It’s October 14th, and I’m now comfortably settled in Seville, Spain. I’m gonna go ahead and preface this post by saying it won’t be entirely ~*positive*~, as the last four months or so have been very intense and one of those phases of just thing after thing. Maybe click away if you want to see puppy pictures.
This crazy, tumultuous season of life has been a whirlwind of getting caught in a flash flood, a loved one getting into a car accident, weeks of bed rest from severe dehydration and heat exhaustion, parental separation issues, chronic stress over a lack of car and medical debt, losing a friendship, and moving through the most difficult break-up of my life.
I will also save for another post the full story of having to fly to Texas for my visa appointment, where I found myself staying at a very uncomfortable hostel at which a 32 year old ex-sorority sister got black-out drunk, harassed me, and scratched my rental car, leaving me to testify to the police until 4:30 am, five hours before my visa appointment. On my birthday!
In current time, I have been struggling with still recovering from near heat stroke, in air condition-less ~95 degree weather, not really able to leave the house (and my blessed fan) much save for work, and surviving only by dumping half of my water bottle on my head when going outside and carrying a wet rag doused with peppermint oil everywhere.
This all sounds as dramatic as an episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation, but things are already getting better. Because I MADE IT BACK in one piece for another year of teaching English in Spain!
I started the journey on September 20th and flew from Nashville, Boston, Dublin, to Madrid, where I took a train down south to Córdoba to pick up a suitcase of winter clothes I left with a colleague’s boyfriend over the summer. (This is a great example of how Spaniards are – generous, trusting, and so chill.) I get into Córdoba, took a taxi to my hostel where I met a girl from Japan who spoke French and a tiny bit of English. Zonking out from jet lag, I wake up hot AF, realizing I had lost my one sacred hair tie somewhere during the journey. I decide it needs to be a priority to hunt for one and so I step out, planning to visit the cathedral la Mezquita on my way and realized…. I have never felt heat like this.
When people told me it was hot in Andalucía, I smiled a bit and brushed them off. I’m from NASHVILLE dawg, I would think. We live in a valley of allergies and humidity. I KNOW what heat is – I used to sweat my balls off every summer driving a car for 5 years with no air conditioning (that I later realized was merely due to a lack of free-on, so that’s…smart). I even secretly thought that as a US southerner, I could maybe teach this people a thing or two about what it is to deal with heat. I like heat, y’all! It’s winter that makes me uncomfortable.
SO I THOUGHT…
***I will now use this as an official disclaimer towards every single person I told in Galicia that I was moving to Andalucía for the warmer climate to say: You were all right. I was not prepared. I DID NOT WANT THIS MUCH HEAT.***
Y’all… when I tell you I have never felt heat like this before, I am not exaggerating in the slightest. Seville’s affectionate nickname, unbeknownst to me before moving, is “the frying pan of the world.” It is the hottest place in Europe. This desert heat – ya don’t really sweat in it. It shrivels you from the inside by blazing relentlessly with a fire that only the depths of Hades itself could produce. There is no reprieve, and even in places with air conditioning you still feel tired and depleted. People avoid it on the streets by sticking to the shadows of buildings even if that means taking the longer route. It is actually even physically hazardous to be outside between the hours of 12-8pm. A weather ticker is in the orange to red zone for like 4 months out of the year everyday. Events and activities start late at night after the sun goes down. And this is the kicker: during the summer, the temperatures will rise to 120 F degrees. (WHAT?!) People either plant themselves in front of a fan or the air conditioning all day, or they just go on vacation for like a month. Diets change and cooked hot food is consumed less; in place of it, people eat cold dishes such as salmorejo, a chilled tomato based soup similar to gazpacho. This heat is also, of course, why the siesta was invented. Never have I seen firsthand the lives of people be dictated so fully by the weather. We humans are so connected and influenced by our environment.
So yes, I am a warmer (humid) weather person, but I should explain why I’m struggling so much in this environment.
I left Santiago de Compostela in June, where I came home for a brief week to rest, unpack and repack, and then went to go work at an overnight summer camp for 7 weeks in TN, as I sold my car last year. I worked as a Glee Club counselor, which was so fun, and I worked as a cabin counselor and also choreographing dances, singing loudly, spending hours painting a backdrop, and helping the girls work their scenes from Aladdin, the musical we were putting on….all in a sweltering, enclosed hut-like building with cut out windows and doors. I unintentionally wasn’t drinking enough water because a tooth was bothering me, and anything that touched it hurt. (My dental insurance is in Spain, so I had to wait to get it checked.) As a result, after a few weeks I got severely overheated and dehydrated and spent 3 or so days chugging every electrolyte I could find. It wasn’t really working to restore my energy levels, so another staff member kindly drove me to a doc in the box where I got 2 liters of IV fluids.
