It’s my last week here in Madrid, and it’s just hitting me as I type that sentence. I can’t believe it’s all coming to an end, but I think it’s perfect timing. I’m at a point where I am beginning to miss home and I’m actually looking forward to it! I’ll be happy to see my family and friends again. But, it’s bittersweet because I will miss everyone that I met on this journey, from my host family, co-workers, the students in this program, to the friends I made here in Madrid. There are a lot of people who have made me feel so welcome. I feel so blessed with everywhere I was placed on this program. Two of my co-workers had a housewarming party this week because they moved in together. It was so much fun because they are a little bit older than me and they love listening to music from their generation. It’s all just early-early 2000’s music which they listened to in middle school and high school and I listened to when I was 5 or 6. It was a great time. But at the end of the night, I was sad to go because I don’t think I’ll be seeing a lot of them before my journey ends, since they work at different sites. But one of my co-workers, Tony, said something as I was leaving that really resonated with me. He hugged me and said:
“Ciera, you know, you’re one of those people that as soon as I met you, I knew you were such a good person.”
I almost cried when he said that. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. It let me know that I am doing something right and in a way it let me know I was meant to be exactly where I am. I have felt so welcome in every aspect of this program and it truly has been such a journey, which I’ll talk more about in my next post.
I wanted the opportunity to see one more place in Spain this weekend before I left, so I decided to go to Toledo, which is only an hour bus ride away from Madrid. I went with one of the other students on this program, Bri, and it was one of the most liberating days. Usually when we travel in bigger groups, it’s hard to get things done and see everything because everyone has their own agenda. But with just the two of us it was so easy and simple. We saw so many things and Toledo is truly a beautiful city. It’s up high on a mountain and you can see the whole thing from below. It’s not very big, so it makes for a great day-trip! I’m so glad I was able to see it, and from the picture I posted above, you can see how genuinely happy I was.
Genuine happiness. I think that’s the definition of success here in Spain. Everyone I’ve met is just so genuinely happy, and caring, and open. I believe they live their truth here. And they really understand the importance of human connection which is just embedded into their culture. I’ve learned a lot just by the friends I’ve made here. They touch a lot more than my friends at home. First it was a little surprising, but I’ve gotten used to it so quickly and have even started to take it on myself. More hugs, cheek kisses, and just overall closeness. I don’t think we realize the importance of non-romantic touching as a way of connection. Every time I leave, they say “besitos” or “un beso” which is the equivalent of saying “a kiss goodbye”. Additionally, they call everyone “cariño” which is like calling everyone “sweetie” or “darling”. But everyone does it, at the grocery store, people I’ve just met, my host mom. It makes me feel so cared about and makes it more personal. In restaurants, if you are eating and someone walks by your table to get sat, they’ll often say “buen provecho” to you, which means “enjoy your meal”! How nice is that? All these small things embedded into their culture that just give you a sense of caring no matter where you go. In the US all these things would be considered odd and maybe even off-putting. It’s “every man for himself”, and “pull yourself up by your boot straps”. Everyone is on their phones, no one is connecting. It makes for a very cold society. I definitely prefer the collectivist nature and will try to bring aspects of it back with me to the US. I already have grown used to kissing people on the cheeks. It’s a much warmer greeting than a hand shake. I don’t know how well that will go over in the US, so I’ll just stick to family and friends on that one. But besides that, I know I will try to always make people feel welcome and just show kindness.
And I know that what Tony said will be a driving force behind that.