“As my time in Spain draws to a close, I’ve found myself needing to make sense of everything that I’ve experienced. It’s hard to lump everything into one category, as you can’t really just say, “It’s different than Orange City.” This is obviously true; but saying onlythat would be an insult to the whole experience.
I’ve learned the most from my daily interactions with the various people I’ve met here, whether it is my host mother or the guy handing out newspapers in the morning. One man named Larry has had a particularly significant impact on me. Larry is not actually from Spain at all, rather he was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He attended a university there and briefly lived in the UK, where he learned English. He is one of the many African immigrants who have come to Spain during recent years in search of better opportunities (The United States isn’t the only country that has immigration issues). However, unfortunately for him, Spain’s economy isn’t exactly the greatest and unemployment is a significant problem. So the best work he has been able to find is selling Kleenexes on a street corner.
However, this setback has done nothing to hurt his pride. He told me very adamantly that he is not ashamed of what he does for a living. As long as it helps him get the bills paid, he is perfectly fine with a job many people would find to be demeaning. He enjoys life, even when it seems to have cast him down to the bottom of the social ladder. Personally, I do not know if I would be able be quite so optimistic. I don’t know much about the Nigerian educational system, but I imagine that attending college there is something few are able to afford. To go from what was probably the upper class to selling Kleenexes would destroy my spirit. Yet Larry is able to greet me everyday with a smile.
Larry has high expectations for his life, despite his current low social status. He hopes to one day move to Chicago, once his documentation is approved. The first time I talked to him, he mentioned to me that the thing he enjoys most about life is meeting new people and making friends. Those relationships are the most important thing to him. I’m not sure if that’s what keeps him going, but I do know he’s one of the most optimistic people I’ve ever met. There’s definitely a lot I could learn from the guy.