Dear In Hot Pursuit of Windmills,
We haven’t talked in some time, and you may think that I’ve gotten new friends to play with since our last meeting; you may be right, but we still have one last leg to finish, so please keep your code in order, and we’ll bring this book of distantly spaced memories to a well deserved close.
January blew by in a frenzy of renewed energy and expectation, the trail towards Global Classrooms fresh, my co-teacher entirely new, and the game changed forever. We assaulted global warming with impressive force, practiced speech making and parliamentary procedure (aka “UN-speak”), fielded such tongue twisters as “dioxide” (emphasis on the ox) expertly, and rounded the corner in early February into our first mini. Impressive successes, some surprises, and, finally, unadulterated joy from my teaching experience.
The post-conference celebrations were short, and by the next Monday we were hot on the trail once more: New topics, continued debate, and position papers on their countries and topics, all taught and secured just under the wire. It was stressful; it was challenging; it was the story of our year. A healthy puente at the beginning of March placed me in Madrid and Pamplona, but, we otherwise pushed, crunched, and heckled our way through six weeks of learning, until March 25, when we began conferences. First, the glitz and glamour of Santander, where I had the joy Director-ing the delegates of the United Nations Environmental Programme; then, a more intimate, dynamic experience as Chair with Global Warming in the General Assembly of Torrelavega. Students who when I first met them had been timid, awkward, and hard-up for an English sentence, spoke, debated and participated: just impressive. It was nice to see them coming out of their shells; I knew they had it in them, and it was great to see them finally believing so as well. I had all but become used to the flow of this crazy, clunky program we call global Classrooms when our Secretary General Luis drew the ceremonies to a close on April 1st. Looking out across the hall at our delegates, I saw we had accomplished much.
Long Awaited Reprieve
But let’s not kid, we felt more than satisfied: we were also exhausted, enough so to warrant a weekend trip to a vaguely tropical volcanic island named Lanzarote (pronounced Lan-za-row-tee if you’re a British radio broadcaster), for a break. What followed were three days of cross-island roadtrippin’, black sandy beaches, semi-legally acquired look outs, volcanic cuaves– and geysers.
The students were missed, but nothing quite beat fumbling our way in the dead of night for an apartment where “next to the water” was not in fact a helpful direction, or hitting sandy beaches at regular intervals, and chancing upon a local cafetería with awesome fish sandwiches and a cheerful, relaxed island waiter was definitely one of those unquantifiable charms of life. The weekend was great, and when we finally did return on Monday, we did so with fresh minds and calm souls.
New York–But Mostly Spring Break and a Speedy End
Our return also signaled the beginning–and quickly approaching end– of New York. One student from each school would be heading to the international MUN conference in New York, and I somehow found myself in position of Jedi Master to my Global Classrooms Padawan. It was an excellent experience: we met one on one three times a week until Spring Break, trading ideas, debating, and developing position papers and speeches towards the big event. The experience was surreal, like a tutorial, except I was in the professor’s seat.
We finished our work, and a whimsical Spring Break stole my attention away again (I love that about the Spanish, they really know how to relax, just don’t ask about their job market). Living in Santander and working in Reinosa is a challenging set up, and I tended to feel like I was never quite taking advantage of either place, so, Jax and I decided to stay local for the break and explore the many secrets of the Cantabrian coast. We hit the beach on numerous occasions, and, thanks my co-teacher Patricia, were able to visit some of the other seaside destinations, including Comillas, San Vicente, and El Cueva Soplao. Jax and I also bused our way to Ovideo a for a short but fun-filled day of Asturian sights, sounds, and food, including many things a la sidra.
The break wound down, more rest and relaxation becoming the norm. Then, we slowly, suddenly coasted into May, the end entered sight, and everything felt a roll of toilet paper. The first weekend we spent on a 22 hour trip to Madrid for Cirque de Soleil and a regular visit to Jamie’s house. Unfortunately, while trying to take a picture of a sweet-looking antena array, I dropped my camera through my jacket and onto the sidewalk and broke it–whoops, onto the cell phone camera! (Nevermind the purple photos from the rest of the trip) Cirque de Soleil astounded with deft-defying feats and a multilingual plot, then we returned to Jamie’s to “watch” Pineapple Express, and finally snaked our way back to Barajas for our flight.
The following weekend found us ambling gingerly through Barcelona, admiring how many languages nearly everyone spoke, and visiting old mansion-sized art museums. We also saw some stuff designed by some guy named Gaudi, I think he was a painter or something. Most of our fun was walking through Las Ramblas and enjoying the different kinds of hustle and bustle while visiting some long unseen friends. One more trip, one more week, almost home.
The last two were a blur. Packing, not packing, school, students, goodbyes to teachers, goodbyes to students, goodbyes to Spain? The wait had been so long, my desire to see home so real, but when I looked down at my feet and felt them slightly, but genuinely rooted to this place. I had stopped calling it a trip, and started calling it home. And I slowly began to miss it, and think of all the good things that had happened here. I remembered the challenges, the wine, the learning and the siestas, the insufferable bureaucracy, and the people who had become central to my life. I had finally arrived.
I spent as much of the last weeks of my time walking around Reinosa. This little town had scared me when I first saw it in its isolation and distance; but with two weeks left, I could say honestly that the people in that small town were some of the best I had met in Spain. Without living there, Reinosa almost felt more a home than Santander ever had, so I walked and did my best to take in the trees, the mountains and the clouds flowing over them, as well as the rivers and the small broken flour mill just at its side. I looked at it; I don’t know when, or if, I’ll ever be back. It is surreal to say that.
I’ll skip the goodbyes, the plane rides, and customary flux of changing spaces. I’m in the Bronx once more, at home version 1.0. I’m an adult, technically (so they say), but the realities of it haven’t really sunk in, and the wisdoms of adulthood must be in box somewhere over the Atlantic searching for me. Because, for all the travels, challenges, and joys, all I seem to have now are more questions. The world gets smaller while the scale of its intricate connections grow; my ideas about culture, custom, and the right way to live life grow in context but shrink in absolutism. More than ever, everything is up to question, and the world seems a sea of open but fragile possibilities. I hoped that at the end of this time I would have found something new, some sort of answer or silver bullet to my unprovoked pursuit of windmills. Instead, there is just more to sift through, more thoughts, more experiences, and now even the uncertainty over whether the things I have been chasing were even windmills at all, or in fact real live giants. All I know is my journey is firmly under way, as it’s always been, and that, no matter where it takes me, there will always be questions and passing thoughts to fill the time.
Off I go, and here I stay, to pursue something else from the inner sanctum of my mind.
Until next time–Alan