She doesn’t hate me, she just takes a while to warm up to people. I wasn’t sure I could spend another minute in that contradictorily icy hellhole.
It was the end of October at this point, and I planned to go home for Winter break in December, so with Nacho’s word that I wouldn’t be kicked out, I decided to take my time looking for a new place, so as not to end up in another bad living situation, and move out of Calle Ruiz 15 before I went home for winter break at the end of December.
After that dreadful night, things actually seemed to get better over the next couple weeks (if only by not getting much worse). The biggest trouble was that it was starting to get cold and the house didn’t have heat, which I knew when I moved in. The house also turned out to have an incredibly low electrical capacity, and our power would go out anytime I would microwave popcorn and, coincidentally enough, floss my teeth. Before I even moved in, Nacho had told me I could use one of the electric heaters in the storage closet so after double checking with him, I rolled one into my room and plugged it in. It stayed on for about 10 minutes and then the power went out. I flipped the circuit breaker and plugged the heater back in. Three minutes later, the power was out again. After plugging and unplugging and flipping and bopping things a few more times to make it work, I gave up and took my favorite position in the center of my bed: fetal.
The only thing I hate more than bitches is being cold. Between the bad roommate, the insufficient electricity, and the cold air seeping in through the old windows, my home was looking bleaker and bleaker to me. Unfortunately, I was having some trouble on the apartment-hunting front. By the end of November, with probably another 15 unsuccessful apartment viewings under my belt, I was still too afraid to give my month’s notice to Tere without having a set place to move to. So I paid another month’s rent before hopping a plane for a weekend trip.
The morning I returned from my trip, I got a message from Tere. “That heater in your room isn’t yours, it’s my sister’s. Put it back where you found it. Don’t ask Nacho, ask me.” Her sister lives in Belgium. I found it in a closet.
I told her Nacho had promised me I could use that heater even before I moved in, since I never would have moved to a place with no heat. He offered it to me again just a few days earlier when I let him know I was thinking of moving out “because it was too cold” (I didn’t want to be fought on the whole Tere thing again).
She responded, “Okay, but it’s my sister’s so leave it. Sorry if he told you that. It’s not my problem. You can’t just steal things.”
LAST STRAW. LAST STRAW ALERT.
This asshole has accused me of being a slob, being a “dumb foreigner,” being a TOOTH-FLOSSER, and now STEALING? FUCK. THIS. SHIT. I’m outta here.
I knew it, but I didn’t tell her right away. Mostly because I prefer not talking to her over talking to her. I was at work while this conversation was happening, but I was ready to head home and pack my bags. Funnily enough, I ran into Nacho at the metro station. We spotted each other on the platform. He’s cheery, I’m seething. “Nacho,” I said, “I’m moving out. I have to move out. I can’t take it anymore.” He was sorry to see me go, but he understood. He knows she’s crazy.
I got home and hid in my cell I mean my room and started to pack my bags (like, three weeks before moving out. A bit impractical), not knowing where I’d go when I came back from winter break in January. And then, a message from Tere. My dear sweet Nacho must have broken the news to her in order to save me an interaction with the beast.
“You’re moving out?” she asked.
“Yes, on December 20th.”
“You’re stupid. Thank god you’re leaving. The sooner, the better.”
Thank god I was leaving! The sooner, the better!
I wanted to set some things straight, so I vented to Eduardo and he helped me craft a perfectly-worded retort in Spanish, which I’ve now translated back to English for your gringo viewing pleasure:
“Look, Tere, I didn’t know that the heater is your sister’s and I had no reason to know that. I’m not psychic. Nacho told me I could use it even before I moved in, since I wouldn’t have moved to a flat that didn’t have the possibility of heat. If I can’t use it, I’m not getting what I pay for. I have no problem with buying my own heater, but I wouldn’t even be able to use it because the apartment has an insufficient electrical capacity which, in all this time, has not been fixed due to your negligence. There are also loose outlets and circuits coming out of the walls, which is dangerous and could light the whole building on fire. Considering all these things, this apartment is barely inhabitable. I’m giving you 27 days notice, and I expect you to pay me the difference in my deposit.”
