Spain: an Afterward

I’ve spent the three weeks since returning from Spain trying to explain what I feel and how I’ve changed. And after all this time I’m not much closer to an answer. I was warned repeatedly that reverse culture shock coming back can be worse than when you enter a new country. I guess I didn’t believe it.. Missouri has been home for 21 years, how could it hurt me? now I think I understand, because strangely it doesn’t feel like home. These surroundings are familiar perhaps, though certainly not normal.

When I went to Spain the shock I encountered could be attributed to fear of the unknown. Here I can’t do that, there’s nothing new to blame. The result is that I feel absolutely lost. It’s like reaching for something you routinely use and it being out of place; what’s more, you’re not sure exactly where you expected it to be. my whole life is here, yet something is not quite right. Like it’s shifted out of place, and I don’t know how it should be.

I made a mistake. I returned and expected to pick up my life right where I left it in January. The truth is that I can’t because I’m just not the same person. I’ve grown in both perspective and experience. Those are now parts of me that cannot be packed away. Yet these gains have not been without loss. Somewhere outside my comfort zone I surrendered my sense of home. In the long run that will likely be a good thing, for now it’s enough to know that it’s okay.

There’s two things I learned from my short time studying abroad that I will carry forward. The first is that home is a fluid concept. Anywhere can be home if we make it so, it is something we constantly recreate. The other is how concrete our sense of belonging can become. You see, belonging is not tied to a place, rather to the people with which we surround ourselves.

Enough of my rambling writing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that my life is an uncertain balance. I can’t tell you exactly how I’ve changed. I definitely don’t have a grasp of my emotions. What I do know is that I’m capable of making anywhere home; and that if I surround myself with the right people, I can face any uncertainty that each day brings.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

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…para llevar

Sometimes all you need is

to be in strange places

with strange people.

to go beyond yourself

and discover what comes next.

*

Out there is big, bad world.

one that will inevitably break you.

you’ll find yourself at the bottom

there you’ll also find your demons waiting

But I beg you not to lose hope,

Those strange people

the ones that are always there

will know to stretch out a friendly hand.

*

“Be not afraid” and just go.

See the unimaginable

experience it all

and gain a broader perspective

because in the end

It’s all an adventure

So laugh at everything

Sing like an idiot

and make some mac+cheese “para llevar”


Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

an Eventful day in Madrid

Check out the story I just posted over on TalesofSpain, while you’re there take a look at what my classmates and I are experiencing here in Spain…

Tales of Spain

Woke up late Saturday morning excited for a day in Madrid. The plan was to meet up with some friends at their hotel and then go see the Palacio Real. A simple enough plan that left plenty of room for error. The first step was the commuter train from Alcalá to Atocha station in Madrid. An easy trip that I can quite literally do in my sleep. From Atocha I switched to the metro system. With map in hand I successfully made my two connections and was just looking for my final stop. Unfortunately I had misread the directions that I’d been given and ended near Coslada almost halfway back to Alcalá. Of course, leaving the metro to look for the hotel, I didn’t realize right away. Finally after walking around for a good half hour, I finally found the street I thought I needed only for it to dead…

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Spain: a new Self

I’ve been living in Spain for nearly four weeks now. And it has been a rollercoaster of an experience so far. I have seen more fascinating sights than I could’ve expected, and I’m nowhere near done. These ups have not been without their downs. Seemingly everything is different than life in my small midwest town. My senses constantly overwhelmed. As of yet, there have been a few really bad episodes of culture shock. At a certain point you become physically done with the novelty. For me, it usually centers around my lack of language skills and the necessity to rely on other people. The reality of vulnerability. It has been painful at times.

One thought that is comforting is the vast new perspective I’m gaining of myself. It reminds me of a quote from Doctor Who,

“We all change when you think about it. We’re all different people all throughout our lives. And that’s ok; that’s good. You gotta keep moving so long as you remember all the people you used to be.” –The Doctor

There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m leaving bits and pieces of who I was all over Spain. This semester is taking from me, and that is the best situation I can hope for. It allows for a new mindset, gives me a chance to fill in those holes with what I need to carry me forward.

Soon I’ll find myself back at that beautiful, familiar farm where I grew up. Will it recognize me? I know that I’ll be a different person. I know that everyday here, all the way to the end, will be a struggle. When I return to Missouri it will also be a struggle. I’ve learned there is no such thing as normal, and that is what I wake up every morning to face. Knowing that I am constantly recreating myself for the better.

Peace, Love, and Happiness… blogdoctorwho

–Joe

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Twenty-One

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I turned 21 on a street corner

a discreet place to grow old

conversing of mecca & happenstance

Our words foreign to the place.

Beyond me lays a world yet unknown,

piece by piece I strive to comprehend.

Though not a child of the Spanish son

adopted by the indifference of night

As I turn 21 on a street corner


Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

a short note to self

Beyond what you know lies a whole new world. Beyond one’s comfort zone is the realm of infinite possibility. It is ours for the taking, all that is required is that we agree to take each step anew.

Comfort is an illusion. What is there if we do not push the boundaries? Where we sit offers nothing but decay and more of the same. Now full disclosure, pushing the envelope will hurt. It’ll push back, and you’ll discover pain. Always the best we can do is simply keep trying.

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Your journeys will earn you scars. Pieces of you left behind, and experiences carried onward. Sometimes it’ll be tangible changes; a face worn by the sun, or a tongue with a hint of another language. Often they are less apparent and yet more powerful. Perhaps you’ll have a new perspective, or maybe you’ll encounter an entire paradigm shift. With certainty, travel makes you a different person.

Change is important. It helps us understand better who we are. Change allows us to discard that which pollutes us, and is the lens through which we may focus on that which remains important. It is easy to become dismayed by the anxiety and hurt we feel, exposed as we are. It’s in these moments that I strive to remember why I do this. It is not for myself now, rather I continue to Bemore for the person I will be tomorrow. Always tomorrow.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

Spain: beforehand

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Occasionally life throws you a curve ball that you’re just not quite sure what you did to deserve. Often they can be amazing opportunities, and sometimes the hardest part is simply to say yes. It’s so easy to remain skeptical and watch a chance pass you by.

Back in September I was walking through the student union; earbuds in, ignoring the world. Fortunately there was a professor intent on making sure I knew about a certain study abroad program. I tried all the excuses, and he shot them all down. The cost, the language barrier, too late in my academic career, etc., etc. He countered it all. So I took a flyer and agreed to speak with my advisor about it.

Short version of this story is that I’m going to Spain next semester. I’ll be studying for three months at the Instituto Franklin UAH just outside Madrid. The decision came after a good long bout of personal turmoil, discussions with some people I trust for advice, and great deal of prayer. You see I had ruled out the possibility of studying abroad early in my collegiate studies. Of course, one of my more immediate faults is that once my mind is made up I have trouble going a different way. Yet here I am.

Fast forward to now. It’s December, I’ve finished my fall semester and the full notion that shortly I’ll be living in another country has really sunk in. Everyone keeps asking if I’m ready for my trip, the answer is always no but I am excited. Scared shitless is a more proper description of my state of mind. But I guess that’s okay. Being a little uncomfortable is how we grow. This will be so many things, I just hope that I can find the words to tell the story.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

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