In some ways, this trip to Spain was a test. I wanted to learn enough about Valencia to see if I would be comfortable living here alone. Of course, this means that making friends is not optional… it is a necessity. There are two groups to which I belong: the American Club of Valencia, and the Internations group, which is a much more global group. Both are social groups, with events and get-togethers to share, talk, and learn. While I was here, Internations had an evening social in a restaurant, and I attended. One of my friends through the American Club, Cristina, was also a member of the Internations group, so we found each other and started talking about the different areas, or zonas, that are good places to live in Valencia. Her generosity and deep understanding of the expat life (and learning another language as an adult) was very helpful, and she even gave me tour of the areas so I knew where to look in the future.
Internations is a multicultural group, and another person with whom I shared a glass of wine and a lot of laughter was a lady from England. Teaching in a school in the afternoons, Angie has been in Valencia for several months, and she and I were able to meet for lunch and discuss our lives and future plans. Since anyone can join Internations, a number of people were also from Spain or Latin America.
One person that I met from Latin America was Cristian, an Ecuadorian who lives in Valencia. He doesn’t speak much English, but became my de facto tour guide while in Valencia. He made sure I got good photos of the City of Arts and Sciences, went with me to dinner several times, and went with me to the local open-habitat zoo, the Bioparc. Since a one-on-one conversation is much easier than a group conversation for language learners, Cristian became a language tutor, cultural guide, and a friend. His patience and willingness to listen as we shared concepts was a big gift.
Two Spaniards who helped me learn language and culture were Jose Luis and Jose, who invited me to share a meal and conversation with them. Jose Luis speaks English, but Jose does not, so my language skills and mime abilities grew as we talked.
And perhaps the best for last, since it involves two of my heroes: Mike and Juergen from for91days.com. I have been following them for a couple of years as they travelled around the world. Their website describes their interest in using their ability to work anywhere, creative writing, and outstanding photography. We had a great conversation at a bar one evening, and I felt like I quizzed them the entire time because I had so many questions. They are great guys to finally meet in person after communicating with them online after a couple of years. Follow their travels on their website and buy their books. You won’t be disappointed: for91days.com or on Twitter: @for91days