Growing up in Spain, my mom constantly told me, “The way of life [that] goes on in Spain is not found anywhere else.”
A well-travelled woman, my mom would talk about her trips. She was born during the last years of a ruthless dictatorship in Spain and as the country opened up to the world, so did she. But even after travelling around the world, she always came back to Spain.
Like most families in Spain, I’d sit in the dining room with my dad every Sunday and listen to him, mesmerized, as he told me stories about his childhood and family.
It’s common in Spanish culture to pass stories about events that shaped our family down from generation to generation.
My dad would always remind me of how lucky I was to experience life first-hand in Spain, surrounded by a caring family and a vibrant and active community. Yet, I’d never fully understand this until I left.
I was born in Alicante, a city in the south of Spain. It’s home to a booming tourism industry and endless fields of olive and orange trees.
The country’s half the size of Ontario but has been exposed and influenced by diverse and rich cultures throughout centuries.
Whether it’s because of the weather, culture or something else, this crossroad of cultures continues growing everyday.
I remember how I used to hear English at a restaurant, French on the beach, Arabic at the school’s playground and Catalan among my teachers. This multicultural environment motivated me to learn new languages, which is now my true passion.
I can speak French, English, Catalan and Spanish.
Life in Spain is slow-paced but exciting and ever-changing. An average day includes long hours on heavenly beaches, picnics with childhood friends and walks along the coast at night with the ocean breeze hanging in the air. If the day hasn’t been too exhausting, there are always open-air dances in the squares until the morning, when the heat reminds you the night has come to an end.
All those moments used to be trivial to me.
After seeing movies such as High School Music and Camp Rock, my eagerness to see the world grew.
I wanted to experience my first high school football game or be able to drive at 16. Eventually, my dream came true when I arrived in Canada.
The first few months were an adjustment.
My English was good enough to just get by. I wasn’t surrounded by the things I associated with home like my friends, billboards in Spanish, guitar music in the background and the intense heat that paralyzes everything in country from 1 to 5 p.m.
Within a couple months I adjusted, and opened myself up to some of the best experiences of my life. I was so happy. I eventually had a hard time remembering my life in Spain. I knew I missed the food, my friends and family, but I didn’t know if I missed home.
After finishing the school year, I returned to Spain for the summer. It wasn’t until then did I realize how much home meant to me.
The intense, afternoon heat, the freshly baked bread sitting on the kitchen counter every morning, the chilly summer nights spent playing cards and, most importantly, seeing the sun rise over the Mediterranean.
Although culturally rich and vibrant, Spain has suffered from internal divisions for a long time. It breaks my heart to see how divided the country has become. The political situation has polarized the country.
The country is divided over whether we should address the ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean or turn our backs. Catalonia, a region in north-eastern Spain, struggles with whether to hold an independence referendum or not. Meanwhile, the education system is struggling with whether Spanish should be the only language taught at schools or if it should teach our regional languages.
This divide threatens the relative unity we worked so hard for.
Still, there are some things I’d like to think will always prevail: our essence, culture and deep sense of community.
We have our language, Spanish, also know as our alma (soul), our dances like flamenco and all the traditions that make us who we are.
At the end of the day, it only takes some good tapas to put our differences aside and realize that, after all, there’s so much more that unites us than sets us apart.
St. Thomas University is beginning to feel like my home away from home.
I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone by becoming involved on campus and in different societies like Global Brigades. I can’t wait to discover the opportunities that lay ahead. Although, I’d lie if I said that I didn’t want sunshine on rainy days.
I guess my mom was right.
There is no other life like that of Spain.