Beginnings…..Changing My Bucket List!

Today is my last full day at Valdelavilla. I’m sad! In this short week, I have a found a new appreciation for several things. Most of you reading this know that I wanted to make volunteering a part of my journey. And you probably also know that Spain was never on my bucket list as a place I REALLY wanted to see. I’m happy to report that I see both of these decisions in a new light!

Let’s start with my ambition to volunteer. Once again in my life, what I thought was a journey about others became a lesson to me! Helping some business people in Spain by speaking to them for a week seemed so simple. In reflection, I know without a doubt that I will be the one taking so much away from this adventure. These gracious souls have allowed me the opportunity to see Spain with their eyes, to feel their pride in the country they call home. They have also opened their hearts to me. I’ve shared so many conversations with them in my native language and regardless of their struggles with English, they have listened, empathized, and responded. It was a simple task for me to just come here and spend my days in the countryside of Spain talking with them. My transportation from Madrid, lodging, and meals to this village  were all provided for me. For them, there was a significant cost and more importantly, a total immersion in a foreign language that they struggle to master. What they have taught me cannot be fully defined – perservance, courage, persistence are just a few of the traits they have shown day after day. They are truly admirable people, not just for what they are doing here, but for the people they are in their daily lives – mothers, fathers, hard workers, goal-oriented, successful people. I am truly in debt to each of them for allowing me to share this experience with them. Surely it is me who leaves this adventure with the greater advantage for having had this opportunity.

Spain – not ever on my bucket list and now, on the top! Why? Because these wonderful people have shared so much about their country and always with a  sense of pride. How could I NOT want to come back? Even from the first sight of Madrid, I was already falling for this country. It has an easy feel to it – as if it’s calling my name. I was instantly impressed by the Metro and the ease of using this subway system. My hostel was easy to find and full of friendly people. I wandered around Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor for hours with no sense of time or even the desire to know. Although it was almost magical, I believed that it would end once I started this experience. Instead, it only heightened my desire to see more of Spain! Even though we have a very set time schedule here in Valdalevilla, there is still a feeling of timelessness. With each conversation I learned more and more about this beautiful country. While much of the countryside I’m seeing now is very much like Colorado, I know there is so much more. One by one, each has each described a place in Spain that has convinced me I must see it! When Amalia speaks of her city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, she comes to life. Her smile broadens as she tells me about the history of where she lives. I can’t imagine not seeing this place she calls home! But it isn’t just Amalia! It is Pedro who speaks of Bilboa and San Sebastian in the Basque country with the same enthusiasm. “Cheri” he says, “you simply must see this area of my country”! It is like this with each person – they are so proud of where they live and want to share it with me!

In my heart, I know I must come back. It would simply be ungracious of me to push Spain aside because I feel like I would be dishonoring these prideful friends. When I start posting pictures of this area and these fine people, you will understand why my heart has a spot for this country. While it’s nice to get the free lodging and meals, this experience has given me the opportunity to make life-long friends with all of them  AND their country. I will be forever grateful for their friendship!

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