It was lovely meeting. A surprise, actually, to spend five days with you. I came with la español de un bebé and left with a lingering curiosity, an aching joy.
It began with Launch Barcelona. Twelve American students spending the weekend away from our study abroad locations ranging from Madrid and Seville to Florence and Ireland to meet in Barcelona. Launch is an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Conference that gives study abroad students the chance to come together and share our hopes, challenges, and blessings of our respective locations. We ask what it means to be where we are. Looking beyond a checklist of where to go, we ask who is already in the spaces we are placed.
Wandering the midst of English coated with dialectics of Catalan and Spanish in Barcelona with these other students, I began to see more of what it is to be in Scotland. Slurping down a snail in between courses of paella, tortillas, and gelato, at dinner times way past my normal sleeping times, I began to ease into my eager stomach.
I discovered energy where none should exist in between flights leaving at 6.30 a.m., multiple nights of less than five hours of rest following days of 24,000 steps, and spontaneous excursions to see the sun hover above the Mediterranean as it rose at 7.41 in the morning.
I tried on a Spanish tongue as we worshiped, stood in silence in La Sagrada Familia as angry hues of red burned into crisp reflections of blues and greens, laughed at the thought of Casa Gracia being considered a hostel with its free coffee machines, balcony overlooking the bustle of night, hammock strung, and charming library spaces (side-note: if you are ever in Barcelona, definitely consider staying here; I set the bar too high for my first hostel).
Ripping through layers of clothes to let the sun touch my skin, while the Spaniards bundled up, I wondered where the misty clouds and biting air had gone. Here, among the Spaniards, I began to see the sheep of the green hills of Scotland more clearly.
Barcelona folded into Seville. The retreat seamlessly landed at the beginning of my reading week at Stirling, which—considering the amount of “reading”, or at least assigned, reading I did—essentially is equivalent to Spring Break back home. So it worked out for me to continue my stay with you, this time with a friend from home, Charis. Also having been to Launch, we both said our goodbyes to Barcelona and made our way to Seville—where Charis has a home-stay this semester.
No strict agendas, just making our way through the tiny streets dispersed through cobble stone roads, pigeons pecking around, and gardens of greens and mosaics among fountains and statues of Catholic and Jewish corners.
I met her host-family, her new friends, was welcomed into her the home of her American pastor with three young boys and a Spanish water-dog named Sherlock. Sitting in cafes, we talked about Scotland, about Seville, about Barcelona.
We shared the frustrations of accents and our constant need for clarification. We wondered about home, about the summer, about our yesterdays and tomorrows, while forgetting it was coming because we had nowhere in particular to be, except right there in each other’s company. There’s something refreshing about wandering with a friend.
Spain, you are beautiful and I enjoyed my five days. But I have to say, the best part of staying with you was not the places that I saw or the things that I did. It was the people that I met. We laughed, we tried new things, we shared life together. People whose paths I cannot say with any certainty that I will cross again. It was short and blissful, romantic and explosive. A summer fling that has dropped me back into my place here in Scotland. And yet, it was refreshing, because it reminded me that those same spaces are with me wherever I go. The spaces of return, to those I live with, those I come across, those who share with me the places that we are.