Saturday, September 29, 2012

How I Missed My Flight (Almost)

I’m sprinting down Terminal 3 of Chicago O’Hare airport. My flight has started to board and I am still a good half mile away from my gate. Although my hair is straight and I am wearing appropriately tight skinny jeans, I am far from looking Europeanly acceptable. I have changed into my Target moccasin slippers for a more efficient running experience, although I had previously been wearing brown heeled boots. In my rush, I hadn’t had time to put any makeup on. Worst of all, the unexpected cardio I’ve undertaken has caused a solid layer of sweat to envelope my body. Not only am I visual disgrace to my future European neighbors, but also to my current American ones. The lowest of the lows.

So I was a bit late to my flight. Luckily I made it on the plane, mostly unscathed. How did I allow myself to be late to the most important event of the year, you ask? Well. It was probably due to the straightening of my hair. I wonder what percentage of the tardiness in my life can be attributed to this same demon. I am going to estimate 89%, though that may be too generous.

Up until this point, the amount of emotion I’ve expressed was quite minimal relative to what I had expected. I said my goodbyes, which were sad, but I don’t think I have realized the weight of them. I am not going to see my family and friends for 8 months. Shouldn’t I be crying buckets 24/7? On the other hand, I am going to be living in SPAIN! This is all I’ve wanted ever since that torturous flight home from Granada last Spring. So, shouldn’t I also be exuberant?  I thought for sure that once I was on the plane to Madrid the overwhelmingly contradictory emotions would have their way with me. I’d imagined that first I’d be sad to be leaving my home…maybe I'd even shed some tears during take off. But then, the sadness would slowly transform into euphoria. I would start doing cartwheels down the plane aisles. I would hug every flight attendant and passenger that would allow me to do so. I would even donate my entire MEAL to the hungry fellow next to me who was clearly not satisfied with his measly portion. Because the idea of LIVING IN SPAIN SHOULD FULFILL EVERY HUMAN NEED, INCLUDING APPETITE. 

However, none of this happened.

The only real thoughts that came through my head during the flight were when we were finally flying over Spain. I literally thought to myself “Oh, thank God we’re no longer flying over open water. I could practically sense the sharks waiting underneath for something to go awry.” 


I feel like I’m acting like a jaded brat who comes to Spain all the time, and does not see the novelty in such an experience anymore. 


I know there’s an inevitable meltdown awaiting me in these next few weeks, just a moment where the culmination of emotions gets the better of me. I will let you all know when that time comes.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Where am I going to live? WTF is this gallego? Why hasn’t my school responded to any of my e-mails, do they already hate me?! How am I going to go 8 months without seeing my family? What am I going to do for the holidays?! How am I going to live off of a fraction of the money I had the last time I went to Spain? How am I supposed to straighten my hair if it’s gonna be raining all the time?! What am I gonna do with the 156 hours of the week that I’m not working? Am I gonna fool Europeans into thinking I am one of them? How are high schoolers going to take to me? Are they going to laugh and point? Are they going to ask me if I even have my driver’s license yet? What am I going to teach them? What do I even know about teaching, anyway?! Why don’t I own a rain jacket? How am I going to get to school every day? Am I going to get sick of sea food? Am I going to be comparing everything to Granada? Will my cilantro plants live in the rainy Ourense conditions? Will I be able to find a cheap gym? When will I finally start packing…?


The floodgates of concern have opened up these past few days and they are ruthless. Clearly, these concerns range in legitimacy and importance, but the one characteristic they do share is the toll they are taking on my blood pressure. I am 6 days out from departure, so it’s getting down to the wire.

I had a bit of a breakthrough with the nerves yesterday, though. The night before I dreamt of Mando, a fellow Grinnell alum, Spanish major, and overall outstandingly kind and bright individual. Earlier this summer, Mando passed away while he was working as an intern in Mexico City. His passing really shook the Grinnell community, as I would say 100% of campus knew him, and probably 80% of campus knew him as a close friend. He was just one of those individuals who never knew a stranger. Any time I passed him on campus, without fail, he would give me a big smile and ask me how I was. One of the last conversations I had with Mando was indeed about Spain. He was en route to get his Masters at the University of Barcelona, and he could not be more excited to explore Spain. He invited me to visit him in Barcelona, and I’d promised to take him up on it. In a strange coincidence, hours after I had this dream yesterday I also received an e-mail that finally gave us the information for Mando’s Grinnell memorial service. Unfortunately it’ll be taking place 4 days after I leave for Spain.

I suppose it was a bit of a kick in the ass for me to dream of Mando. It’s like a reminder of just how vivacious, fearless, and joyful he was. ALL of the time. Mando was not scared of going to Barcelona. He welcomed that--and every other opportunity--with open arms. He approached any challenge in full stride. I’d like to remember this about him these upcoming 8 months. Anytime I get scared, nervous, anxious, or otherwise down, I just want to remember his 1,000,000-watt smile, his infectious laugh, and I want to act with as much fearlessness as he had. Hell, I’d even take a fraction of it.

Thanks for sharing your life with me and everyone else in this world, Mando. It gives me great comfort to feel like you are going to be watching over all of us Grinnellians who are going to Spain: our own Guardian Angel/Diva. I, personally, do not feel comfortable bidding you a R.I.P. closing. I could never picture you desiring to be in a restful and peaceful state…instead I think you would want to be in an indefinite state of activity… running around, dancing, laughing…an image of pure energy and delight. So I hope you have found that somewhere, sweet Mando.