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.