Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hump

It's true what they say about the "hump" effect and living abroad.  I really didn't experience all that much culture shock upon arrival here; everything was too new and overwhelming for that feeling.  The stress was about establishing myself more than about a culture difference.  Then I found an apartment, made some friends, and started work, and I got a little used to being here.  That's when my Spanish bell curve experience really began: I had to slowly move uphill while trying to get used to Andalucian accents and schedules and while finding a balance between too little and too much contact with those I miss dearly in the States.  In November I got sick when my mom was in town, and I was ready to flee the country as a stowaway in her luggage.  But then I went to the doctor and took antibiotics and some deep breaths.  Then around mid November I realized it: I was doing it; I really was living in another country.  Soon enough it was December and Christmas was everywhere.  I wanted to go home, but the break (and Germany and Portugal) came at just the right time.  I did some more deep breathing, some thinking and prioritizing, and a lot of dancing, and I came back more than refreshed and ready to go in January.  Four months in and I finally felt like I'd reached the top of the hill (I think my ascent may have been slower than others', but different strokes and all that...)  It felt really good because suddenly I found myself more comfortable than I thought I could be in another country: I was adding things to Recess Teacher Talk, giving directions to people on the streets, being recognized at a handful of cafes and clubs, and actually helping solve student problems (non-English related) at school.  And there it was: a new home.

Recently a friend told me she could see me growing up, that even over the last few months, she's noticed some changes.  I'm not sure she knew what she was talking about, and I'm definitely not a grown-up, but this whole progression of events has made me think.  It's reminded me of the great capacity humans have for experiencing life.  This is already sounding like flowery word vomit, but I'll keep going.  Five years ago I had one home.  I knew the house I'd been in for 18 years wasn't the home; I at least knew a home was bigger than a building, that it included people and experiences and feelings, but I didn't really understand the complete concept then.  And I'm not saying I do now, but my understanding of the idea of "home" has evolved.  I realize the human heart is capable of some pretty big and wonderful things.  I know my heart belongs to more than St. Louis, to more than my parents and childhood friends.  I've left pieces of my heart in lots of places, and somehow there's still a lot left to leave.  Home has become a crazy beautiful mix of the Lou, William Jewell, Florida (the Center of Good Living and the white-sanded Gulf), Mexico, North Carolina... and now Spain.  It's crazy because it doesn't really make sense that our lives can be so spread out without being spread too thin or being completely disconnected, and it's beautiful for the same reasons.  The way things connect, the general smallness of the world which is still somehow huge, it's all part of what home is.  Home is mobile.  Home is living.  And I'm taking it with me all the time.

Also, Spring has arrived.  The sun's been out about four days in a row now, and it amazes me what that does to almost everyone's spirits.  Feels good.

Currently looking forward to/planning:
*Semana Santa plans: Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla -- Road Trip!
*ITALY trip for the first week of June (Rome, Florence, Venice with one of the roomies)
*Kay's visit (She's crossing the ocean to come see me for a week in June!)