Why Don’t They Just Apply for Citizenship?

This post is based on question posed to me by a white person I know.

Mario and I came to the United States last March. We had spent the last year and a half in an immigration limbo, not sure of where we would be from one month to the next. When we got here, I was really excited to show Mario what life in the U.S. was like. I was not thinking about the state of our country or potential political problems. I was really excited!11008793_714451911831_8719257411067050066_n.jpg

This election has shattered what was left of my bubble. I am from a small town, but I had lived for years in Spain and moved to a blue bubble in a red state. I was surrounded by people who were affirming my views that Donald Trump was not the right person to lead our country. I did not think it would happen. The whole time, I was not seeing or hearing how scared people of color, immigrants, refugees, LBGTQ people were. My whiteness allowed me to skirt by those issues. I was not actively ignoring it, but I still was not hearing it. That all changed on November 9. I have had to engage with a country I now know is deeply racist. Most of all, white people—white women, even—voted for a racist, sexist, homophobic person instead of thinking about others. What they said to marginalized people was, “I just don’t care about you.”

With Trump’s announcement that he plans to deport 3 million “illegals,” I have begun to reflect on the whole process of immigration. Mario, a white European, had many great advantages in his immigration process: he is married to me, he’s white, he’s Western European, he has a university degree, etc. I thought then that the process would be relatively easy and straightforward.

It wasn’t. It took us a year and a half and over $3,000 to do it all—and that’s without the help of lawyer. I am a native English speaker and I’m pretty good at researching things on the Internet. I also have a university degree.

It wasn’t “easy” for us. But it wasn’t necessary either. We chose to get married, we chose to live in Spain, and we chose to come back to the U.S. There was no necessity; we were not in danger in any way. For most of the immigrants and refugees in the U.S., especially the undocumented, there is no “choice.” They move to protect their families, to seek a country that will allow them to enough money to support themselves or their families, or some other reason.

In some small ways, I understand the struggle of immigration. However, I will never understand what my colleague with an undocumented mother is going through. Right now, she is fearful that, one day, she will go home to find her mother gone, never to return. I am frightened for the future of our country, the country to which we decided to move in January of 2014. I wonder sometimes if, had we known about Trump’s victory, would we have moved here? Maybe not. But then, we always had a choice.

When You Take the Spaniard Out of Spain…

…What happens? Good question! It’s been over a year now that we’ve been back in the U.S. It feels like a long time ago—and yet not so long after—that we packed our bags, said farewell to Madrid, and hopped on that Iberia flight. In fact, we were back last October to celebrate my brother-in-law’s wedding, held at a lovely vineyard outside of Toro. (If you know Spanish wine, you’ll know Toro.)12072657_1079134052119176_3561953440773035576_n.jpg12079607_1079133222119259_5287088477159378538_n.jpg

It was a whirlwind visit, leaving on a Tuesday and coming home on Monday (or something like that, my memory’s a bit of a blur), but it was wonderful to have our families reunited again. And, of course, there was a bit of wine, a bit of cheese, and lots of wine to wash it all down.

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As for life in the U.S.? Mario’s certainly loving his new job as a paralegal; it’s all the lawer-y stuff without the stress of, you know, being an actual lawyer. He gets fun perks like open-bar office Christmas parties, tickets to the Indianapolis Colts preseason games (a suite!), and dinners with clients from time to time in one of Indy’s hip downtown neighborhoods.

Me? I’m back at school, earning my teaching license so I can continue to work with the little ones. Teaching was not always where I thought I would end up, but turns out that 1) I love it, and 2) I’m pretty good at it.

I’m going to try to update you on more things about our lives, because I just miss sharing from time to time, and who knows, maybe someone out there is still reading.

For more frequent updates, check out my Instagram or Twitter, and please email me if you have any visa questions, because I’VE BEEN THERE. I can help. In the meantime, here are some more photos from the past, I dunno, year.

12311217_1104834589549122_2608573002887634341_n.jpgMy birthday in Colorado

11219211_10204866573890883_3551021181150555088_n.jpgTrying to hang with college kids at IU

13239899_751658045441_5869220025959680603_n.jpgMy beloved alma mater

13226834_10205995948684547_3516197461533359556_n.jpgFriends drinking beer13001331_746465805731_3787332545559420883_n.jpg13043658_746465750841_5760597765504128516_n.jpgMario ran his first-half marathon in the U.S. in 1:29

See you soon (I hope)!

