I was four years old and sporting a seriously unfashionable bowl cut haircut when I learned one of the most important lessons of my life. “How do you eat an elephant?” a wise chocolate-lover asked me, most likely while scooping out a heaping helping of my favorite chocolate ice cream. “One bite at a time,” she taught me to respond. We were the perfect double act at family dinners at neighborhood parties: She was a laugh-til-you-cry joke-teller and I was a chubby (and therefore adorable) toddler. At the time I thought our well-rehearsed back-and-forth was merely a joke, an ice breaker or a crowd pleaser. But as my jet-black bowl cut grew into chestnut brown braid I started to understand that “one bite at a time” said a lot more about life than it did about elephant-eating.
Two decades later and I’ve embarked on one of the biggest adventures of my life: I hopped the pond, left my 9 to 5 (or 6 or 7 or 8) behind and took an English teaching job in Spain. My love affair with España has been blossoming for three years, ever since I first set eyes on steaming hot pan y chocolate calling my name from the window of a Sevillan horno during my study abroad. Spain is a country where people work to live instead of living to work, where tomatoes are filled a myriad of flavors and bright red is an acceptable house color. It’s a place where la leche is the coolest it gets and bedtime has more to do with sunrise than sunset. In my relentless pursuit of happiness, Spain is stop number one.
I have one year of Spanish living under my belt, 115km of Galician soil under my boots and untold numbers of delectable tapas in my stomach. This year I’m trading the granjas of Galicia for the madness of Madrid. And for the next nine months I’m taking it all in – the fresher-than-fresh food, the descriptively active language, the family-and-fun-centered set of priorities… one bite at a time.