She responded, so eloquently, “You don’t understand anything?!!!!!! Poor you!”
And with that, fellas, I was out of there. Gone with the wind.
I KNOW in my heart of hearts that I am not a difficult person to get along with. I also know that I am not a slob (in common areas, that is. Whether or not I can see the surface of the desk in my own room is nobody’s business!). I couldn’t understand why I’d been made the target of Tere’s attacks but I was done making excuses for her. I’d previously sympathized for her, thinking that perhaps she was stressed about something. Or sick. Or had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But I get stressed. I get sick. I have OCD and never in my entire life have I ever made anyone the subject of such blind hatred as she did me.
I had a running list of all the ways I would sabotage the apartment upon my leaving: I’d get hair trimmings from a hair salon and leave them all over the bathroom, I’d smear toothpaste on the mirror, place raw fish under the sofa cushion, pour tomato sauce over all the dishes, crack eggs in the drawers, sprinkle flour all over the floor, and last but not least, completely remove the toilet seat cover at its hinges so that our poor sweet baby darling angel little girl could never put her precious cover down on the toilet seat (the toilet was in its own separate room, by the way. I still don’t understand why she cared about that so much). I never did any of these things in the end. In the end, I left without a peep. I just wanted my deposit back and to tell her off. When she deposited half of my money into my bank account, I knew that was all I was getting. It was time. I sent her one last Whatsapp before blocking her:
“You’re the worst person I have ever known. I don’t know if you realize how incredibly insane you must be to have created such animosity towards me out of NOTHING. I never did or said anything remotely bad to you, and you only ever treated me with disrespect and disdain. You’re just a mean little girl and you need to grow up and learn not to involve other people in your misery. I hope you get the opportunity to live abroad, and I hope you are received in a foreign country in the very same manner in which you have received me here. Karma’s a bitch if you are. Also, I saw my towel and you are deranged. Hasta nunca!”
I guess I didn’t mention the whole towel thing in here, but that’s fine since it would probably traumatize you as much as it did me.
So there it is. This one horrible lunatic managed to ruin a whole city for me. My favorite city. I hate to think that one evil witch has changed my experience and perception of an entire country and its people, and I don’t know if it’s just my heightened sensitivity, personal contempt, or simply the end of my “honeymoon phase” with Madrid, but I have since then seen such ugly qualities in so many of the people around me (cough Madrileños cough). The negativity has permeated my everyday life, making me wonder if my place in this city is worth fighting for. What good is a happy place if, in order for it to remain that way, it has to be separated from everyone else who calls it home?
FYI: A week after I moved out so did Nacho.”
Update: Huge public shout-out and thank you to Sam and her awesome roommates and Miguel who all let me crash on their couches for a couple weeks at a time, to Danielle, Kimia, and Sam for letting me store my stuff and to Cara, Erin, Eduardo and everyone else who offered me a place to stay or leave my things, who listened to me vent and re-read angry Whatsapp messages, and who hated this bitch right along with me. I get by with a LOT of help from my friends.
I’m not the world’s biggest Zeppelin fan, nor do I know exactly what it means* to “get the lead out” but for me, it conjures up images of an old tube of toothpaste. If returning home after a long vacation has taught us anything, it’s that toothpaste doesn’t keep. I see “getting the lead out” as the first crusty substance that comes out when you squeeze that once-abandoned bottle of toothpaste. That first junk is unusable, but don’t throw out the bottle!: there’s plenty of good stuff left to be had. In my case, the once-abandoned bottle of toothpaste is my writing and I’d like to “get the lead out” now by doing a little bit of it here, for you. And for me. For us. And I can’t promise it’ll be nice and fresh.
It’s really tough to go back to doing something you used to do regularly. It’s disheartening to suck at something you were once good at; to feel as though, in a matter of months, you’ve unlearned what it took you years to learn. I’ve often heard that writing is a muscle and if you don’t exercise it, it will surely atrophy, and I feel this has happened to me.
