CHRISTINE MAKUWA- Our first essay for En boca de mujer was due today, so I have spent the last few days/hours reflecting on the different spaces that women fight to occupy in society and history. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own,” and the necessity for women to have a place where we are free to realize our own desires and exercise our (often contested) right to live our lives as we choose to define them, and not solely in accordance with the expectations of patriarchy. Taken both literally and figuratively, I intensely value having a room of my own, and coming from a very large and spirited family certainly made me cherish my personal space and my alone time.
Before coming abroad, I was undoubtedly worried about the home family component of the Tufts-Skidmore Spain program. I had spent the last two years with the best housing situation I could imagine: a single in Haskell, and then a single in Wren (both newly renovated suite style dorms). While I knew that the home stay would have a powerful impact on my cultural experience in Spain, I did not want to give up any of the independence and comfort I had grown accustomed to at Tufts. But more than that, I didn’t want to feel like a burden in someone’s house. I never expected that I would revel in the hours spent watching Chapuzas Estéticas (“Botched”) with my host mom or feel totally comfortable staying in bed until two in the afternoon alternating between homework and Netflix. But, within less than a week of living with Joanna and Rubén, I had added our cute little apartment up north to my ever-growing list of places to call home. I am so grateful to these two incredible people for all that they have added to my experience in Spain thus far and can only imagine how much more I have to experience with them.
Joanna and Rubén have shared so much of themselves, their home and their Spanish life with me and for that I am eternally grateful. Without Joanna, I never would have found myself at Ara Malikian’s astonishingly energetic violin rock concert listening to his mind-blowing rendition of Led Zepplin’s Kashimir or sitting in awestruck during his own composition “El Vals de Kairo.” (His recordings are available on Spotify and the album “15” is great study music). Without Rubén I wouldn’t have known anything about the Spanish army in Mali or had the unique experience of attending Experimental Spanish Theatre (Shameless plug for my host dad’s current show “Los Secundarios” every Sunday for the rest of October!). They have both been so open and so eager to share their lives and experiences with me and unsurprisingly, that eagerness to share is irrevocably contagious. I am thrilled with the bond we have formed, and I will continue to be surprised at the love and care Joanna and Rubén show for each other and for me. It’s astonishing how well they can read my facial expressions after only a month of living together, and their exceptional accuracy in predicting my food preferences is often quite jarring. But most of all, I love that when Joanna asks me if I am going to “salir esta noche” (go out tonight) she enthusiastically supports my decision whether my answer is “Sííííí” or “jajaja no. Me voy a dormir (I’m going to sleep).” It is incredibly entertaining to notice how my answer influences the quantity of bread and pasta served at the dinner table.
In addition to showing me an entirely different culture, Joanna and Rubén have made me feel at home in their house since the moment I arrived and Joanna told me “queremos que te sientas en tu casa,” we want you to feel at home. So last night sitting in bed at 3am exhausted, and writing about patriarchy, I didn’t just feel at home because I’d spent the bulk of my time at Tufts awake at 3am exhaustedly deconstructing patriarchy. I felt at home because of the two amazing people who gave me the confidence and the freedom to stay out until 5am or stay in bed until 2pm. Joanna and Rubén made me feel comfortable in even the most unsettling situations, like when I looked down at a plate of baby eels (gulas) or rice-blood sausage (morcilla which was surprisingly tasty). Their good-naturedness, warmth and hospitality gave me the space I needed to be my own person. But more than that, they inspired me to stretch the boundaries of that space, and feel at home with them and in their house – our house.