Friday, October 14, 2016

Taking the Fork in the Road

In my entire three years of writing this blog, this has got to be the most painful one to write. Because after starting this blog with my decision to uproot my life in Canada and move to Spain, and after having felt that I'd become immersed in Jaén and would be continuing to live there, I've actually decided to stay in Canada after all. The decision wasn't easy. It was something I'd thought about and agonized over for many months, and after a series of unfortunate events in Spain, it made sense to return to the comfort of home.

My last few months abroad were a bittersweet ending to a story. Most people who leave the auxiliaries (NALCA) program throw grandiose going-away parties, have a thousand tearful goodbyes with friends, and visit as many European cities as possible before returning home and saying goodbye to cheap airfares. That wasn't how I ended things. Many months ago I wrote that I'd been involved in a serious car accident. In the aftermath, I became a bit reclusive and did not develop as many friendships in Jaén, because I wasn't in that mindset. Of the few friendships that did blossom, almost all ended because they were auxiliaries who left once their contract ended. I stayed on and therefore spent the last several weeks in Jaén sadder and lonelier than I'd ever been in a long time.
My last night in bar Guzzi.
Of course, I visited friends in Madrid and Villacarrillo, to express how grateful I was for their support and kindness. For me, not knowing when I'll ever see them in person again is such a horrible feeling. It's hard on either side of the fence: when I left Canada, my friends here were sad to see me go. Now, it's my Spanish friends who are sad, as am I. Because of the auxiliary program, I ended up living in a pueblecito and a city "in the middle of nowhere", and met so many people with whom I had an amazing connection, despite me coming from a large, cold, Canadian city 8,000 km away.

If I'm to be honest, my re-entry into Canada has been a mixture of relief and horribleness. Relief to be with my "family", a.k.a. my closest friends, again. I missed them terribly when I was going through my difficulties overseas, and they have lovingly welcomed me (and my cat) back with open arms. The freedom to eat alone at a restaurant table if I want, not feeling like an alien walking on the streets, the career and lifestyle opportunities available to's fantastic being back home. Actually, one of the coolest things that happened was back when this journey started, I was afraid of leaving my old t.v. career and not being able to return to it. When I came back this summer, I managed to land the exact same job, but with a competing t.v. station. I'm receiving a higher salary and have a better work schedule to boot!
Work work work work work....
On the other hand, many times I still cry, missing my friends in Spain, the sun, the plazas, the quaint streets to walk in, the beautiful scenery of olive trees, speaking Spanish every day, laughing with my dear has been very hard for me, but I knew that my friends would help me out, which is why a return home made sense. I needed comfort, and it's here.

But coming home hasn't meant I've stopped traveling. I see Canada with new eyes. Now, I feel differently about my hometown, because I am different. Things have changed since I left, and it's been a riot seeking out new places to enjoy. In my city, I've been able to find a boatload of opportunities to practice Spanish as well. In fact, I'm studying in the Spanish translation program at the provincial university. My career goal? To work as a translator and interpreter to help those in need. Currently, I'm training to be a volunteer Spanish interpreter for the Red Cross.

Long term, I hope to take my new career skills on the road. When I moved to Spain, I got bit by a restless travel bug, and there's no vaccine for that! It's very possible I'll be moving again in a year or two. I can't help it, this world is too big not to explore. It's been an intense three years, and there's more years to go. May as well pursue all that is possible, so that when the end of the road comes, I can look back and say, "Yeah, I did that."

May the roads you take be just as satisfying.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Meet the People

Oh man, seriously has it been two whole weeks since I last posted? Well, I've been incredibly busy, thanks to my personality adjustment. Before Spain, I kept to myself in public, and didn't make too much effort to say hi to strangers. Since returning, starting conversations with strangers has led to fantastic opportunities.

First off, I was able to get multiple job offers within two weeks of arriving thanks to not just blindly sending my CV, but actually making a huge effort to meet hiring managers in person. Whereas in the past I would just email it in and hope for the best, now I ask for even a scant five minutes, just so they can put a face to a name.

I'm also connecting with locals, striking up conversations in coffee shops, elevators, on public transit... I laughed out loud when I came across an old diary entry shortly before moving to Spain three years ago, in which I was angry that people in my hometown seemed so cold and dour. It may have been me - my extroverted side blossomed while living abroad and has helped me connect multiple times.
I'm also very nicely settled in the ground-level suite of my friends' house, co-habitating nicely with their family, thanks to word of mouth. Just as I was resigned to living with strangers found on Craigslist, only a few days before leaving Spain I sent a message to a friend I hadn't talked to in years, and now I'm living comfortably in his house. Not only am I seeing locals in a different light, I'm also viewing friendships for the special quality that they have.