Reconnecting with an Adopted Hometown in Salamanca, Spain

Teen Summer Langugae Camp Salamanca

My insatiable yearning for adventure, seeing the world, and documenting my experiences through writing, blogs, videos, and photography has brought me to this very moment—on my laptop sipping café con leche overlooking Plaza Mayor—and to the moments that I will continue to have. It is through my commitment to and passion for journalism that I have created a name for myself and sought out the best in countries, its people, and myself.

I’m overcome with nostalgia as I write this blog post, thinking back to the summer of 2013 when I won the scholarship by Greenheart Travel to be their Travel Correspondent during my Teen Summer Language Camp in Salamanca. It was my second official journalism job, behind working for the New Haven Independent (which I’d been doing for a year and a half). I had no idea what was ahead—who I would meet, what I would learn, how my blog posts would turn out—which made the experience all the more thrilling and new. My return to Salamanca for three weeks in March and April feels like a sort of homecoming—to my loving homestay mother and amusing surrogate younger sisters, Alba and Rocío, and to my language school’s and it’s caring and knowledgeable staff.

As I am in the crux of thinking and preparing for the next rung of my personal and academic ladder, I am reminded of the words of Pam Muñoz Ryan in Esperanza Rising: “‘We are like the phoenix,’ said Abuelita. ‘Rising again, with a new life ahead of us.’” In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a colorful and animated bird that is continuously recreated or reborn in some form or another. Beyond solely experiencing the new—cultures, food, people, and civilizations—it’s equally enjoyable, and rewarding, and rejuvenating to come back to an old place. As a high school senior in the crux of growth, maturity, and change, it’s refreshing and calming to have another place to call home, where I know I will be welcomed with opened arms (and many red lines on Spanish homework assignments).

I have taken to rereading Esperanza Rising for the academic curriculum that I am creating for the Girls Boxing Club, a non-profit I started with grant funding from AnnPower Vital Voices. In May, when I return to New Haven, I will be launching the Girls Boxing Club to teach young girls the skills of boxing and fitness, healthy eating and lifestyle, critical reading and writing skills, and empowerment. As a ten year old, I vividly remember reading Esperanza Rising for the first time, and being inspired by the messages imparted by its Latina author, Pam Muñoz Ryan, to her readers. Through Esperanza, the protagonist of her coming-of-age tale, she shares countless, timeless lessons of life—that you can face and overcome obstacles; that you can be strong for yourself and for others; and that you can dream and work toward creating a boundless, productive and fulfilling future for yourself. My hope is that through reading this book with the girls, they too can feel the inspiration and empowerment that I attribute much of my continuous success to today.

“Our land is alive…this whole valley breathes and lives…that you can feel it’s heart beating.” I strive to hear the very heart beat of every land, but moreover, to hear my own heart beat in it, whether out of excitement, exhilaration, fear, happiness, or all of the above. This is the reason I seek opportunities to travel and experience all that the world has to offer me, and in reciprocation, give what I have to offer it.

In my coming back to Salamanca, there has been a certain amount of freedom associated with remembering the streets and my way around, having been to the language institute and knowing many of the teachers, having an understanding of the culture, and being able to explore even beyond my initial trip. During the day, my hours are filled with studying Feminist Literature of Latina women, taking classes in grammar, writing, reading, and speaking Spanish. I am a member of the gym, where I take Latin dance classes and gain strength and endurance for upon my return to New Haven as a coach of the Girls Boxing Club. Every day, there is an activity at the language school, which is both educational and social. My days are filled to capacity, and yet, I feel remarkably free to study, learn, and interact with others in this magnificent university town. I feel fortunate to have this school and Salamanca, and to know that I can always come back, just like a phoenix.

“I am poetry,
surrounding the dreamer,
Ever present,
I capture the spirit,
the reluctant pen,
and become
the breath
on the writer’s only road.”
― Pam Muñoz Ryan, The Dreamer

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