Well, it's certainly not summer anymore is it? In fact, I'm already kind of sort of thinking about next summer...but I've had this post 95% written for close to two months now, so even though it is UNQUESTIONABLY fall now, maybe even winter (depending on the Madrileño you ask), I'm going to go ahead with it anyways.
Summer of '16, it was a good one. A few things I learned (or re-learned) - big, little, inconsequential, silly, lifelong (hopefully), and everything in between:
- There is so much to see in the US of A. When (if?) we're done with this whole living-abroad-for-a-while thing I'm dying to do this massive (year-long? haha) trip to all the national parks or something. I pored over this gorgeous book for a good part of the summer, and combined with talking to our friends who took a seven-week road trip from North Carolina to Utah, I'm all fired up for a tour of the U.S. Europe is fabulous, don't get me wrong, but there's nothing like being away to make you appreciate what you've got.
- Being insured is where it's at. I've been insured through my parents since the day I was born, but Danny was without insurance since he left his job at Compassion until we got back to Spain this fall (a whole year!). We had travel insurance while we were in Spain last time but it's hard to say just what it was good for, and this summer we were just hoping he could stick to the status quo and not get hit by a truck or anything. All went well, until he had to have a letter from a doctor for our Spanish visas, certifying that he wouldn't pose any sort of health threat to the people of good ol' España. That simple appointment, that took about 15 minutes and resulted in a sheet of paper we handed over to the consulate? $234. Insurance is awesome.
- Salaried jobs are the bomb. In a way this one and the last one go hand in hand, really. Salaried jobs generally always come with benefits like insurance (!!!), paid time off, and many of them have standard working hours (i.e. 8-5, weekdays rather than weekends, and so on). I worked as a sub at two different jobs over the summer which means I worked between 7am and 9pm and I worked every day of the week. While Danny wasn't a sub, he also worked early and late and every day of the week. I know people do it, and they do it all their lives, but I'm really enjoying our more standard school schedules this fall. I think I've developed an appreciation for those working multiple jobs, those working nights and weekends, and those working opposite schedules of their partners, just to make ends meet or to reach a certain goal. It can be challenging - and we had free housing over the summer! - so I'm glad we had a light at the end of the tunnel as well as a supportive group of people around us.
- I think I've also learned a bit of the plight of the immigrant in a small way. We jumped through hoop after hoop to get fingerprinted, to prove we can support ourselves and have a certain level of savings, to get papers notarized and apostilled and translated, and have made countless copies of just about everything to get our student visas...and we're not even trying to live in Spain beyond a year! It has been, at times, discouraging, frustrating, and annoying, but now we're here and all that just feels like a distant memory. And on most days, very worth it.
- Things are really taking a turn for the serious here, but I read a teen book from the library that happened to be about chocolate - in a roundabout way. It's actually the story of two boys living and working (as modern-day slaves) in the Ivory Coast to harvest cacao pods. I'd heard before that perhaps the backstory of chocolate isn't quite as...well...I can't help it...sweet as we might hope, and this book opened my eyes to it in a very human and real way. The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan - I recommend it - or at least learning more about where your chocolate bar comes from.
- Flying home for Christmas isn't as expensive as you might think, if you plan ahead. When my brother and his fiancée set their wedding date for the end of December, and we knew that we'd be in Spain (or the vicinity) at the time, a hunt for tickets back to the U.S. for that timeframe ensued. At first it seemed like we'd be out entire paychecks, but I think a combination of it being five months in advance as well as some other factors helped and we found ourselves with tickets for less than $600 each! At Christmastime! (P.S. Muchas gracias to my parents because that's still A LOT of money!)
- Buuuuut last minute trips are almost always as expensive as you think (think: one-way tickets more expensive than our round-trips at Christmas). We bought our tickets back to Spain with three weeks to spare and paid the price. Oh well, we're here now, and not going anywhere anytime soon. At least, till Christmas.
*Inspired by Emily Freeman, an author and blogger whose words I've appreciated for years. Back when I wrote on my other blog I often wrote about what I was learning each month, and I really enjoyed the chance to reflect and get all introspective about things both big and small.