I forgot how much I love the Spanish language.
When I was a sophomore in college, I decided on (mostly) a whim to study abroad in Ecuador for a semester. Within a few months of hastily submitting an application for the trip and for all relevant university scholarships, I was off on my first long-term international adventure. I barely knew the people I was traveling with and definitely was nowhere near as advanced at the language as I thought I was, but by the end of my four months living in Cuenca, I not only had some of the world's best friends, but a solid grasp of a second language.
About a month ago, I spent a week in southern Spain. What began as a trip to visit my friend Lindsey and to see a country I had always been told I needed to visit ended with me rethinking some of my more recent life decisions and wondering if I should have given other opportunities a try. Over the course of a week, I seriously brushed up on my Spanish and once again was in a country in which I could understand most of what was said without too much trouble; I got accustomed to tapas and tinto de verano for lunch (why doesn't this exist in Germany?); and I started to envision myself living in Córdoba or Sevilla. I felt comfortable with the pace of life and was able to navigate winding little streets much better than I had been when I arrived in Ecuador (which has much of the same). I remembered how much I loved the idea of a siesta, even if I didn't always take one, and I remembered how much I loved the language that had got me started traveling in the first place. Spanish has been part of my identity for so long now that it was almost weird to switch back to English and German when I landed back in Berlin and had to catch a train back to Leipzig. I spent my time at the airport in Sevilla wondering what my life could have been like had I decided to teach English in Spain for a year, or if I had joined the Peace Corps in Peru, or if I had gone back to Ecuador to get my TEFL certification, or had I gone to grad school somewhere else. I spent the morning in a daze (in part thanks to the 6am flight I had to be awake for), considering options and wondering if I had made the right choices in my life.
(Spoiler alert: as soon as I landed back in Berlin at the end of this trip, I knew I had made the right decision. Phew. But I would be lying if I said it wasn't touch and go for a few days.)
During my week in Spain, I visited three cities in Andalucía: Córdoba, Sevilla, and Granada. There were aspects of each city that I loved, and aspects that I didn't. Though so many people told me that Granada was their favorite city in Spain, I can't say that I share that sentiment. Granada was beautiful and La Alhambra was so amazing... but I just didn't feel super comfortable there. I loved both Córdoba and Sevilla much more, and between these two cities, I cannot pick a favorite. All I can say now is that I will definitely be back sometime... but also that I'm definitely in the right place in Germany.
Though I saw so many amazing sights and tried a lot of delicious tapas on this trip, what stuck with me the most from this trip is how much I miss speaking Spanish in my day-to-day life. I moved to Ecuador just about four years ago, but even once I got back I had plenty of opportunities to interact with friends in the language (in and out of class). It felt so natural to let the words roll off my tongue, and so comforting to have near-flawless, complex interactions with strangers on the street or in stores. Perhaps this stems from the fact that my quest to attain fluency in Spanish (not there yet) led me to so many other opportunities, or perhaps it's because the grammar comes so much easier to me than German grammar does... regardless, I'm so glad I went on this trip, and I'm so glad I came back home.
It doesn't feel weird to refer to Germany as home. When I first moved to Leipzig in August, "home" usually referred to the U.S. Sometimes when I'm talking to friends and family in the States, they'll ask "so when are you coming back home?" – of course, I know they mean the U.S. But I usually say something along the lines of: "I am home now, here in Germany. I'm not sure when I'll be stateside again, but I'll let you know."
*Cue heart simultaneous heart attacks from many of these people*
It's no secret that my move here was meant to be more permanent than not – anyone who has listened to me talk about my new, German life knows that I spent all of the miles I had been accruing over the last few years to buy my one-way plane ticket here. According to the new-ish stickers in my passport, I'm legally allowed to be in Germany as a temporary resident with student status (and ability to work part-time, finally!) until November 2018. At that point, I will need to renew my residence permit and jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops (assuming of course that I have a job lined up in the Fatherland before then, which is one of my top priorities for early-to-mid-2018, besides finishing my thesis). But this is all for later...
For now, I'm just working on moving forward day by day. My mom and sister are arriving in one week (Christmas Day!) and I'm so excited to show them around Leipzig. I hope that they will love and appreciate Germany as much as I do. I haven't spoken much Spanish since I got back to Germany (I am trying to learn German, after all), but it's really nice to know that, at least to an extent, that part of me is still in here, slightly rusty, but ready to come out at a moment's notice.