Three days ‘til Spain

I’m leaving Wednesday to start teaching English on Manacor, a small town on the island of Mallorca. I found out I was accepted into the program in early August, and since then, the start date has sort of snuck up on me, as I’ve been arranging details with getting my Visa (arrived last Wednesday – at last!). This past week I settled details to do a homestay with a couple who has two young kids and seem really lovely – I’m sure I’ll post more on them soon.

I know some of you followed me when I kept a blog a couple summers ago (thanks!), and since I am moving to Spain and I’m sure will have lots to write about, I would like to start blogging consistently again, both about my travels and new home and other favorite topics of mine, including, but not limited to: feminism, sarcasm, unnecessary opinions on pop culture, and my heretical religious beliefs.

(So, I guess, stay tuned?)

A few things on my mind as I’m just about to go:


People keep asking me if I’m all prepared to go. My usual response to this is way more blasé than it should be “Oh, you know I’ve lived in Spain before!” – as if I mastered all the details regarding setting up life in a foreign country and adapting to another culture when I studied abroad in Granada. In reality, “Am I prepared?” seems like the wrong question to me because I never feel prepared for everything and because I need to fit everything I’m bringing into a single suitcase and backpack, giving me room for (I’m estimating) at most two pairs of pants and three pairs of shoes – more than enough for nine months away.


I’m probably most nervous about navigating the language barrier again. If you’ve never been to a country where you’re not a native speaker, it’s hard to explain exactly how much of a second language there is to learn, exactly what is contained in fluency, how much you need to learn to feel like you are really able to be yourself. I’ve always had a pretty ironic sense of humor, but in Spanish, I can’t think quickly enough to make a joke – or, rather, I can count the exact number of jokes I’ve made in Spanish, because it takes so much effort for me. (Or maybe this is because I prize being funny probably above all other virtues.)

Last time I was in Spain, my self-confidence tracked closely with my success at communicating in simple, daily interactions. I caught a sore throat that winter, and at the pharmacy inquired about the different medicines and the severity of symptoms they were meant to treat. I felt super pleased with myself for making an informed medical decision, but at the café next door, I couldn’t explain to the waiter that I wanted a cup of chamomile tea. There were other times when I failed much more spectacularly.


The most important thing left to do in these last few days is say goodbye to everyone.This past week, my mom and I have been catching each other at different moments during the day and saying back and forth,

“I’m going to miss you.”
“I’m going to miss you.”

When I was younger, I pretended goodbyes didn’t exist and avoided emotional moments like this, but I found rituals like this can help me to process things. I went up to see Gracie last weekend and, when I was leaving on Sunday, tried to give her a speech in the parking lot outside her dorm imparting all my older sister thoughts about how much I valued her as a sister and a friend and how there was nothing that made me more happy than to see her really thriving. Then she pointed out to me I was wearing sunglasses and, “It’s really hard to have an emotional conversation when you have these huge alien eyes.”

So maybe eventually we’ll all really let ourselves feel thing in the moment, whatever that means. 

Woolf often conceives of life this way: as a gift that you’ve been given, which you must hold onto and treasure but never open. Opening it would dispel the atmosphere, ruin the radiance—and the radiance of life is what makes it worth living. It’s hard to say just what holding onto life without looking at it might mean; that’s one of the puzzles of her books. But it has something to do with preserving life’s mystery; with leaving certain things undescribed, unspecified, and unknown; with savoring certain emotions, such as curiosity, surprise, desire, and anticipation. It depends on an intensified sense of life’s preciousness and fragility, and on a Heisenberg-like notion that, when it comes to our most abstract and spiritual intuitions, looking too closely changes what we feel. It has to do, in other words, with a kind of inner privacy, by means of which you shield yourself not just from others’ prying eyes, but from your own. Call it an artist’s sense of privacy.

Joshua Rothman's New Yorker essay on Virginia Woolf’s idea of privacy is the best thing I’ve read in ages. 

It rings especially poignant in the context of her own conflicted inner life, from her exuberant appreciation of the world’s beauty to her intense capacity for love to the deathly despair of her suicide letter.

Do yourself a favor and read Rothman’s full essay here.

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