With the last month of my time here in Madrid approaching, I’m constantly thinking about what I want to accomplish with the short time I have left. Yet, I have realized that I’ve accomplished so much this year. I have been able to switch the country I live in, my home, family, and way of life to the extent that now I feel totally normal living here in Madrid. My Spanish is better than ever before and I feel very comfortable speaking it all day with everyone. I’ve put a lot of work into making activities for the girls at the Montoya home and do my best to help every afternoon I spend with them. I’ve begun giving English classes at the Neighborhood Association of Ventilla and have taken it upon myself to spread information about the workshops offered and find someone to help us with the English classes in the afternoons. Through traveling I’ve seen more of the world and in doing so have made meaningful connections and friendships in Madrid and all over Europe. I know the district of Tetuan and the center of Madrid very well and have been a tour guide for friends who have visited. I have become immersed in the Spanish way of life (not sure how I’ll go back to eating meals at the normal time) and have learned how to make some Spanish dishes!
Being in León was a spectacular way to carry out the final moments of Semana Santa. Liveliness fills the streets, and one can sense the national Nicaraguan pride that shines in the grin of many. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to participate in a near century year old tradition with the family of my best friend, Isidro. His family lives on “La Calle de las Alfombras”, where each year several families sweep the streets, sell sweets, and, most of all, make beautiful murals made out of sawdust called alfombras, or rugs. In the evening, thousands of people come to gaze at the various murals created, all with their own special touch. The process can be long and brutal in the hot sun, but it was quite a surprise to see how simple it is, with such magnificent pieces of art as the final product. I am no artist, but the fellow neighbors who have been doing this art since youth were more than willing to teach me the proper techniques.
“A tía isn’t just someone that’s related to you. They’re someone who watches out for you and takes care of you.” I remember walking towards the city center with my host brother when he told me this. We had just passed his aunt’s house, and I wanted to know how exactly it was that she was related to him. He quickly laughed and revealed that she wasn’t actually a member of the family, but rather a friend of his parents. Nevertheless, being that he’d grown up with her love and support his entire life, in many ways she really was like an aunt.
At my work, La Asociación de Las Tías, the students refer to staff members as either tía or tío (the latter meaning uncle). When I first arrived, I was super excited about the fact that I’d get to come in and be a tío to so many kids. There was just one problem, however — I wasn’t. Unlike staff members, volunteers at Las Tías are referred to be their first name.
Two weeks ago, Valencia celebrated their world famous Fallas/Falles festival. I, along with my friend from back home, Eddie, headed to Valencia to partake in the celebrations. We stayed with Carmen, a friend of mine studying in Valencia, and her roommates who also invited a number of their friends. Thanks to Carmen, and her friends, Eddie and I were able to enjoy Falles through a somewhat local perspective; although they are not from Valencia, they have now lived and studied there for several years. Falles felt like a kick start to the last two months of my time in Spain, providing a spark that made March fly by, leaving me and my fellow fellows, trying to fill every weekend, day, and minute with a meaningful and new experience.