“When it’s time to change, then it’s time to change. Don’t fight the tide, come along for the ride, don’t you see?” This inspirational quotation comes from one of my personal favorite Brady Bunch episodes when Peter is troubled by his changing voice. Although my voice has thankfully evened out past the struggle of Peter’s to the point of only an occasional crack, the lyrics can certainly be applied to my recent experiences in Spain.
The second month of my time here in Valladolid can in large part be characterized by transitions. I am definitely not a morning person, so when my host parents asked me to be in charge of getting the kids ready and to school every morning because their work schedules had changed, I was a little worried. Regardless of my sadness when setting an early alarm every night, this change has been extremely beneficial. Waking up, having breakfast, and walking to school every morning with the kids has greatly increased the amount time we spend together, and it has brought us even closer. Being alert after the awakening walk to school in the dry, brisk air of Valladolid also helps to get me going on my college course work, preparing for classes, and taking care of any housework. I miss the long, sleepy mornings of old; however, the new schedule has definitely made me much more productive every morning.
[Above is a view from my morning walk to meet the kids when they sleep at their mother’s house…can’t complain.]
The other major change here has been within the classrooms of my internship. The first month of work was mostly observation, offering general help, teaching a certain section, and contributing to the conversation whenever appropriate. We have now become responsible for leading a majority of the classes, and only rely on the teacher for contributions or help when we need it. Katie and I were put in charge of one of the academy’s private student groups, and we would plan for and teach the classes mostly on our own. The academy also has a program where they choose a section of the local unemployed community- this year was teachers- and offers a month of free classes. We split the group into beginner and intermediate levels; Katie took the former and I the latter. Creating a completely original lesson plan for each class; finding the confidence to take complete, independent charge of a class; and managing the other responsibilities of a teacher were all fairly new experiences. Luckily, if all else failed, I could rely on my ability to talk endlessly until figuring out a way to get back on track. So far, this class was definitely the most powerful experience I’ve had during the internship in terms of preparing for and working towards my future goals of becoming an educator.
[Although we were away from home, Katie and I certainly did not miss out on Thanksgiving. A group of American friends who live in Valladolid, their Spanish families, and their friends gather together for a hug potluck-style Thanksgiving that was absolutely phenomenal to be a part of.]
The most important lyrics of the song which I chose to lead off with are, “Don’t fight the tide, come along for the ride.” Crazy things happen when you make the decision to dedicate three months of your life to becoming family with strangers, working at an unfamiliar academy, and existing in a foreign country six hours ahead of your family and friends. It has certainly been a ride with its fair share of tidal twists and turns, and luckily there is still much more to come. For both Katie and me, the overall message has become clear in terms of what we’d recommend for someone else going into this type of experience, as well as what we keep reminding ourselves: always keep an open mind, and when an opportunity or event approaches, just go for it and find out where it takes you.
Maybe it will be burning your calves off during an orienteering race with your host brother in Simancas (which is a city that is literally just a giant hill) or celebrating Thanksgiving in a bar’s basement with people from all over the world. Now, my examples and I might just have you skeptically thinking, “Sounds great Greg,” but I’ve realized it to be so incredibly true. Being accepting to challenge, change, and opportunity are the keys to having amazing, or at least experiential memories.