If I could, I would tell you that my fingers were miserably broken and that I couldn’t type. If I could, I would tell you that a black hole opened up in the center of the Earth and swallowed my laptop whole (I just barely managed to get away!). If I could, I would tell you that I had temporary amnesia and forgot how to write or that I had a severe case of writer’s block. Instead, I’m going to be the honest Abe that I am and tell the truth: I’ve been living my life in Spain and simultaneously neglecting my blog. I was a writing-machine for a few months! How could I be so careless? Well the cycle ends now; it’s blog time.
Since the last time I wrote, I’ve been to Avila (a little town about an hour northwest of Madrid) and Sevilla (a city in Andalucia in the South of Spain). As my days here get more and more limited, the more and more we are trying to fit in. Avila was a spur-of-the-moment kind of trip with the girls. UEM students had a two-day break in the middle of the week, one day for Labor Day and another day in celebration of the community of Madrid; hey, I will take what I can get. When you’re traveling to so many cities, after a while, things start to blend together and much of what you see feels familiar. When you see something different, it helps you better remember the city. There’s usually one or two things you can pin-point that are highlights and those things are the poster child for your trip. Thusly, each trip can be associated with one or two words.
Word association for Avila: Wall, World Maps. We hopped on a metro and a bus to get to Avila and spent the day walking around, exploring. Unfortunately, many of the restaurants and shops were closed because of the holidays, so we went to one of the few restaurants that were open to grab bocadillos and coffee that we drank from mugs that had maps from throughout the world. Maybe it was the delicious flavor of the coffee or the ambiance of the cafe, but I remember those world maps. I was Brazil. Now if only I spoke Portuguese! As we sat sipping and chewing, we saw a parade out the window with people donning giant costume heads of famous Spaniards while people surrounded them, watching the show. It was definitely one of the more interesting sites to see. From there, we roamed, taking in the sites of the cathedrals and buildings. Avila does boast an ancient wall, called La Muralla that we got to climb. It encompassed the entire city, and from the top, you could see the city skyline. Walking on top of the wall made me feel like part of the city and it was an adornment that was very unique.
Word association for Sevilla: Waffle, Italy. Strange, I know but let me explain. Less than a five-minute walk from our hostal in Sevilla was the Metropol Parasol, the world’s largest wooden structure. Essentially, it is a giant canvas that looks like a waffle. I could have slabbed some butter and syrup on it and had the biggest breakfast ever. Out of everything I have seen in Spain, this structure was definitely the most modern and it was just completed in 2011. It gave a very contemporary vibe to the city and contrasted dramatically with my established notion of what Spain is like, as did my association with Italy. During the free-walking tour we took on Sunday morning, we came across La Plaza España, which suited perfectly what I picture Italy to look like: high arch-ways, pointed buildings, fountains, and two mini-rivers with boats going up and down them. The architecture was stunning with artwork mixed into the walls and bridges and scenes painted on bench-areas where people could sit. We also learned that part of Star Wars: Episode II was filmed in that exact plaza. It’s crazy to think that we were walking in the same spot where they shot a major motion picture. As for the rest of our Sevilla trip, it was perfect. We saw La Giralda, or a high tower with bells on the top and the Catedral de Sevilla, where Christopher Columbus was buried. The weather held out, our hostalwas colorful and breakfast was included, and we even got to see another flamenco show that far exceeded the first one I saw. Sevilla is apparently the heart of the flamenco world, and the dancers have more passion than I’ve ever seen before in my life. It was written in their every move and every expression. You could see the sweat dripping off of their faces. It was also nice to talk to some of the other people who attended the show; two of them were from Canada and backpacking through Spain for three weeks. Another guy we met on our walking tour was in the military for ten years and had just started going back to school. Everyone has a story.
As for Madrid, itself, I’m still trying to complete my “Madrid Bucket List,” where I wrote down everything I want to do before I go back to the States. I knocked off the bullfight, where we saw six bulls get killed by matadors on horseback. It was sad to see the bulls die, but you have to take it as an art form, because that’s exactly what it is. It is an integral part of the culture. I also managed to knock off going to a “football” game and saw the last one of the season! Real Madrid. v. Mallorca. Afterward, there was a huge celebrations to commemorate Real Madrid winning the division. They covered the entire field and set up a stage and had the whole stadium shouting “Campeones!” It was exciting to be part of.
It’s so hard to believe that I have 23 days left in this country. It feels like just yesterday, I was arriving here, without any notion of how things work or how to get myself to my house from the bus station. Now, a little over four months later, I am seasoned and a bit wiser. I’m not fluent in Spanish yet, but I’ve come so far that I surprise myself sometimes. I love being in public now and hearing the chatter around me and knowing that I can understand about 80 percent of what is being said. I love daily meals with my host mom and host sister and not having to cook or clean for myself. At this point, I am torn. I’m ready to go see my family and loved ones again because I miss them. At the same time things have changed at home that I’ve heard about but have not really had to deal with. I feel distant (not just physically) and separated from these changes and I know that going back with probably be a slap in the face. Then, there is the issue of this fantasy life coming to an end. I feel like I’ve been on a semester-long vacation with a few classes thrown into the mix. In these few months, I’ve grown and seen, I just feel like there’s more to see and grow with. Hopefully, that’s the spirit that will stick with my well into later life and hopefully I will continue to do crazy things like this that allow me to see the world.
This weekend is my last out-of-country trip, and I’m pleased to say that I have high hopes for it. I’m Paris-bound and thanks to my amazing aunt and uncle, I will be taking a river-boat cruise fully equipped with fine cuisine. I feel so blessed to have the people I do in my life and don’t know what I did to deserve the kindness that people have been showing me. Every package I receive, every message I get, and every time I hear that someone reads my blog, it reminds me that I have people back home who love and care about me, and to me that is such an invaluable feeling when you’re all the way around the world. It reminds me that no matter where I go and or what I do, I always have someone out there who cares about me. I do wish that I could stay in this country longer but in the end, half of my heart is in New York.