To say it feels like yesterday when I was summing up 2008 would be a tad bit cliche and understated. And this time next year will come even faster than this. Life, please. Slow down just a little so I can catch my breath.
Well, 2009 had a difficult take-off, but once it was in the air, it got good. It got really good. Let me begin with the beginning.
I rang in the new year by falling asleep just minutes after 2009 made its first appearance. Watching the clock tick from my shitty Chinese Nokia whilst sitting on a stool at Chali ba, I got drowsy and just wanted to pass out. I wasn't even that drunk. Fortunately, Chali ba can be very accommodating to those craving rest, so I found the couch in the back den and camped out in my oversize black coat, falling fast asleep until Misha woke me up at 4 am. I was so groggy, disappointed with myself that I could feel this tired on a day when I should feel energized. Truthfully I was sad to see it end. 2008 was a great year, one of the best years I've ever had, so I was hesitant to welcome the change.
So my rockin' new year's eve wasn't so rockin'. However, I did manage to take some exciting trips very soon after 2009 hazily began.
My trip to Hong Kong was fabulous. Three days of unadulterated do-whatever-the-fuck-I-want-to-do-when-not-handling-visa-shit in one of the most fascinating cities I've ever been to. I dined, I tasted, I walked for miles. The best experience was the vegetarian restaurant, which turned my dislike for Indian food to pure love. Each corner of the city felt like a different country, in just three days I felt like I traveled the world. If I decide to return East, Hong Kong is surely on the top of my list of places I'd like to call home for a bit.
The day after I returned home to Baoding felt like my New Year's Day. All my work was done, grades were turned in, everything was complete so I could do what I wanted for the next month. I miss the crazy vacation time I had in China. That was fabulous. It got boring sometimes, with nothing to do, but now I'd do anything to have that time off now that I'm in Spain. My Xi'an excursion with Lee and Slava was a hilarious adventure. They are some of the best travel companions a girl could ask for. We dined on sushi, we brought an empty dance floor to life, we nicknamed a Terra Cotta warrior "Chester Cotta Warrior" and my Furby voice still echoes among us whenever we get the chance to talk. Xi'an felt like being in a treehouse with two silly playmates making Panda faces at one another. And oh, how could I forget the two of them pawning me off to the microphone so I could sing for free beer? Watching the two of them puke back to back after drinking leftover Baiju was a Mastercard moment. Thankfully, I was in the clear.
Springtime in China was weird. I was happy to experience warmer climate, but it brought about strange sensations that I'm not normally used to during that time. Usually I feel a boost of energy and gladness for the color and rebirth of flowers, scents and the lifting of a heavy winter mood. However, this time it was different. The newness of China had worn off completely and I was starting to experience real homesickness. An upside was the purchase of Figaro, my blue road bike. He made traveling around town more enjoyable than Claudio did. But I still fought the blues a lot more than I did in the winter.
I impulsively played an April Fool's Day prank that led to a girl more or less hating me. After, the month took a serious nosedive. My mom got really, really sick. In fact, she flirted with death. I felt really helpless being so far away. She had double pneumonia and was stuck in a shit hospital that had no clue what they were doing. That sucked. I got into an altercation with another friend that left me feeling really hurt and disillusioned. The only glimmer of goodness from that shitty month was Alex Woolner. I had always liked her but I truly recognized her greatness during a moment of despair, hence lifting me out of that 30 day torture and jump-starting May to a mere decent.
I traveled to Shanghai in May, but truthfully I didn't like it all that much. The Bund is like a fancy tablecloth hanging off the side of a gloomy town. Something in me shifted, it was like I stepped into an invisible ball of black energy, and I was filled with hatred for so many things. I decided to spend the extra money on a first class sleeper. As soon as I got on the train to return to Beijing, my mood instantly lifted. It was definitely a bipolar moment, going from miserable to jubilant while exiting the city. I don't know why, but I just was not fond of it.
During the last weeks of school, I really bonded with my students. Some of them were little shits but the majority were so sweet and caring and innocent. I'm so grateful my first year of teaching was spent with them. The last week was especially fun, playing picture time with them all. They love to pose, flashing two fingers of victory in every single shot. I miss them, and I'm dedicating ANOMIE to them once it's signed sealed and delivered.
