The bus stopped and exhaled before letting us leave. It had been the first part of our journey. The group and I were headed to Cabo de Gata for the last excursion before leaving Spain. Dropping down the steps and off the bus I collected my overly-packed suitcase and made my way towards the train station. The hours ticked on by as our journey continued through the window of my seat on the train. Sweeping hills and mountains clothed in snow or still showing remnants of the summer green sped past me. I recalled the times that I had been on a train here in Spain and where it has taken me during my months here.
I want to talk about about the appearance of the place: all the white buildings, the Mediterranean sea and the white sand beaches, even the red jellyfish that stung Michael. Out of all my time in Spain, Cabo de Gata is the most surreal place I have visited. I've seen pictures of settings like this online and on postcards, but I never actually thought that I would be here. Looking at the scenery in front of me was hardly a dream, yet I couldn't shake the feeling that I was in paradise.
As usual the blur of noise, that is otherwise known as people speaking fluent Spanish, surrounded me. I looked around at my family trying to capture the few words that I knew as they flew out of their mouths and across the table rapidly. Once again I decided that there was no hope for this night and my understanding of their complex foreign conversation, so I turned my head back down to my tortilla and ketchup. Ketchup, I thought to myself. Last night we had tortilla and tomato sauce, so this is a nice change. I drifted into deep thoughts on ketchup vs tomato sauce, and, just as my mind was beginning to make a complete exit, I noticed the noise around me had stopped. Uh oh. Somebody had just asked me a question and I didn't know what it was, and now they are all waiting for an answer. I was sure of it. It is a regular occurrence.
In the evening of a Thursday, the group steps off the train to be blindsided by a wave of heat and humidity. We should have expected this as we knew we were going to the southern part of the peninsula and the historically rich city of Sevilla. But nothing could have prepared us for Sevilla, especially the sight of palm trees all over the place; this definitely put some puzzled looks on group members’ faces. Shortly after our arrival in Sevilla, we went for a stroll on the boardwalk that runs along the riverside. We quickly spotted the unmistakable and legendary Torre de oro or “Tower of gold.” The tower is not actually made of gold and there isn't any gold inside. However, when the sun rises or sets the tower gets its golden yellow shine.
This term our group walked the Camino de Santiago, or at least part of it. The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage that runs across the northern part of Spain and a small part of the French Pyrenees. For some people it is a religious pilgrimage, but it is completed by many different people for many different reasons.
We’re here! Michael, Matt, Chloe, Caitlyn, Zina, and Mila have arrived in Segovia, Spain. It was 5:00am in the morning Spain time, but it was 11:00pm local time in the U.S. So you can guess we all looked like the walking dead. After meeting our host families and getting settled into our new homes for the next two months, we were left to sleep much of the day because of the time change. As you can imagine it wasn't hard to completely collapse into our new beds.
After hours of traveling in trains and buses, we entered the city different from all others, Sevilla. I say that Sevilla is different from all other cities for quite a few reasons. First I will describe the people. In most cities we have traveled to, people are very rushed and will walk right through you if you let them; for example, in Madrid if you don't keep your head up on the sidewalk you will be tossed around the pavement as if you were in a football game. In Sevilla there is a much different feeling. Most of the people are more than willing to take a minute to help you if you are lost. The people shift along the sidewalk so that everyone is moving in a rhythm, flowing like a wave.
It was the beginning of a very typical week, we had just gotten back from Granada and were just getting back into our daily routine. But walking back to our homestay on that Tuesday night was different. There was an unusual sound of heavy drumming in the air and crowds were filling the street. Upon getting closer you see the hooded capes of all different sizes slowly marching up to the Cathedral walls. First you would see two lines of these figures filing up the streets with large metal staffs, followed by hooded children. Then comes the incense swinging side to side and introducing the large “float” of a religious figure. Each float comes from a church and is typically either carried or pushed throughout the narrow streets to the Cathedral in the Plaza Mayor.