I’ve shared plenty about our travels around Europe, but find myself forgetting the importance and uniqueness of our everyday life in Murcia, Spain. Yesterday marked four months since leaving Canada for the land of siestas and fiestas, plenty of which we’ve partaken in since coming here. The past four months have challenged and in turn, humbled me in ways I never anticipated. I’ve learned to cherish insignificant seeming pleasures of home like a washing machine and dryer in my house, a dishwasher, a never ending supply of hot water, the ability to use my stove and oven at the same time, and being able to communicate without issue with the lady slicing my bologna. I’ve abandoned many simple comforts of home to embark on an amazing (and very trying) journey I wasn’t sure I was capable of undertaking. Yet, here we are, sitting at our tiny kitchen table in our second floor flat in a Southeastern Spanish city I’d never heard of or noticed on a map before considering this opportunity.
Several people have asked me, “why Spain?” or “how did you decide to pursue this opportunity?” and frankly, I had no prior intention of searching in Spain and my search was not destination oriented when I started hunting for opportunities abroad. I began this journey with the realization that there is more to this life for me than I was accomplishing at the time. Joey and I had always tossed the idea of an abroad experience around, but it didn’t become serious until we both began spending countless hours online, researching jobs, schools, volunteer placements, and the like, available to us outside of Canada. Our first thought was to complete a working-holiday placement in Australia, but the cost of travel and distance to other countries was too high. Our next proposal was to teach English in Southeast Asia. We even went as far as completing applications for a program in Thailand, but the universe had other plans for us. Finally, we began researching educational institutions abroad that offered English-taught Masters programs. We had both completed post-secondary degrees in Canada, neither of which were diversifying us in the job market, so we decided to go after an opportunity that would give us the freedom to explore while bulking up our resumes for future career prospects. The question of where did not matter as much as what programs and how it would impact our future positively. After a few months of searching, we found ourselves interested in two different English programs at the same school – a feat we nearly gave up on after what felt like researching every school on the planet!
Applications were filled out, Skype interviews were completed, visas were applied for, and OSAP was on its way (yes, for those of you considering studies outside of Ontario, OSAP is still available to you), a financial possibility we were very excited to discover! It wasn’t long before we were beginning to pack, spending as much time as physically possible with our family and friends, giving our nieces as many kisses as we could fit in, and heading off to the Toronto airport with a one-way ticket to Spain. The airport is where the true anxiety and emotions kicked in as we hugged and kissed our parents farewell in search of adventures across the pond. I hadn’t done my makeup that morning, knowing full well it would be washed away by happy, nervous, and sad tears. I cried leaving Joanna and the girls. I also cried from the moment we began walking to security until well into our flight. In fact, immediately before boarding, I bawled over the fact that Joey brought his pillow from home and I hadn’t. To this day, he will imitate my preposterous cry for the pillow I left at home. After many tears, a panic attack (or two), and two gravol on the flight, I settled down and woke up approaching the Barcelona airport. My nap allowed me to come to terms with the fact that I was landing in a foreign country with no return ticket home, and I became strangely okay with it.
After a week in Barcelona (which is far too long for those planning a vacation there), we took a beautiful, seven hour train ride down the coast and through the mountains to our new town of Murcia. Murcia is a quaint town, with a very comfortable and homey feeling for a population of nearly 440,000. It’s city center boasts a beautiful cathedral and historic throughways from square to square, with shops, bakeries, and cafes on every corner. The region in which we live provides visitors a true essence of Spanish life. English speakers are few and far between, Starbucks was a completely foreign concept until six months ago and is rarely frequented by locals, and Sundays are still saved for church and family. It’s a much nicer lifestyle than the North American one, where people work to live rather than live to work. However, I still find myself missing the hustle and bustle of Canadian life sometimes. I can’t say I’ve been more proud to be a Canadian since moving here and defending the fact that I’m NOT American every time I have the opportunity.
Our lifestyle has changed pretty significantly since moving abroad. We are fortunate enough to be in close proximity to several other countries, giving us easy and inexpensive access to major landmarks. We also benefit from a much cheaper nightlife, which can be described as either a blessing or a curse. We’ve been lucky to establish a very international group of friends, with our closest companions coming from countries such as Croatia, Jordan, Ireland, Haiti, Russia, Morocco and Spain! Weekends we aren’t gallivanting around Europe are usually spent enjoying cheap drinks at local bars like, Badulake, La Clave, or Farandula, which typically host international evenings and weekly drink specials. School and work weeks are shorter in Spain, with a week lasting from Monday to Thursday. I was fortunate to have applied for a working scholarship which gives me the benefit of completing a marketing internship in the International Admissions Office during the mornings before heading to class. Sundays are a write off, much like a pre-90’s Canadian Sunday. They’re traditionally spent in bed, recovering from a long night out or binge watching episodes of our current favourite show. We also make a regular appearance at the laundromat and Starbucks – being the only open businesses.
Getting used to the public transportation system has certainly been different than the convenience of owning our own cars at home. Buses are rarely on time, never match the posted schedule, and are often cancelled due to rain. Naturally, transport is unreliable in the snow, which Murcia experienced for the first time in 34 years this year. We are convinced that us Canadians inherently brought it with us from home! We’re sorry Murcia! It was quite a sight to see Murcians experiencing snow at home for the first time in their lives. As I sat at my desk dreading the sight of snow, my coworkers hurried to the windows and outside with smiling faces, marveling at the sight. The office nearly stopped its business to ensure everyone’s Snapchat story was snow filled. Another difference between Canada and Spain is meal times. We have adjusted surprisingly well to late dinners – or have we just added a dinner to our daily routine? Either way, we find ourselves eating an absurdly late dinner, around 9:00pm and an incredible amount of bread, which you will see in the hands of every passerby on your way home from anywhere. It’s nice to live in a place where carbs are accepted and encouraged.
Although the Spanish lifestyle and language has been a challenge to adjust to, we have managed and embraced the culture of this wonderful country. Despite its slow pace and lack of efficiency, we have grown to love this city and feel so blessed to be able to call it our second home.