The box fan keeps a steady stream of cool air focused on me as the birds wake and the ground warms. The house is cool, as it always is in the mornings, and waiting for the heat of the day. June has lived up to its summery expectations, with longer days, warmer nights, and scorching, cloudless beautiful days. After a couple weeks of cool and cloudy rains that plagued the changing of April to May, June has given way to the sun that we’ve so desperately been awaiting.
I keep imagining how the sun will look in Spain. I know that the sun is the sun and is the one constant we can count on. But how might it look rising from the Asturian mountain tops? How might it look when it dances between cathedral spires in the heart of Oviedo? I can feel my pulse speeding just a little bit as Spain races through my mind.
The passport is in my desk drawer. The itineraries are set. The plane ticket that was scrimped and worked and saved for is finally purchased. Google Images and Maps have been scoured through, the manual has been poured over, and the online checklist has been clicked and checked up to date. Less than five days til my departure, and I still can’t believe it’s all real!
As a music education major, I never thought studying abroad was an option for me. I would leaf through the study abroad brochures with wide eyes and a growing smile before stopping myself with a “No, Hannah! Fly in four!” There are simply no classes available that would further me in my music studies. When I added the certification in Spanish language, however, a door squeaked open. It took me a year and a half, but I finally found the courage to yank it open from a crack to a wide and welcome portal – a portal that offers endless opportunities and experiences of color and music and language and laughter and I am so scared.
I am an independent being. Of the five children in my family, I am the adventurer. I went from small town rural Nazareth to big city urban Temple without even thinking twice. I love forging through new experiences, exploring new territories, trying new things. While I can’t say that I would ever go as far as to skydive (why take the chance of smashing into the earth like an egg dropped from a balcony?), I dream of scuba diving, hiking the Appalachian trail, tasting crocodile and bison, zip lining through the Amazon, yelling into the Grand Canyon and hearing my own voice respond. I am adventurous. But I am also afraid.
Traveling is exciting! It’s like a puzzle – one of the greatest problem solving activities one can possibly imagine. But it is, indeed, daunting. You are faced with not only a new transportation system, a new area, a completely new culture, but also with a new language. Of course, the courses I have taken and the experience I have gained so far will serve me well. I am confident that I will learn and thrive in this environment. But my confidence does not stifle reality.
I love language. Any and all languages, really! It’s one of the reasons I love music so much – it’s like its own language. Letters go into little phrases that go into bigger phrases that then become a word that has meaning. It’s a fascinating concept! Language is a beautiful entity that holds feeling and emotion and facts and opinions and is vital to the culture of those who speak it. As a student who is still an amateur in the linguistic facet of Hispanic culture, I am indeed daunted.
I know how to ask the important questions (“Where is the bathroom?” “How much does this cost?” “Can I have the largest coffee available?”). I know how to carry a decent conversation. But I am by no means fluent or bold in the language. I can see myself faltering and stuttering and flushing while trying to find a word or conjugation in the midst of conversation with a host family, or when trying to order a dish, or when answering a question in class. I do not want to make a fool of myself, of course. But what’s more, I do not by any means want to make a mockery of their language.
I do not want these things. But I so desperately want to learn.
The streets of Oviedo, I’ve come to realize, are more than just stone and cement. They are stories. Stories that have been, and stories that are, and stories that are waiting to happen. They are waiting so desperately to tell and to be and to share and to see. While I have reservations, they will not rule me. They will play into my healthy respect for Spain and its culture. They will sit aside as I feel the Oviedo sun on my face and become part of the stories of its streets. I may not be wholly ready for Oviedo, but I know with assuredness that Oviedo is ready for me.