(the annual festival of the Christian church commemorating the birth of Jesus: celebrated on December 25 and now generally observed as a legal holiday and an occasion for exchanging gifts) – dictionary.com
the season of giving, the season of love – personal application
All the sudden I find myself again amongst the Christmas season, surrounded by love. I look back at the year at the different struggles, challenges, opportunities, friendships, memories, and growth. Sometimes you don’t realize how much has happened in your life and how many miracles are continually happening.
In my last update I had just landed a new job and had four days to find a new place to live. Not gonna lie, it was a difficult position to be in. But I kept positive and determined because I knew and still know that I’m here for a reason, and whatever happens along the way – good or bad – will be helpful in the long run. My living situation came down to the wire… I had looked at tons of apartments and nothing felt right. I had felt so desperate at one point I even signed a contract for a place and only had to go to the bank to get the deposit. But as I left I got a really sick, uneasy feeling and decided that if I wasn’t happy and excited, it probably wasn’t the place for me. Everything happens for a reason. With three days left I saw a place I really liked, the people were really great, the location was perfect, and the rent was affordable. It was perfect! But wouldn’t you know, it wouldn’t be available until December. I was heartbroken. With two days left, I had to make a decision. I saw another place that was just…ok. And I said yes because I felt I had to. But then upon leaving, I got that same sick feeling, like it wasn’t meant to be. To make a long story short, I decided I wanted the other place that wasn’t available until December and I would find somewhere to live for the month of November. That evening I remembered somebody I had met about a month before. I had had a meeting with him to begin recording audio guides for his business and he had casually mentioned he had a third room in his house that at one time he had rented out. He said he would still like to rent it so he and his roommate could save money but his roommate wasn’t too keen on the idea. I thought nothing of it at the time, but then in my evening of stress I remembered him and without thinking twice, I called. “Hey Paco! Is there any way I could live with you for a month… just a month!” He responded super nicely saying he had no problem and would need to ask his roommate but to him it was no problem. Then he asked if it was for me or one of my friends… and I assured him it was for me to which he responded positively and said he would call me back that evening. I can’t even explain my feelings during the next few minutes. The stress turned to suspense, the possibility of having everything finally work out was dependent on his phone call. He finally called with the best news! His roommate and he were very excited to help me out, the rent would be cheap, and on top of all of it, we’d have great language practice between us! Two days later I moved.
The month of November flew by as I began my new life. Traveling to classes all day gave me lots of time to read, in the evenings I would hang out with my new roommates, and every Sunday I had lunch with my family. Thanksgiving quickly approached and my family took me out to a really nice Brazilian restaurant that offered a Thanksgiving meal and it was absolutely incredible! Every day I am so thankful for them and the love they continuously give to me. Having a family on this side of the world has been the difference between me liking where I am and loving where I am.
December came and I moved into to my new place. It was a smooth transition and my new roommates are super nice. There are two girls and one boy and they don’t speak English. Perfect for me! Since I live right by the park, I go running 5-6 days a week. Living closer to the city center makes it possible to come home for lunch a couple days a week. I’m so happy this is the place that worked out for me although I’m so grateful I was able to live in the other place for November because now I have two new friends as well. One of whom took me to Toledo last week and showed me the entire city with the best tour. He was born there and that plus his fascination for knowledge and history had me learning so many things and made it an incredible trip!
My classes continue and on the days I dread going I always give myself a slap in the face at the end of the day because every class I leave, I’m always happy and glad I went. Sometimes the students would rather talk than learn, sometimes they complain that the grammar is too difficult, sometimes they are too tired and nothing makes sense, but regardless, every single day they greet me with a smile and are excited to be there. I have a wide range of levels and I can’t decide on a favorite. The lower levels are great because you get to see a huge improvement in a small period of time. The higher levels are fun because we can talk about almost anything and the time flies by. And there might be one whose name I wish was Sergio. Hahaha. I’ve definitely been dealt a few difficult students. One of them has a level much lower than the rest of the class, but since it is the lowest level my company offers, he has to be there. To be honest, I wouldn’t want anyone else teaching him – but at the same time, it’s difficult to keep the strong students learning while he is struggling. Another class I have has one student that doesn’t want to do anything but talk. No grammar, no vocabulary, no learning… just talking. You can imagine the challenge that gives me. But like I say, at the end of the day, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be, any other challenges I’d rather have, any other situation I’d rather be in.
I began my vacation this week and have a solid two and a half weeks to celebrate the holidays. I don’t know if I stressed it enough last year, but Christmas time in Spain is essentially a marathon of food. Meal after meal, kilo after kilo… This year I’m mixing it up a bit and I’m going to head to England for a week to check another country off my list. But I will be here for Christmas. And I am very excited! There is something very special about Spain during Christmas. During the rest of the year, the love is apparent all around. There is happiness despite the crisis and 25% unemployment. But during Christmas, it’s like a whole new world. The families come together and unity becomes the most important thing. And the best part is I really do feel that I’m a part of a family here.
This morning I was thinking about the different Christmases I’ve had in my life. I thought back to when I was a child and there were a couple years where we had a different style of Christmas. Because of certain circumstances, we were to have a very small and cheap Christmas with no presents and a small meal, but it was ok because what was important was being together. One morning my mom went to open the door, and I’ll never forget the moment when she started to cry. On our front porch was a huge box full of food! It was unbelievable! There was more food in that box than in our entire kitchen. And not only that, there was a present wrapped for both my brother and I! At the time I was too young to really understand our situation but seeing the emotion in my mother and thinking about it now, it is overwhelming to think about how many people were in our community that loved us and took a little of what they had to make sure we had a real Christmas. I’ll never forget it, and I think about it often, especially when I complain that I don’t have enough of something… There was a day when I had less and I was still ok and I was still happy. My point in sharing this is that there are many people around us that don’t have as much as we do. Here in Spain and everywhere else in the world. Families are sitting at home curled up in blankets because they can’t afford heat, worrying about where their next meal will come from. It’s Christmas time. The season of giving, the season of love. If it’s in your power, if it’s in your ability, do something for those that can’t do it for themselves. I promise you, the feeling of those receiving it and the joy it will bring you will be worth more than any other gift.