“the dwelling place or retreat of an animal”
It doesn’t feel real… that I actually went home. My trip passed in the blink of an eye but now when I close my eyes, I can slow that blink down and re-live those incredible three weeks. Landing in San Francisco, seeing the bay bridge in the distance, I began to ache with excitement. Seeing my mom and cousins waiting for me felt as though I had never left them. The familiar taste of an in n out burger was as if I had been eating them all my life. Driving along 29, the vineyards shadowed by the darkness, the familiar lights of downtown St. Helena, the calmness it gave me… I was home. And it felt right.
The first week I was so busy I don’t remember if I had a chance to breath! I witnessed an incredible wedding, was reunited with my cat, spent time with my mom and saw her off, took a couple shifts at the coffee shop, and spent some time with incredible people. I started to worry a little though because I wasn’t experiencing the culture shock I had prepared myself for. Everything felt so natural, so right. There were a few things that did catch me off guard, like the instantaneous worry and complaints the second something seemed wrong. But other than that, I really had to think hard to find shock-able differences. I was absorbed in my old home. And I loved it.
To squeeze in as many people as I could, I planned out each of my three meals during the day for the majority of the time I was there. The second week was incredible. I caught up with my friends and made new memories. By the end of that week I would honestly admit that I would have been happy staying there. And that scared me too. It scared me because I thought of the commitments I had already made in Spain and I didn’t want to go back if I loved being at home so much. I started to battle within myself about what I really wanted. It wasn’t until the third week that the realizations started to hit. I had four meals within four days with four people. The first was a homemade dinner I had in Napa with one of my favorite customers and of course now my friend. I hardly had a moment to relax before she started asking me questions about Spain, my life, job, family, kids, friends, classes, future, etc. I had spent time with many people before this but she was the first person that asked with such intense interest. The questions got deep too and she started to ask me things I hadn’t yet thought about. “How do you feel you have changed the most?” I sat for a minute, thinking. I knew that I would change while being away and I felt that I had – a little bit, but I never took the time to think about how. As I began to answer, I started to realize things about myself that truly were different, changes that I like and that I feel strengthened me. I left that dinner feeling a bit different and as I drove the 40 minutes back to Calistoga, I started to think some more. It was during that drive that I knew I was ready to go back to Spain. I felt it. I still have a lot to learn, and as she put it, “Sarah your feet haven’t stopped moving. Don’t stop before you’re ready to.”
The next day I had dinner with one of my old high school teachers. My reason for this dinner was to tell her how upset with her I was. My first words were something like, hi it’s great to see you and you’re a jerk. I suppose I should explain a little. At my last going away party we had a conversation along the lines of how awesome it would be for when I came back to teach with her at my old high school. I laughed as one does with they assume someone is joking. But she wasn’t joking. She told me how she really felt I would be an excellent teacher and how working together we could really make a difference. I started to see she really was serious and then I seriously told her no, it would never happen. I just don’t want to be a teacher. She didn’t push it any further but as she left she gave me a journal and I didn’t open it for a couple days but she had written in the cover and had added, “PS And when you get back we can talk about your future as a teacher! :)” This woman has no idea, I thought. I had an amazing year in Spain working and living and knowing I wanted to stay. But as we know, the country is in a terrible crisis and the unemployment rate is increasing daily. It soon became clear that the only way I could stay was if I was to be an English teacher. The idea made me extremely uncomfortable but after many months I had to decide between teaching and going home for good. One day in my Spanish class I had to do a presentation. I chose to do it on coffee roasting and it just so happens that this very day, I was more tired than I was ok with. I had no idea how I was going to manage standing up in front of the class and talking for 20 min! I don’t know to how to explain it but the moment I stood up, I woke up completely. I started talking and felt so comfortable and really did love every minute of it. Seeing my audience as excited as I was and answering their questions became one of my highlights of the year. One of the girls afterwards told me that I really should be a teacher. That was the finally straw. I silently and politely cursed my high school teacher and then inquired about how I would go about teaching. Long story short I applied for a course, passed the interview, and right now am currently involved in it. So needless to say, my dinner with my high school teacher was to tell her that she was a real jerk for making me be a teacher, but at the same time I thanked her. We talked for a long time about it – the kids you meet, the lives that have the ability to be changed, the difference that can be made if your heart is in what you do. Leaving that dinner I could only hope that I could be as good a teacher as she is. And I can honestly say, after four years of history, I remember less of the subject matter than the life lessons I learned. And I also left with a heightened confidence. She had believed in me before I believed in myself.
My third meal was with a mentor I’ve known for most of my life and our lunch was one of storytelling and laughing. He made me talk a large portion of the time which was difficult to do with my caprese piadini sitting in front of me. But at the end he said, “Sarah, after your first story I was going to tell you that you need to be a story teller. But now I’m telling you that you need to be a teacher.” I smiled and then told him what my future plans were. At one point he asked me if I was the same person in Spain that I am at home. Reluctantly I said no. It’s extremely difficult to express the same personality through a different language. But every day I learn more and more and I try to be the best person I can be with and without words. I started to think about the people we misjudge because they don’t speak our same dialect, we may not understand them for who they really are. I know that everything I go through and every challenge I face, although difficult at times, prepares me for something in the future – someone I will meet or a situation I will be dealt. When talking about going back I told him that I was scared out of my mind. Possibly more scared this time than the last. Even though I know my city, I have friends, I’m comfortable with my surroundings… I’m terrified of teaching. Simply put. I will be responsible for the learning of other people, their growth will be at my dispense. But I’m more than ok with it. Isn’t it the fear that leads us?
My fourth dinner was a surprise. I had run into one of my older customers and before saying much, she earnestly requested that I have lunch with her. As if it was meant to be, I actually had a lunch open the next day and so we met. She told me in all her traveling, she had never made it to Spain. Her husband had fought in the Spanish civil war and afterwards he never had the desire return. So she asked me to tell her everything so that she could experience it too. After about an hour the tables had turned a bit and she began sharing with me. Her history, her knowledge, her appreciations, her life, and I began to feel so lucky that not only had she taken me to lunch to listen to me but she was also sharing a part of her that I’m sure not too many people have heard. She encouraged me to record my life even if it was through a tape recorder. I won’t remember all my experiences I’ve planned to remember. The important ones will fade as easy as the others and we are living history and doing things that need to be shared. It was after leaving this lunch that I truly knew for a fact it was time to go back. I would still soak up the last few days I had and of course wished I could have had a few more but the world isn’t done with me yet.
The way I look at my life is before I came here is, I lived in a box. It was a comfortable box and I loved everything I found inside of it. And then I traveled outside the box and saw the world and it was amazing! If I did stay home, I would go right back to the box. But the only difference is, the walls would be clear. I would be able to see out and it would be hard, so hard to see the world without being able to live it. And so here I am. Once again, I’ve been thrown outside my comfort zone, testing my abilities, trying new things, and all the while loving, living, learning, and sharing. I’m looking forward to the next time I do go home, but until then, I’ll be flying here in my “hogar.”