So You’re Dating a Spaniard—Jamie

Hi all! So ironically—if I’m using the word correctly, and I’m never quite sure I am—when I stopped blogging regularly, my stats started booming! I blame Pinterest, but I can’t be sure … Nonetheless, I’d love to start blogging more regularly, at least so you all can listen to my husband’s complaints about drivers in the U.S.! (They are hilarious.) To tide you over, please read this interview with Jamie, who blogs at Belleville to Barcelona.

Dating a Spaniard Jamie

Hi!  My name is Jamie and I am from a small town in southern Illinois called Belleville.  It is right across the river from St.Louis, Missouri.  I turned 26 in October, right before I left to come back here to Barcelona for the second time.  I landed here for my first time in October 2012, took a TEFL course, and started working right away.  Obviously, I fell in love, with both teaching and my Spainard.  :) After working and living the typical Barcelona lifestyle for a full year, I decided I had to return home to see my family.  I stayed home for a full year and then packed my bags up again and here I am! This time around I’ve been here for 5 months so all together in Spain- 1 year and 5 months!

How did you meet your significant other and how long have you been together?

Carles and I met in the cheapest and smelliest hostel in London you could possibly imagine.  The crazy part is we were both living and working in Barcelona at the time and I was on my first ever Eurotrip with one of my best friends from college and he (last minute) booked a trip there to go for 5 days by himself and practice his English.  When we returned to Barcelona in January we did language exchanges together and hung out frequently- just as friends.  This went on for a few months and in March he moved into a 4 bedroom apartment with me and 2 other girls and again we were still just friends.  It wasn’t until May of 2013 we decided to make it official.. With that being said, we have been together for 2 years.
Dating a Spaniard Jamie

Do you feel that your significant other is a “typical” Spaniard?

In some ways—yes, he is a Spaniard through and through … In other ways he couldn’t be farther from a “typical” Spaniard.  For example, I swear he has to take a siesta every day he is not working even if he isn’t tired.. It’s just in his blood. He loves paella, jamón, and bocadillos and could eat them every day if he could.  He grew up playing soccer and was the captain of his team the last few years.  On the other hand, he is never too bothered when the Barca games are on and is open to moving and not staying around his small village where he is from.  He travels all over the world with me and is constantly wanting to see and do more.  He LOVES everything related to the states and would much rather wear a St.Louis Cardinals baseball jersey than a Barca one any day.  I think he really has developed the “best of both worlds” when it comes down to it.

Which language do you speak when you’re together?

When we met, we started talking in English because my level of Spanish was pretty terrible.  As we spent more time together and lived with two other girls who only spoke English—we were primarily speaking English. Now, as this is my second time around here, we are trying to speak more Spanish to improve my level but like everyone says, it’s hard to switch completely from the language you started speaking in.  Step by step!
Dating a Spaniard Jamie

How do you deal with the “in-law” issue?

Joan and Olga are amazing!  I have met them multiple times and can honestly say they treat me as one of their own, even though we are so different and don’t speak the same languages.  As they are from here; their first language is Catalan but of course switch to Spanish when I am around.  We have lunch with them usually every other Sunday and this past Christmas I was fortunate enough to get to spend it with them.  It was wonderful getting to experience a true Catalan Christmas!

What is the best part about dating/being married to a foreigner (and especially a Spaniard)?

You are constantly (and I mean constantly) learning something new.  Whether it is simply a new word in Spanish (or Catalan in my case) or a whole new tradition and way of life.. There are always things to be shared with one another.  Also you are welcomed into a whole new culture which is amazing in itself… Your eyes are opened to so many new things and it makes you appreciate it even more having your Spaniard (or foreigner) there to help guide you.
Dating a Spaniard Jamie

What is the most difficult part?

With cultural differences … comes some type of miscommunication at times.  There have been moments where one of us isn’t able to fully express what we want to say in the other language and this can be frustrating but with time and lots of patience.. Everything always works itself out!  Especially now after being together for 2 years, we hardly ever experience this anymore.

What advice would you give someone who is considering starting a relationship with a Spaniard?

Be patient! Also be very flexible because maintaining a relationship from opposite sides of the world can be tough at times… If you have to do long distance at any point like we did. But get ready for an amazing experience, unlike any you have had before!
Dating a Spaniard Jamie

Do you plan on living in the US or in Spain long term?

Bear with me because this question brings up a lot of different scenarios for us. Now it’s much easier for us to live and work in Spain; however, we love the U.S., and of course my family is there, so we plan to go back before too long and start our lives in the states together.  But after we have children and they are old enough to remember, we would like to come back here to allow them to go to Spanish/Catalán schools and experience what is it like to live and grow up in Spain.  So I guess both?

