4:30am Wake up. 5:30am say goodbye to parents. 6:15 SAN to ORD. 2:30 ORD to FRA. 11:00am FRA to a country where besides the words “Coca-Cola” and “Burger King” only a small minority of people understand or speak my native language. This is also the place where I would be spending the entire month of July 2009.
The majority of time I spent in Madrid, though brief, was spent on the city streets. Hookers working the alleys, walls graffitied by teenagers, a cigarette in the mouth of every passerby, were some of the first things I remember upon arriving in Madrid. Although I was willing to absorb the Spanish culture, I prayed these behaviors would not be a foreshadowing of my weeks ahead. Instead of participating in these acts on my free day, my friends and I visited the famous Reina Sofia Museum. I, being an up-and-coming world famous artist, was most excited out of my friends to see some of Picasso’s, Goya’s, and Dali’s famous works. I would come to realize these feelings of anticipation would pay off greatly. Moving from room to room, viewing, and interpreting, I felt as though I was in a dream—feeling the emotion in every brushstroke and witnessing the history of art through ages and ages. I was awestruck. My feelings of the museum were vastly juxtaposed by those of my friends. As I was inspired by oil on canvas, my friends were reduced to sitting on a bench due to shin splints and utter boredom. However, when we migrated to the room that held the tremendously famous Guernica, I felt as though me and my 4 friends all felt a mild case of Stendhal Syndrome*. To me, I physically and emotionally felt affected by the 11 by 25.6 foot canvas. The images of terror, pain, and fear put my mind right in the painting. I was in the same emotional state. Though it was painted generations before me, I believe that painting is so famous because of its ability to transcend all it’s meaning and terrifying beauty through numerous cultures and decades to where a teenager from San Diego could still relate to it 70 years later.
Three days in Madrid, then my roommate and I were sent to Salamanca to live with our adopted, Spanish family. I was transplanted from an air-conditioned, completely furnished 5000 square foot home in Southern California, everything was handed to me, into an entirely new 500 square foot world. This apartment, the one with a rusted, old six nailed to the door. This apartment, the one that barely housed 8 people. This apartement, the one where I truly learned to take care of myself. Keep myself clean. Keep my room clean. Wake up and get to school by 8am. Manage to get around in a city, not speaking a word of English. If I was hungry I had to walk to the store and get something. If I was bored I had to entertain myself. All me. For the first time in my life I was the only one living my life. I was independent.
I learned a lot in those 29 days. I learned about the histories of 7 cathedrals, bullfights, and Spanish art. I learned about the traditional foods served in Toledo and about what people are like in another country, but if I was to take anything out of my trip to Spain it would be that I learned what it’s like to rely completely on oneself.
*According to wikipedia.com
Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome, Hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome, is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art
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