The clacking of castanets fills my ears with a rhythmic beat. “¡Arriba, OlÃ©!” echoes throughout the restaurant. Stomp, stomp, clack, clack. This repetitive beat drones on and on. A colorful whirlwind spins in front of me; a skirt that deceptively looks miles wide swallows the flamenco dancer as she twirls, pounding her feet and striking her castanets together. My final Spanish dinner continued like this for hours. I sat, mesmerized, eating my creamy dessert, speaking Spanish to the girl adjacent to me, relishing my last moment in Spain.
This past summer of 2009, after months of hard work and hours of dedication, my choir, Sycamore Community Summer Singers, hopped on an airplane and sailed over the sea to the country of sun, flamenco dancing, and spicy food. We toured Spain, singing in different venues and cathedrals throughout Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Sagunto, Montserrat, and Toledo. Each day brought a new adventure, and each night brought memories I can never forget. Aside from having fun on this trip, it was also a learning experience that opened my eyes to a new way of looking at the world.
I was born and raised a true vegetarian. To me, all animals’ lives are without distinction. Whether it be a fish, cow, pit, or even shrimp, all animals feel pain and I could never eat them. A vegetarian lifestyle is relatively easy to lead in the US, but in Spain, it is much more difficult. Their idea of a vegetarian meal is rice with chicken or shrimp. It quickly became frustrating for me to constantly repeat, in Spanish, “No meat, I’m a vegetarian!” I remember our dinner in Madrid at Restaurante La Catedral where I received a plate full of rice with shrimp eyes staring straight at me. I sent the dinner back in exchange for rice and vegetables. It was a learning experience that helped me better understand Spanish culture and cuisine; fish and crustaceans are not considered off the vegetarian menu.
Spain is a country filled with diverse people and cultures. One thing that stood out for me was the comradery between the Spaniards, always laughing, helping the lost Americans find their way, and donating to the poor living on the street corners. Although not prosperous in material goods, they did not lack empathy. After our first performance in the Plaza Catalunya in Barcelona, I can distinctly remember having at one little, old Spanish woman embrace me in a hug with tears in her eyes, chanting, “Gracias seÃ±orita” over and over again. I never knew that a choir of sixty high school students could made such an impact on someone’s life. In Spanish, she told me how her son had died a few years earlier and how our voices were those of angels watching over him. I was touched; this experience taught me an invaluable lesson: that to be able to converse in another language is a priceless skill.
Overall, my trip to Spain was a life-enriching experience. Not only was it fun, it was also an opportunity for personal growth and maturity. I had been to Europe before, and it proved to me, once again, that traveling is something I hope to continue to do. It opened up my eyes to the possibility of spending a semester in college overseas. Through this trip, I realized how important it is to be able to converse in another language, and now I hope to double major in math education and Spanish so I can communicate with people from other countries.
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