Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Price of Debt

Everytime I receive my salary, my mind starts churning, dreaming of what I'd buy: purple suede boots, secondhand music instruments, giant legs of ham. Then it hits me: none of the money is meant for me. After necessities like rent and food, every penny goes straight to my debt. The thought bubbles pop in that instant.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned since moving abroad was the price of an inflated lifestyle. In Canada I earned a lot, for very little work. I had zero debt when I left, but my lifestyle didn't change once I hit Spanish soil. I still honed in on "wants": an expensive apartment to rent alone, convenience foods, clothes and shoes, and yes bartender, one MORE round of drinks. It was evident how much I'd been shopping when it was time to move from Villacarrillo to Jaén, and I had SIX large boxes of stuff. There was so much that my friend had to return another day to drop off the rest at my new apartment.

I'm lucky to be employed by a program that pays enough to cover basic expenses, even if I choose to live alone. I'm also lucky in that if I choose to go out for a drink, it's cheap and the appetizers are free. But I have to be careful, and do jobs on the side, in order to really enjoy Spain: travel, gym membership, concerts, etc.

Slowly, my debt is dropping. The most important thing is once it hits zero, I must do my best to never let it accumulate again. Then I'll be free to buy those purple suede boots I've been eyeing.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sierra Nevada

Just like in Andorra, and at Cypress Mountain, being amongst the mountains, trees, and snow made me feel alive on my first trip to the Sierra Nevada.

There's no bad view here. And, according to my wise snowboarding teacher Emilio, there's no such thing as bad snow, either. "Snow is like life," he explained during our chairlift ride. "Some people only like to snowboard or ski when it's a sunny day and the snow is powdery. If I did that, I'd only go two days a season. Even when it's icy, or when there's a storm, I love it. There's no such thing as bad snow, only bad snowboarders.
"Same thing with life, or relationships. There are no bad or good days, just people with bad attitudes. You have to decide to be happy with what you've got."
Los ladrones. (Just kidding)

Not only did Emilio improve my carving, he also improved my attitude.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Home after 1.5 Years

Last year around Christmastime, I got very homesick, but I couldn't buy a ticket with such little advanced planning. So I stayed in Spain. This year, thanks to a generous gift from my parents, I flew back to Canada to enjoy snow, multiculturalism, central heating, and food from every place in the world you can think of. Also terrible fashion sense, extremely cold nights, wayyy too early dinners, and high taxes.
During a hike in the snow.
Yeah, we ate it ALL.

Indian food. Oh how I love thee.
I couldn't have been happier to be home. How contrary to when it was time to leave Canada, when I was nervous yet determined to discover a new way of life. Sometimes we find out what we truly love when we leave it. How lucky I am to be able to realize that, simply by buying a return airline ticket. In 2013, I honestly believed the move to Europe would be extremely long-term, perhaps even permanent. I'm not so sure now, after spending time back in my hometown.
So what is home to me? Home is feeling overjoyed to see the mountains, the layout of the city as your plane lands, to instantly recognize the scent of the streets as you walk out the front door. It's being able to flirt with someone cute, in those subtle ways that come with communicating with words, gestures, and timing. Home is marvelling at what has changed, and even more so at what has stayed the same. You see the same person, and although their paunch is a little bigger and more grey covers their head, they speak and it's like listening to an old recording.
Home is what you think of when you wake up in the middle of your flight home, and realize what you're leaving behind. And it hurts. So you comfort yourself by thinking about your return one day. You may not know when exactly that will be, but you know home will be there when you come back.