After almost four serendipitous weeks of travel, I returned to Barcelona on 2 November. Though I was happy to be back in the warmer Mediterranean weather, I was still heartbroken about leaving Germany.
Berlin was the first place I made my own home out of. Though I didn’t spend as much time there as I would have liked (because I was so busy skating and travelling around the rest of the country), I enjoyed skating iconic Berlin spots such as Dog Shit to just skating street around the city.
When I returned to Germany from the UK, it was brought to my attention that my 90 days in Europe were running out. In flight to Barcelona, I realized I needed to make a decision: do I stay in Europe or do I move on to South Africa?
On November 3rd, I submitted a formal request to extend my stay in Spain to the Spanish government. The following day – the last day of my visa – I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to go to Madrid because I’d accidentally left my Barcelona house keys at Marissa’s and my spirit was telling me that it was time to return there, if only for a few days. Because the BlaBlaCar pickup location was nearby, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful, fresh sunny day to explore my neighbourhood. On my way from Hospitalet to Sants Estació, I ended up at this Industrial Park near Sants, which boasts beautiful sculptures and smooth bike paths. I paused at the top of a staircase; it felt like someone was watching me, or perhaps my body needed me to stop for a sip of water. Moments later, I turn around and see a blonde girl with a skateboard – !!! Lauri! A friend from Germany that’d I’d met in Kassel during my first weeks in Germany! Beaming, we basked in the serendipity of our encounter as she shared stories about her experiences travelling alone for the first time at just 17 years old.
Our reunion was brief, but I am grateful to have seen her at all. It is tempting to want to stop for every distraction, friend, opportunity. There are times when I am so overwhelmed by how full of possibility my days are that I start weeping and cannot leave my house. In Barcelona, I’ve spent most of my time at the iconic spots: MACBA, Mar Bella, etc. Every day, I meet bright people with compelling stories, and I find myself feeling attached to the possibility of remaining in each other’s lives for more than just one night. I must remind myself that most places and people will be there when I get back from Madrid, and that it is okay to move forward.
My hopes to spend the week in Madrid were cut short by an email I received from the Foreigner’s Office in Spain requesting that I come in to present my visa extension request in person on Tuesday 7 November at noon. Suddenly I had less than 24 hours to spend in Madrid; my miscommunication with Marissa meant that I spent the bulk of those 24 hours out in the streets skating, sightseeing, and killing time until she returned home from a weekend away at a friend’s. In retrospect, I feel foolish for having misunderstood Schengen zone rules, which stipulate that non-European citizens of certain countries could travel to Europe visa-free for 90 days within a 180-day period. Despite having read up on the matter online and on government websites, I mistakenly assumed that my 90 days would reset in each country. The November 5th date was looming in the back of my mind, but I tried to remain as present as possible in my life.
I wanted to extend my time in Spain for two reasons: to continue working on my Watson project and to participate in an artist residency at MATERIC, a cultural and arts center housing me in Barcelona. MATERIC agreed to help me on my Watson project by providing me with space and housing to establish a base and connect with skaters around socially conscious/engaged art. Here, I have been working on writing, poetry, dance, and painting. Some friends and I are planning an art exhibition and festival centered on the theme of dreaming the world forward. I believe in my Watson project and feel I can do a lot of growing in Barcelona, but this legal limbo meant that I could not attach myself to any outcome, for there was a big possibility that I would have to completely give up on my life in Spain and leave Europe so as to not risk facing legal boundaries to visiting Europe in the future. If my request were denied, I would have 72 hours to leave the Schengen Zone. This means I will have to go to South Africa, my next destination after Spain, sooner than I would like to. I do not feel prepared for South Africa, but do realize that there are lots of opportunities ahead of me.
At first, this legal limbo produced a lot of stress and anxiety in me; I found it difficult to enjoy the present knowing that my days were possibly numbered. However, conversations with close friends from home and abroad made me reminded me that there is no cup; there is only water. By this, I mean that it’s not as simple as “one door closes and another opens.” There are no windows, no doors, not even the house. There is only the open heart, the open door. During my Watson year, I have come to realize that there are no closed doors or truly “missed” opportunities; you must take ownership over your own life, own your thoughts, time, actions. You can only be where you are, present here and now. You will not lose; you will either win or learn. Either way, you will grow. Open yourself up to all possibilities while working to realize the universe you want to live in. This requires believing in yourself, your passion, and your vision; trust in yourself in the universe’s hopes for you.
The decision is mine – I have already made it.