Do you remember study abroad? I’ve talked about it often, if only because it was the beginning of so many things (good, bad, and neutral) for me. It was the first time I set foot in Spain; it was the first time I felt overwhelmed by the idea of becoming fluent in another language; it was the first time I truly embraced my Americanness.
At La Fundación José Ortega y Gasset in 2008.
The next stage for me was being a Conversation and Language Assistant, una auxiliar de conversación. Being a C&LA was different than being a student. I had responsibilities other than studying. I had more bills to pay. I had to deal with a lot more bureaucracy (although not as much as some people).I felt much more alone than I had as a study abroad student, surrounded by scores of other naïve Americans like me. But still there was a built-in group of people I could make friends with, my fellow C&LAs in Zamora, where I was located. Together, we found common ground in complaining about the lack of respect shown by our students, being the token Americans everywhere we went, and laughing about the abundance of zapaterías (shoe stores).
Now I find myself about to embark on a different sort of journey—one without a set end date, without a built-in group of fellow Americans, without a sense of surety. Daunting is a word that comes to mind. Sometimes I see the new(er) C&LAs and their blogs describe their countless trips, how they see Spain—and I see myself in them, but back in 2009. And obviously 2009 was not that long ago; I’m not saying that I’m infinitely more mature than them or anything of the sort. I’m only saying that we’re always changing, and I’ve changed since then, I’ve been altered by the transient nature of life.
My time in Spain has gone from student life to auxiliar life, to life life. No longer am I thinking, “Just until June” or “I can’t do that, because I’ll be gone by then.” Instead I’m thinking of work permits and marriage licenses and in-law dilemmas. I’m thinking of buying furniture and settling down and sending boxes across the Atlantic Ocean because when did I get this much stuff?
It’s all his fault. Mario’s, that is.
Perhaps the more seasoned expats will smirk at me and my naïveté. Perhaps they’ll feel a bit of sympathy because I don’t know what I’m getting myself into (and I suppose I only have the faintest idea!). Perhaps they’ll view me with nostalgia—they remember their beginnings too, their first trembling steps into the “real world.” I cannot say how, in a few years (or decades), I’ll view the Kaley of 2012. I can only hope that the me of today will not allow herself to be intimidated, to say no, to live a fear-driven life.