The fluids helped and I was starting to get better, but alas! I drank a ton of coconut water for the potassium….forgetting it was a natural laxative. Suddenly I was having constant diarrhea. Much of the IV fluid was now gone…. (sorry this is very disgusting) And every time I would go back to the dining hall to eat, the body heat of 100 girls set me off again and I would start to feel dizzy and disoriented. I spent about 3 more days quarantined in the lone air conditioning cabin guzzling Powerade and Pedialyte, binging on Harry Potter books and only eating peanut butter on bread before finally, I realized I just wasn’t going to get better in this environment. I went home 6 days before camp ended and had to miss the show we had worked so hard on. After another’s doctor visit and another week on bed rest, I was up and walking around again. But staying in constant A/C…
Three weeks later, I get to go to Charlotte, NC for FunkFest featuring Erykah Badu, a show I had been looking forward to for sooo longgg. It’s at an outdoor amphitheater, and it’s my first venture into the great outdoors since this whole incident. I’m trying to stay positive and I’m hydrating like crazy, but about an hour in, I get overheated and dizzy and have to go lay down in the medic tent for the rest of the concert. Dang. I was able to pull it together for her act at the very end, though! (side note – it gave me LIFE…) I also got to see a dear friend from high school which was needed, as you can probably tell this summer has been a bit of a ~*hot mess*~ so far. (heheheh…)
Starting to get a little worried about moving to Seville at this point, I message a blogger who lived here for 9 years; she tells me it’s still pretty hot in late September. I prepare to take taxis and buses everywhere. I totally luck out and find a temporary job the last 5 weeks of summer as a receptionist/coordinator at a neighborhood real estate company, and also at a nearby toy store geared towards autistic children on Saturdays. It all worked out so well, and I was reassured that because the jobs and money situation randomly panned out sans car that this was a sign I was still meant to go.
So about a month ago I get here to Sevilla, and I start staying in a hostel while I look for a place to live. I randomly see the Japanese girl from the hostel in Cordoba again. How serendipitous! Of all the hostels in Sevilla, the third largest city in Spain (after Madrid and Barcelona). Cool! I meet a lot of nice people in my dorm, and tour around one day with two Turkish girls. The most exciting thing that happened was a drunk guy stumbling into our room and into the bottom bunk under mine at 5am after using the bathroom. I was silently fuming because he smelled like stale cigarettes and beer farts, and also this was a 6 person female dorm, so eventually I notified the downstairs staff and they were like QUE PASA? POR QUÉ NO NOS HAS DICHO NADA ANTES? And stormed in waking him up being like TIO! QUE HACES! He scurried out laughing in his boxer briefs. Derp.
I also met a super rad German woman biking the Camino de Santiago, and we had one of those immediately comfortable connections that permit you to talk right off the bat about deep feelings and hopes and dreams and all that jazz. We took a rooftop bus tour that lasted hella long and I was reminded again how much I love friendships that are made while traveling, and how the shared moments are cause for treating the short time together with a sort of reverence.
I finally found an apartment after a week and a half of nonstop searching. The struggle was real; many other language teachers in the program I spoke to also had trouble finding one, probably because so many university students moved right before we did. I messaged about 60 landlords and only had 4 people respond back with availability. But my place is nice, clean, and modern. The view isn’t the best, but it’s a place to lay my damn head and my two roommates are nice Spanish girls so hopefully that will help me to mejorar!
I also bought a bike (!!) as Sevilla has become an extremely bike-friendly city in the last decade. There are many bike paths, and at dusk, you often see folks riding, rollar blading, running, or even kayaking down the beautiful rio Guadalquivir that runs through the city. (We’re gonna overlook the fact that a tire busted the second day I had it and it’s been out of commission as I’ve been too sick to ride it, cause can’t nobody steal my shiiiiine) Getting to bike around was part of the reason I wanted to move here. I’ve missed urban biking oh so much.
And finally, I started work at my job in a public elementary school, and also part-time at a nearby private English academy. Both are going really well, and I feel good about this upcoming year.
In a nutshell, it’s been craziness but I’m here. I made it I made it! And after going through all of it, I am finding a deep well of strength that I never knew existed. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s real. I faced my biggest fears, felt the fuck out of my feelings, and I made it out on the other side. I went through a deep, heart-wrenching loss, but in the process I realized I didn’t really lose anything; the nature of things just shifted. True love cannot be lost. And letting myself feel every single thing that arose and calling someone I trusted whenever I felt judgment or doubts creep in was key to my healing process.
I don’t want to underplay the pain and anxiety and fear that occurred and still does at times, but I have this mentality now of, “If I could get through XYZ, then I know I can get through anything.”
And that kind of dual-sided durability and adaptability is more powerful than I ever could have expected.
As they say in Andaluz, ‘ta luego!