I started 2011 in good old Indiana—my home, my high school stomping ground, the place I always feel the most me.
Even if it does entail a little snow.
In January, I returned to Zamora, where my high school students still refused to speak to me in English. Not long thereafter, though, Mario and I were off to Belgium.
Although bitterly cold, it was a magical place full of chocolate, waffles, moules-frites, and French. Luckily, Mario speaks French. (Why can’t I speak four languages?!)
February went by slowly, especially as I was now living in Zamora instead of Salamanca, far away from my studious, always-has-his-nose-in-a-book boyfriend. My 30-minute walk to class could seem interminable. As I had received a Kindle, though, I walked to class reading. My fingers nearly froze off a few times!
March meant heading off to what Mario and his cousins referred to as a primada, a play off the Spanish word for cousins, primos. We headed to a casa rural, a rather common thing to do amongst groups of friends. Our casa was located in Gredos in Ávila.
A cousin with the kids: A Sergio and two Marías.
We explored a cave.
Visited a castle. You know, typical Spain stuff.
Like a fairytale wonderland.
And, of course, made jokes about smoking “el porro.” (Note: one is smoking a cigarette, one is “smoking” some straw, and the other one isn’t smoking at all.)
April brought sunshine and the first hints of warmth back to the mesetas of Castilla y León. Oh, and my parents stepped foot onto Spanish soil for the second time. My grandparents came along for the ride. And what a ride it was.
We were “those people” who take photos while our waiter stands and watches.
We visited Segovia and saw the castle.
We couldn’t not see the aqueduct. My grandma brought along our local paper.
Next came the coastal town of San Sebastián, home to some of the worlds best pintxos and food.
Grandma learned how to sit on benches like any good Spaniard.
We even got some hiking in.
Next came Salamanca’s Plaza Mayor with my favorite guy in the whole world.
We met the parents, too. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. Mario’s parents don’t speak English; my parents don’t speak Spanish. Mario and I were the intermediaries. Nonetheless, they hit it off. My dad even hugged them at the end of the trip – not really something Spanish people do, but it worked.
Next came Semana Santa, my first in Zamora. I got to see what it was like to be a member of a cofradía.
Los dos hermanos.
It’s not as frightening as it looks.
In June, Mario and I headed to a wedding held in the most gorgeous place.
And yes, I’m one inch taller than Mario, but with my high heels I am an Amazon woman.
We drank and ate lots of pork products. Claro, hombre.
(L-R) Víctor, Jesús, Pepita, Mario…and me!
Oh yeah, and we went to London. Typical American, that’s me.
Mario took me to a hummus restaurant. The man gets me.
Finally, on June 15, I headed to Madrid, cried a ton, and boarded a plane. Landing in Indianapolis felt surreal. It’s become normal by now, but I still think about how, this time last year, I was an international. Now I’m just me, not foreign or different.
I helped my brother and his fiancee move to Houston, TX.
And celebrated the good ole USofA.
Went to a baby shower for my dear cousin, who now has a gorgeous baby girl.
We shared some of the world’s most delicious wine…in my humble opinion.
I started a temporary job teaching English to ESL students in my hometown. It was fine, but I needed more—namely, insurance.
My dog dressed up for Halloween. This is obviously important in my end-of-the-year recap.
In October, however, I was anticipating the arrival of none other than…Mario, of course! My blog posts dropped to about zero as I spent 24/7 with him.
He learned about “American rugby” from my dad. Yes, Indiana does suck at football, why do you ask?
We introduced him to the art of tailgating with pulled pork sandwiches, a vegetable tray, chips and salsa, guacamole, and mojitos. Living large.
He learned what the real sport is in Indiana – basketball. Hoosier basketball. Purdue does not matter.
He’s an expert at roasting hot dogs now.
We got to be all lovey dovey, too
When Mario left, I started a new job back in my hometown. I was lonely, so I got a kitty. His name is Sheldon.
I don’t have the Christmas photos at my disposal, but it was spent at home with my mother and father, brother, and his fiancee, Colleen. We made hot buttered rum, played Scattergories, exchanged presents, and saw a nice snowfall. All in all, a good holiday spent with great people.
In 2011, I was blessed. I went from Indiana to Spain to Belgium to Spain to London to Indiana to Texas to Indiana. I was in four countries and lived in four cities (Zamora, Salamanca, Crawfordsville, and now Bloomington). Mario visited me and was able to experience Halloween, football, tailgating, mojitos, and Thanksgiving. We ran many miles together and shared many glasses of (red) wine. He’s gone, and of course I miss him, but it’s a good kind of missing, knowing we’ll be back together soon enough and that we have our whole lives to be together, to annoy the other one, to make dinner together, and to watch The Penguins of Madagascar while laughing until we cry.
2011 was a hard year at times, but it it came with a lot of growth. Living in another country is not usually easy, and when it is, you’re lucky. I struggled at times, but came out better on the other side. I realized a lot of things when I came home, too—namely, that I can survive anywhere. I can and I have and I will again someday. Whatever the future brings for that Spanish boy of mine and me, I’m fine with it. I just know that we’ll be together and we’ll fight these battles together.
And if it takes me cursing in two languages, so be it.
Psst – some of my favorite posts from 2011:
And maybe my favorite post: Very Little. Check it out!