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Thursday, February 19th "1 year - a late night retrospective on still being in Sevilla and the old slogan 'No matter where you go there you are...'"

I made it for one year! Sometimes it seems like I've been in Sevilla for 5 months while other times it seems to be 3 years. In looking back: I've been pretty lucky, spent a good chunk of my savings, lived in two apartments, developed a good social and work network and have made myself more at home. Staying in the same neighborhood has given me some peace of mind and people actually recognize me around here now as more of a permanent guiri. Professionally things are going much better with several contract jobs and possibly more on the horizon. I've wasted more than a few days on dead-end opportunities, been in the newspaper twice and interviewed on radio once. I've met a lot of people through this site - some I keep in touch with in the virtual world while others I've had the pleasure of meeting in the real world. I've learned more than I ever thought I would about running my own website and realize there's still much more to go. And of course my Spanish has improved a lot, but I still have a ways to go.

No matter where you go there you are...
I know the cliche and there's some real value to this if you decide you need a change in life. Changing your surroundings is always a good first step - and changing countries will put you even further out of your element and the world you were once in. People say you can't run away from everything, and I say they are wrong. You can run away from a lot of things and many times it's the best solution. I didn't really make this leap to run away but rather to make a change in my life. So maybe some of you reading this are thinking about doing the same - to Sevilla or some place completely different. So let's just say you do leave....

You leave and have a plan to start fresh - maybe you want to learn something new or just learn how to relax. Classes and things you always wanted to do pop into your head:"I always wanted to learn photography, write more, direct a play, wood carve, speak Japanese as well as Spanish, study 16th-century metallurgy.." you get the idea. When you first arrive everything is new and you're trying to make you're way through the daily challenges, both big and small. But the world and your life seems very open and just about anything is possible. After a while you develop a small comfort zone and start to investigate those classes or experiences you always longed for. You try a few things - some work and others are a let down or too much to keep up with. You're meeting new people, making social contacts and finding more work. There are friends, new places to go out and events and celebrations which you're enjoying. Finally you get a decent job, or at least something that will keep you going for a while. You change apartments - something a little nicer and perhaps in a new neighborhood, closer to where you want to be. You have created your familiar haunts: a bar for the Friday afternoon drink, the local supermarket, the bakery with best bread, the tapas place just around the corner, and the neighborhood you like to stroll through on Sunday mornings after breakfast at San Buenaventura. You have your routine and maybe the little stuff takes away from those plans you once had. Work starts to take up more time, the every day bills, shopping, social and work obligations become more routine. You have your bank account, medical insurance, cell phone and maybe even internet access. Your Spanish is no longer an issue and communication is no longer such a difficulty. The people start looking less "Spanish" as a group in your mind and more like every one else you know back home. They are individuals,humans and not so different as you once thought. Soon you're walking down the street and not noticing the giant Cathedral or other wonders of the place you decided would be so exotic. You get up early and go to work, buy some groceries on your way home where you email a few friends and then watch a little TV before you go to be. Those ideas for classes and new things take a back seat to the more practical necessities. You get stressed about problems with Telefonica, work or some jerk for a neighbor you always have to deal with. So where are you living? What life are you in now?

Humans like order - we like what we know. We like the routines we make as much as they may seem to box us in at times. We create the world around us - it is a reflection of ourselves both individually and collectively. So I guess the "message" is you can very easily change your physical space: the location and surroundings. What you have to work on is changing the person you are or you may find yourself back where you started even if you're located thousands of miles away from home. I can say I'm happy with what I'm doing and what I've made for a life in Sevilla. Many times I do have to check myself to realize why I came here. Those times are mostly when work or the daily grind gets to me - I feel like I've returned to my past life in the U.S. with deadlines, headaches and all that stuff I wanted to change. But really a lot of that stuff back in the states was just me and the way I chose to deal with those certain situations. I didn't take the time to slow down often enough and if things look the same in Sevilla than I need to step back and look at the situation and myself. Who cares about stopping to smell the roses - I just need to stop and take a breath and check out how I interpret my surroundings every once in a while. I have to relax and appreciate the place, the people, the time and most of all what I can make of myself from this experience. That is, has, and will be the biggest challenge of this move - changing myself, not just where I am.