In a sense, for me and I guess most of us, 2020 is the longest year I ever got the chance to live. It has traits of an epic novel, tragedy, comedy, despair, love, and deep loss. In this year, I changed countries, earn a new nationality, lost two very beloved people, one to suicide and one to corona, passed my exams, changed careers, met beautiful souls from all around the world, left teachers, found new ones, left friends and loved ones behind, moved apartments, switch cities, landscapes, and learnt so much on the way to this present moment.

A little about me, I am Argentinian, lawyer, and divorce and trauma recovery coach. I have helped a lot of people dealing with heartbreak and lost and had to deal with my own separation living in Belgrade around two years ago. I chose Serbia to be my home because it seemed like the right place for my son, and because I fell in love with the people and culture. I found very dear friends almost instantly that very kindly helped me cope with my own heartbreak. I also always thought that living in a city that has been destroyed and rebuilt around 40 times, would give me some hope, perspective, and resilience for my own problems.

I remember at the beginning of this year, being in Belgrade and looking forward to my future trips, to Spain, the US, and why not maybe the chance to go to Egypt to meet one of my best friends there in the summer, or finally going to The Netherlands to see the tulips in spring. After all, it was a whole new calendar, full of possibilities. I always feel this rush of energy and hope when I start my brand-new agenda or open my calendars, the possibility to be a brand new me.

It was in Madrid celebrating with a friend between glasses of Albarino and delicious octopus and tortilla de patatas, and very happy after finally being able to see El Guernica at the Reina Sofia Museum, that I started wondering how hard might be to emigrate to Spain. I just felt happy, surrounded by my language and my culture, and I had this little voice that encouraged me to try. And so, I did, I went back to the hotel and dug into YouTube, my solution bible. To my surprise, it wasn’t that difficult to apply and become a resident, or at least I thought it was doable with some help and time. I truly felt like a brand-new window of possibilities just opened into my life. This yes came to my body; this is your next step.

I do love Serbia and will be eternally grateful for the time that I spent there, the things that I learnt, and most of all for the lovely people I met, but ultimately, there is no chance in hell that I can ever learn Cyrillic and even when I really gave it a try with my Serbian lessons and eventually got to a point of understanding what people were talking about, I just cannot have enough fluency for a decent deep conversation with someone. This lack of proper communication in the end always makes you feel a little bit lonely and not being part of the tribe.

So, I was a woman with a simple plan, travel back to Spain in February, visit Almeria, where I have friends and see if I like the place, find a school, a place to live, and look forward to moving around June or July. Yeah, simple, but there was this little virus that was not included in my equation.

When Corona hit Serbia, we decided to move to Fruska Gora with my son, and his grandma. Since schools were closed, we couldn’t leave our apartment and to be honest, had no idea what was going to happen with the world, so it seemed like the best place for the three of us. I remembered packing overnight and leaving early in the morning like fugitives in a deserted city.

Fruska Gora was a great choice, we got to see the spring and the glorious subtle changes that allow flowers to become fruits. The people that we met there were all so warm, generous, and lovely. I remember particularly one of them. An older man who was building his house with his own hands would give us the biggest smile every day while we walked by and he gave candy to my son who of course was delighted. It was simply going to walk in the woods, collecting flowers, reading, and caring for one another.

And so, I just hit pause on all kind of plans for a while, I was living in this big unknown, so it was hard to plan for any kind of future. But at some point, life itself pushed you to leave your cocoon and keep moving forward. I guess that is part of life too.

I traveled to the US in July on an empty Lufthansa plane to become an American citizen. Before my life in Belgrade, I used to live in Missoula Montana, one of the best last places in the world, with crisp clean rivers, beautiful lakes, and deer visiting your garden every day, not to mention some bears and other wild friends.

I remember being quite nervous coming to the immigration office and this nice chubby and friendly office asking me if I had any kind of guns, pistols, shotguns, artillery, knives, bombs, or maybe some bows and arrows before allowing me in. I gave my oath of allegiance to the United States, all alone in a small office, no singing the anthem, no cheering, no applause. The lady who took my oath just told me before saying goodbye, ‘Ok, now you can register to vote. PLEASE VOTE! YOU HAVE TO VOTE!!’.

My stay in Montana was quite short but still managed to see many dear friends, ate wild Salmon, and got a chance to see those amazing mountains and those big skies at sunset once more, that landscape truly feels like staring into the heart of God. Traveling during the pandemic was such a bizarre experience, where the logic sometimes is not really present, but that is another story.

So now that I was American, I felt ready to move to another country, we applied for the Spanish residency after dealing with quite a bit of paperwork and finally got it in Mid September. I left Belgrade in early October on a perfect sunny day, said goodbye to my friends with a lot of hugs and tears, drank Rakia, and ate burek as my last meal there. Leaving Belgrade was very hard for me, I have a deep love for this beautiful city, I know being Argentinian we should not have much in common but strangely enough, we have a great connection I guess we both know about loss, love, and desperation. But we also know about this desperate need of the heart for hope, and to just keep moving forward.

And now here I am, writing this in New Almeria, in my new apartment, and my new life as a Spanish resident. I live by the sea now, surrounded by sierras. My son is very happy here. It took a couple of weeks for my soul to adapt to this new environment and I am slowly getting there. Can’t say this is my final destination but I guess no one can. Life has a way of always surprising you, lifting you up, and throwing you to the deepest abyss of sorrow without prior notice. But just as Belgrade taught me, we have to rise from the ashes, from the heart pain, the deaths, and the destruction, and keep reinventing ourselves with the things, resources, and people that we still are lucky enough to have in our lives.

When the end of this year comes, I will raise my glass high into the sky, and make a toast to my deaths and my living dear ones, because they all live in me. I am who I am because I was lucky enough to enjoy their company for the time that the faiths allowed me to. Lost is part of living, and grief is the price we pay for loving someone so much. Ultimately my 2020 is a very long and hard lesson on resilience, perseverance and among all things, the importance of cultivating love for all, because as cheesy as it sounds it is the only thing that counts.


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