If you could import something from the US to Spain (and vice versa), what would it be?

Obviously I want my family here first and foremost.. After that, I would really love if it dryers were much more available here because I dislike everything about having to hang my clothes out.  Also I would import smoothie places on every corner like they are in the states (I miss my smoothie king, Jamba Juice, Planet Smoothie, etc.), oh, and TARGET!
If I could import something to the States, it would definitely be the mentality from here to ‘work to live’ not ‘live to work’ which is so very common in the states.  As for food, jamón, tortilla de patatas, and pan con tomate at each meal.  And one thing specific from Barcelona would be La Boqueria! It’s the best and I’m sad all my friends and family in the states don’t get to experience it unless they come here of course!
Dating a Spaniard Jamie

How has being in a relationship with a Spaniard changed you?

It has made me a better person overall- it has made me realize there is way more to life than just “living the American dream” and in my opinion, not living that “life” and having the pressures that come along with is is way better.  I have learned so much about the Spanish and Catalán cultures and been able to experience their traditions firsthand.  It has made me more open to all languages and cultures and also made me realize that anything is possible.
Dating a Spaniard Jamie
Thanks so much, Jamie!

So You Were Dating a Spaniard—Serena

Hey guys. Long time; no see. Life’s been full of changes since we moved here in March. Mainly I’ve been working, having a life, and also pursuing a certification in education as well as applying to do a master’s. You know: life’s been keeping me on my toes. But I thought I’d try to bring it back with this interview with Serena … a very atypical interview for this series (So You’re Dating a Spaniard).

My name is Serena, I’m Canadian and I’ve been living in Spain for over 15 years. I was married with, not one but two, Spaniards (not at the same time, of course!). However, now I’m divorced and a single mother. Sorry to put on the dampener with all these beautiful love stories that you have on your blog (that actually work!) and I’m not saying that love stories with Spaniards don’t work in the long run. The reason we broke up had nothing to do with my husband’s being Spanish, and I’m sure if they had been Canadian, our marriages still wouldn’t have worked out.

I used to be very naïve, and, coming from a dysfunctional home, I actually used to believe that if a person didn’t abuse me, it meant that he didn’t love me. I thought that the way a person was supposed to show love was by insulting me and telling me all the things that were horrible about me. And if he didn’t do that, it meant that he didn’t care about me.

In my mind, I felt that a person who loves you insults you so that you know what is wrong with you and you can improve that and become a better person. And if a person is being nice to you, he really doesn’t care about you, because he isn’t doing anything to try and help you become a good person. So I only went out with men who insulted me and treated me badly. If a man was nice to me, I immediately mistrusted him and ran away from him. After learning what was so dysfunctional about this sort of thinking, I was able to walk away from this sort of relationship … which is why I’m not with anyone today. However, now I’m ready to look for love again!

My two exes and I actually have a really great, really cool relationship. I’m good friends with both of them and if I really need something, I know that I can count on both of them, and they will be there for me. I consider myself blessed to enjoy such a precious friendship with them.

Moving on, I live in Málaga and I have two sons, one with each of my ex-husbands. I’m over 30 so I’m old enough to keep my age a secret! I guess like most people from English speaking countries, we’re “labelled” and stereotyped into teaching English, so that is my main activity and I’m extremely thankful to have a job. At any rate, I never studied any other profession.

I came to Spain because I signed up for a Spanish course at university. I’d always heard Mexicans speaking and I thought their language was the most beautiful I’d ever heard, and I wanted to understand what they were saying.

The university offered a study Spanish abroad programme, so I jumped at the opportunity to take Spanish courses in Madrid. Anyway, to keep the interview from getting too long, I’ll just talk about my first husband. He was my first love, and you know what that means!

How did you meet your ex significant other?

I was singing in a choir in Madrid, and a girl I met there became my best friend. She had lived in Granada so we went to Granada together on holiday. While we were in Granada she introduced me to her friends, and David was one of them.

The first day I met him, I thought David was sweet but very pesky. We went bar hopping, and he kept following me about all over the place and wouldn’t stop bombarding me with questions! I found that pretty tiresome. Then it turned out that we had to find a place to crash for the night because it was so late, we couldn’t go back to my friend’s brother’s house, because he was already in bed. So we ended up bedding down at David’s apartment.

I didn’t keep in touch with David. But one day he came to Madrid and we bumped into each other. He told me later that he had been dreaming that he would bump into me and willing it to happen! He moved to Madrid for a year to take a course, and we started going out.

Do you feel that your ex significant other is a “typical” Spaniard?

