I scribbled out the following directly after my trip to the mercadillo on Thursday. The Mercadillo is the market about which I’m always gushing; you know, the one that’s held, inexplicably, in the huge parking lot beside Vicálvaro’s infantile education school? I meant to transcribe my Thanksgiving musings here in a timely (and more coherent) fashion, but of course, didn’t, and you’re getting them straight, without edits.
The woman at the café calls me “jóven” and knows I need a café con leche before I even say it; consequently, I’ve been smiling since I saw her this morning. Last night: pies with my friends, lolcats on the blog tubes, laughing and sipping tea, funny voices and funny stories to the point of hilarity until around a far-too-late 1 a.m. festooned with flicks of pumpkin pie and candied walnuts. Today, one on one interactions with fourth graders and their shining bright eyes and cowlicks and accents and Spiderman sweatshirts, Pokemon cards, broken pencils and erasers to which they britishenglishly refer as “rubbers.” Little 7-year-old Miguel’s smile, first thing I see upon getting to school. Presentation of pumpkin pie to twenty untried teachers a rollicking success; Amber and I = American baking celebrities–now, we’ve to translate recipe to Spanish, metric units, then distribute to Vicálvaro’s staff. The smell of orange peels on my hands, and the sun is hot on my cheeks in strident spite of late November. Third grade remembers and loves me. María, brimming with dubious blue eyed joy, wraps me in her arms and rests her head on my chest, does not let go for a long, long time. “Cuanto tiempo que no hemos visto!” she says. Amber and I explaining a Thanksgiving poem to embrangled fourth graders, share inside jokes over their heads literally and figuratively all class. Insistent little hands in the small of my back as I leave class–Patri smiles up at me “Where are you going?” she asks, “Will you come back to class later?” I tell her yes; she latches on and smiles up at me in an way that unnervingly reminds me, someday, I want children of my own. I hug her in the hall, stroke some shiny brown hair off her her forehead, and head out into the sunshine to buy apples, a glossy purple eggplant, olives that plop juicily into a plastic bag, a kilogram of oranges, a single onion to dress up my dinner. The olive man at the market recognizes me, tells me again that I’m betrothed to him for having once accepted a sample of camporeal olives. Children’s voices and jubilant shouts erupt from the comedor, preceding their clamorous and brightly clothed creators. The breeze is cool today, like liquid, and smells mysteriously of cedar. Today I will get off the metro three stops early and walk home from work in the sunshine, bearing fourish kilos of produce, just because I want to. I am alone, of course, for this Thanksgiving, but I am very happy. After only three months, I belong here, and I am thankful for Spain opening its arms to me.
So here’s the more coherent, dressed-down version of that riotous babble above. I got my act together in order to write it in an email to Greg’s mom:
For all intents and purposes, today would be the perfect day to get
depressed. Far away from my family and all familiar surroundings, I´ve
had plenty of opportunity to wax melancholy. Surprisingly, though, I´m happier than
I remember being in a long time. Of course I miss my family, but
there was a moment today after being reunited with the third graders
(whom I adore), after shopping at the open air market for a few kilos
of apples, a kilo of oranges, onions, some beautiful, glossy
eggplants, and a kilo of amazing Spanish olives–and only paying four
euros–, sitting out on a bench in the sunshine and feeling the sun on
my cheeks and the liquid-cold wind blow through my hair, when I
realized I was really, really happy. It´s strange, but I feel more
thankful today than I have on most any Thanksgiving past, when I´ve
had everything–the company of a loving family, good food, health and
success–for which to be thankful. Far away from home and the people I
love, I´ve realized what an act of trust it is for them to have let me
come alone this far, to keep in touch with me, to care even though I´m
an ocean away, and to give me their love regardless of where I´m
located on the globe. I am so thankful and so excited to be where I
am. I feel rewarded by my job and I love to teach; I revel in how
great it feels to teach while earning the affection and confidence of
children who look to me as an embodiment of “America,” one that has
nothing to do with politics, war, poor politicians, hamburgers or
Coca-Cola. I´ve met some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever known
in the past three months, and am surrounded by a group of friends whom
I already feel as though I’ve known for forever. I am lucky, and I am
happy, and I actually–and this is rare–feel like I´m doing a good
enough job at being a human being that I deserve it.
So, I didn’t have a Thanksgiving experience with my family this year, and I’ve been unable to enjoy my favorite Thanksgiving leftover booty–turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce sandwiches–but our Fulbright Thanksgiving celebration in combination with baking pies with my friends, then sharing them with my school and roommates, turned it into one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.
There will be a weekend update tomorrow.
Also, I am enamored of the way in which Andrew Bird unabashedly adorns his musical stylings with merry whistles, barefoot tapping, and extended single-string picking. You should listen to him here. Come on. Srsly.