*Leaves the U.S. with a week old cold and no medicine.*
Me: I’m fine. It’s just my body re-adjusting to this Northern weather.
*Arrives in Spain with flat mates who are also sick.*
It’s fine. I’ll just clean, eat really healthy, and drink some tea.
*Has Bronchitis during second week in Spain.*
“I’m so tired. I’m dyinnnggggg. I can’t sleep. Ahhhh!”
*Goes to a doctor in Spain – Begins 3rd week in Spain.*
See, I knew it’d pass. (Meanwhile I’m on steroids and antibiotics and two other prescriptions).
I am overwhelmed at the pace of life right now. On the 19th of November I’ll be on my way to Madrid to take the GRE. A part of me is anxious because I’ve been extremely sick and unproductive these last two weeks (at least in my eyes). Yet, I’ve given my best along the way and the other half of me is a bit more understanding. Nevertheless, I am still trying to jump into a healthy routine and it’s already my 3rd week here. Trying to reach my normal energy level has been a challenge. I can’t wait to finally feel 100%!
Anyways, let me fill you in on my two-week journey thus far.
As my mini-dialogue expressed, I’ve been sick since the week before I left for Spain. This made my departure from the U.S. quite interesting. My flight from Newark, NJ to Charlotte, NC was just fine. At this point I could deal with my sniffles. However, traveling grew more painful as the day went on. On my eight-hour flight to Madrid, I was lucky enough to have an entire row to myself. Yes, I sprawled out across four seats during the entire flight. I wish my body would have let me fall asleep on that flight, but instead it kept reminding me of how sick I felt. By the time I reached Madrid the next morning, I was EXHAUSTED. Oh, how I wished I could have been in Valencia already. Instead, I spent seven hours in the Madrid airport. The “best” part of it all was getting lost and having to check back in with customs. Ha! I was a walking zombie. I could not even process what was going on. I remember facetiming my boyfriend and tearing up because I was past the point of exhaustion. I did my best to stretch, read, play music, and keep my mind busy. Unfortunately, my immune system said, “Sorry girl. I’m clocking out,” and it did.
I was beyond grateful to have finally reached Valencia, Spain. Sleep was the number one thing on my mind, but it was not the first thing that I was able to do. Instead, I bonded with my flat-mates and fellow volunteers. They have been such a sweet, fun, and lively group of individuals. A few of them are from Germany, one is from Switzerland, another from Poland, and another is from Washington State. I was surprised to find out that I was the oldest in the group. I expected to volunteer with a variety of ages. Instead, they’re all 18 years-old, straight out of high school, ready to drink and party. Then there’s me, your 23-year-old nanny and college graduate, who’s ready for bed by 11:00 p.m. I suppose our priorities are just a tad different, but that’s okay! I’ve enjoyed working and growing with them these past two weeks.
However, in regard to my health, these past two weeks have been a fiasco. The medicine I picked up from the pharmacy was 100% ineffective. My body was not having it but I still tried to stay active during my first week in Spain. From bicycle rides to the beach, to joining the other volunteers on early afternoon excursions, I pushed through it all. I even joined them on Halloween night.
Side note: the night I learned that Valencia parties until 7:00 a.m. Can you imagine my face when I was told this? My jaw dropped and I shook my head. I was used to my own family parties lasting until 3:00 a.m. in the morning, but 7:00 a.m. Excuse me, what? New York City, you are not the only city that never sleeps. I can’t hang and I’m not ashamed!
I digress. Anyways, my cold escalated and turned into bronchitis. I grew miserable. My energy and moral was low. I was coughing so much that my sweet elderly neighbor Keke knocked on my door to make sure I was okay. I cried. I was so tired of being sick and I missed having my loved ones around. I’ve also been anxious about the GRE and my college applications. My body needed time to relax and I was not giving it what it needed. It took me until the end of my second week here to finally go to the doctors. Four medications later and I’m slowly getting back to feeling like myself again.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering how the volunteer work has been. It’s been an amazing learning experience. In the two weeks I have been here, I have journaled endlessly about all the things I have learned, the things that I’d like to do, and the things I never knew. For example, I came across a video one day discussing the cons about certain volunteer trips. I was a bit disappointed at myself for not thinking twice about the matter. This was my response after watching the video:
It’s interesting to watch this now that I’m already on my “Travel with a Purpose,” scholarship. I’m glad that I came across this video because it raised a perspective that went unrecognized in my mind. If I’m being honest yes, I feel a built guilty after watching this video. However, I believe that video has added on and changed how I will spend my time here for that same reason. How can I give back in a way that will actually be helpful to the children I work with? That’s the question I’ll be asking myself everyday. If nothing else, I want to be a role model and help these children use their minds and embrace the process of learning and thinking for themselves. I wish I had the money to help the organizations here, but I can’t change their situation at the moment. But I can give them the tools they need to grow. The next couple of months will be filled with learning. I’m still thrilled to have this opportunity but even more thrilled to learn how to be a better advocate for the children here.Volunteer Tourism
The children I work with range from six to seven years old. Majority of them have come from different parts of the world, some from Africa, Pakistan, and South America. In the time that I’ve spent with them so far, I can tell that these children need structure, consistency, and better examples of of how to interact with different cultures work as a team. However, it’s been a challenge for me to maintain order in the class room while the teacher is gone. The children aren’t difficult to be around. What’s been difficult is trying to tell them to be quiet and sit down when all they want to do is hug, talk, and smile with me. It’s unfortunate that I’ve been sick for the first two weeks, but I am so grateful to have 3 months with these children. Week by week I’ll be learning more and hopefully adding to their activities and helping open their minds. Next week, I’ll be playing the ukulele for them!
Hopefully my blog post improve from here on out now that I am starting to feel better! Enjoy the photos! (If you click on the images they will automatically rotate themselves.) Technology can be weird sometimes.
I love you all.
Wish me luck on my last week of reviewing for the GRE. Been studying since May (on and off) will I ever feel ready?