Well, sitting here in the airport it seems I successfully put this off as long as I could, but with good reason. For the past two weeks, if I have been at home, I have been (sort of) studying, so I really did have my priorities straight.
However, I have now shipped one bag home, checked one, and am carrying two on my way to Venice, Florence, and Rome. While I have been looking forward to this trip for a very long time, I will admit that it has been slightly overshadowed by the big-goodbye. So after this post, I will be turning my full attention to that.
Before doing so, as promised…
Ten things I’m going to miss about Spain:
I know this is terribly stereotypical, but I am definitely going to miss that afternoon nap. I will say that most of the time, I didn’t actually take full advantage of it by going to sleep, but nevertheless it was always a nice time to relax. Although I have discussed some of displeasure with the siesta system from an economic/social point of view, on a personal level I have to admit it is quite nice. Knowing that you don’t have to run anywhere right after lunch, that you can have a coffee, take a stroll, or simply hang around really is a nice sensation. Lunchtime is a mandatory two-hour break whether you like it or not, so you might as well enjoy it…and that’s what the Spanish are doing: enjoying life and enjoying a little siesta.
2. Beer for Breakfast, Wine for lunch, Coffee for dessert
I’m sure we all knew this one was coming: the drinks. The seemingly never-ending pouring of the drinks. What pleases me most is that in most places, a beer, a wine, a coffee, and a coke are all roughly the same price. That’s because they are all treated roughly the same way. It’s not unusual to see someone drinking a beer at 10am on any given day because they aren’t drinking it to get drunk: they simply want a beer. It also isn’t strange to see someone drinking a coffee at any given point during the day, even if surrounded by other beer drinkers. Same idea: they just want a coffee more than a beer…it’s a beautiful concept. As someone who has taken on the personal responsibility of fighting America’s drinking laws and culture, I’m going to miss this. Didn’t Ben Franklin tell us that “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”…? Well, if so, the Spanish are much, much happier than we are.
3. Food with your Drink
I’m sure we also all knew that this was coming, seeing as how I wrote an entire post about it. Probably one of my favorite aspects of Spanish culture, and I will go so far as to say one of the most civilized acts in the world: a complementary tapa with your drink. It just really makes sense. Everyone is happy. Everyone is buzzed, and full, and chit chatting over food and drink. What more could you want as a proprietor or a customer?? You have one or two, and hop on down the street to the next bar full of people doing the same thing and grab a spot to join in on the fun. Abi and I recently noted that we rarely went back to the same place more than once, simply because there are just so many. It’s something I miss when I go anywhere else in Europe, so I might have to start looking into this business model.
4. The Spanish Language
Now, I know in my previous list I said that I was seriously looking forward to the English language again, but I’m shamelessly contradicting myself here because I am also really going to miss Spanish. It’s just plain old fun to be able to speak another language, and I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to spend five months practicing. I’m going to miss the added challenge of communicating, the progress we all made, and the funny stories from when we failed miserably. I’m also not sure what’s going to happen when I can fully understand every conversation happening around me. Sometimes it’s nice to not have to listen to everyone else. It’s a wonderful problem to have, but I’m definitely predicting a few days of Spanish-movie-and-music binges.
5. The Sierra Nevada backdrop
A part of me has always wanted to go be a ski-bum somewhere for a year, and I got to fulfill just a little part of that desire this semester (or just made it worse?). For the first time in my life, I actually lived somewhere where the mountains were the backdrop…and what a good one. I remember the first day we drove into Granada, and knowing we were close when all of a sudden one of the largest mountain ranges in Spain popped up. It was still a tell-tale sign every time I came home from a trip, and one of the last things I saw as I drove out of the city center today. As one of my good friends Taylor pointed out, the snow melting on the mountains was just like our time there: fading quickly. Impressive and beautiful, I couldn’t have asked for a better setting for this semester that quickly became more than just a setting.
