“I’ll stay home and rest. Today was a good day, a full day. I did enough!”
I kept repeating this little mantra to myself after taking a day trip to Cordoba to visit my program’s coordinator and her family. We toured the winding cobble-stoney streets, visited the Mezquita, a cathedral-mosque that had been closed for several weeks due to Coronavirus, and had dinner with traditional Spanish dishes, too. The amount of walking we did resulted in blisters along my toes, but they were worth it. I did enough or so I thought.
That evening I spoke to one of my mentors. I had worked and learned from this man for over two years in Real Estate. We talked about my plan once I returned home, and he suggested that I should travel for a week through Europe. Little did he know, I had already devised a plan to do so, but due to Covid-19, I had to put those plans down. My plans to visit Morocca, Paris and London were no longer on the table, but I told him I was making the best out of the situation.
Once we finished our conversation, I got to thinking. Was I really doing all that I could to truly experience Spain? My answer: I could be doing more. How? Stop waiting on others. I had yet to visit a handful of pueblos in my province because I was waiting to go with others. An idea that my mother had echoed in my mind: it’s safer to go in a group, which I totally understand. However, after already moving across the water on my own, I thought I could manage a solo trip.
That night I packed my backpack and made sure the following day I wore sneakers instead of sandals; I didn’t want to add to the little welts I already had on my toes. I was going to take a solo trip to Priego de Cordoba. I didn’t know where I was going other than one recommended location from a teacher at my school: Barrio de la Villa. A Historic-artistic site with “narrow winding whitewashed streets, and is a perfect combination of harmony and beauty, flowers, peace and calm, white and stone” (Andalusia 1). The next morning, I got up at 7:30 a.m., left the house at 8:30 and hustled to the bus station making it in time to buy my ticket and breakfast. When the bus arrived, I hopped on, took my seat near the front and opened Google on my phone. I searched for the “must-see places” in Priego; I made a list of 4 other places I would try to visit other than the Barrio during my time in this pueblo. I felt like I was planning my own field trip!
As the bus drove, I read. And because I didn’t know what stop Priego de Cordoba was, I kept calling out to the bus driver, “Priego?” To which he responded, “No!” By the third time I asked, he was chuckling. I think he could sense my excitement. Here I was venturing out to another pueblo with no concrete plans other than a list: Barrio de la Villa, Parroquia de la Asuncion, Chapel of el Sagrario in the Church of la Asuncion, Priego de Cordoba Castle, and Fuente del Rey Fountain. I reminded myself that there was no pressure. The bus home was at 5 p.m., so if I visited no other place than the Barrio, I would be fine. I could always come back especially with tickets as low as two euros and some change.
When the bus finally arrived in Priego de Cordoba, I approached the bus driver and questioned him about buying a ticket home. He showed me that the bus station was right in front of us, but the station was clearly under construction! I made my way to the door, but was stopped by a bus attendant. She instructed me that at the time of my departure, I could purchase a ticket at the station. I was confused because the station was in rubble, but I trusted there would be a way to purchase the ticket when I returned, and I left the station.
I looked around cautiously, and my first thought was caffeine. I looked to the left and to the right of a small winding street. As I walked, I noticed a cafe on a sidestreet and decided to take a quick left. I approached one of the servers, asked for a table and chose a table under the sun. As the morning’s star beamed down on me, I ordered my coffee. I took a call from a girlfriend of mine, and we debated the pros and cons about renewing our contracts. These lofty ideas of staying with the hope of travelling in the future made us think, we were missing out, but one thing seemed to stick. We wanted more – I wanted more. I wanted more than a yearly contract. I wanted more than being an assistant teacher. I wanted more than 700 euros per month. I wanted more.
I think the hardest thing for me about deciding not to renew my contract were the thoughts that flooded my mind about the work I had put into coming to Spain in the first place, but there is a gravitational pull happening within me. I want the choice of whether or not I will be in Spain. I want the choice of what position I will have and the opportunity to grow. I want the choice of how much money I will make – I don’t want a contract to determine my residence, my position or growth or my finances. I felt limited. While this position is an incredible experience to grow in so many areas, which I did and am doing, it’s because of the growth that I need to go home. The pressing need to go home, the gravitational pull, is “I want more.” God was and is directing my path yet again. And it’s funny to think how this all started – a need, a pull, a call to go to Spain. The place I prayed to be in is preparing me for my next destination.
After a cup of coffee, some sun, and a conversation, I started my expedition. The adventure led to all the places on my list and even more. I stumbled upon the Carnicerías Reales, a slaughterhouse and market from the 16th century, and la Huerta de las Infantas, a romantic garden also from the 16th century. That day I was a kid lost in a candy store! I was running around the streets with no parental guidance, and it felt so good. All I had was a list, and even that could change at any moment. I was going with the flow of the day. I had no concrete plans, and it felt amazing. I was nervous, but excited to leave in the morning, but I allowed God to direct my day. I was so overwhelmed with a sense of content in going home – it was solidified. As I sat down at my final list’s destination, the Fuente del Rey Fountain, God met me. He reassured me that going home was the next step.
As I grew closer and closer to the deadline to renew my contract, I was so conflicted about whether or not I should renew, but that day especially the time I spent with God at the fountain, reassured my decision. My home in Spain was preparing me for more, and he has work for me to do. This experience has taught me that what you pray for cultivates you and prepares you for the future. You are meant to grow as a result of it. This answered prayer has encouraged me to stay aligned with God through prayer, through bible study, through sermons and worship music. When you tune a guitar, your goal is to tighten or loosen the strings, so your strings play the correct notes or chords. I think the same is true with God. When you are in tune with him, the goal is to position your walk with him, so you’re walking on the correct path, the path He has for your life.
I look forward to the next season, but I’m in no rush. God, continue to work on me. I am a work in progress, and I’m grateful for that. I’m a forever student, and I’m always learning. The minute I get too prideful and say I’ve learned it all, check me. Amen.