This day, one year ago, I arrived in Cordoba.
My emotions feel far removed from that of the lone girl arriving in an unknown city – now that I sit here cosy in my flat, eating porridge and sipping tea. Okay, so some things don’t change… I might live in Spain but you can’t take the English out of me.
I’m listening to the shrieks of young children hurtling past my window on their way to school. And the honest-to-god truth, and not for stylistic purposes I promise, the church bells chime nine o’clock loudly next door. Reflecting.
As I look back I remember the feelings clearly.
I had just parted with my visiting parents in Barcelona the day before and the thought that I was leaving them behind and coming to a new life, brought on pangs of sadness, not really knowing when I might see them again. Homesick.
After two months of adventure, hard work and constantly meeting and being surrounded by people, I suddenly realised I was on my own again. Vulnerable.
Yet this was all so invigorating at the same time. A new job, a new city and so many new experiences to be had. I had made it this far – as far as I could set my sights from all the way across the world only six months prior. Come to Spain, do the CELTA, get a job. I had – somehow – achieved just that. Excited. But now what?
The looming Unkown. It was like the monster in the closet. Would the experience of living abroad that I had dreamt about for so many years be what I imagined? Had I chosen the right city? After all, I had never even visited the place! And then, where do I begin in my search for a place to live? How do I get a phone that works? How on earth do I understand the people here? Anxious.
I remember taking a taxi from the train station to my hotel. A budget hotel that I had chosen primarily for its proximity to everything – and close it was indeed. It turned out to be right next to the Mezquita. An unbelievable bargain, I thought for €25 a night. That was before I realised how affordable this city is. On the drive in I was struck by how pretty the place seemed. How peaceful it was. And then I arrived in the old quarter. I need only see the Roman Bridge and the Mezquita and I was captivated. Awestruck.
I’m going to like this place, I thought. And so I have.
As my one-year mark has approached, it’s true I have had an unusual bout of homesickness. Not the kind where I want to go home. Just the kind where I miss my friends and family and want them near, especially when news – good and bad – reaches our shores from across the seas.
But it’s during these times especially that I remember to count my lucky stars for the ‘family’ I have here. A close circle of friends who, I’ve said it before, without them, my experience here would have been completely different. It’s primarily thanks to them – and now, an unexpected but growing bunch of online friends – that any feelings of loneliness and vulnerability rapidly evaporated. Content.
In many ways, Cordoba has been the proper, bite-sized chunk of Spain that I needed. Not so big and overwhelming that I felt completely lost and isolated, but sizeable enough, with enough Spanish culture to bite off and chew, swallow and digest quite comfortably. Here’s to another seven months ahead. Dessert anyone?