Google results: “5,000 person farming village in the province of Extremadura, Spain. Known for”…ham? I cried a little. Second guessed my life decisions. What in the world was I getting myself into?! Here I was, this girl from the New York metro area. Eight months later, and I am fighting tears as I’m packing up my personalized Gazpacho bowl, wrapping newspaper around the crafts my students have made me, and stuffing packages of jamón in the side pockets of my suitcase, praying that customs won’t get hungry and decide to keep it for themselves (and I wouldn’t be surprise if they do. A good Spanish person will NEVER miss an opportunity to snack on free jamón…).
I’ve not only learned about life in a completely different culture. I’ve learned about myself, the things that really matter in life, and the things in this world I can do without. I remember justifying to myself one year ago, “everything happens for a reason!” Well, if I wasn’t a believer in “the Big Man’s grand plan” before, I am now. I feel so beyond blessed to have had this life changing experience, completely immersed in a world so completely opposite from my own.
I could ramble on and on about how incredible my time here has been, but ain’t nobody got time for that. So, I’ve (tried) to condense my experience into a nice, pretty, city-paced list.
9 Ways My Village has Changed My Perspective on Life, Foreva’.
1) Saying HI to strangers in the streets isn’t scary. In the city world, we have this really bad habit of avoiding eye contact with passer-byers at all costs. When walking down the sidewalk, we have tunnel vision. All that exists is you, whatever is directly in front of you, and your shoe laces (for those of you who stare at your feet to avoid tripping… guilty). All to avoid a potential second or two of eye contact. Well, want to know what happens in a world where people people try to make eye contact? You say….HI. Crazy, I know. When I first arrived in Fregenal, I was confused as to why everyone was saying “hola,” “adios” or “buenas” as I passed. Did they all know me? Did I meet them without realizing? I was thoroughly confused, and maybe even a little weirded out. Eight months later, I say “hola” to every living thing that crosses my path. Whether it’s a grandpa with a missing tooth and a cane (as there are a lot of those here), or two teenager girls gossiping Spanish at the speed of light…a big HOLA will go down. And even a smile! Because you know what? It really makes your day that much happier.
2) Whatever you need NOW, can wait. Being from the high paced NY, whatever we want NOW, we get. And if we don’t… Well, stay out of our path. That was my very impatient mentality just a mere 8 months ago. And it was one of the hardest things to change. Whether it was my clothes that take approx. 2 days to dry from wash-date, the cashier who decided to have a life-catch up with the girl in front of me, or the waiter who forgot I existed… whatever it is, I’ll get it. Eventually. Patience truly is a virtue, and nothing is worth raising my cortisone levels to get 5 minutes sooner.
3) A set eating schedule is actually the best thing that ever happened. Guess that means i gotta eat a And here, the only schedule that ever happens. I’m tellin’ ya, peoples priorities are in the right place! But seriously. Remember one month in, when I wrote that article about eating schedules and siestas? At that point, I hated it. No, despised it. I remember like it was yesterday- It was 7 :30 pm, and I wanted a sandwich. So, like every logical hungry person does, I went to a restaurant and ordered a sandwich. You know what they told me? NO. I couldn’t have my damn sandwich. UM EXCUSE ME LAST TIME I CHECKED SPAIN WAS A FREE COUNTRY. Well, it is, unless you tryna’ mess with their eating times. Because 7:30 is “coffee” hour, and with coffee there are no sandwiches. Just cookies. Wait till 9:30, dinner time, he told me. Ok sure, if you wanna girl to faint… It took me about seven of my eight months here to figure this one out. But I’ve grown to appreciate it, and even love it. The eating hour is so strict, because eating is an activity people do together. It’s a time to sit with the people who you love in the world, share food, conversation, and do so in a leisurely manner. And the schedule leaves you no choice but to do so. Which leads me to…
4) If you share your food, you won’t starve. As a product of the Western world, I was very territorial over my food. I was like an animal in the jungle; you touch what’s on my plate, I bite your hand off. And if it’s the best piece, there goes your head. Well, if I wanted to make friends, I realized I had to change this mentality. And quick… The Spanish “tapas” culture is all about sharing. Thus, there are absolutely no boundaries when it comes to touching someone elses plate. Remember when the waiter ate a fish off my plate? I was in complete shock. But in reality, it’s not that out of line in the Spanish world. Sharing is caring, and food is enjoyment; thus, sharing your food is enjoyment. And the amazing thing? I’ve actually grown to believe this. My stress level no longer sky rockets when I see your hand closing in on my plate. So, USA friends, good news…when I return home, you can eat the food of my plate. And even the best piece. As long as I can have yours *wink*.
As seen in www.awanderingcasiedilla.com