Things don’t start to feel real until you drag your two empty suitcases into your bedroom and start to pack for your semester abroad. That’s when you realize your life for the next six months will have to weigh less than you do, in fact less than a small child.
There was a morning in late May, just a couple of weeks before I would have to re-pack those suitcases, when the heat of Seville woke me up earlier than usual. Even with the window wide open, as soon as the sun rises there’s no escaping the heat of this ancient Spanish port city. I sat up in bed listening to the sounds of the apartment building waking up, shades rattling open and mothers moving in kitchens. I thought about leaving this city, whether I was ready. Though it was hard to sleep with the noise from the neighbors and the street below, I was grateful for this, to wake up organically with the beginnings of other people’s days.
My six months in Spain were the most exciting, frightening, enlightening months of my life. I learned so much about another culture: what other people value, what makes them get out of bed, what makes them stay up so late. I learned what it’s like to live with a family I’m not related to, and how to explore a country with strangers who would become close friends. I learned how to read a city with my feet, walking through streets so narrow that the sidewalks, where they existed, were no wider than a foot.
There are terrifying moments, like when you walk into your apartment to find the place burglarized. But there are also the magical ones, like discovering, at 3 a.m., a tiny flamenco bar filled with both neighborhood regulars and those passing through. Where the guitarist plays your favorite song and the man as large as a tuba suddenly begins to sing in a stunning and melancholic voice. Being asked to dance. . . . .”