I’ve been home for about a week now. It’s weird, to say the least. Everything is the same, my house has to many cats, my dad is obsessed with a new (ugly) car, my nephew is going through his terrible twos, and my grandmother is drinking her PBR in the corner. Yet, somehow everything is also different. It’s always hard to remember that everyone else’s lives move on while you are away. It also makes me sad that the last four months feel like a dream. Did the last four months really happen? If it wasn’t for all the cheap souvenirs crowding my room and the jet lag, I wouldn’t know. I’ve been avoiding writing this last blog post, but I know I need to now, before I forget anything.
Everyone keeps asking me, how was Spain? I answer, “It was great. I had a lot of fun.” They normally move on to something else after that. Wow, is that all I have to say about it? I guess I’ve finally realized that I really can never explain my time abroad and I’m okay with that. It is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. In fact, yesterday my mom had my grandmother’s Christmas present delivered to the house. My mom came running upstairs and woke me up,
“Jaclyn! Are you awake?”
“Well get up, the men are here to set up Mom-Mom’s shuffle board and two of them are from Granada, Spain!”
Woah! My host family was from Granada and talked non-stop about it. I came rushing down, hungover from the night before at the sports bar with my dad and looking fabulous. Who cares? It’s just an old Spaniard setting up a shuffleboard. False. I came down to six supermodel looking men, looking like I was 12 in my oversized Backstreet Boys t-shirt. Thanks for the warning, Mom. I was surprised when the Andalucian didn’t tell me “Oh, tienes mala cara.” You have bad face. I got over it, sat downstairs and spoke to them in Spanish. It was so comforting to hear the familiar accents, gestures, and phrases. I then quickly texted my host family and told them. They responded by telling me, “Maybe we won’t have to come all the way out to the United States for your wedding!” Ha, I don’t think my 90’s boy band shirt impressed them.
The days leading up to the end were emotional and stressful. I ended my time there the same way I came, with too much of everything, not enough space, and of course waiting until the last minute to pack my bags. My second to last night I spent with my host family. We went to my host sister’s holiday concert at her school where she sang “All I Want For Christmas Is You” in her cute little accent. Later, Beli made me a special seafood dinner and even brought out the champagne. We spent the entire night talking, laughing and watching La Voz (The Voice) until 2am. My little sister was so excited because One Direction was on the show that night. We were all curled up on the couch together, Jorge, Beli, Sergio, Berta and me. It wasn’t sad, it was just a normal night with my family.
The next day I spent every second packing (when I wasn’t out buying more suitcases). Berta was my little helper and didn’t leave my side. I gave her mundane tasks such as wrapping up trinkets and she was thrilled when I gave her my extra clothes and hair straightener. She even told me in English, “Jaclyn, I am going to kill the next host student so you can come back!” Um, okay Berta. My mom facetimed me to make sure I was actually packing, she knows me, and Beli came in to say hi. Before I knew it, both my mom and Beli were crying and I was standing awkwardly in the middle. Beli then went running downstairs and I followed.
“Beli, are you okay?”
“Sí! I’m not going to cry anymore, you need sandwiches for the plane! I’m going to make you sandwiches!”
I laughed and 30 minutes later Beli had four sandwiches ready for me. She’s just like my mom, needs to keep busy to not be upset. I stayed up until about 2am that night curled up on the couch with Beli and my sleeping host dad. She told me that she loves me and that even though these past four months have gone by so fast, that she feels like she has known me for a long time.
Before going to bed, Berta came into my room with tears in her eyes. She looked up at me,
“Adios, Jaclyn.” Goodbye, Jaclyn
I corrected her, “No es adios, Berta, es hasta luego” It’s not goodbye, Berta, it’s see you later.
A smile just barely reached her eyes and she responded, “Nunca es adios.” It’s never goodbye.
Berta gave me a big hug and went to bed.
My alarm went off early the next morning and little Beli helped me carry my obnoxiously large suitcases down the stairs. I handed her my keys and she hugged me one last time. “Mi hija.” My Daughter. She whispered in my ear. I got into the cab and was on my way. It was a strange feeling. I was used to leaving my Sevillan home every weekend, but this time I wasn’t coming back.
150 euros in over weight bag fees, 10 hours of flying, and 2 crappy airplane meals later, I was back at JFK. The flight attendants said “Adios” to me as I exited. I quickly replied, “Gracias, adios” not knowing the next time I’d be using my spanish and walked out. My dad was waiting for me outside. We walked to his car, loaded my bags, and I lost it. I hadn’t cried once while leaving Spain or on the plane, but it finally hit me that my time there was really over and that I wasn’t coming back to my Sevillan family that Monday like all the past trips. Just then, I received a bunch of text messages from my host family telling me how much they love me and miss me and that they will see me so soon. We’ve spoken every single day since then. Yesterday, Beli texted me saying her very first host student from four years ago is coming this summer to visit her. “See Jaclyn, even after all this time we are still close. One day I’ll be going to your graduation, your wedding, and to meet your first baby. I love you, hija.”
So now that I’m back in the states, I have souvenirs, photos, plane ticket stubs, 10 inch shorter hair, a spanish keyboard on my phone, and a chipped tooth from a cruzcampo. I had a hell of a time abroad. I didn’t study for a single exam and didn’t understand half of my Spanish lectures, but I learned more this semester than all of my years in school combined. I’ve spent the last ten years learning an obnoxious amount of Spanish grammar. The funny thing is, I just realized that grammar really has nothing to do with being fluent in the language. What does it mean to be fluent? It means finally being able to be your true self. You can be funny, flirty, insulting, witty, rude, and most importantly for me, sarcastic. You can hug and give dos besos to strangers on the street. You can greet your neighbors. You can eat lunch at 4pm and dinner at 10pm. You can siesta like a pro. You can order something without the waiter answering in English. You can be confident. You can be an Andalucian. You can be YOU. So this brings me back to one of my very last interactions in Sevilla. The taxi cab driver looked at me as I climbed into his car and asked, “¿Hablas español?” I looked back at him in his rearview mirror and with my signature smirk, I answered, “Sí, hablo español.”
No me ha dejado. Hasta luego Sevilla y mi familia. Siempre tiene mi corazón. Gracias para todo y voy a regresar pronto. Los quiero. “Nunca es adiós.”