After arriving to Spain and recovering on the beach, it was time to figure out my life. The first thing on my list was to get out of the stone age and get a phone plan. I was afraid to leave my Airbnb without data. So I searched for my destination on Google Maps using the wifi provided in my Airbnb. I also took screenshots just in case (I forgot you could just download a map for free). I then took the daring steps outside. I honestly don’t know what people did before cell phones. One wrong turn and I would be lost without knowing how to get back. 

I successfully made it to Vodafone, and I had my first Spanish conversation with the Vodafone lady. Vodafone lady, if you’re reading this (she doesn’t know any English so not likely), you were so helpful! My first attempt was a fail, however. Vodafone lady sent me back to my Airbnb to retrieve my passport. Don’t forget your passport when you go get your Spanish phone plan! I had to return hours later because Vodafone took their siesta time. This was my first experience of siestaing. Yes, it’s a real thing, it does happen, and it does affect your day. But in the end, I worked with Vodafone lady to start my phone plane of 15 euros a month with a whole 2 GB of data! Not too bad.

Next on my list was to find a place to live. I moved to Spain with the intentions of living in La Linea de La Concepcion and commuting to work in San Roque. It would be a thirty-minute bus ride each day. A lot better than my commute back in Washington D.C., and I knew another auxiliar who did the same commute from La Linea to San Roque the previous year. I started apartment hunting on Idealista and connected with a lady who had a room for rent in her apartment somewhere northeast of La Linea. I needed to start somewhere, so I went to check it out. I walked thirty minutes north up the levante side of the beach. It was a nice walk, until I had to cut back into the city. 

The area was a war zone. I felt like I was in Black Hawk Down. Buildings were crumpled to pieces. Random dogs jumped out of abandoned homes, barking and snarling. Cats would skitter out of wreckage. Little kids playing on the streets gave me strange looks. I’m usually pretty comfortable walking by myself, but this time, I was on the edge. Everything around me gave me the chills. And not to forget the drug raid I passed. Five people were sitting handcuffed on the street as the Civil Guard searched their van. People simply walked past as if this was a daily event.

I finally made it to the apartment, heart pounding, wondering what the heck I was doing. Beads covered the entrance of the door, almost touching the street. I texted the lady when I arrived. The door opened. I couldn’t see who was at the door because of the beads; all I saw were her feet. All I wanted to do was run away. What was behind that door? Was I about to get kidnapped? I pushed these thoughts aside and stepped in.

The lady was nice. She was dressed as if she was going to a fancy dinner party. She only spoke Spanish. Successful communication at Vodafone had me excited to practice, but I couldn’t understand anything she said. She gave me a tour and brought me to the room she was offering. There was an old guy living there already, dressed in underwear and watching television. They both spoke Spanish to me, trying to sell me this room. They talked as if it was already set in stone that I would rent it. I started freaking out. I didn’t want this room. I just wanted to leave.

Finally, we left the man to his television and went back downstairs. The lady offered me tea and I refused. I needed to get out. She was taken aback. We talked for a few minutes about music and what not, and finally, I got out of there. She gave me a vibe as if she wanted to marry me. I was very uncomfortable.

Once I left, I went straight for the beach and sprinted home, contemplating why I was in Spain. 

I made it back to my Airbnb, and sat on my bed, taking it all in. I reminded myself of my goals. I knew things would be hard, and I needed to remind myself everyday why I was in Spain: to become a writer and learn Spanish.

That night I made friends with the gay couple in my Airbnb. They were a hoot. We drank until 2 am, having fun drunk conversations. It was nice learning about their countries. One was twenty-three from Poland. The other was thirty-four from England, training to be a police officer in Gibraltar. This also reminded me why I was in Spain: to learn about other people’s cultures. 

After a reviving night, I woke up and took the bus to San Roque. I had connected with the philosophy teacher from my school, and he had invited me to come look at a room at his place to see if I was interested in living with him. I stepped off the bus, taking my first step onto San Roque soil. I looked around and said, “YES!” It was absolutely beautiful. It had a nice little plaza, the buildings were white-washed and clean, it had the feeling of community; good vibes were swarming.

The philosophy teacher invited me in and offered me to have tea with him. This time, I said, “Yes.” He spoke perfect English and we talked and talked and talked. We connected. The apartment was beautiful, my room was perfect, and I was so excited to live with him and to live in San Roque. So we shook hands as I headed back to my air-conditioned Bunker, and I relaxed on the beach, excited to change my plans and move to San Roque. Another reminder of why I came to Spain: to be comfortable with change of plans.

Have you ever had to remind yourself of the goals you’ve set for yourself in a rough situation? Share your response in the comments below!