Friday, June 11, 2010

The last one, no pasa nada

We all have those points in our life where we grow up. I remember in 5th grade when I told my mother that I needed to start wearing a bra, despite the fact you couldn’t tell my front from my back.

I remember my first college class and how I thought I was so old, sitting there and taking studious notes.

And I remember getting on the plane to come to Spain thinking, “I’m so grown up. I’m going to Europe by myself!”

But here I am, five hours away from a taxi that will come and pick me up to take me to the airport, bring me to my departure from this place that has been my home for six months.

I am leaving a city that has driven me insane for six months. A city where people looked at me as though I was an outsider (which I was), a city where men whistled and shouted, “GUAPA” (cutie) at me, a city where the rain poured for three months.

And a city that has brought me to tears more times in the past week than I can count.

I love this place, and not despite the aforementioned items, but rather because of them.

I am in love with this city that allowed me to realize how different I am, and grow into my own skin a little more every day. I am in love with this city, where I’ve learned to shout boldly at old men, leaving behind any passivity my parents believe I have. I am in love with this city where the rain pours and people dance in it and throw their umbrellas into trash cans and allow the rain to soak their perfectly primped hair.

It is a city that flies by the seat its pants. A city after my own heart. A city that runs the way I live.

Here, sometimes stores didn’t open after siesta. Sometimes the siesta lasted all day, and some days the store-owners didn’t take siestas. You never knew.

The quote Seville lives on day-to-day is: no pasa nada. Basically meaning, “it’s fine, no big deal, everything is alright.” I swear a meteor could have struck the center of the city and the Sevillans would still be saying, “Hombre, no pasaaa nadaaaaa.”

And I have lived with a woman that is traditionally and authentic old-school Spanish. A woman who spent her days cooking food for me and sharing her “adages” at dinner about how cold water will give me sore throats and exercising will make my veins turn into constricted balls.

She is a woman that at my age had a husband and two children. A woman that learned to drive a car during Franco’s tight reign, a time when women needed permission from their husbands to spend a night away from the house. A woman that dyes her hair a deep shade of purple, just because it complements her purple clothes well.

So yes, this is the point where you may expect that I share my wealth of knowledge about what I’ve learned this semester and everyone has an “ah-hah” moment.

But, if there’s one thing this city has taught me, it’s that you don’t learn in the moment. You live in the moment and life happens to you.

Then you learn.

So ask me six months, six years from now what I learned and maybe by then I can put it into words.

And if by then I still don’t know, perhaps I’m just going the Spanish route: taking my time, walking slowly, soaking in everything.

I’m growing up, I know that, and it’s a marathon that I’m doing at the pace of 100-yard dash. And so in five hours I will get on a plane with swollen eyes and a heart that’s thrashing against my ribs, knowing that I will revisit this place constantly in my memories, and whoever is unfortunate enough to sit next to me will probably offer me a tissue and ask if I’m okay.

And, in the typical Sevillano way, I’ll probably just respond: no pasa nada.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Passport to Paris (and Ireland)

I finished my exams last Monday and on Tuesday I headed to Paris with two friends, Haley and Gayle. In favor of saving money and having fun experiences in Europe (fun meaning, things I hope my children never do, but I find quite exciting at this point in my life) we decided to try couchsurfing.

Couchsurfing is a trend that is starting to take over travel in Europe. There is a networking site, similar to facebook or LinkedIn, where people list where they a.) have a couch they would allow travelers to sleep on for a few nights or b.) are travelers looking for a free couch to sleep on while traveling.

So we made an account and contacted a few people in Paris that had couches. After several "no's" we finally received a response offering us a spot on their couch. Rémy and Michael are cousins living in Paris together, they had couchsurfers before and were very excited to have more Americans so they could work on their English.

It was fine until we got to their apartment and realized that none of us had written down Michael's phone number, so while we were standing in front of their apartment door, we had no way to contact. In an effort to get ahold of Michael I began to scream "MICHELLLLLLE!" in the street, hoping they lived in one of the apartments that had an open window.

"What are you doing, Chantel?" Gayle asked me.

"Michelle is the French translation of Michael," I explained to Gayle. (Yes, I took a French class when I was eight)

False, the translation is Michael. We discovered this after we finally met Rémy and Michael which involved a Spanish missionary group, a random eight-year old girl and several frantic calls through the speaker box. (Long story)

But couchsurfing turned out to be a great experience. They were able to give us recommendations that only true Parisians would know about.

We only had three days in Paris but we tried our best to fit everything in but my three favorite things about Paris were:

1.) Museé de l'Orangerie: It only houses eight paintings, but they are the eight paintings that Monet painted of the waterlillies in his garden. Monet is my favorite painter and the museum made me drool. For me it was far more impressive than the Mona Lisa.

[One of Monet's massive painting of the water lillies]

2.) Angelina's: Angelina's is a little tea shop right outside of the gardens in Paris (the Tuileries). They are famous for their hot chocolate and teas. And myself, being a lover of sweets and relaxation, found it to be my nirvana.

3.) The Eiffel Tower @ Night: The last night in Paris Rémy, Michael, Gayle, Haley and I met up with some of their French friends for some wine under the Eiffel Tower. Surrounding the tower there are several gardens and every night young people gather to wait for the light show on the Eiffel. It was beautiful and a great way to end our trip to Paris.

The next stop on my "Yay-finals-are-over-and-I-have-to-go-back-to-America-soon" trip was Ireland.

We stayed near the Temple Bar area which is notorious for its nightlife. Our first night in Dublin we headed over to Temple Bar and fell in love with a traditional Irish bar/pub that had live music. My heart melted when I heard Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" and I knew I had found my haven for the rest of the night.

Dublin is a fantastic town for young travelers. There are people from all over and all sorts of characters, young and old. (Emphasis on the old characters)

Haley and Gayle continued their Eurotrip to London, but since I had already been there I flew back to Seville, but not before going on a hiking trip by myself for a day in Ireland.

I went to Glendalough last Monday by myself, excited to explore the Irish countryside. Glendalough is the site of the monastery founded by St. Kevin in the 500's and is also famous for being a thin place.

Thin places are, by Celtic tradition, places on Earth where the separation between Earth and Heaven is thinner than everywhere else. So I was glad to have some time alone to really enjoy this place.


It was quite the switch, going from Dublin's Temple Bar to Glendalough, but after jumping a few fences and climbing the side of a mountain, I found a lovely place to sit by myself. It was probably the first time in nearly six months that I had truly been alone with silence. For an hour I sat and watched the rain fall on one of the lakes. After a while, a giant boxer (dog, not Rocky Balboa) jumped out of the bushes and started to lick me.
For some strange reasons it was one of the first times that I've felt very ready to go home.

There is an old Finnish proverb that goes, "If you never leave, you can't ever return."

So for this, I'm thankful that I will be able to return to the US and that I will be able to leave Seville, so that at some point, I will be able to return to this place that has stolen my heart.