2016 Fall External Programs IES Abroad Richelle Kota Spain Uncategorized

Spanish Friendsgiving & #NODAPL

When I was in elementary school, I remember using my hand to cut out a turkey and decorate it with fake feathers. I was told that Columbus sailed the ocean in 1492 to “America” and made friends with the “Indians.” After they had shared different goods with each other, they all sat down to enjoy a meal together and share their culture and that is why we celebrate Thanksgiving.

The United States education system has to stop teaching our children that narrative.

My study abroad experience has been amazing, but also challenging. This country, though  incredibly beautiful, intricate is completely different that what I have experienced. It’s rich, new, and exciting, but there’s an overall comfort that most Spaniards feel with their gross and apparent pride in their history of colonisation. And it bothers me that to this day, we are celebrating the displacement and murder of millions of native people. On the day of Thanksgiving, there were literal army corps at Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota, pouring chemicals on the native people, taking them to jail for protesting, flying in no fly zones, spraying high pressure water on people in the cold, and many more horrid things.

It’s crazy for me to be here, in the country where it all started and watching the same behaviours being repeated here and in the U.S. right now. So I really took action this year, agreeing with my friends to donate money to the Standing Rock fund, encouraging others to, and not celebrating Thanksgiving. Instead, we decided to host a dinner with our Spanish friends, cook American vegetarian food for them, and talk about what our best moments of friendship were.

This, I think was a better way to celebrate, at least for myself and for my  friends. I missed cooking and having moments like those to just stop, chat, and eat. We also talked a lot about politics and making sure that we are trying to be as ethical as we can, and listen to others.

I was able to FaceTime my family in the morning and remember their warmth. There are things and days like this that I can hold close my heart for warmth in hard times. I feel blessed to be able to have friends who support me, understand me, and believe in my narratives. My Spanish friends have known me now for 4 years and I cannot believe I am going to leave them again, so soon. I am thankful for friends that put value in relationships, who help support you, and who will eat your mashed potatoes  they have never tried them before. The end is near, everyday, but I will never forget this trip, my friends, and always being there to stand up for what is right and just for everyone.

It’s really beginning to hit me as we sat at that table that I am leaving and these last moments we create together until the next time. And I know there will be a next time.

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