Reaching Expat Maturity

Going from expat to immigrant is a big step. I know a few different people who have applied for Spanish citizenship (or are going to). Some of them have received it. A fellow blogger, Zach from Not Hemingway’s Spain, detailed this process on his blog. This post, along with learning about other long-term expats’ desires to apply for Spanish citizenship, got me thinking—what is the difference between what I’m doing and what they’re doing?

Toledo Spain 2008

Last days of study abroad in Toledo. 2008.

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5 Questions I Love Answering about Spain

What is it about living or working in Spain that piques so many people’s curiosity? Is it the fact that it’s European (and therefore cosmopolitan)? Is it the fact that so many of us have studied Spanish in high school? Is it the fact that it’s so far from home?

I’m not sure, but I can tell you one thing: people have questions about it! Some questions can annoy me, but most of the time I love getting questions about my life in Spain!

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Third Culture

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In our guest room a flag hangs from the wall above the bed. No, not a yellow and red flag; this one is red, white, and blue. You know—the stars and stripes. My dad bought Mario this flag to remind him where he should (eventually) settle down. My dad would like it very much if we moved back to the US, preferably yesterday. It has a prominent place in our home, this flag. Why?

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Two Threads

The music is loud and it fills the room. All eyes are on us, and I can’t stop smiling. He grasps my hand, a bit harder than normal, and whispers, “Vamos.” So we enter the room, bright lights shining hotly on us, and I try to see everyone and everything, take it all in, remember everything about this moment. All these people, all this happiness, happened because we happened. We are the cause of these beaming faces, this raucous laughter, this clink of glasses. We are so loved. And we are so unbelievably lucky.

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Pretty close to where it all started

My life and Mario’s life have become intertwined, two threads of the same story, irrevocably twisted together. I didn’t mean for it to happen, didn’t head to Spain looking for love, let alone looking for him. But happen it did.

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Nevertheless, sometimes I feel a twinge of envy as I look at others’ lives. Perhaps I’m crazy, and feel free to say so, but I do sometimes envy those who aren’t headed to Spain, who aren’t married to foreigners like I am. I think of their lives, and I wonder what it’s like not to always yearn. I miss half of my world. Every day.

In the US, I miss Mario most of all, his contagious laughter, our bilingual jokes, how he tells me he loves me. I miss the sunshine and dry plains of Zamora. I miss speaking Spanish, feeling like I’m always learning and growing somehow. I miss our friends: R with his earnest attempts at English, J’s jokes, M who sees Mario much like I do. I cannot help but think of café con leche, chorizo, salchichón, and lentejas. I miss walking past the corner store that sells salt cod, sweet wine, and aguardiente. I reminisce about drinking sweet liqueurs out of frozen tiny beer steins after long lunches, the orujo staining our upper lips a milky brown. I think of paseando after dinner in the summer, when the streets are finally cool and sometimes smell of an afternoon downpour, the pharmacies’ thermometers blinking the temperature in red. I remember how to savor wine and food, linger over a meal,  and—because I must—speak deliberately, with a purpose.

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In Spain, I miss my family—my mother’s hugs “on both sides,” my father mowing the grass, chatting with my sister-in-law about the Hoosiers, the family get-togethers. I miss the green grass, the smell of fires in the fall, my backyard garden with its endless sweet green peppers and curious rabbits poking about. I miss the local Mexican restaurant, its colorful, joyful booths and waiters who already know our orders. I long for cookouts, pitch-ins, and barbecues; fireflies, dandelions, and open fields; barns, cornfields, and corner stores. I miss them all, but know they’re waiting on me to return, and I hope one day I will.

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I think that coming back and forth exacerbates it all. I read posts from former Conversation and Language Assistants who are reminded, every so often, of Spain, and they miss it. Understandably. I wonder if these feelings fade. I think they do, over time. They become less and less frequent, less and less painful. Is this good or bad, this lessening? Who’s to say? I just know that my feelings do not become less frequent; in fact, as I become more deeply entrenched in another culture, another country, another place altogether, I’m realizing that these feelings are more frequent, and often more gut-wrenching. I will never stop missing the other place. Never.

And so I face my future, knowing that something will always be missing, some hole will always be present. These holes I will fill when I return to that place; they, in turn, will be emptied when I must inevitably leave.

And please, don’t think I’m complaining—there’s no reason to complain about my life, fortunate and blessed as it is. But remember that your life, too, is fortunate. T-minus twenty-six days until I’m officially a madrileña.