The questions are always there, lingering. They are questions you ask yourself. They are questions others ask of you. They are questions that go unanswered.
Are you staying?
When are you going?
Where, indeed, is home?
I am blessed in that, if I so chose, I could stay in Spain forever. I didn’t have any major ordeals to undergo—in the spring of 2012 we planned our wedding, and by July I received my permanent residence card. The process was relatively easy, even if I did spend an absurd amount of money to obtain the “official” versions of documents I already owned. Bureaucracy, at least this time, was only a faint murmur in the background of my life.
Many fellow conversation assistants would be jealous of this. They are always looking for a way to stay, hoping not to have to go home and renew their visas. They want to au pair in July and August, teach at summer camps around Spain, hit the beaches in Valencia. But bureaucracy gets in their way. Can we travel around Europe after our NIE [residency] expires? they ask in the forums, hoping that just one person will say yes, unequivocally yes. They do not want to hear the word no, cannot stomach going home to what they see as drudgery. The renew for another year, putting off the “real world” and reveling in the life that a 16-hour workweek gives them. They write blog posts of their travels; they Instagram stunningly beautiful shots of tiny pueblos; they seem to lead a charmed life. And they do. But they want more! They want to stay for not just two or three years, but five years! Or more, who knows?
And so in their eyes I am lucky. I acknowledge this—I have been incredibly lucky to be able to study in Spain, to have a job here, to perfect my Spanish over five years in the country. I have found love, and if you’re into romanticizing life (which I am), it’s exciting to be with a person from another country, who will always be a little bit different and exotic to you.
But I’m one of the ones who says no to the first question. No, I’m not staying. I am, in a sense, throwing away an opportunity to live and work here in Spain. On the other hand, if I were to stay, I would be “throwing away” an opportunity to live and work in the place I call home. In any case, one of us is going to have to leave home, to say no to the comfort that living in your home country brings. If only everyone were aware of the comforts of living at home. Especially those who have never left or only been on vacations. Those people don’t really know what it’s like to feel as though you don’t quite get it.
When are you going? It’s anyone’s guess. It’s limbo. Much of our life together has been like this: uncertainty, the future cloudy and hard to read. I look forward to the day when I buy something big and expensive, a sofa or a mattress or perhaps even a television. To feel that sense of permanence and like life might just be predictable. Predictable, yes—a dirty word to some, but something I crave. Life and uncertainty create a sense of uneasiness in me, and I am ready to find certainty … someday.
Where is home? Home is here; home is there. Home is Zamora. Home is Indiana. Home is the feeling we have when we are together.