Before I moved abroad, my last boyfriend told me that I was too dependent on him and didn’t have my own life. So I took it upon myself to find my inner fierce diva and show him and whomever else questioned my strength, that I was a bad ass woman and a force to be reckoned with.
It was a year of dressing how I wanted, tapping into my own sense of style, red hair, and piercings. I loved every moment. I was deciding who I was. This is when I decided that my life would be filled with more adventure, meaningful relationships and connections. I wanted to meet people, learn from them, and push myself further!
And that led me to apply to a program to teach English in Spain. While the rest of my friends jumped straight into grad school and full-time jobs, I decided to go a different route. I didn’t want to work in an office right away and I wanted to travel instead. So, without knowing much Spanish and even much about Spain, I applied, got accepted, and three months after graduation, was on a plane to start a new adventure.
When I first arrived, I realized, ya girl was probably one of maybe twenty other Asian people in that town, and the only Asian-American there. It was rough. My new roommate took me under his wing and introduced me to a few of his friends. One in particular that spoke English really well. Thank goodness, because I could NOT speak Spanish and the four years I took in high school really weren’t helping me out. That friend was Mario, who had just moved back to town after three months of living in London. I didn’t think anything of it, just that this guy was nice, sweet, and we were able to communicate. It was my first day in my new town and we were out drinking until 3am.
My roommate, Mario, and I quickly became “the three best friends” and they made my transition from life in the United States to life in Spain much easier. Mario would come over to our apartment almost every other day just to hang out, eat, or talk. It was always so easy to be around him and I never felt embarrassed to practice my Spanish like I usually was. But I wasn’t even thinking about dating anyone. I also had a lot of reservations about “European men” (haha!). Did they really want to date me because of my personality? Or did they just want to hook up with an American girl?
Soon after, my roommate invited us to his hometown, which was four hours away. We made a road trip out of it, and I just remember sitting in the back of the car while the both of them sat in the front, and thought that I would eventually end up dating Mario. Weird, right? Again, I brushed it off because no way was I dating a Spaniard because I couldn’t speak Spanish, it would probably get messy, and HELLO my plans for world domination were still in the works! I definitely didn’t have time for that!
During that weekend, we all got closer as friends and the more I hung out with Mario, the more I felt like I had known him for so long. Our conversations were still scattered with Spanish and dominated in English. He pushed me to practice and never made me feel embarrassed or ashamed of my poor Spanish accent and elementary level. I remember walking home from the club at 7am (yes, THAT LATE) and he asked me if I even liked boys. He said it was OK if I didn’t or even if I liked both, he was just curious because I never made any moves on any guys or women, and while other people tried to approach me, I just ignored them. I laughed so hard and eventually told him that I don’t have time for boys.
After that trip, Mario decided to move to the south of Spain, to a city called Málaga. It was 5 hours away from where I was living, so we would only talk occasionally. Every time he came up though, I was excited and happy to have my “best friend” back! He would come over and I would run up to him and give him a hug, which was awkward since in Spain double kisses on the cheek are much more common.
We continued our friendship like this until late February/March, when I really started missing my family. My birthday was coming up and I wanted to be around my friends from home. I also found out that both of my roommates wouldn’t be there to celebrate my birthday with me, which really made me really sad! I mentioned this to Mario and he took me on a short trip to another region of Spain during my birthday weekend.
During the entire trip, it was the most time we’ve ever spent alone. Just us two without any other friends around. It was actually weird and I was nervous for some reason. Nothing happened during the trip, if y’all were thinking about heading that direction! It wasn’t until we came home that we finally expressed our feelings for each other and decided to “give it a shot” and go with the flow.
We eventually started dating a lot more seriously and come September we packed up all of our things, Mario quit his job in Madrid, and we moved to a small town in-between Córdoba and Málaga. We found an apartment and lived together for an entire year! I had never lived with a significant other like that before, and neither had Mario.
That year in our apartment was so much fun. We had guests come visit, parties with friends, hosted dinner parties, went out, and traveled together. My Spanish finally improved so we started communicating more in Spanish than in English. We had family friends that invited us out; we created a life together in our three-bedroom apartment in a little village of Córdoba! I loved every moment of it! But, we’re talking about international love here and my visa was going to expire in May.
I didn’t want to renew my visa for a third year as an English teacher so Mario and I needed to decide what to do. Well, when there is a language barrier, arguments are more intense. We would bicker half in English, half in Spanish, or a mix of both! There were moments one of us would get angrier because sometimes translated phrases would carry different weights. It was tough. Eventually, we decided that I needed to go back home. I didn’t want to stay in Spain anymore being an assistant English teacher. I wanted to go home, be with my family, hangout with my friends, and give my try at “corporate America”.
So, in June 2016, I packed up my things and left a lot of things in Mario’s parents’ home, and moved back to good ole’ United States. I found a job immediately after moving home and started working full-time. Mario came over in September for his three-month “trial run” of living and experiencing the United States. What we really wanted to do was figure out where we wanted to live. Was it here or was it Spain? And if you asked us this today, we’d probably still tell you that we don’t really know.
We’ve now been dating for two years and some odd months. It’s been a constant struggle for both of us to deal with long-distance. It’s like we’re living a double life! One life is in our respective communities and countries, building our careers, and creating new relationships and friendships; and the other life is trying to incorporate the other person as much as possible into our daily routines. We only have the chance to talk for an hour a day, due to the time difference. But to tell you the truth, long-distance allows us both to be independent and really focus on what we want to do and build. It gives us the opportunity to get things done without any distractions. However, long-distance is a pain in the butt. We’re trying to do more things with our careers and goals, but it’s like we’re both half-assing it because we don’t know where we’re going to end up.
The hardest question for me, at least, has been which country or which “life” will be the most beneficial. Will the United States afford me the career growth that I want or he wants? Will Spain cover all of our healthcare problems? Which country has the best education system for a future family? Where is the cheapest option? Y’all, if you have any answers, I am totally all ears.
If you got to this point and you want to know what’s happening next, I wish I could tell you. We know we want to be together before 2018, so that gives us at least a few more months to figure our shit out. If you have some tough-love advice to leave me, I’m listening! When they say you’ll fall in love and never come back, what no one tells you is all the red-tape and paperwork that makes this “international fairytale” so damn frustrating and difficult. No one tells you that when you fall in love with someone who isn’t from your country you have to end up making some extremely tough decisions, while navigating through language barriers and culture clashes. In the end, Mario is the one person that I’ve felt so comfortable and at ease with, and if I had the chance to “do it all over again”, I’d surely do it in a heartbeat! He is my “alma gemela” or as they say in English, my soul mate! (;
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