When do you stop becoming an expat and start just being a person that lives overseas? One could argue these terms are one and the same, but humor me here.
When I moved here, I was an expat. The coffee is served in glass cups! They speak Spanish in Spain! I don’t understand how to pay for my groceries! These examples make me more of the village idiot, perhaps, but behind them was a sense of wonder. Everything was so new and different–leaving my home took courage, humility, and practice.
That whirlwind became less intense, and then my kids moved to Spanish school, and did Spanish activities—we were swept away. I knew people on the streets. They called me La Chipionera Americana. I had coffee with friends, bought fresh bread and flowers on the street. I had dreams in Spanish sometimes.
Year three passed by, and I said a lot of goodbyes. Year five approached, and we thought it was our time. We placed the kids in American (on base) school. They thrived.
And then we were extended for two more years.
Life is now cut into quarters. The sons live in America eight hours a day, and the majority of their friends do the same. We get eyeglasses and braces and dental care in town, eat jamon y bocadilllos de lomo. We walk the streets, and greet friends con besos.
But I can’t help but wonder if we peaked. My friends say, “You can’t maintain that excitement forever. You’ll explode.”
They have a point, I guess. Life becomes life. Sometimes you clean grape juice out of a rug, or argue about homework with your son. You like to think you’ll never tire of the sunsets, the old men in suspenders taking a paseo.
But sometimes you’re just being a person.
Time will tell if I’m wired for this forever. In my entire adult life, I’ve never lived anymore more than ten years. Will I find a home and stay there? Or will we live in Japan, or Guam, or Germany? Is it wanderlust or adult ADHD?
I miss the newness. Yet, I’m also so grateful to be a person living her normal life in Spain. A person who sometimes yearns for a glass of wine and an episode of Stranger Things. A person who recognizes that things are extraordinary, even if that means a dog on the lap, and the Hamilton soundtrack on the Alexa.
I still have some Spaining to do. Even if it’s less in gasps, and more in whispers.