Where does a year go?
It is true that as one gets older, time moves faster. I know that for our kids, our year in Spain feels like an eternity. Our youngest is trying to remind herself what her room in Durango looks like. My son made lifelong friends that he is already missing. He is trying to convince me to let him go back to visit them for Fallas, Valencia’s annual weeklong festival. For me, Spain already seems like a dream I have to keep reminding myself was real.
I adjusted my expectations with learning Spanish. I quickly realized that I would not be fluent in a year, but at least I have a start that is stronger than most. I have to remind myself what it was like when we were first in Puzol and unable to communicate. When I left, I never worried that I couldn’t get by in what our Spanish teacher called “caveman talk.” Our kids, however, are close to fluent, which is what we wanted for both of them.
The main thing that lets me know we have changed through our time in Spain is simple. Things that seemed exotic now seem familiar. I don’t bat an eye that every store that sells food smells like fish, that teenagers stay out until at least 2 a.m., that the choices of soda are only Coke and Fanta, that water has to be ordered and that there aren’t any refills, that my fitness class teacher has a cigarette after class, that graffiti is part of the landscape, that feral cats roam the streets, that the main meal of the day is at 2 p.m., that everything closes from 2 to 4:30 p.m., that smells vacillate between flowers and sewage, that people wear lots of leather and soccer jerseys. I could fill a pages with the things that I have gotten used to.
I will miss the kindness of Spanish people, hearing Spanish all around me, the ability to be anonymous and the coffee. I will miss the sea, the history, the chapels, the birds, the pastries, the lack of to-go cups, local stores, the lack of sprawl and bocadillas. Mostly, I will miss my friends and my new routines.
Now that Spain feels more familiar, I have to work not to glorify it and recognize the good and the bad, as well as the good and the bad in the United States. But, there are some things that I want to bring home with me. One is the importance of slowing down and two is the importance of family. Spanish people spend weekends with their families. Kids stay with their grandparents in the summers, and multiple generations are together for parties and festivals.
I know that some things are nontransferable, like teenage boys kissing their moms after sports matches. But, it is true that Spanish kids really don’t go through typical teenage rebellion. We’ll see. I do value this aspect of Spanish life, as well as the amount of time I was able to spend with my family this year.
Sally Shuffield is a Durango resident living in Spain for a year with her family. Visit her blog at www.sallyshuffield.net/spain-blog.