Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I'll be home for Christmas

Being home for the holidays after living in Spain for four months has really thrown me off.
First of all: the airport. Arriving in the LAX airport for my layover was one of the strangest experiences I’ve had in California. I stepped off the plane with wild hair and raccoon eyes, desperate for a giant glass of water and a Tylenol to calm the fever I’d acquired en route.
All around me, I heard English. “Thank you!” “Where is the baggage claim?” “Don’t push me!” I felt like I was in an alternative universe where my accent actually fit in.
Someone pointed me in the direction of Customs, and I replied (without thinking) with a sincere “gracias.” Of course…
I found myself comparing the United States lifestyle with the Spanish lifestyle more than ever as I went about everyday things in my city. How would a person speaking Spanish say that? Why are we eating so early? Why are the bars closing at 2 am?!
It’s wonderful to have the chance to come back home and be with my family during the holidays. However, I really do miss the Spanish culture and language. I miss meeting new people every day and getting to hear their stories. I long to be able to go out on a Tuesday to drink a caƱa with friends from totally different cultures. But at the same time, I want to be with my beloved family and friends for which I am heartsick when I’m in Spain.
I’m the epitome of torn.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Back from hiatus

I just came back from Geneva and Annecy, two very different cities in two different countries. In other words, I just arrived back to the "real" world of Madrid after a vacation in a perfect, picturesque snow globe.

The winter wonderland was aesthetically beautiful, and it really couldn't have gotten more idealistic. I traveled with my friend Brittany who is from the same study abroad program as I am. As we waddled off the plane with our 5-7 layers of sweaters and tights, we were greeted by snowflakes bigger than any we've ever seen. They resembled those that I cut out in my first grade art classes.

Wandering the streets of Geneva, Brittany and I noticed that there was little warmth (both literal and figurative) in the city. Most people kept to themselves. Christmas decorations were few and far-between. The stores were nearly empty. I never really felt comfortable touring the area; I always had the feeling that I was intruding on someone's bleak, lonely holiday. Where were the fake reindeer?  The strands-upon-strands of little lights? The Santa cookies?

However, the lack of cheerfulness in Geneva was counteracted by the adorableness that is Annecy, France. I knew instantly that I liked it better than Geneva because as we stumbled off the bus, we landed straight in a scene from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I thought I'd get to see all the misfit toys wandering around (to my dismay, I never did). There were strings of colorful lights strewn about the square that surrounded the train station. Usually, I'm not a person that feels giddy upon seeing a giant fake snowflake stuck to a window while "Jingle Bells" plays on constant repeat in every shop. But there was something about Annecy that made me want to sing carols in exchange for hot chocolate. Maybe it was the friendly nature of the people in the coffee shops. Maybe it was the perfect placement of the snowfall, adorning each rooftop in a perfect, blindingly white blanket. Maybe it was just the hot-mulled wine... Yeah, probably the wine.

The day we arrived, Brittany and I took the bus to our quaint hostel, which greeted us with quirky posters and cartoon drawings on the wall. Our room, which we shared with a sweet Korean girl that was traveling alone, had a poster on the wall: "What NOT to say to your boyfriend." Most of their tips were kind of a given, to be honest ("Don't say, 'I'm pregnant...just kidding.'")

It was difficult to leave an adorable town to head back to Geneva, but we managed. After a lovely night at the freezing Geneva airport, we made it back to Madrid Sunday morning. Never have I ever been more excited to hear people speak Spanish.

As cheesy as it seems, I felt like I was back home.

P.S. You can't imagine the power of that nap I had after I got back to my apartment...