I don’t really think there’s a “typical” Spaniard. He doesn’t care about soccer or sports in general at all. But he’s from Andalucía so he likes many of the things that I suppose people stereotypically associate with Spain, such as flamenco, bar-hopping and tapeando and going to parties.

His attitudes at that time were also fairly machista, one of the reasons why our relationship didn’t work out. But I don’t believe that all Spanish men are machista. I think it’s like everywhere else. In Canada there are also men with chauvinistic or sexist attitudes, and men who don’t have such attitudes.

Which language do you speak when you’re together?

We always spoke Spanish. He knows a little bit of English, but I’d already been living and working in Spain for a few years so I spoke Spanish quite well. It did take a little getting used to his “andaluz” accent though.

How did you deal with the “in-law” issue?

I used to get along well with his parents. I got along better with his father than with his mother. She was a lovely lady too, what you could consider typical andaluza, superb in the kitchen and a madraza (a great mama). But I found her ideas a bit “antiquated” for the times, and I didn’t always agree with them. For example, she thought that a woman was supposed to be for the house and for her man and giving her man whatever he wanted.

My ex father-in-law was a famous artist, and I dedicated an article to him, which you can read on my blog. He was very kind and friendly and open-minded. He was such a sweet person. He used to tell me many stories and anecdotes about his youth and life during the Spanish Civil War. One day I might write them down on the blog in order not to forget them. He’s passed away now, and I actually do miss him.

What was the best part about dating a foreigner (and especially a Spaniard)?

Being with David let me meet people, go to places and learn about all sorts of customs, traditions and history that normally a foreigner would simply never find out about, I think. I made a lot of Spanish friends through him and enjoyed a lot of experiences that I would never have had the opportunity to have if I had been alone.

What was the most difficult part?

Definitely the language barrier and also different customs. Like any language, Spanish has a lot of nuances and even more so Andalusian Spanish (which some people don’t even consider Spanish). And as a foreigner, a lot of times these nuances escape you.
David was also a bit of an anti-American and even though I’m not American, he thought Canadians had a lot in common with them, and he didn’t understand these customs nor have any interest in learning about them.

For example, he said Canadians walk funny. Spanish people are very direct and they don’t consider it rude to stare directly at people. But in Canada, that’s very rude. People are always telling their kids, “Don’t stare at that man/woman!” So in order to avoid staring at people, we learn to look demurely at the ground.

Another thing he thought was creepy was the way North Americans put their hands in their laps when they’re eating. He thought that was just plain rude, he’d say, “What are you doing down there? Put your hand where I can see it!” I, on the other hand, thought it was rude that he kept poking me with his elbow!

What advice would you give someone who is considering starting a relationship with a Spaniard?

Well, I’d give the same advice I’d give to anyone starting a relationship with any person, no matter what country that person is from. Love yourself first, respect yourself enough to not let yourself be with anyone who doesn’t respect you. Or who treats you like %&(* or is tyrannical or demands absolute obedience from you. Probably most people reading this blog know this, but I didn’t. I was used to this sort of treatment at home, and I thought it was the right way to be treated by people who loved you.

Do you plan on living in Canada or in Spain long term?

I have no one left at “home” to “go home” to anymore anyways, so I’m staying in Spain for good. Besides which I HATED, absolutely couldn’t stand, the harsh Canadian winters! Although I wouldn’t mind spending some time living in other countries, for the adventure. But I think I’d always come back to Spain.

If you could import something from Canada to Spain (and vice versa), what would it be?

I know maybe it sounds weird, but I miss a lot of the foods from there. I miss too many foods to name them all, but I think flavoured instant oatmeal, cream of wheat and blueberry Eggo waffles are near the top of the list! And unexpected afternoon thunderstorms in the middle of summer!

If I could import something from Spain to Canada? Oh definitely without a doubt the hot Andalusian sun, palm trees and warm beaches. And also the much more relaxed lifestyle. I know here in Spain people work long hours. But when they get off work, they know how to relax. In Canada people live with their jobs 24 hours a day.

How has being in a relationship with a Spaniard changed you?

I think being in a relationship changes you, it doesn’t matter whether the person you are in a relationship with is from another country or from your own country. I learnt what was acceptable and what I wouldn’t accept any more from someone I was in a relationship with. I discovered that when people love you, they do NOT show it by shouting at you and insulting you all the time.

I’d rather not include any photos of my ex as I don’t have his permission. But here is a picture of myself with my two children.

Dating a Spaniard Series - Serena

Thank you, Serena, for such an interesting perspective! You can see her blog at The Seas of Mintaka.