I somehow got out of the practice of writing and since then, each time I’ve tried to put pen to paper I’ve felt fatigued, or I’ve cramped up and had to take another indefinite break. And the truth is that I’ve been sort of paralyzed by a fear of going back to it. I’ve been so afraid to post my less-than-best work that I haven’t posted anything at all. The nine–count ‘em! You can do it on two hands!–posts I’ve written up ‘til now felt easy to do and put out into the world. They felt safe and in my mind, they were perfect**. But now it seems things have gotten more complicated, and the posts have gotten trickier to write. They’re a litter rougher, a little less polished, and I don’t feel like they’re the best representation of my desired outlook on life, even if they’re true to how I’ve been feeling lately. As a result of this dissatisfaction with my work (or with certain circumstances in my life recently. Roommate/ landlord troubles.), I’ve completely shied away from the idea of sharing my writing at all. But I hate that. I don’t want to talk about writing anymore, or how annoyed I am with myself for not doing it. I’ve resolved to actually USE this blog as an outlet for my ideas, instead of the ever-growing 1000+ page word document I have saved on my computer. I’m going to let you see me at my very worst, even if it means posts that are hard to get through for both you and me.
So I’ll start with posting some old things–things that were either crap or unfinished or unfinished crap, and then I hope to write new stuff regularly. These next few (or more! Yikes!) posts will be Crusty Toothpaste Posts, and I hope you’ll bear with me ‘til we can get to the good stuff, assuming there’s still some left!
*actually, google gave me some definitions, but I promptly rejected them in favor of my own.
**or at least perfectly represented my style of writing and my perspective about what I was experiencing at the time
Why am I here? Or, better put, why am I here again? For those of you who know I spent a semester studying and working in Madrid a few years ago, you might be wondering if I’ve moved back here to re-capture the days of my youth, to relive the once-in-a-lifetime experience that is study abroad, to try to re-piece together what I left behind over two years ago. “It won’t be the same,” you say. I know; that’s not why I’m here. Let’s get one thing straight right now: I didn’t come back here to re-live my life. I came here to live my life.
I am not exactly who I was two years ago. I won’t go as far as saying I’m a totally different person, but I’ve changed and grown the amount that you can expect pretty much any person to change and grow between the ages of 20 and 23, which I think is quite a lot. And I’m not in the same place, despite the fact that I am, geographically, in the same place.
FACT: Madrid, Spain is located just 0 miles (0 km) from Madrid, Spain.
But you still might be wondering why I chose Madrid again; why I chose to revisit a place where I have so many memories, rather than choose a new place, or stay in Santiago, or in Chicago.
Even I might be wondering, at times, why I’m here: Why I turned down a job at a company I loved working for, why I left my friends in Florida, then Chicago, then Chile, why I moved further away from my family, why I put an ocean between me and my boyfriend, why I packed all my things into two suitcases (the only thing I hate more than packing is suitcases!) and came all the way back to Madrid, where there was nothing waiting for me except a long list of to-do’s in order to resume my life here and a part-time job as an English teaching assistant at an elementary school, which is not what I want to dedicate my life to. Simply put, last time I was in Madrid, I sort of fell in love. Yes, slightly with the food (a moment on your lips, forever on your hips), slightly with a guy (long over), but most most mostly with this city and what it did to me. As Golda from Fiddler on the Roof once said, “Maybe it’s indigestion.” Maybe it is. I have, after all, been prescribed omeprazole by 3 different doctors in 2 different countries. But if not, it must be love.
Coming to Madrid last time changed my life. I got here, turned around and I happened upon the best study abroad friends in the world, and I happened upon an internship at a music distribution company that would change the course of my career, and I happened upon the version of myself I always knew I could be but the context of my life never quite drew out. I am myself many places, but I grew into myself in Madrid.
A very wise lady called My Mom always says, “You are where you’re supposed to be.” It’s easy for me to feel that I’ve somehow tinkered with the Big Plan, messed with the gods, disturbed the natural pull of the universe by choosing to leave “there” and come “here.” Maybe I’ve thrown everything off base, off balance, and who knows when the consequences will come. (But then, aren’t we living the consequences of our choices right now?) It’s easy to feel that I’m not attached to anything here, that I’m missing out on so many things elsewhere, but something made me want to come back here and I’m not one to ignore “something.” For some reason, somehow, I’m here now and dammit if I don’t feel that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.