Random moments of Happiness: Valencia Edition
It's no secret that when I first moved to Valencia I had a hard time adjusting to this new life. Even though now I can look back fondly on my time living in sunny Spain, I have often alluded to the not so facile times. Yet, there were also many times throughout the year where I experienced this glimmers of elation; times where I felt truly happy these moments. Now this list is not in chronological order, however these experiences are some of the highlights that I had during my time in Valencia.
Beach day at El Saler
If you follow my Instagram account (Ouisiyestash) then you'll already know that I had many a beach day during my time in Spain. However this one was different. It was the Monday after my granddad died. I had Mondays off work but I always used them as my organisation day to do my food shopping, lesson planning as well as teaching my private classes. I had landed back in VLC from my Lisbon trip early that morning and I'd already planned my lessons the week in advance. I was still feeling totally drained from that weekend- despite being away on holiday I was emotionally worn out. My friends suggested that I take the day off and head to the beach. It was a warm May afternoon and I normally would have protested and found something 'productive' to do but I actually welcomed the idea of taking a break and having some alone time. El Saler is a quieter and less touristy beach in comparison to the bustling city beach of Malvarossa. That Monday afternoon the beach was really quiet- only a handful of people scattered on the beach. I had made a packed lunch for myself an brought a book and my headphones along with me. I spend the afternoon engaging with no-one but myself; I listened to podcasts and music and I finally decided to go for a swim in the sea. This is a huge deal for me; as a kid I had no qualms about swimming- I was a fully fledged water baby. As I've gotten older I realised that I'm someone who doesn't like to get my hair wet- this seems like such a trivial thing but trust me as soon as a drop of salt water hits my head it's game over.
But on that day, it didn't seem to matter to me. I dived into the sea- embracing the rawness of the waves. I allowed myself to let go of all of my anxieties and my sadness. I let myself cry as I swam- I let myself get my hair wet and dived under water. I splashed, I laughed, cried and let out a sigh of relief that I was letting my emotions out finally. On a pretty much empty beach. I was quite liberating. I didn't have to hold it together anymore- it was like reconnecting with myself again.
I love Eurovision- I love the tackiness of it, the cheesy euro-pop, the campness and of course all of the drama. It's been more intense now due to the U.K's contentious relationship with the rest of Europe- who lets be honest never really liked our Eurovision acts even in the pre-Brexit era. I'd been planning a super over the top house party for Eurovision for my friends for a few weeks. However, after my granddad died I didn't want to host anymore. I felt completely deflated and the last thing I wanted to do was party. But then I thought that it could be a welcomed distraction; a way for me to channel my grief into something positive. So I decided to make this the campest, extravagant party yet. I bought garlands, balloons, confetti- you name it we had it. It was as if a rainbow and unicorn exploded in our living room. It was garish but exactly what was needed. We each picked a country out of the hat and everyone brought a dish and we had our own pot luck. It was really nice to be with my friends; they'd had an awards ceremony/ get together whilst I was at home for the funeral and I'd really missed them. Everyone was so supportive and really got into the spirit of Eurovision. I was so glad that my friends Steph and Paige encouraged me to go ahead with it.
Biking around Benimaclet
The month of March was extremely hectic in Valencia. Tourists descended on the city for the spectacle that was Fallas and myself and my friends had 5 days or continuous partying ahead of us. Our routine was wake up at midday, see the mascleta, watch a parade, have a nap and head out for the fireworks. Then we would stay out and find ourselves at a street party or maybe a nightclub. One day I decided to break the cycle- by proposing that we actually cycle through Valencia and see some of the Fallas before they were burned. So Paige and I set off, she led the way on her bike Quique-Enrique and I followed closely behind. We stopped to see street art and take short cuts through new neighbourhoods. I had realised that I walked down the same roads every single day- I knew my neighbourhood very well but I'd inadvertently created a bubble of safety and normality for myself. It was nice to be a tourist in my own city- to have the freedom to ride around, carefree, simply chatting and enjoy each others company. That day was special because I was able to take my time- no pressure,no rush and really get into the Fallas spirit.
I've been cultivating a love for elephants for as long as I can remember. I think that they are such wise animals that carry themselves with such importance- they know that they're the sh*t. I have an extensive collection of elephant ornaments- each one special in their own individual way, they all have a name. But I simply lose control of my emotions whenever I see an elephant on TV or in real life. My friend Cornelia came to visit me in Valencia in June and we decided to visit the BioPark. I'm not sure what my stance is on zoos- I feel like we need more conservation spaces and that emphasis should be on preservation and protection rather than entertainment. The BioPark encapsulates these ideas; they aim to replicate the animals natural habitats, accommodating to their needs, often helping to re-home and rehabilitate animals which have been affected by deforestation or loss of homes. I really enjoyed the day out- it was a Monday or Tuesday during term time- the park was so quiet and we could really get close to some of the animals. It didn't feel like a zoo at all. The day was going well so far, we had time to grab an ice cream, see the leopard and meerkats- then we turned the corner and saw them. Elephants- as large as day. I couldn't believe it. My eyes filled to the brim with tears- an overreaction, maybe. But it's like meeting your idol- but it's even cooler than that. The rest of the day it was like I was walking on clouds, I was happy ; more than that I was elated. I'd seen an elephant close up before but this was such a welcomed surprise that I think I kept on smiling for the rest of the day.
My reaction to seeing the elephants.
So these were my top four moments that I hold close to me in Valencia. Of course I experienced flashes of happiness at other times too- for example when I had friends come to visit or when I was I travelling I often had moments which felt like out of body experiences- it was like I would step outside of myself and almost be looking around at my life. I have such immense gratitude for all of my experiences in Valencia and the people that I met. I couldn't have had a better year abroad experience and whilst that chapter has now closed; I'm looking forward to experiencing something new again and I look forward to what the universe has in store for me!