“This is the life” sighed Inma, the director of the study abroad program in which I participated 2 falls ago in Cordoba, Spain. We lay on the warm sand in La Jolla, California. Although it was completely overcast, the weather was very pleasant and we were enjoying one another’s company, along with another student with whom I had studied abroad with. We watched a surf competition and chatted. To her, this was a typical Sunday in Southern California, and maybe it is, although it was the first time I had ever seen a surf competition and I rarely go to the beach to lounge.
We hadn’t seen each other since I left Spain in December 2008. According to all the students on the program, past and present, she is the program Mommy. She is fluent in both English and Spanish (not to mention Italian among others) and so when we were homesick or did not understand something about Spanish culture, our host families, or bureaucracy, she was there to explain it to us, in perfect, British accented English. She also knew all the best places to go in Cordoba, for tapas, wine bars, etc. She always was pleasant and helped us with contacts, or just plain giving advice. She never did anything FOR us, she just guided us, pointed us in the right direction, and let us find our own way. For her I am thankful. She is one of the most balanced people I know. She is so lively and natural. She can have a good time just about anywhere. She will get up and dance at a dinner party, or drink sangria with you in the back, she loves to make conversation and does so with everybody. She is a beautiful person and a wonderful soul, I hope you have an Inma in your life.
I also got to thinking, human interactions are really beautiful. I never understood why there was such a stigma about people spending time with people outside of their age group. I have always had friends who are much older and younger than myself. I love it. I feel like I learn so much from them and when I talk about things that I think are “normal” or “outrageous” I hear their perspective. It’s a wonderful thing. My 12 year old problems were quite silly when I explained them to a friend going through a divorce, or another friend who had just lost a loved one cancer. I guess this was something I always yearned for as all of my family, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc. lived halfway across the world from me. So I adopted my family. All of the neighbors growing up on my block became my aunts and uncles, I won’t say grandparents, so as to not offend anybody, but I had a hefty lot of aunts and uncles. I spent my weekends traveling from one house to the next, enjoying a cup of tea with Sally from down the street and cookies at Chris and Jeff’s. I would accompany Margaret to the post office and we’d stop at the cafe downtown for a brownie, and occasionally she’d slip a “bad word” when somebody cut her off. Tony next door had me help with the yard and Joel even employed me in his living room lab. All that I’m trying to get out of all of this is that we can learn so much from all of the people in our lives, even if we just have a conversation with them. We often times find ourselves so caught up in our to do lists, run this errand, and that errand, go to this store and call that person and forget where we are, that there are other humans around us from whom we can learn so much and brighten our days.