Deciding to study abroad wasn’t an easy decision. A couple weeks before my departure my dad was in an accident which resulted in 2nd and mostly 3rd degree burns to his arms, hands, stomach, and chest. Every time we thought the recovery process was ready to begin, his body denied and took him a couple steps back. A “simple” 3 hour skin graft surgery turned into –what felt like forever– a 6 hour surgery. How could I leave my dad in such fragile conditions? How could I leave my family? My dad wasn’t able to get up, eat, shower or use the bathroom without assistance. I was ready to unpack my bags, and be the best daughter I can be and care for my dad. To my surprise, my immediate and extended family were against my decision. They assured me that they will be there to help my dad and my family. My cousins wife even gave up her day off to help my dad so my mom can work. I was honestly taken back by the love my family has received. With their blessings, I came to Barcelona to grow as an individual, so I can come back home and be an even better daughter. With that being said, this is for you, dad.

Dear dad,

This week I went to Costa Brava. A very nice man named Joan invited us onto his boat named El Rafaelwhich is 103 years old.

Joan passionately teaching us about the history of the boat, catalan culture and how to blow from a conch shell.

 

A lot of his personality traits reminded me of you. He was such a free spirit and was living life close to his roots. That is something I have always admired about you. Being so far from your home country (Ecuador) never stopped you from carrying your culture to Chicago.

 

 

 

Feeling so free and relaxed as I float through the Mediterranean Sea. I have never felt so in touch with nature. Usually, I will visually admire natures beauty, but this time I was able to feel the still waves, taste the saltiness of the water (which was not-so pleasant) and hear the amazing sounds of nature. I was at peace.

Oh, you are not going to believe this, I jumped off El Rafael and into the sea! I was terrified because of what happened to mom in Florida when she got stung by a jellyfish or when I went to Puerto Rico and there was a shark evacuation. I told myself I was never going to go into open water again. It also didn’t help that Joan jokingly said “there are sharks in there.” I contemplated jumping in but decided to be like Nike and “just do it”. Sometimes the unknown can lead you to emotional connections you never knew existed and sure enough, that was my case.

 

After the incredible boat ride, we explored Costa Brava on foot. We came across a very colorful and communal village that was once the norm of how catalans lived.

It seemed to be a very simple life. One i’m sure you’d enjoy. That window indicates where their living space was and the big doors under was a garage for their boats. The symbol above the door represents what their lifestyle revolved around: community, fishing, and playing cards.

There was two men outside having a casual conversation and allowed us to see inside their home. There was no dining table because everyone ate outside!

The whole community ate outside which allowed for conversation, community building and stronger relationships. This definitely hit home for me because this is something you have always preached in our family: to eat together with no phones and just enjoy each other’s company. I mean that’s why you made a cabin outside, and redesigned the house to have more open space. Everything you’ve done is to promote communication within our family and create a bond that is unbreakable.

 

 

The beauty that is Costa Brava reminded me so much of you. You have always pushed me to step out my comfort zone and dive into the unknown. I appreciate everything you’ve done to make our family stronger, much of which resembles the catalan lifestyle. Being able to recognize environments and other factors that promote a certain mood, movement and diet will aid me in understanding what type of environment will be best in your recovery.

I love and miss you so much,

Stephanny Chaca