2009 took a turn for the best on my birthday. It was my favorite birthday ever. I've had bad luck in the past with throwing parties. Either no one shows up or they do and shit gets stolen. But this year, I was leaving China two days later, as well as others, and it would be the last time I'd see many folks, so I coordinated a party at a restaurant the Russians like to hold birthday bashes at. I invited 25 people and 24 showed up. It was brilliant. The serenade of different countries toasting in their respective languages was both awesome and humbling. I was filled with so much love that by the end of it I was crying. Here, I had been so damn homesick then all of a sudden I wasn't ready for it to end. My two days were filled with tears. Saying goodbye to Misha, to Alex, to Lee Yusi Megan John Julie Luna Chali Dauchin Yang Yang and Kim, dearest Kim, she rode with me all the way to the airport while I cried and laughed at what a fucking strange and fabulous year it had been in the big fat Red. And just like that, it was all over.
Well, it ended rather slowly, the very last day. My flight was delayed six hours and the school already got me there six hours in advance, so I wound up waiting 12 hours in the Beijing airport until I finally took off. But I slept like a baby for the very first time on an airplane. AirCanada is the best airline I've flown to date.
Coming home was a bit strange. I was filled with stories eager to be told yet I couldn't seem to find the outlet. It wasn't that no one was interested, but they couldn't really relate. Like my mom, for example. That took some time getting used to. Leigh Anne got me a badass present for my birthday- two tickets to Sonic Youth. SO good. She always gets the best presents. That was a good way to ease into being home. That, and a few good trips to Valdosta to visit old friends and hang with Colleen. I taught Mike, Kari and Cliff some Chinese. Some good, dirty slang Chinese. Niobi. That felt really good.
My original plan was to move to Atlanta. Then it changed to Jacksonville, then St. Augustine. Then I realized my momentum was there to keep trotting the globe, and it was of no use to stop now. So I decided to come to Spain.
My first day was an adventure, to say the least. I didn't sleep at all the night before, instead I spent the wee hours packing my bags and talking on the phone with my good friend Matt. On the plane I didn't sleep much at all, so arriving to Madrid I was a bit winded and my Spanish was buried underneath the Chinese I gathered from the year. The man at the train kiosk was such a dick, unlike most Spanish people. "You need to learn Spanish," he said coldly as I winced my way through getting a ticket to Granada. There are so many things I could've said but I was too exhausted to retort. I got on the train and watched the countryside roll past me with a sunset that artists would marvel at. My arrival to Granada was when things got, well, interesting.
First, my taxi ride. This was my first experience in Spain of really having to retrieve the Spanish I knew. I had no clue where I was going, just an address. All my technology was dead, batteries empty and no electrical adapter to charge them with. I couldn't get back into my email to find the correct address of the residencia I was supposed to stay in, only to the school where I'd get my TEFL degree four weeks later. So the cute little taxi driver and I stumbled our way through a conversation, and I was surprised I was able to communicate even that much, considering I was going on no sleep. He led me to the school then drove away, and I stood at the green doors with my heavier than hell suitcase, bowling ball of a backpack and eyelids like anchors. And no one answered. I was, well, fucked. And this was at 11 pm.
A group of Polish miracles appeared from the intersecting alley, noticing immediately that I looked lost. I was having a difficult time remaining coherent. "Come with us," they said as they gripped my bags and began walking down the alley. "You can stay with us and figure it all out tomorrow." What a fucking relief. I can't even begin to express my gratitude for that fateful blessing. We walked up the road and one girl pointed in the right direction. "Look, it's the Alhambra." I turned around and gasped, then looked away. I just wasn't capable of absorbing it. I needed rest so I could feel enthusiastic and breathless like I did days later when I got to really sit there and stare at it. Breathtaking is the absolute best way to describe a monument like the Alhambra.
The Polish clan and I went out for tinto de veranos in this small bar off the beaten path. I really took to Malgorzata, a delightful girl who wants to visit the States some day. I told her--I promised her--that if she makes it there and I'm there too, I'll do whatever I can to extend my hand and help make her experience a good one. Because if it weren't for her and her friends, my first night in Europe would've been me sitting on cobblestone, clutching my bags and waiting for daylight, only to still not know what was next.
