12 Days to Spain

Sometimes it still feels unreal: leaving Manila, moving to Boston, living here for what’s now been the better part of a year. What gall this girl has, I think to myself. What nerve. To leave everything I’ve ever known – including a cushy job and a great support system – and transplant myself halfway across the world? It still seems like the actions of an irrational, reckless individual. Hardly the calm, deliberate person I like to think I am.

And yet I’m doing it again. Not to the same degree, maybe – five weeks in Spain doesn’t quite belong to the same category as building a new life. Still, I’m kind of in awe of my own daring. Who is this risk-taker, this would-be world traveler, this ambitious upstart? What happened to the Catholic school girl with the good grades, the teenager who would just go with the flow, the young woman who hardly took vacations because work always came first?

I don’t know, actually. But I must admit: It’s been liberating. To know that life is more than the city or town you grew up in; to discover new places and people and things; to find that, as Stephen King wrote, “there are other worlds than these.” SK meant it as a parallel universe thing, but I think the idea still applies to this particular dimension: There is just so much more to see and learn and experience than we let ourselves imagine.

Which is why I’m beyond psyched to be spending the next semester in Salamanca and Madrid. Not only will it be my first time in Europe, but I’ll be going there to fulfill a kind of dream of mine – to write and report stories from a foreign country. I’m not yet entirely sure what I’m going to find (I can hear a chorus screaming, “World Cup!” from the other side of the Pacific; Spain’s national team should be preparing to head to Brazil by then) but I would love to see my byline on both a story about the quality of wine at a hole-in-the-wall eatery and one about the hardships of being young, educated and living in a nation where the unemployment rate is 26 percent. I would love to write about music and culture as much as I would about poverty and inequality. None of it will be easy – I’m not so naive as to expect the work to do itself – but I believe that doing something I love while living in two amazing new cities will make the experience that much more fulfilling.

And it’s Spain! Having come from a country where Spanish culture infuses everything from food to religion to last names (see mine), I find it a privilege to finally be seeing for myself the source of it all. The Philippines, like it or not, is a mutt of cultures: Malay, Chinese, American, Japanese, with probably a dozen others mixed in. But 300 years of colonization leaves indelible marks, and that history is what my little archipelago has with Spain.

So I don’t think anyone can blame me for being more excited than a kid on Christmas morning. I’ve barely come to terms with my new life here and already I’m off to discover more strange and wonderful things, in a place I’ve always wanted to see, to do things I’ve long wanted to do.

Enough raving. I’m off to practice mi terrible Espanol on my Duolingo app.

Twelve days and counting!

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