Riding the Wave

Hola amigos,

A lot has happened this week and I have been, once again, humbly brought to my knees and forced to hit the RESET button. Much to my frustration, I somehow managed to get sick for the second time this month. It’s probably a combination of my immune system adjusting to Spanish germs, working at a school with lots of children, the change of weather, and stress, but man I hope my immune system will adapt after this one. I went to the doctor and fortunately he said it was just a cold and recommended some medicine and lots of rest. Being healthy is something I often take for granted. If you have your health, you are way ahead of a lot of people around the world and it is something to celebrate and smile about!

Another fun role that I have at my school is that I am a Global Classrooms Language Assistant (GCLA) with Fullbright Madrid Mentors. Global Classrooms is a Model UN organization for third year high school students in Madrid and is taught in their English and History classes. We talk about global issues such as global warming, women’s rights, etc., and prepare the students for the Global Classrooms Conferences in January and February, where ten of our chosen students will compete against students from over ninety different schools in the Community of Madrid. The purpose of Global Classrooms is to improve students’ English speaking and research skills, get them to collaborate with others, and teach students about timely global issues through the perspectives of various countries across the globe. Students will prepare a formal research paper and opening speech for the chosen topic of this year, which is UNICEF: Juvenile Crime and Violence as an Effect of Socio-Economic Conditions and argue from the perspective of the five countries which they are given-Peru, Sweden, Russia, Egypt, and Iran. I honestly wish I could have done something like this in high school or college because it is such a phenomenal learning experience for everyone involved. I am super excited to help the students with this project because it will be just as enriching for me as it will be for them. 

“Riding the wave” is one of the many spiritual phrases that Joaquin, my college tennis coach used to repeat to us. Riding the wave is about embracing the highs and the lows, the twists and the turns, the curve balls of life. He would tell us this when we would be struggling in a match so that we wouldn’t get too attached to our current circumstances because things are constantly changing and in motion, in tennis and in life. In his book Wherever You Go, There You Are Jon Kabat-Zinn has this great quote “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” This quote is so striking to me because it’s exactly what I’m working towards and is relevant to where I’m at right now. There are many things that I’m struggling with right now, but one of them is being self-conscious about speaking Spanish and not being able to fully connect with native people because of the language barrier. I need to learn to be okay with the unknown, change, looking stupid, and making mistakes. I need to learn to ride the wave-to embrace the highs, the lows, the twists, the turns, the surprises, all of it, and love myself through it all. This is resilience-being able to adapt, adjust, and create in the face of adversity and change. 

I  miss connection. I miss being able to connect with people through my native language. I am really craving community in Móstoles. Working at Juan Gris is my paradise-I love the kids, the professors, teaching, and feeling like I am making a difference in these kids’ lives. But its been difficult for me to make friends with local Spanish people who are my age. I thought that joining the tennis group would be helpful, but that turned out to be a bust. Before practice, I would google questions to ask them in Spanish so that I could get the conversation going but that didn’t bear much fruit. One of the things I’ve heard and witnessed about Spanish social groups is that they’re very protective and skeptical of letting Americans/foreigners into their friend groups. Nevertheless, I will keep trying and hopefully find community outside the tennis courts.

Back home I now realize how much I would take for granted the people around me who spoke the same language. We have so much in common with others, so why do most of us choose to stay silent and mind our own business? I realize that as human beings, we are all connected, despite what language we speak or what country we come from, but man is it so much easier to connect with people when you speak the same language! 

I hope you are well and that you are riding your wave with lots of self-love and compassion! You got this!



P.S. I added a couple pictures of my parent’s visiting earlier this month. We tried churros con chocolate and toured a gorgeous monastery in San Lorenzo. Homesickness is exacerbated when you’re sick. Miss you two! 


One thought on “Riding the Wave

  1. Angela Zuidema

    Hola Manders, I hear you, “riding the waves” in life is a must. It shows good mental health. It means that you have the capacity to persevere and endure life’s challenges. To succumb to self pity or doubt is fruitless. So go on living your life, continue to knock and one day the door will open up. Heck, many doors are open, you are not alone, you can call us anytime, family, and friends we are here for you. Miss you too my love! Lovingly always, Mommy.


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