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Published: September 28th 2012
Coming to Spain to study abroad was a giant step for me. Not that studying for a semester in a foreign country isn’t a big leap for anyone, but it is an especially becoming jolt into the real world for someone like me. Until now, for the most part, my life has gone comfortably unchanged. I go to university in the city I grew up right next to, so I chose to save money by living at home. I’ve never lived away from home. I’ve never even moved houses for that matter. I have lived in the same house for my entire twenty-year life. On my last day in the States, I woke up in the bed I’ve slept in for most of my life. I gave a goodbye pat to the dog that has greeted me every morning for the past 14 years. I walked out the ancient door that only shuts properly with a special, learned care. I said goodbye to the family that has always been so crucially close by and supportive. And before climbing into the car I took one last nostalgic look at the house I have never been away from for more than a few
This morning I woke early, before the sun had risen. I sleepily rolled out of bed and walked down the pitch-dark hallway without my arms stretched in front of me feeling for where the hallway turned. I hit the invisible light switch in the bathroom in one try. In the kitchen, as I brewed a pot of strong Spanish coffee, I was fully confident this pot would not be grainy mud-water, as so many previous ones had been. This Spanish apartment is already beginning to feel comfortably homey. It’s a curious programming of the human mind that allows one to so quickly ritualize formerly alien practices.
I had, until recently, tried my hardest to fit in as a local. I dressed unassuming and looked straight ahead as I walked, careful not to noticeably inspect any tempting architecture around me. I gave only indifferent glances at the curiously well-behaved (and even more curiously mixed breed) dogs I walked passed. I even practiced the Spanish gait, careful not to bounce as I walked or sway my shoulders like a blissfully unaware americano
. But now that I feel so at home wandering the streets of Oviedo,
I willfully embrace my foreign identity: wide eyed, curious, and bouncing happily along, with camera hanging from my neck. The same stares from strangers that I once took as spiteful and unwelcoming are now taken as apathetic or perhaps even friendly. It is one of the great joys of human society to be a local. Man needs familiarity, and little is more familiar than the streets that surround one’s home.
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