Sorting Through Footage

A clip of my roommate saying “When I say we are, you say, fun!” And all of us following her lead up the mountain.

A clip of me dipping my toes in Morocco’s beach waters and enjoying the feel of the rushing water on my feet and the the dense, warm air on my skin.

A clip of my friend and I on the swings attraction at Warner Brothers Park, while the lady on the monitor/speaker was yelling at me to “Por favor guardar ese movíl.” Please put that phone away, she continued to say.

p.s. I reviewed some really good footage, and good times yesterday while downloading and organizing my files in folders. So, here’s to prepping for my mini movie on studying abroad!


NYC Finds

Bamboo Sushi: food is offered in a bento box full of white rice, beef and broccoli among otherJapanese cuisine with a Snapple lemon-flavor tea on the side and hot miso soup.

Grace’s Market: an all in one a restaurant, bakery, supermarket, and coffee shop filled with goodies like apple crumb cake and apple bread.

New Balance: exclusive shop with only new balance sneakers all comfortable, all cute, all color-coordinated.

p.s. My dad and I met for lunch on the East side yesterday near his job. He took me to his favorite finds, and we ended up at the New Balance store. He surprised me with the last stop, and I came out with 2 pairs of brand new sneakers. I enjoyed my stroll down 3ve -York. And of course, I enjoyed my unexpected gift. Thanks, Dad!

My Last Journal Entry from Spain

As I wrote in my journal, I thought about how I’d never write in this journal again. It was meant for my study abroad experience in Spain, and that still remains true. I’d never tape another bus receipt in here, or a cool museum exposition ticket, or place a HEMA sticker to cover up some mistake or express my feelings in a colorful way. No more hashtags. No more quotes. No more daily entries or lessons or stories or questions or thoughts or weird guy descriptions or my host mom’s tough cookie comments or people’s stares on the metro as I wrote in my journal. No more details about those little things that made Madrid my Madrid.

p.s. On Tuesday, ‘Day 142,’ was officially written in my journal— a couple of sentences in Portugal and the rest in the Bronx, New York. This journal is now in my home, with memories wrapped up in words and laced along all the pages, significant of all the changes around me and within me from my point of view. And now, I can do my best to hold onto all of that for dear life. Forever. Thanks, Journal. You’ve been through it all.

I’ve Missed the Bodega

The ‘bodega’ in the Bronx is unlike the ‘alimentación’ in Madrid — in a good way. The alimentaciones in Madrid close anywhere from 9-10 p.m., meanwhile the bodegas all around my Bronx home are open normally up to 12 a.m. And I’ve been dying for a bag of chips and candy and a cold can of Pepsi. Or my deli ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and vinegar sandwiches or my bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll. Alimentaciones in Madrid had room-temperature drinks and cakes galore as snacks, and fruit. Bodegas are usually super packed when they sell good goods. Alimentaciones just have stragglers. So, I think NYC does it better in the ‘bodega‘ category.

p.s. My dad and I decided to do laundry at 10 p.m. on Monday like ‘locos,’ and ended up at a bodega that was still making hot deli sandwiches. Let’s just say: I got my bodega fix. Here’s to the little things I’ve missed about home!

Attacking My Luggage

Stream Summer Jam. Look through all the clothes you left home. Fold what you want to keep. Throw out what’s no good. See if your sister likes anything. Let her try it on. Give away the rest to your Great Grandma’s Bazaar. Take a sip of your cranberry and vodka with ice that was especially made for you. Organize the bins. Stock those drawers. Go on a hunt for more hangers. Ask for another drink. Tie up the bag with the old, and be proud of the 3 unpacked luggages and closet with all the new.

p.s. It took me about 3 hours to unpack, sort, and reorganize my walk-in closet yesterday. But, it’s said and done! Can’t wait to sport my Madrid gear. #SundayFunday #sortof

Full Day Back Home

I thought being back home would be much different. There was so much talk about reverse-culture shock. But this time, I don’t feel it. In reality, it all feels so normal.

It feels good to be back in the car, with the windows down, and the music real loud. It feels good to read and hear English, though I miss seeing and hearing it all in Spanish, too. It feels good to just grab a bowl of cereal and milk from the fridge, and wash my own dishes. And laugh with my brother and sister in my own home.

I saw my dad and siblings at the airport, and 5 words my dad told me hit home: “I’m proud of you, Kid.” He said that the day I graduated high school, the day I got promoted to Station Manager at my campus TV station, and every time I finished and began another year in college. But this time, after 4 months and 3 weeks, it felt good to hear it in person, bundled with a huge hug, too.

I ran errands just like I never left with my family. Runs to the optical, to the supermarket, to the discount store for home supplies, and a stop by my Great Grandma’s house to give her a big hug, too (and gifts from Madrid).

