In just two weeks, I will leave the comforts of home and become a fish out of water. No more Mom’s cooking, my own bed and loo, hugs and kisses from my nephews. Leaving home is not easy but these are sacrifices which come with the choice of pursuing my dream. Preparing for my big move seems to be a daunting task – endless paperwork, managing finances, establishing new connections, the list could go on. Plus, the fact that I have a dramatic breakdown cry once or twice a week when I think about how much I’m gonna miss everybody and how selfish I am to leave them, that doesn’t make anything easier.
There’s definitely no turning back. In spite of how much of an emotional wreck I am right now, I can’t hide the fact that I’m so fucking excited to finally start this new phase in my life. I thought I’d list down a few things I’m looking forward to just to give myself that final nudge.
*Psyches herself up in the mirror*. “It’s winning time, you magnificent son of a bitch!”
1. SPANISH LANGUAGE AND CULTURE IMMERSION
It’s embarrassing to admit that after 4 years of studying Spanish as a major, I’m still not fluent. I remember a film professor in my university questioned the existence of the degree European Languages. According to him, a foreigner living in Spain can be fluent in the language in just 6 months while we study it for 4 years without the guarantee of being fluent in it in the end. In our defense, classroom language learning has its benefits. It provides structure and teaches the language’s backbone which is grammar. In class, we learned proper pronunciation, conjugations, the use of ser and estar, etc. Obviously, that’s not enough to be fluent in Spanish and there’s no better way to achieve it than to live in Spain or another Spanish-speaking country.
I’m setting myself to perfect español in 8 months. Not only that, I want to take it to a whole new level. I want to achieve a proper Andalusian accent. I know that it’s infamous for being incomprehensible but I personally dig it. Plus, once I get used to the accent, I feel like I would be able to understand any other Spanish accent in the world.
2. FREE TIME
In the Auxiliaries de Conversación program, we are only expected to work 12 teaching hours or just 4 days a week. We have to do a little bit of planning before or after that but we’re not really THE teachers, we’re just assistants so making lesson plans is not really part of the job. I will be working in a CEIP or primary school so classes end at 2 PM. After that, I’m free to do whatever I want – teach private lessons (to earn more euros), go out for some beers and tapas or take a siesta.
Another thing that Spain is obviously doing right is their holiday-filled calendars. It’s one holiday after another! This gig is perfect for people who want to go on a getaway every so often because we are entitled to the same holidays as the students. This means lots of opportunities to travel around Spain or even around Europe.
Now that I’ve mentioned that we get a lot of free time, what better way to spend it than to travel! The TIE (tarjeta de identidad de extranjero) or Foreigner’s Identity Card will allow us to travel from Spain to other EU countries that are members of the Schengen Area. As early as now, I already have upcoming trips for the school year, although most are still in the works. Before I head to my apartment in Málaga, I will be spending 5 days in Barcelona. I already paid my flights, booked an AirBnb flat and made an itinerary and now, I’m stuck between beyond excited and scared shitless!!! Catalans, please be nice to me :3
I had to pay for everything – my flight, visa application, apartment, etc. and we won’t get paid immediately. The earliest payday would be in November so I’m gonna be tapped out for two months. But that’s no reason not to explore new places, even just in my city at least. A day trip to nearby cities won’t hurt either. I’m sure I would be thrilled to visit Granada, Córdoba or Sevilla or even visit my amigas who were assigned in Huelva.
The week-long vacations will go to waste if I don’t visit another country. That’s why I made a travel bucket list in case I find a cheap flight that falls on a long school break. We’re already thinking of going to either Austria or Germany for Christmas and if I don’t have money issues by then, I would like to visit France as well. After the christmas break, I don’t have a concrete plan yet but I would love to visit Portugal, Italy, Morocco, Switzerland and Greece.
Of course, sight-seeing, talking with the locals and learning history are important when you’re travelling but my favourite travel activity is trying local eats. A country’s cuisine leaves the strongest impression on me as the quickest way to my heart is through my stomach. That’s right, I’m a self-proclaimed foodie.
Spain is, without a doubt, one of the top foodie destinations. Five of the world’s 20 best restaurants are in Spain, including the number one, El Celler de Can Roca in Girona. That goes to show that the Spaniards take their food quite seriously. Haute as it may seem, it’s not completely alien to my taste buds since it has greatly influenced Filipino cuisine. Paella, caldereta, callos, embutido, relleno are just some of Filipino favourites either served in festivities or as classic comfort food. I love these dishes but the foodie inside me yearns for authenticity. Just thinking of tapas, churros con chocolate, Spanish paella and jamón makes me hungry. I need these in my life right now plus a giant glass of tinto de verano. I just do.
In the Philippines, we DO have four seasons: rainy, insanely rainy, hot and insanely hot. I’m sick of it. At least once in my life, I want to experience living in a country with the REAL four seasons. Lucky enough, I was placed in Torrox-costa Málaga, the village that claims to have the best climate in Europe. Being in the south of Spain, I won’t have to deal with death from hypothermia and no more typhoon-like rainy days and other natural disasters as I move far away from the tropics.
With independence comes increased responsibility. Being independent doesn’t only mean ice cream for breakfast, pants-optional all day and unlimited me-time. It also means no more mommy to cook my meals, do my laundry or help me pay my bills. It’s gonna be hard for sure, being the lazy fart that I am, but that will be the only way to be self-sufficient, to grow up, to get my shit together. From this experience, I look forward to coming out stronger on the other side.
Moving to Spain means building up a totally new life. I have to start fresh in a new city and make connections from the ground up. New surroundings, unfamiliar faces and different language and customs. Scary enough, right? But I have to get over that fear and I surely will. It’s not gonna happen overnight. It might take weeks, months, I don’t know. The important thing is to become resilient and open-minded to the changes to consequently learn to embrace them.
7. MEETING NEW PEOPLE
Here’s a confession: I’m a bonafide introvert. But hey, that doesn’t mean I don’t have friends or that I’m anti-social as we’re often misunderstood. The truth is, I’m proud to be one and I’ll always be one. But in an extrovert-dominated country that is Spain, I have to at least overcome being shy. The idea of meeting new people is appealing to me but can sometimes be terrifying. Putting myself out there doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not one of those people who asks cashiers how they’re doing or just strikes up a conversation with a stranger at a bar. Though challenging, I’d like to see myself try and maybe make a fool of myself occasionally.
8. PARK LIFE
The introvert inside me just gets a real kick out of parks. Manila, in general, is not walkable and pedestrian-friendly. As much as I want to be twee and walk or ride a bike to work, that’s just not possible. I’ve been living in this city for 24 years and I’ve had enough. It has made me an exhausted, unfulfilled, and unhealthy person and I look forward to turning my life around once I move to Spain.
Walkability is the name of the game and Spain surely is killing it. With a glut of beautiful, peaceful parks and sensational architecture, I’m sure I would never get sick of walking along romantic cobblestone alleys and fancying myself as a character in a Belle and Sebastian song or in a Woody Allen film.
Bring it on, Spain. My body is ready. Now excuse me while I bawl my eyes out and say goodbye to my bedroom and everything in it.