In the dream of heaven, you completely surrender to life, knowing that everything is just the way it is. And because you accept everything as it is, you no longer worry about anything. Your life becomes exciting because there’s no more fear. You know that you are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, and that everything that has happened was meant to happen because they have led you to greater awareness. Even the worst thing that can happen to you is meant to happen because it’s going to push you to grow. – Don Miguel Ruiz
Adjusting to Spain has been easy, but I can’t the same say in regard to having no local support system. While I enjoy the presence of my fellow volunteers, it is exhausting to constantly be around individuals with journeys that do not align with mine. I mean, I’m a 23 year-old who is ready for a more serious part of her life, while the other volunteers are 18 years-old and dying to finally have some control over their own lives. This is 100% natural! I’m only mentioning it because I want all future travelers to know that it is okay to feel like the outsider of a group, to realize that who you are may not fit into the group’s agenda. Raising our awareness and respect for others is the best thing we can do for ourselves in these situations. Be social when you can but also honor the moments when your body tells you you’ve had enough for the day. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you. I promise.
On a different note, Spain has been treating me extremely well. From time to time I reflect on the Lumos catch phrase, “Travel with a purpose.” My purpose has unraveled little by little each week, but I’ll wait till the end to share that with you. I will say that my Spanish has improved significantly. I’ve let the children I work with correct my Spanish. For 5-7 year-olds, they are pretty intelligent. Mind you, some of them are from different countries and have to learn Spanish, Valenciana, Castellano, and English! These little sponges are way smarter than I was at their age! After 23 years, I can finally hold a conversation with my Abuela (grandmother) back home and it warms my heart. Common now!
I’m impressed with the way the teachers work with the children. In my experience, I have never seen so many teachers treat their “wild” students with so much love and patience. I love it! I’m so use to watching teachers get frustrated with these types of students. I have the utmost respect for these kinds of teachers because they volunteer the best parts of them. I first heard this idea from a college professor of mine in NY. He said, “I get paid to teach you. It doesn’t matter how I teach you because I still get a pay check. But if I expect you to learn, that means I have to volunteer my best self.” He then went on expressing how fed up he was with teachers who don’t get personal with their students; but I digress.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, these children come from all over the world and they are all from lower income families. Additionally, the teachers in this school all have fair skin, while the students vary from tan, to brown, to black. Now, I am only mentioning this because I have observed the teacher-student relationships. I have yet to see one teacher pick on a student for their race or ethnicity, or looks for that matter. Not one teacher favors one group of students more than the other. This may not be true for all of the schools in Spain, but I recognize the genuine love and respect that these teachers have for each of their students. I’ve watched some of the children struggle with accepting that not everyone looks like them. Little fights break out here and there, but the teachers are always there to set a good example. They always tell the kids, “It doesn’t matter what you look like. I’m no better than anyone here. We are all a team and we have to respect one another and love one another equally.” It’s beautiful, necessary, and powerful because there are plenty of schools in the world that don’t adhere to this belief. Also, this is a crucial developmental stage in a child’s life. I comforted and honored to work in an environment that takes their role seriously. My mind screams, “Family!” every time I think about it.
Oh, and speaking of family – my soul sister and her fiance came to visit me in Spain! What? Do y’all understand how excited I was to see a familiar face? This is a woman that I look up to. We are about 9 years apart, she is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (the profession I am going into), and she is one of the individuals who sparked my new life journey back in 2015. Needless to say, she is very special to me.
We took tourism to a whole other level. I spent a day and a half with them in Valencia just catching up on life! I then spent another day and a half meeting them in Barcelona, where we saw about 6 amazing sights within 5 hours. Crazy, I know but it was amazing. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything!
*Side note* Spain’s trains are not cheap and the U.S. dollar does not work in our favor here, at least not right now.
Okay, back to it!
I purposely spent a day in a half in Barcelona because I knew I’ll be returning during Christmas time, which is three weeks away. Again, what? Where is the time going? Soon I’ll be meeting family that I’ve only ever known through social media. Am I blessed? Yes. Oh, and then my boyfriend is coming to visit for the remainder of the break! When I signed up for this trip I thought I was going to be solo. Thankful is an understatement! It’s a peace of mind to know I have these events to look forward to, especially after the emotional and physical fiasco my body went through prior to the GRE, which I am so glad is over by the way!
I went m.i.a. the day before the test. I did not have the energy to talk to anyone. I was overwhelmed and had knots in my stomach. I can’t express enough my dislike for these types of tests; a test that measures absolutely nothing about who I am and what I am capable of doing. I process things at a slower pace and I need time to grasp concepts. I learn better through writing and discussing the material rather than memorizing it for the sake of getting a good grade. It doesn’t align well with who I am. Nevertheless, I still gave my best on test day, and luckily I don’t get nervous once a test is in front of me. I accept the moment, I breathe, and I do what I can.
When the day of the test arrived, I had to travel three hours on train from Valencia, Spain to Madrid. During that time I had journaled to myself. In that journal entry I wrote:
...You did your best. You will do your best. You challenged yourself. You rose to the occasion. Be proud. Smile. Feel love. Be love. Be.
After writing, I let go of all the pressure I had placed on myself. Once I arrived in Madrid, I spent an hour in a coffee shop catching up on some reading. As I drank my delicious mocha coffee and ate my cinnamon bun soaked in Nutella, I came across the passage in the beginning of this blog. I had chills, y’all! I felt at such peace with myself. My world aligned again and I was ready for whatever was to come.
Taking the GRE in a different country was probably the best decision for me. It felt more relaxing to be amongst individuals from different parts of the world. I can’t explain it, it just felt good. At the end of it all, I can honestly say I am content and EXTREMELY thankful for the experience. Oh, I’m also thankful that it’s over! Out of sight and out of mind!
I called everything post-GRE “The journey back to myself.” Between being sick and stressed out about the test, I definitely fell out of touch with myself. I needed to socialize, start working out, and do more sight seeing. This was my new mission. To hold myself accountable, I began writing a list titled, “What do I want to accomplish today?” I would even list something as simple as waking up, which is a great accomplishment for anyone. As someone who is active in the mental health community, I find it extremely beneficial to notice all the “small” things. This type of mindfulness is powerful because things such as waking up can be a difficult task, especially for those like myself who battle depression. It helps reprogram the brain in more ways than one. For me, it sends a message to my brain that everything I do matters. It reminds me to be impeccable with my words and my actions, especially towards myself. It’s a reminder to never feel less than or shrink at the presence of challenging situations.
So, yeah. All is well my friends. I am learning, growing, and embracing this journey that I am on. I wouldn’t change a thing about this experience.
Talk to you soon,
P.S. Enjoy the pics! There are some things that don’t need to be put into words. A picture can say it all.