The last night in Spain was crazy. We had a big cocktail party for everyone to say our goodbyes and take photos. I headed back home about 1, gathered the rest of my things, said sleepy goodbyes to my family and headed out the door about 2. My senora wished me luck in everything and we parted ways. I walked about 40 minutes with my 2 suitcases to Erin’s house. I should have taken a cab but I didn’t have cash and didn’t want to get more euros out. I got lots of stares from passersby. I got to Erin’s and the plan was just to hang out by the rio until the bus left for the airport around 5am. I waited outside for her and her host sister saw me and made me come in. I hung out with her and met her host family and neighbor who I’d been hearing about all semester. We called a cab, got to the bus stop about 4:45 and waited with some more friends for the bus. There were about 5 Americans; we probably had 10-12 suitcases all together. We just made an assembly line trying to get them all on the bus. It was a little ridiculous but it didn’t take long for everyone to realize we were all American students going home. My flight from Sevilla to Madrid left at 7am, I had a short layover, flew to JFK in New York, then Boston. I had to switch terminals and airlines which meant running through the airport to make my next flight. My bag was 7lbs overweight so I decided to throw out the rest of my shoes instead of paying $90. I made my flight from Boston to Salt Lake…5 hours! From Salt Lake, it was on to Phoenix. It was about 24 hrs from the time I left my house in Sevilla about 2 am until I landed in Phoenix at 10pm.
Enjoying the Intermission-
In Phoenix, I stayed with a friend from high school going to school out there. We hadn’t seen each other in over a year and I’d been talking about visiting her for a while. I figured another flight or two wouldn’t make much difference and the time was as good as any. We hung out for a week and caught up with each other. Bridget and Andrea came at the end of the week to pick up some things for a family friend. We all headed to the Grand Canyon one day. Unbelievable and definitely surreal. We camped in a tent and drove cross-country (or semi), just like we did on the family vacations of our childhood, definitely the way for any family to travel in my opinion. We headed back to Columbia via Tulsa. I unpacked my room, hung pictures, and added a few pieces I’d picked up along the way over the last 4 months.
Andrea stayed a few weeks before heading back to Texas for the summer. We celebrated her birthday, visited family, and just hung out with each other…something I missed more than anything while I was away. I started my summer class, History of the English Language. The Old English grammar and deciphering of Chaucer didn’t excited me too much but towards the end we talked about the English language as it is used around the world, something I absolutely loved learning about. It was so strange at first to take a linguistics class taught in English. I’d already taken Spanish Phonetics and the History of Spanish, both taught in Spanish of course. I learned all the terminology that goes along with studying linguistics in Spanish and understood their meanings in Spanish. It felt weird to translate it in my head into English. I found myself reverting back to the Spanish terms, I guess its proof that it if you’re taught something in a foreign language, you will always understand it in that language easier than in your native language.
Another thing I did this summer was volunteer a little with the EPI program through the Asian Affairs Center. The program is designed for South Korean students to come to Mizzou, study English, and work in internships around the community. Throughout my time in Spain, we had amazing guias who were there to show us around, answer questions, and just hang out with us from the beginning. They were our built-in peer group outside of the other Americans. Although I was too shy at times to really engage them and break down the language barrier, it made a difference just knowing they were there. I wanted to provide the same thing for the foreign students who study at my university. I felt like I could bring something to their experience, to struggle through a conversation, to look at your surroundings with questioning and unbelievably excited eyes, to be so far from home and wish that everyone you cared about could be with you, to not know how to even begin to explain what you experienced, to be a foreigner and be thankful that someone is there to guide you through their homeland. It can be awkward, unwanted silences and misunderstandings but I needed to step out of my comfort zone to bring them into theirs. Although I only got to hang out with the EPI kids a few times, it made me so happy. Its something I feel like I need and want to do in the future, I guess you could say I discovered a new passion.
EPI @ the Arch, St. Louis
So onto more cultural awareness stuff, I’m full of it these days. I spent 4th of July with my roommate outside St. Louis. I celebrated it with a whole new perspective this year. Last semester, I started to look at my culture through an outsider’s perspective. In the U.S., I find myself constantly asking in my head, what would a foreigner think of this? 4th of July, the most American holiday of the year…what would a foreigner think of this? Almost every country probably shoots off rockets of light at some point throughout the year but what makes it American? I went with my roommate and her family to see the light show. We loaded up vehicles of lawn chairs, blankets, and games to pass the time while we waited for dark. We had to get there 3 hours early after all for a good seat. We set up camp on the grass along with hundreds of other red, white, and blue clad Americans. We ate fried chicken, corn on the cob, and potato salad and cooled down with iced tea and lemonade. I couldn’t help but think; this is so American.
Fireworks on the 4th
This last weekend I got to visit Erin in Chicago. After 4 months of weekend travel and seeing each other everyday, I was so excited to see her again. We hung out in the city and around her house catching up and made Spanish Tortilla. We kept saying how easy everything seemed since we could at least speak the language if we needed directions or got lost on the train. It was great doing touristy stuff with her again.
Erin & I @ the Bean, Chicago
So I guess I’ve learned how to be an American again, I’ve had my fill of cheeseburgers and chain stores.
Excited for What’s Ahead-
I’m hopping across the other pond to South Korea for a month, details and anecdotes to come.