Fresh air, everywhere. Soaking the warm sun, like a sponge. Chilly breeze, blowing through the trees. But everything with the mascarilla. Amidst the dread, doubt, and fear of the pandemic, I decided that I was going to live. This is how I enjoy life in Spain despite COVID-19.
I currently am in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands in Spain. My life in Spain with COVID-19 is not what I expected. But is everything I needed and wanted. Making the “small jump” across the Atlantic from Ohio was one of the easiest, yet most challenging, decisions I have ever made.
A Challenging Decision
First, it was challenging because I left behind everything and everyone I know and love. It was challenging because the shared goodbyes were not enough. And it was challenging because my family, friends, and dogs (of course) are my rocks. Finally, it was challenging because I cannot show up at their homes and just knock.
The Easiest Decision
Moving to Spain, even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, was the easiest decision because I live for teaching and achieving. It was the easiest because this is a reminder of how open-minded a person should be. And it was the easiest because adventure and opportunity truly come to those who strive for it. With that, to Spain, I arrived!
My life in Spain with COVID-19 is not at all what I expected, but it is everything I wanted and needed.
A typical day starts at 5.30 am. Waking to the fresh air and breeze that encompasses Santa Cruz. The windows in my flat are always open, hoping, by chance, to capture enough fresh air to last me another day.
By 7 am, I venture outside to start my commute to school, always praying that the rain will stay away. I walk 10 minutes to the nearest bus stop in the once busy streets. I admire the early risers…the hard workers, the business owners, the dog walkers, the professionals, and the health care workers. All with the mascarilla.
I take the bus for 20 minutes and walk 10 more. If I am lucky, I catch the bus that drops me directly outside the school’s front door. On “good weather days”, I enjoy the walk, serenity, and peacefulness of nature and the “fresh air” that I try to breathe through my mascarilla.
My School with COVID-19
School. Now some might say, close your eyes and imagine.
You are in a foreign country and hardly speak the language. You teach different aged students whose level of English is medium-low. You teach, lead, and speak to the students, but all with the mascarilla. But this is not enough. To direct and lead, you need to speak. To speak you need to enunciate and articulate. But with the mascarilla is a muffled mess. The students comply easily, but they don’t understand the reasoning why they wear the mascarilla.
I have four to six conversational classes a day. They require sanitization from the moment the students cross the doorway. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Eating without Mascarilla
Aside from the classes and the people I have met, my favorite part is when everyone eats. This might sound silly, I am aware, but it is when I feel most fulfilled. The mascarilla hardens people, it leaves people expressionless.
When we have breakfast and comedor, we get two things. One: to eat the delicious Spanish food. Two: to see everything that the mascarilla has taken away… especially the smile. Without mascarilla, everyone seems happy.
Without the mascarilla, I am able to paint a better picture of who my students are. Without the mascarilla, I feel more connected and in awe of my students. They seem more like children. They seem kinder and gentler. They seem more exuberant.
And then, once again, the mascarilla. The students know the mascarilla is difficult. They offer drawings to you, letters of your name, animals, or their favorite things, as if to help suffice for the mascarilla.
Positivity and Energy
The days can be long and the mascarilla is hard. But I am the lucky one. The lucky one
because my family was encouraging, no matter the circumstances at home. The lucky one because I was bold enough to take the jump over the Atlantic. The lucky one because I have worked for this, for my future, for the adventure, and for the opportunity. The lucky one because of the children, the teachers, and all of the people I meet along the way.
The opportunity is one thing to be grateful for. Another is the ability to live. To live, not in the sense of heartbeat and physically breathing, but to live as to not succumb to the pandemic surrounding us all. To continue on my journey and path, to keep learning and growing.
Although it requires a fair amount of positivity and energy, I keep my hopes high and I keep pushing. These are requirements. And if you fail to adhere to “positivity and energy”, you might just sink.
The Charms of Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Outside of school, COVID-19 still poses challenges. Being in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, I am a lucky one. Lucky because even though the mascarilla is mandatory, COVID-19 is not as bad here as in the mainland or even Ohio.
For example, I can enjoy a walk around my neighborhood, with the mascarilla, and see friendly faces that I have come to know and admire. I can go to the beach and the mountains, all in the same day.
The world is different here. People become “kinder and gentler” again, because the mascarilla can be taken off. I enjoy walks to different bakeries, only to try more chocolatey goodness. I enjoy my days in Santa Cruz, while making the most out of them, too.
Most importantly, I enjoy the people. I enjoy the memories that we are creating. The inside jokes that are being made. The different adventures that we go on. The different places I have visited are endless, always adding more to what I have lived. Here are a few!
Parque Marítimo César Manrique
This is a very beautiful swimming pool with trees, rocks, and seawater. It has lounging chairs for you to enjoy and many access points to get into the water. From inside the pool, you can see the Tenerife Auditorium, another beautiful sight.
Not a specific icon, but a beautiful city. This city encompasses amazing food, viewpoints of the ocean, and little shops everywhere. This image, which I have posted on Instagram, is quoted with lyrics from Aladdin. “A whole new world. A new fantastic point of view…”. Tenerife is truly a beautiful place with all new views and provides me with a new opinion of the world and life.
Mercado de Nuestra Señora de África
A beautiful market “right around the corner” from my home. I enjoy walking through this market, remembering the tangy scents of spices that I once experienced in Africa. This market has flowers, fresh fruit and vegetables. Meat and fish, bakeries, and even the beloved “cinnamon roll”, that I have many times experienced in Ohio.
Hiking in the mountains of Anaga has become one of my favorite past times. If not for the change of pace of the bustling city, then for the fresh air that I experience when nobody is around. I slip my mascarilla down for a moment.
Anaga is beautiful with the animals, viewpoints, and people offering baked goods from the back of their van. (It sounds sketchy, but I promise, it is not). Anaga seems more like my “home away from home”. It reminds me more of the lushness that Ohio has and the countless walks that I have done with my dogs and family.
No matter what the food, say yes. Try new things. Try everything at least once. I have come to love the vast expanse of different Spanish foods. I have many favorites but a “few” are: ropa vieja, papas arrugadas, paella, vegetable puree, and any seafood.
Besides, I always tell myself that I will try any food at least once. I have found that if I remain with a completely open mind, even with food, I might be surprised with myself and how much I come to enjoy this different country, its culture, and everything it is.
Throughout the difficulties that come from a national pandemic, the stress of school and studying, and being so far from my family and friends, I consider myself “the lucky one”.
The Lucky One
To get selfies from my family, facetime my dogs, and stay in touch with people at home.
To see my students’ faces, even if only for a split second.
To enjoy the beach, mountains, and fresh air.
To enjoy the sweet tastes of the bakeries, the salty air and water of the ocean, and the sweet, sweet, fresh air of the mountains.
To enjoy trips to the coast, mountains, and neighboring islands. To enjoy the company of the people I have come to know and love.
The adventures here, even with the mascarilla, CANNOT be taken away. Just say yes, and maybe you, too, will find out that you are “a lucky one”.
By Katelyn U., 2020-2021