Did You Fall in Love, Erasmus?

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I always knew I was going to Spain with Erasmus, even before going to Uni…  So, did you fall in love, Erasmus?

by Lilis Riso

Why? I had always been passionate about Romance languages, how they sound just gets something going in me. My first contacts with the Spanish language, were probably these stupid soap operas all grannies use to watch and I used to, too. After all, the first Spanish phrases I learnt were callate maldita bruja – shut up you damned witch or no te preocupes por el dinero tia don’t worry about the money, auntie.

Secondly, Spanish temperament is so damn sexy. Think about Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem in Vicky, Cristina Barcelona or Luis Tosar in Cell 211 (do watch this movie, if you haven’t yet!) I wanted these kinds of crazy characters in my life, too.

The Food..

Neither can I leave out the Mediterranean kitchen – fresh fruit and veggies all year around and yummy fish and seafood (think about fresh tiger prawns and octopus whenever you feel like having one). Good food is very important for me and you can eat very well in Spain. Oh, and all the delicious red and white wines, with ridiculously low prices.

mejinoones bruchettad


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I had also heard of different traditional festivities, which had caught my interest like San Fermin or La Tomatina (imagine a snow fight, but with tomatoes and hundreds of participants). I only came to learn that they actually celebrate something basically every other week, plus all the religious (Spanish are Catholic) celebrations like Semana Santa (people dressing up like Klu Klux Klan [NO CONNECTION here, duh! not trying to offend anyone] and carry around these super heavy Jesus and Saint Mary statues around the city, accompanied by a orchestra). The traditions (and celebrating them!!!) are a big thing here, whether you are religious or just like to go with the flow. Ah, and I really love Spanish football, too! Another bonus.

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I had to go to Erasmus to Granada!

It was just after a rough summer being in hospital, so I was really looking forward to all the possible experiences life was going to offer me while in Spain … I had to listen to my inner dialogue: only you can decide to be happy and make things happen in your life. The past ten years I was constantly fighting with my demons slightly drifting away from life, until one day I just decided that I had two options: either keep being that miserable wreck of a human-being or START LIVING – break free from this psychological shit, feel something, LIVE. Erasmus was that little push, that I had been waiting for so long, that helped me realize that I am the boss of my life.

Erasmus was all about new friends!

Little did I know back then, that there was SO MUCH to come for me – super amazing people (first of all, the people I lived with, each of them was kind of a spectacle by itself. Our flat owners, Spanish twins Carlos and Rafa plus Emma and Wojtek)

Rafa was an architecture student. Our flat was full of his super talented projects and photographs. His humour was the strangest ever; it made you laugh not because it was funny but because it was so absurd. His description of his mum “my mum is going to come by today, no worries though, she is really quiet and small, like a little hamster”. Also, he cooked really nice dishes like this Cuban rice a la Rafa, which was made of rice, tomato paste, chicken, fried eggs, guacamole, sausages, pasta, nachos, tuna and every other thing he could find from the fridge. And then there was his brother Carlos (the awkward humour – runs in the family). He was medicine student with an exceptional piano skills! In his free time he used to draw naked women, and this he did well, too!

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Then..

There was this English girl, Emma, who tried to make us fat with his cooking skills and delicious brownies and crazy polish architect Wojtek, who was a total mess and a total genius at one time.

One of my best Erasmus friends would have to be Caro for sure, the German girl with whom I got really close. I actually spent my Christmas with her family in Germany (going for beers and get more than tipsy in the morning of 24th, because that’s what Germans do, what?) and would have welcomed the New Year in Istanbul, only if I had realized earlier than checking in in Dusseldorf airport that I hadn’t taken my password with. I liked Caro because she was always straight forward, nothing fake about her, everything she said she meant. And Laura, my Lithuanian chica from Newcastle with whom I could just grab a bottle of wine and good cheese go sit down in a park and chat until next morning. And many others….

The more you experience the more you live…

Of course Erasmus was all about experiences: having deep conversations about life with fugitives from Africa, who were living in the mountains in the city of Granada – caves with nothing but something to cover yourself during the night and big plasma to watch football. Sharing our food with them, and they sharing our weed with us and making us traditional African dirt alike coffee… Our Wednesday night dinners with our flatmates and other Erasmus, with whom we prepared all kinds of different dishes every time, from paella and curry to flammkuchen and Estonian sprat-egg-black bread sandwich, we even had a proper Christmas dinner making ginger-bread, drinking loads of wine and singing Christmas songs…

Parties..

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cheers

Or when we went to visit Verner (another Estonian friend, with whom I actually got close only abroad and thanks to Erasmus!) who was studying in Salamanca, only to end up in a hippy party, wearing our headbands, smoking weed and fighting over the last piece of salchichon. And Madrid, I really love Madrid; I spent there a week before arriving to Granada and went back many times later.

I couch surfed at one Mexican guy’s place, who really put effort in hosting me really well. He took me to all the little corner places, where you wouldn’t know to go to and all to touristic places to, shared all the history he would know and take me to eat some real Mexican food with tequila afterwards. I actually even took part of the Mexican Independence Day party the Mexican embassy threw in Madrid. And for modern art lovers – go to Reina Sofia museum, a really good one.

I was blessed to witness such moments!

Erasmus loves?

You know when you least expect something to happen, it will happen, right? I had no intention at all to fall in love (not that you can plan something like this, but you know what I mean). I just wanted to be a little sponge in the Spanish culture, absorb in every new little detail I could and experience all kinds of stuff I had not been able to before. And I did, but I found so much more than only these experiences I was longing for.

I met my Spanish love by accident. Okay, not so much by accident actually, because our first contact was in Facebook (that’s pretty weird and/or sad that nowadays the love stories actually do start in internet, but I guess this is the modern society we live in). He was in ESN, organizing events for Erasmus people; hence he also contacted me on Facebook.

