First of all, I would like to thank all of you who have been keeping up with my study abroad experience/travel blog. Though I always feel better after writing a post, oftentimes it takes a lot of effort on my part to just sit down and write it, so I thank you for being an audience with whom I can share this adventure. If you're just joining ¡Vivalano! or are catching up, welcome to the program! I hope I can provide you with a well deserved rest from your day, some laughs, and maybe something intellectually stimulating or uplifting.
Technically, the title of this post is somewhat misleading, as I have already completed five months of my nine month study abroad program. However, as I always appreciate artistic alliteration, we'll leave it as such. Because the possibility of this turning into a stream of conscious post is quite high, I will just touch on three themes: The Past, the Future, and Time.
To say that I've simple "grown" these past five months would be the understatement of the century. If I was a baby bird molting my feathers in the nest at the beginning, now I've not only learned to fly but to soar. Perhaps I'm not quite an eagle, but I still have four months to work on that. I think back to my first days in Santiago: settling into my room, not knowing anyone, trying to figure out classes, and of course seeing and entering the cathedral for the first time, being somewhat dumbstruck in all four cases. When I had enough time, I remember mentally preparing what I would say ahead of time in Spanish, often for menial requests such as food or keys to the piano room. At the beginning of the year, I never thought for a second I would experience the following (and if I had, some of them might have scared me away): Spending the night in two airports (with more to come, surely), getting swindled into buying coconuts on a beach, taking a college level course in a language I had never studied, Gallego (with 3 more this semester), missing a flight whilst running like a madman in the Madrid airport, getting lost and almost missing the bus in Fátima, getting lost in the same trip just a few hours later in Lisboa, wandering in the London area by myself for a week, and participating in the Charismatic Catholic movement, to name a few. All of these experiences, the good and less than good, have formed me into the confident, comfortable, and self-aware American-Spaniard that I am today. Only through the grace of God have I been able to grow in this way, and I know that through Him, any challenges which come amidst the moments of joy in these next four months will eventually be transformed into a greater good.
Even with three of my courses being in Gallego this semester, the future looks pretty bright and exciting so far. First of, I understand much more of what my professors say, since their accents aren't very thick and my understanding of both languages has improved to a great extent. In the very near future (i.e. this upcoming weekend), I will be going to Fátima again and not getting lost, as I will be traveling with a large group of Spanish youth for a pilgrimage there. In Galicia, everyone is on holiday Monday and Tuesday for "Carnaval," so the pilgrimage will be from the 8th until the 12th. I think it's safe to say that this will be my first pilgrimage ever, and I know it will probably be one of the most memorable experiences here! In March, again by the grace of God, I will have the privilege of seeing two sets of visitors from the states! From the 8th until the 11th, I will be with my sister Claire and brother-in-law (BIL) James in Madrid. Not only am I obviously excited to see them again after so many months, I will relish the opportunity to finally spend some time in the capital of Spain. I find it kind of odd how I've been in three other European capital cities (Lisboa, Dublin, & London) while only being in the airport of the capital of my host country. Then, about a week and a half later, my parents will arrive in Santiago! We'll spend some time here in Santiago and exploring other parts of Galicia, and then on the Monday of Holy Week, which is also my Spring Break, we will fly to Valencia and spend a few days there. One of my friends from Brazil just went there and said it was gorgeous, so I'm looking forward to seeing that part of Spain. Close to the end of the week, we'll take a train up to Barcelona and spend the Triduum and Easter there. As far as other traveling in the semester goes, it's kind of up in the air (literally, because Ryanair flights are sometimes troublesome with my schedule). I may have the chance to meet up with a friend from Whitworth named Heather up in Scotland, which would be quite fun since kilts are the bee's knees. My dream is still to go to Rome, and more importantly Vatican City at some point this semester. Shaking hands/getting a photo with Pope Benedict XVI would be a definite win, but I guess I should work on getting there first.
It's definitely been a peculiar experience seeing (or hearing about) people returning to their home countries these past few weeks. When experiencing cultural nuances and living with the same people for five months, you forget that everyone has a previous life that they will return to in the end. I know that certain departures will affect me more than others, as my level of friendship depends on each person. Nonetheless, it is frankly strange and uneasy knowing that the likelihood of seeing certain people again in the flesh, at least in this life, is like getting struck by lightning. Something I keeping telling myself, and sometimes to departing friends, is that although we are unaware when/if we will see each other, we can find peace that in knowing each other, we will never be the same. From the way this paragraph is going, you might think that I were leaving! On the contrary, I'm still very content with my decision to remain here the entire academic year; there are so may things left to experiences and other friendships still to develop. I think the winds that will blow me back stateside will become more apparent when registering for Whitworth classes, a good kick in the pants to remind me that I actually attend an American university. Though four months is a considerable part of a year (1/3, right?), I'm still afraid that Time will come to bite me by passing too quickly. With so many things to think about for next year and especially post-Whitworth, I don't want to see Spain passing away into the fog of my memory too soon! God willing, it won't :)