Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mi español no es listo, but I am!

Today was the last day of a stream of summers at my job with Vector Marketing. As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously concluded his speech 50 years ago today (no coincidence), "Free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!"

Next week, I will begin on my adventure to Spain and be the best Language and Cultural Assistant that I can be.

In anticipation of my adventures abroad, I have been doing a lot of researching and a lot of planning. I have been reading almost everything about Spain and European travel that I can get my hands on. In doing so, I have begun to make mental lists of the things I am excited about versus the things I am nervous about. So, here goes:

5 Things that I am excited about, Part 1: Living in Spain

1) I get to live and experience a new culture. I have always tried to be open-minded about different cultures and experiences, but, the truth is, living in Northern California for the last 22-years has left me a bit more ethnocentric than I care to admit. I went to college in a small town in the middle of Redneck County, California. (No, it's not actually called Redneck County, but it is.) When I hear things that I perceive as different or out of the norm, but perfectly acceptable elsewhere (i.e. people in France eating frog legs) I still think "Oh, that's weird. Why would people do that?" I know a lot of people feel similarly to the way I do, but why? We eat cow, which is considered weird (and sacrilegious) in other countries. I want to overcome my perceptions of other cultures and I think exposure to them is a good start.

2) Food. I am excited about the food. I want to say that I have tried everything I could (even frog legs, but I will have to build myself up to that) including things that Spain is famous for: different types of ham, dried octopus and rabbit stew.

3) Not only will I only be working 16 hours/week, I will be making more than what someone who works full-time at minimum wage is making in America. Add tutoring into the mix and I'm pretty good. Better than most recent graduates in America are doing. If I stayed in America, I would be in grad school losing my money and my sanity. Or I would still be working at my 24 hour/week job making a little bit more than minimum wage, sitting behind a computer and daydreaming of the day that I can start a career.

4) Public transportation. In Northern California, you drive. Everywhere.

5) Travel. It is so easy to travel to different places throughout Europe. And cheap. And I have so many places that I want to see. Castles, churches, places rich with history, cool bookstores, etc. I have the whole continent in front of me and plenty of time on my hands.

5 Things that I am excited about, Part 2: Things I Have Planned

1) One of my best friends from college is coming to visit me! We will be meeting in London for New Year's, which is something that has been on my bucket list as far back as I can remember.

2) A Jay Brannan concert. I love Jay Brannan. He has such a unique style and an amazing voice. He will be playing at a cafe in late-September in Madrid and I could not be more excited. If you haven't heard of him, stop reading this and go check him out. Go!

3) Visiting family. I have family in Switzerland and Italy and I am definitely excited about visiting those two places. I don't actually have this planned yet, but I cannot wait.

4) My program is setting me up with a five day orientation followed by a 2 week language and cultural immersion. I will get to meet people and live with a host family during my immersion. It will definitely make the transition into a new culture a bit easier.

5) J&J's bookstore. I found this store in Madrid. They have a good selection of English books and different events. On Fridays, they have a trivia night that's all in English and, on Saturdays, they have a Spanish/English Group where you can practice your language skills. Needless to say, I know where I will be a lot of my weekends.

5 Things I am nervous about:

1) Packing. I know that I cannot take everything with me. I know that most of what I want will have to stay here. I know that I cannot take all of my books, not even the 200+ I have decided I cannot live without (OK, that might be a bit of an exaggeration). Also, cats who like suitcases do not make the packing process easier.

2) The language barrier. Mi español no es listo. This makes me nervous.

3) Getting there. This will be tough. I leave my airport at 5:45 and have about 20 hours of travel ahead of me. I have two layovers: one in Denver and one in Newark. Newark does not have WiFi. Denver does not have Starbucks. They both have bookstores, which makes it a little bit better.

4) Saying my goodbyes. Two of my best friends are staying the night on my parents couch so they can get up early and go to the airport with me. They will be hard to say goodbye to. Also, my parents and I are very close. My mother is one of my best friends. I think I'm more worried of what they will do without me than what I will do without them. Plus, I'd like to believe that my cat will miss me, but he won't.

5) Being stereo-typed because I am American, but this is deeply rooted in my fears due to me being more ethnocentric than I'd care to admit. I am going over there partly to get rid of this, right?

And there you have it. My excitements and my worries.