The only thing I am truly struggling with is unpacking my bags, and getting enough sleep post jet-lag.

p.s. Hello, Bronx, New York!

p.p.s. I came just in time for the Puerto Rican Festival on Saturday. Boricua para siempre.

Day 142 in Spain: Una Carta de Despedida/ A Goodbye Letter

Dear Madrid,
You became my home for 4 months and 3 weeks. From being like NYC minus all the skyscrapers, to seeing cathedrals on every corner, to hearing Castellano 24/7, to living on Calle de Padilla, you became Madrid, sweet Madrid. All these elements combined were signs from God that you’d be okay.

Okay you were when you got lost going to school 3 times before classes actually started. Okay you were when you were told you had to take an extra course in Spanish to be a part of the Hispanic Studies Program. Okay you were after orientation didn’t give you any information you needed to know where and how your classes would function. Okay you were when your Host Mom, Asún, yelled at both you and your roommate for being late to dinner. Once. Okay you were when you got the worse grade ever on an exam for a language you’ve been studying 6+ years. Okay you were when you visited the doctor 3x all for different reasons with a bonus of an emergency visit post your trip to Morocco, Africa.

And you learned that being okay with not being okay was and always will be part of being alone and feeling lonely in another country with no family or any of your closest friends. And that taking a nap was/is healthy. That eating sour candy at night before bed and after dinner at 9:15 p.m. is your happy place. And watching That 70’s Show and Full House before bed to make you go to bed on a high note was your way of identifying with your closest friends and dearest family from 2 different parts of the world-The United States and Australia.

And you constantly reminded yourself that your Host Mom’s 3-course dinner, your dad’s 12:00p.m. call on lunch break, your sister’s Snap Chat messages, your Mom’s FaceTime calls, your brother stealing your sister’s phone to text you, your Great Grandma’s random dial-ins, your Grandma’s voice messages, your best friend’s weekly messages, your roommate texting you from a room away to see if you’ve gotten out of bed yet, What’s app calls going in and out with your family from Florida and Virgina, and your fiancées stunning photos from Melbourne, all made what you have had in Spain, beautiful and unique and wild and wonderful and nostalgic all at the same time.

100 Montaditos became your low-cost drink spot. Tacos at Takos became your food spot. Starbucks 7-minutes away from your home became your study spot. HEMA became your buy-a-gift-here spot. Primark became your shop spot. Amourino became your gelato spot. Gran Vía became your favorite ‘dar un paseito’spot. Usera became your go-to-your-friend’s-house spot. Buen Retiro became your favorite park spot.

Your favorite playlists included Billie Eilish’s ‘Ocean Eyes,’ Spanish Guitar and Flamenco to think, write, and study. Danny Ocean’s ‘Dembow’ and ‘Me Rehúso’: to jam out, iron, clean and do your budget sheet to. ‘Te Amo,’ by Piso 21 and ‘Modelo’ by Ozuna ft. Cardi B was for fun. And even a Puerto Rican playlist by Gran Combo came to play, reminding you of your Great Grandpa, Papá, and Puerto Rico.

You stepped into Spain’s territory with goals. You had hoped to make Spaniard friends. You had hoped to eat amazing Spanish meals. You had hoped to travel all of Europe, and all of Spain, and even make a trip to visit your special someone in Australia.

Instead, God gifted you with friends from Miami, Moldova, India, and back home. Your Host Mom blessed you with her version of white rice and lasañga and breaded-chicken because she knew those were your faves. You were lucky enough to travel to Morocco, Africa, experience a camel ride on the beach in Tangier, see The Caves of Hercules in person, hike in the Blue City, and share a Moroccan-style meal with locals. You were able to see a whole lot of Spain, including a cute, quaint town, Toledo, an aqueduct and castle in Segovia, the monastery in El Escorial, the palace of Aranjuez, mountain climbing in Cercedilla with the magic of snow, the university of Alcalá de Henares, the most visited site in Spain, the almighty Alhambra in Granada, scientific, white, and futuristic architecture in Valencia, and The Cheetah Girls’ home in the stunning Barcelona. You got a chance to fly into Paris experiencing the ghetto, and ending with The Eiffel Tower. And of course, you’ve had the privilege of living in the capital of Spain, now one of your favorite cities in the world, Madrid. And though you didn’t get to meet your special someone halfway across the world, you met part of his family, here: Shakira and her kids, who have been living in Madrid for years, who has made your experience, even more like home.

