I think one of the main reasons I've slacked on the blogging this time around (other than pure laziness/forgetfulness) is that this school year got off to a somewhat rocky start. That's probably not the correct word; I mean to say it's been a bit off balance. A bit roller coastery. Like any year in the life of a normal, complicated human being, there have been ups and downs. Only this time the downs seemed more important or at least easier to dwell upon than usual. Debbie Downer, turn that frown upside down; I know. And so that's what I've done. Because seriously, I've got it pretty great. I'm living my dream of living in a foreign country, speaking Spanish on a daily basis, and meeting all sorts of new people. So instead of constantly comparing everything that happens here in Ronda to what happened in Almería (this, I've come to realize, is the basis for much of the negativity, your typical "grass is (was) greener" stuff), I'm letting myself accept this is a completely different year with an almost wholly new and different situation. I had a really great time in Almería, naturally; it was my first time living long-term outside the comfort of Missouri. I had two American roommates who were consistently helpful in both providing doses of home and venturing out to try all things southern Spain. My school was relatively new and small, so getting to know all my elementary kids on a personal level was a snap. Tapas were cheap and came with a beverage, the beach was a twenty-minute walk from my house, and we had consistent WiFi in the apartment. To bridge from that to a summer of four months back home to not knowing anyone all over again in (very quickly) COLD, tiny Ronda and living alone for the first time... it was a trying transition, to say the least. There's also the fact I'm gone most weekends, so I didn't immediately build up any sort of comfortable life in this new city.
All that said, I think I've made the transition. I've been here since late October, but I'm okay with the fact that I'm just now sensing some kind of normalcy in Round Two. I love the traveling I get to do Thurs-Sun. And to compensate being gone so much, I've exited my silly little comfort zone to find things to do and people to see weekdays after work. I give private English classes to a few fellow teachers, I have a Bible study Tuesday evenings, and I generally see my American friends who are also here in Ronda at least once a week. I've also embraced Ronda's size (really not that small, with around 35,000) because it means I see a handful of people I know every time I leave my house. I like short conversations and friendly "Hellos" at the grocery store or local cafe. I love hearing "Teacher! Hi!" while on my way to buy new shoes. It's a good feeling, and with the recently arrived Spring weather, hopefully I'll be enjoying even more of it.
Spain's also been an up and down adventure in general, both years. Lately, though, it's showing me I should just swallow my pride and accept that although slow and lacking in some areas, it has a lot to offer. Small reminders of why I love this country - its food, its people, the Mediterranean and all that comes with it - are abundant. Case in point: my contact lenses just aren't lasting as long as they should, and my "one year supply" certainly isn't going to get me back to the States without switching permanently to my glasses. I've been on the prowl for all sorts of new and improved contact solution to try and keep my poor tired eyes from needing new lenses so often. At this point, normally I'd call home, see what my optometrist could do, and wait for new lenses to arrive. For whatever reason, I decided instead to try an optician's here. I took a suggestion from a coworker (there are hundreds, it seems!) and found it after leaving work today (I got out an hour early because my fifth graders had a test, love my life). This is basically how it went:
"Hi, I was wondering if I could get an appointment..."
"For an eye exam?" (Here there was some confusion as I quickly discovered I need to brush up on more technical vocabulary.)
"Oh, we're not too busy, so no appointment needed. Just go upstairs and have a seat."
I proceeded upstairs and waited maybe 15 minutes for the doctor to finish with the two people in front of me. While I waited, he brought out a basket of sweets in case I wanted one while waiting. They were like strawberry taffy, and they were delicious.
The doctor called me into his office, and I explained my general situation. He checked my eyes and adjusted my prescription (generally the same as any experience in the States except one of his machines, I swear, magically converted a huge gray blur into a lovely picture of an open road in the countryside). Additionally, the "Read the lowest line you can clearly see" part went more like this:
"Can you see the top line?"
"The middle line?"
"And the last line, too?"
"Okay, great. Other eye."
I guess the honor system applies with eye doctors, too. Then we were finished. It was at this point I realized I had forgotten to ask how much an eye exam even cost. He looked at me a little funny when I asked. It's free. Naturally. Then he explained my contact lens options and prices. We agreed on monthly and he then sent me downstairs, 3-month contact supply and brand new B&L cleaning solution in hand, to pay for my items.
So to recap: eye exam, contacts, contact solution, glasses adjustment, 45-minute convenient/walk-in visit -- 42 Euros.
And thank you, Spain. And as if that and the week's worth of sunshine weren't enough, I had notices in my mailbox when I got home telling me two very important packages had arrived and could be picked up tomorrow! It never ceases to amaze me how big God is and how much He takes care of things, big and small, whatever country or continent I might be in at the time. Life is good here in Ronda, Spain!