It's the people you're with that really make an experience. I've been aware of this for a long time, having been in fantastic places with people I dislike, and having been in less-than-desirable situations with people I adore. The most memorable and enjoyable times, no matter how ridiculous or unpleasant the circumstances, have been the ones I've shared with people who "get" me.
It's hard to do. To find people who really understand you, who will laugh at you when you're taking yourself too seriously, and wrap you up in a hug when words are unnecessary or inadequate. People who, when you need it most, can speak right to the essence of yourself. I have been so, so fortunate to have met a good number of these people on my many adventures around the world. And while it's been really trying, living abroad and leaving my closest friends back in the US, accessible only by facebook, email, and the occasional phone call, over the years I've managed to make some incredible friends here in Spain. Specifically, here I'm talking about "las cuatro rubias," a group of three friends I've been having lunch with once a week for the three years I've been in Spain. All English teachers. All blonde.
These are friendships that started as brief gestures: an offer of help the first morning I showed up at work, frizzy and soaked and flustered from getting lost on my way in the pouring rain. A smile and an offer of a coffee from the machine. An invitation to have lunch together after finding me eating alone in a deserted English department. A request for English conversation to help them prepare for their teaching exam.
I hoped (but didn't know) the relationships would become so deep and real. My healthy (over?)dose of skepticism reared its ugly head more than once: "It's nice she wants to have lunch, but is it just convenience and politeness to invite me?" "Do they feel obligated to be nice to me since I look so pitiful, the lone foreigner with no friends?" "It must be such a hassle to listen to me fumble to express myself in a language that gets more cumbersome with nerves."
It's always awkward those first few meetings with new people; but things gradually get more fluid, more comfortable, and finally, they become familiar. And beloved.
Last night I met up with two of these wonderful friends, and two of their (also wonderful) friends that I know less well, but really like. With big changes possibly looming in my life, one of which could be me leaving them to return to the US indefinitely, they have been more understanding, helpful, present, than I could ever have hoped. They've been a sounding board, a support system, and have offered a wealth of advice and information about how I could possibly stay in this country next year. Of course, that last bit is rife with ulterior motives...
|Sheila, me, Maru, Eva|