You will never forget your first time in front of the magically lit Royal Palace. Or your first introduction to your new favorite drink on your first full night in Spain— tinto de verano. Or your first time in Buen Retiro Park with the most beautiful guitar solo near the blue lake with a little blonde Spanish toddler dancing and applauding away. Or how you reacted to your first corrida de toros, or bullfight, after having had an older man, an ‘aficionado,’a passionate fan, feed off your curiosity.

You will remember how much you wanted to improve your Spanish for you, to speak with your family, to talk with your friends. And you’ve never been more proud of your heritage as a Boricua. And so you’ve cherished your new identity as an international student de afuera (from outside). And every time you tell someone you’re from the Bronx, New York they think of Cardi B. And every time you tell someone you’re from Puerto Rico, they say: “just like JLO right?”

You finished your studies at the university in a town called Getafe. And though you didn’t fall in love with it the way you did with SUNY New Paltz, you cannot be more happy with the courses you’ve taken, the things you’ve learned, the work you’ve produced, the Spanish you’ve spoken, the professors you’ve met, and the friendships you’ve gained because of this place.

You’ve learned that studying abroad was for you. You’ve learned to not hold everyone up to your standards. You’ve learned that so many people are always on your mind, even though you may not have been a thought in theirs. You’ve learned that your life isn’t the only one that has been passing by. You’ve learned how to and when to be selfish. And when to be selfless.

You cannot believe this time has come to an end.

Madrid, Spain, you’ve been a dream. You’ve been a reality.

You’ve been everything at once: hurting, loving, healing, wilting, rising, and blooming —just like Rupi Kaur would say.

You recognize that you will never get this time back —the exact way it was offered to you in the first place. And that as much as you want to come back, and say you will come back, and urge to come back, and have the means to come back, you don’t actually know if you’ll ever be back. But you hope and pray to God to come back a couple of more times with the people you love.

You have little things of everyday in your journal. And you have footage to put it all together and rewind. You will never forget what a privilege it was to have once call Madrid, home. And are looking forward to the day you can say “hola,” to Madrid de nuevo.

All the best,

p.s. Madrid, sweet Madrid, thank you, forever. You gave me a newfound love for all that is dear, all that there is to want to share, and all that there is to want to know. Hasta la vista, baby.

Day 141 in Spain: Full Circle at The Royal Palace in Madrid

My first weekend in Madrid, I went to visit the Royal Palace. I loved the cool air on my skin, the illuminance of the palace at night, and the man playing the harp so much, I wanted to see it and hear it and feel all that I felt on that first Saturday night in Madrid, once again, on my last full day here.

This time, I felt appreciative, nostalgic, and rewarded. And still in awe. There was no music. There were lights, but this time, of just the lamp posts. But there was that same tranquility and beauty.

I have lived in a place where there is a royal palace, a royal family, and a royal city all in all. It’s a magic that never gets old.

p.s. Hasta luego 100 Montaditos, Student Teacher friends, and royal palace. It’s as if this whole time abroad has been a roller coaster ride of a wonderful and wild dream. Here’s to my last night in Madrid being full circle! Unreal.

Day 140 in Spain: Saying Goodbye to My Dominican and Spanish Family

I can’t believe I had to say goodbye today to the family who has been my first point of contact in Spain. My mother-in-law’s cousin lives here. Her name is Shakira, and she’s been the most wonderful cousin, aunt, and family friend (all at once). She truly made me feel at home, and showed me around my first couple of weeks when I barely knew anyone. She always messaged me to see how I was doing, where I was headed, and how the university was going. And her family of 3 sons and 1 daughter were just fun people all around. Her granddaughter and mom were a delight, too. Her husband so nice, as well. I loved talking to them about DR, their lives here in Spain, and the life I had been creating for myself every week in Spain. They showed me a huge part of their home, and I can’t wait to do the same for them one day soon. My experience here in Madrid, Spain, would have been so different without them. I guarantee it.

p.s. Here’s to the family I didn’t know I had here, but was blessed with! I miss them so much already. Signed, teary-eyed.

p.p.s. Los amo! xoxo

Day 139 in Spain: Flamenco Dance

It began with a Spanish guitar solo. Then continued to progress into the next elegant phase where each dancer got up from her chair and into the spotlight to to have her own dance solo. Each dancer moved her wrists, tapped her palms, and swayed her ruffled dress with a stern, yet passionate look toward the crowd. Each man sung in cordinance with the dancers to convey the dramatic mood. The men tapped their tap shoes all across the stage and spun, too.

p.s. Watching a flamenco show was a cultural aspect of Spain that I learned about in class. Yesterday I had an opportunity to watch the dance first-hand at a place called, “Las Carboneras.” Here’s to Spain being beautiful and being different!

p.p.s. “Spain is different,” was a slogan used in the 1940s-60s referring to flamenco, bullfights, cathedrals, and the power of the church within Spain.