“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
I wasn’t sure what to expect when Christmas break arrived. I’d spent the last two months adjusting to living with new people and having a new work schedule and now I was going to be the only volunteer left in a three-bedroom apartment. The apartment felt eerily quiet. At first, I enjoyed dancing around the apartment without having anyone around, but by the third day I started to feel like a mad-woman. Working with the children and Face-Timing my loved ones just wasn’t enough. The idea of Christmas in Barcelona was the only thing keeping me going at that point.
However, the 20th of December lifted my spirits. It was the last day of work but also the day I would sing Christmas songs with the children. When I arrived, I was elated by the presence of all the children and their families. The school was giving out hot chocolate and pastries. There was music playing and a do-it-yourself (DIY) photo booth. I no longer felt unsure of how my Christmas would feel. I’ve never felt more at peace than with the children and their families. It reassured my purpose in life and my intentions within my career, which is to consciously engage and have direct relationships with the groups and individuals I work with.
That day was magical! When the time came to sing Christmas songs with my children, all the teachers and families gathered around us to listen. I grabbed my ukulele, counted to three, and my little ones sang “Feliz Navidad,” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” It was the sweetest thing I could have ever experienced. I was close to tears as I watched my class smile and sing along. Their eyes were filled with such love as they looked to me to guidance. It has been such an honor to be a part of their lives. They have made me a better person and I love those children more than I can express.
After we finished, the crowd asked me to do a speech. Oh, my lanta. Ha, I was nervous but I got through it. The teachers then proceeded to ask families from different countries to sing a Christmas song in their language. We were a family, enjoying and respecting each other’s’ cultures; from Spanish, Moroccan, Nigerian, to Gujarati and more. It was the beginning of the best Christmas ever.
On the 23rd of December, I traveled to Barcelona to meet my Second cousin and her husband for the first time. Prior to us meeting, we had only spoken through Facebook. The family resemblance was uncanny. It was comforting to see a familiar face and be around a culture more familiar to my own as a Honduran. They gave me the REAL Spain experience. They lived on the outskirts of Barcelona in Vallirana, Cataluña, Spain. This is the ore country side of Spain, where the pueblos (small towns) are located. I felt lucky to be staying with them because it added depth to my experience and knowledge of Spain. It was without a doubt my favorite part of Spain.
During the first two days, we visited the church La Sagrada Familia and drove around Vallirana. Catalan is the language spoken in this area. When I joined them for the Christmas mass, I could barely understand what was being said. It was definitely not the Spanish I had grown up around. Nevertheless, I was beautiful.
On Christmas day, we drove to Barcelona to join my cousin’s husband’s family for dinner in a hotel. The dinner was superb from start to finish and the family was more than welcoming of my presence. They asked me to play Christmas songs with my ukulele and so I did. Their singing captured the entire hotel floor’s attention. Everyone enjoyed themselves greatly. After dinner, a few of us went off to visit Montjuic, a hill surrounded by a national museum, a castle, and a 5-Star Hotel that hosted for the 1992 Summer Olympics. Only the pictures can truly describe the beauty of it all, but even then, it’s something you have to experience.
My cousins and I spent the next day at Mont Tibidabo, which overlooks Spain and is surround by an Amusement park and a telecommunications tower as well as the famous catholic church Sagrat Cor. The view was breathtaking; and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, my cousins took be to Montserrat the next day.
Montserrat Mountain is both a natural park and monastery, and home of Our Lady of Montserrat, which is also known as “La Virgen Negra” – The Black Virgen Mary. It was the highest I have ever been on a mountain. It was truly heavenly. I was in the clouds. Again, this was an experience that is better illustrated through photos and 100% better in person. Every day here has been a dream.
December 28th completed my Christmas break. At 10:40 a.m., I ran into the arms of my boyfriend Trevor who in July, decided he wanted to spend New Year’s with me in Spain. I’ve been speechless ever since. Traveling is a beautiful experience but it is much better when you’re surround by people you love. I cannot wait to see how the rest of this break plays out.
Wishing you all a Happy New Year filled with love.