6. Spanish Friendliness
The Spanish are a funny group of people, and the social interactions are simply fascinating to be a part of. However, one of the most beautiful aspects of their culture is the interest that they take in other people. Everyone they meet on the street matters to them, and they like to show it. In cafés, stores, even the gym, people are genuinely interested to hear all about me. They’ll ask me what I’m studying here in Spain, back home in the U.S., how they compare; they’ll ask me about my family, politics, whatever. They really are conversationalists, and part of every interaction is getting to know a little bit more about the person next to them. It’s warm and genuine in a way that’s rare to find in America, but never fear…I’m bringing it with me.
7. The Flamenco Spirit
Although originally a gyspy art, you won’t find an Andalusian who can’t at least fake their way through some flamenco. It’s as natural to them as anything, and when music comes on, everyone’s clapping and stomping and it’s one of the most fantastic spectacles you can ever see (and flamenco performances are always called espectacúlos). From the heart pulsing, ear pounding intensity of the professional performances to the softer romance of the performers on the street, flamenco truly has its own spirit. It’s fiery and passionate and tragic all at the same time, and it’s hard to imagine a more fitting art form to come from Spain. I couldn’t let my parents leave Spain without having seen it, and they understood why. I would recommend it to be added to any bucket list out there, because I promise you’ll leave with a feeling that is unique to being here in Spain. It’s a spirit that flows through every Andalucian, and now through me as well.
8. The Fiesta
Again, another contradiction. I am SO looking forward to happy hours, cocktail parties, and the like, but again, the Spanish have created something truly unique in their nightlife. They are very famous for it, but there is nothing quite like experiencing it. The first time you return home before 4am and your host family thinks you’re a loser it really starts to sink in. The first time you realize it’s 6am and you’re still dancing and not really ready to leave, the fiesta spirit starts to make a little bit of sense. The Spanish just love the nighttime. They love the late nights and dancing until dawn. The love the easy pattern of tapas, bar, club but simply shifted about 4 hours from what we would normally find (mornings after as well). It’s not about being drunk, it’s not even really about the dancing, it’s simply about the Fiesta. It’s a cultural difference that runs much deeper than it appears, and it’s a beautiful sentiment when you figure it out.
9. The Alhambra
In Irving Stone’s the Agony and the Ecstasy, Michelangelo repeatedly shares the common Florentine sentiment that one is truly only home “when in sight of the Duomo”. Reading this made sense to me, because it is also how most Granadinos feel about the Alhambra, and I also understand. Perched high on a hill, the “Red City” sits, watching over all of her Granada. No matter where you are, you are rarely out of sight of the Alhambra. At each passing moment, the Alhambra holds a new form of beauty: in the soft morning light, lit from behind the Sierra Nevadas, as the sun sets across the city, pale in the dusk, or shining at night. It is an ever-changing constant, ever beautiful and ever magical. Surrounded by folklore, songs, and legends, the Alhambra has beckoned everyone from kings to peasants, and always sits, waiting. Perhaps one of my favorite quotes goes, “Give the man a coin, woman, for there is nothing worse than to be blind in Granada.” And oh how true this is….
10. My friends
They say that a journey is best measured not in miles, but friends. Well, we sure put on the miles but boy did I also find some great friends. And I don’t mean great as in we had a lot of fun going to clubs, yay!! I mean I happened to find a handful of people in Granada with whom I have shared, celebrated, grieved, laughed, drank, discussed, and above all, loved in a way that I could never have predicted. Every time, I think I have found all of the true, wonderful friends that anyone gets to have, and then something like this happens. I think my heart is as full of love and given to so many people it must be done, and then something like this happens. Sure enough, there are even more people now, and it’s easy to say that it’s because of the study abroad and sharing these experiences bonds you quickly. Yet, when I actually think about it, that’s not really it. A part, yes, but really I loved these people so much because of their spirit, their kindness, their honesty, their loving nature, their thoughtfulness. There were many people with whom I shared many interesting experiences and I don’t think of them in nearly the same way. I got lucky, and found some stellar people. Saying goodbye to them was horrible, but we also already have real plans to see each other and I know it won’t be long. Thanks for the memories, amigos.
So, cheers Spain, it has been a semester to remember….