“Gracias para viajando con Iberia. ¡Bienvenidos a EspaÃ±a!” I groggily listened to the flight attendants’ standard greeting, but for some reason the recycled phrase sparked an extraordinary feeling in me. I had been on what seemed like an endless journey from New York’s JFK International Airport, through London’s Heathrow, and Madrid’s Barajas, to my destination at AndalucÃa’s Jerez Airport. The time spent walking around those airports, finalizing transfers, and trudging, because of the proverbial jet lag, had a profound effect on my sleep levels. I slept throughout the entire flight to AndalucÃa, but for some reason I woke up just in time to hear a voice which indicated that the best experience of my life was just getting started.
I knew very little about the city of Cadiz, a small town on the southeastern coast of Spain, but as we crossed the bridge into the seemingly popular town, I knew instantly that this was going to be something that I would remember forever. The car ride which only took ten minutes seemed to last forever. I was dropped off at my new home, where I spent my next two weeks, and a smiling woman named Luisa greeted me in Spanish. I had never met or spoken to Luisa before, but as we got into the small elevator that led to her apartment she gave me the customary hug and greeting “Hola mi niÃ±a. Bienvenidos a mi casa.” Conjuring up my five years of Spanish, I slowly translated the sentence to “Hello my daughter. Welcome to my home.” I just knew in my mind that this place, this area, that was new and foreign to me, would be my second home, forever.
There was so much to see and so much to do in Spain. I was like a kid in a candy store. The beaches were my lollipops, downtown was my Kit Kat bar, and the people were the Twizzlers. Over the course of the trip I learned how to surf, saw a flamenco dance show, visited countless cathedrals, went to a fair, spent a weekend in Sevilla, saw a movie entirely in Spanish, attended an all white party that had child flamenco dancers, learned about the history of Cadiz along with some local slang, and visited several restaurants just to taste churros and tapas, which is the Spanish word for appetizers. These were activities that were fun, but they were also planned. The best part of the trip, however, were the unplanned moments, like when you stumbled into the market and the owner said they loved the way you spoke Spanish, or when your host mom made you traditional meals that had authentic “Spain flavor.” Something I also cherished was seeing old couples walk on the boardwalk. I can’t describe it, but it was like you were already a part of a loving family. As you can tell, Spain was pretty amazing, and there was never a dull moment.
I was walking along the edge of the beach when I realized how truly incredible the view was at the end of the day. Cadiz’s beaches are legendary for their beautiful sunsets and here I was, a regular kid, from a regular place, drinking in the moment like a fine wine. I got a full scholarship from the program MundoLengua because I asked my school about it six months in advance. I was nervous about going somewhere that seemed so different to my homeland, but I finally began to grasp that the long trip was definitely worth that breath-taking view. I would not have traded it for the world.
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