Spain: Traveling, Homesickness, Back to Writing

The Coast of Málaga
The Coast of Málaga

It’s been a while since I last posted, but with so much going on daily it seemed like there never was an appropriate point to sit down and begin writing. It has been just over two months since we came to Spain, and the excitement of living and studying in a foreign country has still not abated. In this span of time there has been plenty of stressful moments and plenty of homesickness. Along with these feelings also come the realization of the opportunity that I have here and the hope totake full advantage of this situation. I would love to sit here and discuss how easy life has become, how the anxiety of conversing with locals has become an afterthought. In some ways I’m not so worried about my ability to speak Spanish, but I do realize that I’m still in need of more practice before considering myself fluent. Luckily, this has become my only major problem, and I am confident I can overcome it with more practice.

We are a week removed from Semana Santa- Spain’s traditional time of celebrations on the last week of Lent- which students use as a week to travel as a pseudo-Spring Break event. Some took it to see the more popular celebrations in the south of Spain (along with taking advantage ofwarmer climates), while some took it as a time to see family in Europe. I had the fortune of using my time to see old friends and get some sightseeing out of the way, as well as heading south to Málaga afterwords with everyone else for some much needed warm weather. Besides, we were told before leaving that studying in Europe also provided many advantages to traveling that we should look in to. To begin, there are many cheap airlines with decent service that fly almost everywhere. With these, the only disadvantage can come in hidden fees, like paying extra if you have luggage and no free meals. Of course, there are also many places that can be reached through a combination of buses and high-speed rail. These are also cheap and very common if you have a bit more time to make it to your destination.

My first destination was to experience the wonderful weather of London. While everyone else headed south to find better weather, I decided to head further north (confusing, I know). It was worth it, though, to reunite with Claire, arguably one of the best tour guides for people on a budget. While in London, I was able to set aside many of the cravings (mostly food related) I had been experiencing since leaving the States, such as: sushi, a decent burger and shake, home cooked meals, and the ability to hear and use English everywhere I go. The trip was definitely much needed, an opportunity for a change of scenery to keep me from going crazy from the monotony. This is the first time I have lived far away from home without the ability to return when I want, so seeing familiar faces was a great benefit. Some things, though, I found I cared about less than I thought.

While I thought the ability to speak English everywhere would be the most satisfying part of London, I found more often that it was not. Maybe it was the fact that I had become so accustomed to speaking Spanish, but for a good bit of time after I arrived in London that is all I wanted to speak even with the option of English. Also, I have become obsessed with the goal of blending in as well as I can. It has become a sort of quirky accomplishment, like how the flight attendants who only spoke English would motion to me if they offered something- as if they thought I was a Spaniard and only spoke Spanish. There was even an instance in Barcelona, in my transition between the bus station and the airport, when a couple of Americans (the accents give us away) heading in the same direction tried to ask me in Spanish which was the correct bus to take. In these instances, you would expect me to let them know that I speak English and am glad to help, but the Americans and flight attendants all received the same sad smile and response of “No entiendo”. It wasn’t the fact that I was having a rough night of traveling (I was) or that their attempts to communicate were slightly humorous to me (they were); I was actually so flattered at the fact that they thought I wasn’t American- or British, for that matter- that I couldn’t help but go along with their assumptions.

As much as I loved traveling and sightseeing I cannot get around feeling homesick every now and then. Even as I write this, I am anxiously awaiting results from the baseball game and looking at friends’ pictures of spring parties and formals. I wish I could be in right field grilling hot dogs and looking forward to boiling crawfish later. I wish I could text my sister to see if she wanted to grab sushi and talk about her freshman year. I wish I could meet my mom and dad for lunch or drinks on the Square because Mom wanted to get out of the house since both my sister and I are now away in college. These are only small things, but these are also what I miss the most- the social interactions. Classes and chores are all the same, given that they’re in different languages, but the things I miss most are people. I wish I could say that there is a way to overcome homesickness, but it is something that seems to come suddenly and vanish just as quickly. I never can figure out what triggers it for me, and after it passes I’m never sure why I was so upset to begin with. The only cure I can think of is to return to the States, but I’m also afraid by the time that happens, I might also be homesick for Pamplona.

To add, since I didn’t really expand on details of my destinations, I suggest that visiting the south of Spain for vacation is an excellent idea for anyone looking for sun and culture. As a tourist hotspot, Málaga had plenty of people and places where English could be readily spoken, so having to translate isn’t as much of a worry if you don’t know Spanish. Also, the old fortifications still stand in some spots, which make for picturesque views out onto the ocean. And London is always enjoyable; just make sure you are able to navigate the Tube, because it can be easy to get lost down there. I really should make another post about my experiences there, because I can’t decide what I would rather discuss first (we got a lot of sightseeing done while I was there). I will contemplate writing another post, but until next time, Hotty Toddy and good luck.

~ Thomas Womble

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