Expatriate life never looked so good

It’s here. After months of anticipation, I will be getting on a plane traveling from Chicago to Madrid at 4:35 p.m. tomorrow. My bags weigh 37,5 and 39 lbs. My school knows I’ll be showing up to teach on October 3. My roommate is demanding that I surrender September’s rent when I leave my extra bag in Sevilla on Friday. My cell phone is unlocked and equipped for international calling. My insurance company, credit company and phone company know I’m leaving. I’d say I’m pretty prepared.
The only thing not done is the itinerary Helen and I will be using to travel around Iberia. Only our first night is planned. We’re staying at Hotel Las Nieves, a three star hotel in the center of Granada on Thursday night. It’s located in the Albazain, the old Jewish quarter, just a kilometer away from the Alhambra (though we’re saving this for the return trip). We found a friendly travel agent who’s been advising us and found a great rate on the room through booking.com. After that, we have no set plan and no reservations. It’s a little thrilling, especially for someone who has things planned to the hour. Take, for instance, my schedule for today. I need to be out of the house by 10 am. Hopefully, this characteristic will disappear. Once I get to Spain, one of the hardest adjustments for me to make may be the leisure at which Spaniards live their life. It’s the stay out late, wake up late, show up to work late, take a mid-afternoon nap after a heavy meal, stroll around town, eat dinner at 10 pm, party until 4 am lifestyle that may take some getting used to.
I’m officially becoming an expat tomorrow. I’ve gone through quite the range of emotions these past four months, from elation to panic to sadness and regret. Now I can’t shake my nervous excitement. I no longer feel upset that I’m missing things this year, like Hawkeye football or going downtown with friends. That won’t be any different when I come back in the summer or next summer or whenever I decide it’s time to move back. If I don’t do this now, it won’t happen. I am fortunate enough to have already made friends in Granada, score a travel writing gig and be living in one of the most beautiful and historic parts of Sevilla. Sure, I’ll miss the States when I’m being chased by hombres verdes and practically starving myself because I don’t like the food. But these moments make traveling exhilarating and worthwhile. When Catherine and I were stuck in the ghetto of Granada two years ago, I was crying, saying we’d never get out alive. Thirty minutes later, safely on the train, we couldn’t stop laughing about how the bus driver told us to watch our bags when we stepped off the bus. Probably not that safe, but I won’t forget how relieving it was to hop onto the train as soon as it was pulling out.
I have all of these romantic, rosy ideas of what life in Spain will be like. Taking a paseo every night in my best clothes and people watching, cheering on Real Betis on a Sunday afternoon at the stadium (I wonder if Spaniards tailgate…), enjoying tapas every night with my new, sophisticated Spanish friends, witnessing the somber Semana Santa celebration and then partying into the night during Feria de Abril. All of these things will happen, I’m sure, but I know it won’t be easy to live on 631E each month. It won’t be easy to go to Spain without my mom and my close friends to lean on. Teaching could be a nightmare. But when I woke up last Wednesday, and all of my nerves had evaporated. I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life right now. Not a lot of people can say they’ve lived in one of the most traditional and beautiful cities in the world, living the life of an Andalusian. I’ve got flamenco and fútbol, chorizo and Calderon. And some good-looking chavales (hey, Spaniards make mullets look fashionable and sexy!)!
Tomorrow, Helen and I will have eight hours to plan the rest of our trip, and I will hopefully not be as nervous as I was when I was on the plane two years ago, not knowing what to expect of Spain. This time, I’m much more prepared to knock Spain dead.
I’ll do my best to update as often as possible about my adventures (and, because it’s me, mishaps). Once I set up a picture website, I’ll upload images, too. Cuidaros mucho!
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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

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