Anyway, since I had never met the person and there where many other organizers inviting me here and there, I didn’t pay too much attention to him, until one day we coincided in a totally different atmosphere – an authentic outdoor flamenco concert.It was a night time already, beautiful starry sky with Alhambra in the background and Spanish girls dancing so passionately flamenco. I am not a romantic person, but a meticulous one. And if I could choose where I would first meet someone special in my life I can’t complain at all when I think back on this atmosphere.

Couple of weeks later..

After going for coffees (or for an ice-cream or city walks or to crazy-ass parties) practically every day I realized that we were like an actual real couple (if I want to label it that way). Not mentioning that he was staying over like six nights out of the seven nights of the week….Everything happened so quickly, but neither of us worried… we just went with the flow and lived the beauty of all our moments:

Meeting in the middle of the night in order to go to the viewpoint to look over Granada and have ice cream, my first Christmas present, part of the present was a super cute photo collage of our photos and I don’t like these types of presents at all, but this one was super nice and sincere, and you could see the hard work he had put into it, and when he presented me to his sisters (older sisters, he is the youngest and only boy in the family) and their kids and his parents and so on.

Hot Spanish version… of Ben Affleck

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He had those really long eyelashes and brownish greenish kind eyes; his look was always so honest and sincere. I actually was astonished by his personality more than his looks. Obviously he was handsome (sweet, cute, hot Spanish version of Ben Affleck, like many say). I would say I came to love his appearance more and more every day, but fell totally in love since day one with his personality. How simple, yet interesting he was. Enjoying every moment of life, taking chances, without thinking to much. Living every moment to the fullest and being grateful for it. It actually takes me quite an effort to try to describe, WHY I love everything about him – I just do. Even now, when I just look at him I will get this stupid little smirk on my face and I just feel – simply said –HAPPY.

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In the beginning Spanish was too difficult, so he had to speak Spanglish

When we started dating, I did understand some Spanish but couldn’t speak a lot (besides saying Soy Liis, soy de Estonia, me gustan las bananas etc, that typical basic stuff which does not help you at all when you want to maintain a decent conversation). So he was speaking spanglish (always English and Spanish mixed, each day more in Spanish though) and I spoke in English and each day more Spanish, too. With mistakes of course, like when ordering vine una rueda, por favor – one car wheel, please (una rueda – a car wheel, un Rueda – a type of white Spanish vine).

I can’t remember any other funny ones, but I still keep making some. Like the other day, watching the news I asked, porque la papa siempre va en su papamobil? why the potato always has to drive his potatocar? I actually meant the pope (el papa – the pope, la papa – the potato)

In the beginning of January (we met on 7th of October) I was rather fluent in Spanish. Obviously I was not able to have some deep conversations about politics or economics yet, but I did know so much more than basic. I did understand everything. So if you want to learn a language, go find yourself a native boyfriend.

What happened after Erasmus?

We were living our bliss and spent every day together but never got tired of each other (what a cliché). When finally the month July came, all the Erasmus were supposed to leave. We did not even discuss anything about the future and were super calm. What is going to happen; what are we going to do, is this the end of a nice year-long experience ?– I never had these thoughts. There was nothing to be sorted out or discussed. I knew I was in love. I had to act on it. It was a win win situation because I was in love with Spanish culture as well.

To finish my studies, I had to go back to Estonia, Tartu  and he found a way to come with me. When thinking about Estonia, he loves sauna and jumping into the cold river after. Lack of sun was really difficult for him. I remember when one day, after two weeks of really shitty weather sun came out. He put his super warm coat on and just went and sat in the balcony for hours. And he loved having hot wine in the Raekoja plats with minus 15.

He would never change Spanish climate for Estonian one. It is the Estonian winter that he really did like and enjoy.  He did not learn much Estonian, besides minu nimi on, tere, kohuke, kodujuust and kohupiim. I remember when he went to grocery store and got back really anxious and happy showing me his kreveti kodujuust (shrimp cottage cheese) and saying:

Madre mia, look  what I got – a peach yogurt, you know how much I love the taste of peach!”

So imagine the disappointment when I said that it was a shrimp cottage cheese! In general, he really likes Estonian traditional kitchen. Mulgipuder, hapukapsad, verivorst pohlamoosiga, our bakery stuff, all this tasted really good in his opinion.. but obviously nothing beats Spanish jamon, paella and tortilla.

Is there even SpanEstonian?

My mum really likes him, too. They have this weird way of communicating with each other. They both start in English and then suddenly it becomes Estonian and Spanish conversation. Nevertheless, they seem to understand each other well.

It will be three years in a couple of weeks from the first time we met….. I still think he is going to be the father of my little blonde dark-skinned Spanish babies. We are living in Granada at the moment. I am running payroll and doing HR for a multinational telecommunication company in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and South Africa and he is a financial adviser in a German Finance Company.

We live in a nice small flat in the city centre, which is does not have too much personality yet, since we are not there yet with our decorations. And we have a really small TV which is a big issue for ALL Spanish football lovers. We spend little time in our flat, we live in the streets. The flat is a place where to sleep, we always go for tapas or city walks – it never gets tiring. And our weekends we spend either in mountains or in the beach, Granada is a very well located. For example in November you can choose between going snowboarding in the mountains or taking sun on the coast. Each option is 45 min car drive away. (anyone who would like to come by, we have a really comfortable sofa-bed)

All in all it seems that Erasmus gave me language. It gave me weird memories and friends and a boyfriend, who once bought shrimp cottage cheese in Estonia!

Unfortunately it was not a peach yogurt..

by Lilis Riso

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This article was found by the Exchange Your Life Team.