España, te echo de menos.

I have been experiencing a phenomenon lately: missing Spain. While I was there, I kept a calendar that I drew out by hand of the last few months on my wall and I would triumphantly scribble out each day with a thick black crayon before going to bed. I longed for home, and the deep, terrible ache that is longing was ever-present—often overshadowing otherwise exciting and precious experiences. I valued my friends, I savored café con leche and nepolitanas, I was so thankful and excited to learn to live and speak and even sometimes think in Spanish—but through it all my heart was heavy with homesickness and as I walked through the blocks surrounding my piso apartment, lined with century old buildings, a grand Cathedral, and picturesque parks, I felt that there was something in me that couldn’t connect to these things. I carried my camera around uninspired, hungry for the rusted barns of South Carolina.
Now, a little over a year later, and unexpected tinge has popped up in my heart. Little things ignite memories of Spain, and I realize that the feeling I have towards the place and the experience now is nothing but sweet. I might mistake the feeling for a sentiment of “what could have been” or “ an opportunity wasted,” but I know that my time there was what it was, and nothing can or should change it. I don’t feel guilty for longing away so many days. I was longing for the man I love and for a deeper connection to a community, and those are not bad things to long for. But I am glad that now, in retrospect I can treasure and be thankful for my experience. I would love to return, this time with Keith there to experience it with me, but until then,

Here are some of my memories about Spain:

Its hard to choose one, but I’ll say today that the café I remember most fondly was the one right down the street from my piso, with the menu written on a poster of Marge Simpson. It was a little hole in the wall, therefore mostly void of guiris (foreigners), where the man at the bar always knew what I wanted before I ordered it: café con leche—for .75 euros. They also had the smallest cups, strongest café, and the biggest sugar packets, making for the most delicious ratio. Oh yeah, and animal planet was always on the tv.

Trivial. Every Tuesday night, for just about the entirety of my nine months in Spain, I went to a crowded Irish Pub called the Holy Cross (“El ‘oly”) and joined some of my very dearest friends, Juanjo, Angel, and Antonio, and usually many others, for trivia. The game was in English and in Spanish, designed for cross cultural collaboration, and pronounced by a girl from the Czech Republic. Which already made it hilarious. It was a tournament that lasted all year, vying for two plane tickets to Prague, London, or Paris. Our team name was “Super Duper-de-doo Gorgeous” and I must admit, we were good.

Living in a truly international context. I had class with really enjoyable students from Brazil, Greece, Iceland, Germany, Korea, Japan, Belgium, Norway, Sweeden, Italy, and Africa. Some of my closest friends were from Italy, Mexico, Argentina, the Ukraine, and England. People came to En Vivo (our campus ministry) from all over the world. And the craziest thing was that the language that united us was not English, but Spanish. We were all on a level playing field, and I was a foreigner too.

Walking, walking EVERYWHERE on cold, stone streets—arms linked with whoever I was walking with. Wearing scarves, and trying all kinds of new fashion, primarily from H&M. Those rare nights when I actually had fun going out to dance clubs till the wee hours of the morning. Riding in Angel’s car to explore his small village just outside of Salamanca. Staying up in the En Vivo house “trying to think of something to do” for hours. Long conversations with Guiomar. Learning a new Spanish pop-song every week to sing at En Vivo. Making videos. Pinchos (Salamancan for tapas). Getting away and taking a walk or a run by the river. The Puente Romano at Dusk. The little old women and men who would walk around town, dressed to the nines, every evening around 6:30. Bejar, Antonio’s wonderfully welcoming and beautiful village and his mom. Moose Moose and Signs. Learning how to cook pichos and tortilla. The plaza mayor. Squeezing arounds tables at Shwarma Queen, a favorite Kebab place. Fresh bread every day. Going to tomar un café with whoever was around. So much more. But that’s all for now.


Guio said...

OHHHHH Elaine , We miss you too!!!. Did you remember the time when you came to my home and we smoked morocco's pipe and my sister didn't how to do it.And then we went to walk around my village ,on the road dreaming and speaking about the future and Runningg very fast cause cows jajajajaj. This time make feel nostalgy and smile :)

Love you ,

Anonymous said...

I have no clue who you are but I miss Spain so much too! I wanna go back.

Planar said...

I read your comments and identified with everything you said. I was an American student in 1960’s Spain and, now at 59, often remember my years there. Happiness because those were the most tranquil and happy times of my life, sad because the Spain I knew and enjoyed is long gone now.

I remember the narrow cobble stone streets of central Madrid, and the noise the heel of my boots made on the stones as I walked home late at night. I remember my “sereno” named Pedro, whose nightstick hitting on the wall of the buildings signaled he had heard my call and was coming to unlock my “portal” door on Carrera de San Geronimo Street. (Spain does not have Serenos anymore).

I remember my economical but diminutive Seat 600 who served me well, during all the years I lived there, and not once failed to start each and every morning, even after a freezing snowfall (I sold it five years later for the same amount I paid for it).

Most importantly, I remember the inner peace I felt of being able to walk the streets of Madrid, at any given time, without the slightest worry to my safety, and the polite salute Police Officers gave us foreigners whenever we stopped them asking for directions.

I feel happy for you, since you are still able to hop on a plane and re-visit the Spain you knew. On the other hand, I feel saddened by the realization “my Spain” is gone permanently, and all left are twisted stories of what it used to be, hateful stories told by people who were not there or with anti-Franco sentiments.

Thank you for such a beautiful forum that allowed me to recall a happy time of my life.


Anonymous said...

I used to live in Salamanca summer of '06.. what an amazing time..your blog brought back some memories! so great

Anonymous said...

Ohhh! I'm so teary eyed right now. Its so nice to hear that there are other people out there that feel equally as passionate to Spain as me. I moved there with my family when I was 14 to a place called Xativa. Me and my sister were the first (and only) english students at the school. We didnt know a word of Spanish...so learning the language was more like a survival instinct! We picked it up very fast as you can imagine! I remember when I first saw our new house - an old villa on the top of a little mountain over looking a valley full of orange groves. The smell of orange blossom always takes me back to all those sunny days spent picking oranges. It was heaven on earth.

I stayed in Spain as long as I possibly could. But unfortunately studying was always my destiny. I'm now living in Cardiff in Wales, in the cold and the wet, and where the nearest thing to a great night out in Spain is the local tapas bar round the corner which is run by a Libanese couple! I've left my gorgeous Spanish boyfriend in Valencia, and spend most of my days daydreaming about the wonderfull places I have lived, and how my children will be lucky enough to spend their whole lives growing up in such a wonderfull country. I miss it so much.

My orange blossom sented shower gel is what keeps me going! hehe.

Elli x