I found my way the next day, and enjoyed my first night of a proper bar hop in Spain with three guys. I sort of felt like a pimp, for I more or less found each of them a woman by the end of the night. Apparently I got in a fight with a wall on the way back to the residencia, but this is arguable. My toe was caked with dried blood the next day when I woke up--at 3:45 in the afternoon. Then the TEFL course began.
Oh the mindfucks. The lesson plans. The oh so fun finishes. Overall I enjoyed the experience but I was really glad it was over. In four weeks I was excited, frustrated, humbled, delirious, pissed and pleased. I experienced my first Spanish kiss on a Saturday night out for salsa and it was fantastic. An absolute work of art, from the beginning to the end. I'll never forget that kiss, never ever.
I developed really sound friendships during the course, especially Ashley, Amanda, Tom and Roisin. I learned more British English than I did Spanish in Granada, which was mildly detrimental for immersion. After the course was finished, I had two weeks with my dad and stepmom so we traveled around Andalusia. I ate so many friggin' olives. They're the absolute best here.
I landed a job interview in Madrid for a position in Zaragoza. I got the job, then lost it, then got it again. For the full version, read the entry. Anyway, I packed my bags and said Adios to Granada, then headed to Zaragoza. Halloween is not my favorite time of year. Those close to me understand why, and it was particularly difficult this time around because I didn't know anyone in Zaragoza and felt really alone. To make matters worse, some money was stolen from me. Not a lot, but enough to make me feel unwelcome in such an unfamiliar place. I licked my wounds, then found an apartment on the 14th floor of a building overlooking the city.
November was a difficult one. Not as bad as April but it still sucked. Learning to adjust was taking longer because this was the first time in my life I moved somewhere with no base of friends or boyfriend waiting for me. It's also a lot more difficult to meet people in Zaragoza than it is in Granada. Loneliness dutifully describes November but it was followed by a fabulous month of December, one I'm sad to see finish in just a couple of days.
The company Christmas party was absolutely fantastic. The food was magnificent, the conversations were light-hearted and hysterical. It felt so good to be a part of it. I spent a lot of hours teaching folks in the army and they were truly a pleasure to teach. I've become so much more comfortable in my teaching style and I'm starting to establish relationships with co-workers. The 'hellos' have extended to 'how's your day' to jokes ridden with sarcasm in both Spanish and English. I like everyone and I'm pretty sure they like me too. This is a definite perk with any job.
For the first time in years, I've had some excellent holidays! My mom came to visit and she's still here as I type this excruciatingly long entry. I met her down in Benalmadena, then we went to Malaga and had the best sangria. After two days in Malaga, we came to Granada-my turf. Today we had a delicious meal alongside the Alhambra. New Years will be spent in Zaragoza, and it's looking like it's going to be a very lucky New Year's. I'll divulge more later.
More than just travel, 2009 was about growing up. I entered it unsure about everything and I'm leaving it feeling confident and more aware of who I am as an adult. I understand my weaknesses more and am less willing to criticize them because they're a part of me. For some, what makes them such weaknesses is my idea that they are weaknesses. When I change the way I look at them, they become less harsh and I feel better about everything. I've developed a love for cooking and I'm good at it. I finished my songs for my second album. My Spanish is improving every day and I'm a working adult in a beautiful city with some of the strongest winds you'd ever experience.
My resolutions for 2010? Don't laugh, but primarily to embrace my femininity. I'm 28, going on 29. This is my prime. I want to fully enjoy being a woman since I'm no longer a kid. This means wearing beautiful clothes and walking with confidence. This means surrounding myself with good friends and sharing laughter. This means looking a man dead in the eye and knowing he sees a strong, capable woman. Because that's how I feel, so different than when I woke up in that groggy haze at 4 am on New Year's Day.
Goodbye 2009. You were complicated but worth it. And as for the decade, I experienced some truly bipolar events I could write a book about, which I intend to do sooner or later, as long as I can make it interesting enough for others to read. That's my goal for the next decade, to publish a book. We'll see what happens. With just a touch of salt, life has been good to me.