It was the end of my sixteenth year. A year, I may say, full of triumphs and failures. In celebration of surviving such a monumental year of life, while also congratulating my older sister on the completion of seven weeks of studying in Spain, I was on an airplane headed for Madrid.
The plane ride was uneventful, other than the several positions I was forced to cram my body into, due to the lack of leg room for my 5’11 frame. Once we had landed, the gravity of the situation hit me. It crashed into my travel-weary body at about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat pulsed in waves upon my shoulders, which were already tired from carrying a 48.2 pound suitcase. I was tired, sore, and man-oh-man was I hungry.
My older sister and I were the only ones with any background in the Spanish language. While our mother and father, on the other hand, were both struggling with pronouncing gracias correctly. The language itself had always fascinated me and being fully submerged in the culture had always been a challenge I wanted to bring upon myself. Most of the Spaniards showed enormous amounts of patience while I stumbled through short sentences trying to buy souvenirs or order a Diet Coke. Later on, I found it was simply called, “Coca-Cola Light”.
Our stay in Madrid lasted a mere two days. The city was buzzing with excitement for Spain’s part in the Euro Cup. This year, Spain made it to the finals against Italy. I have never seen a country so proud and immersed in a single sport. Soccer (or futbol as the Spanish fondly call it) is expressed in a level of passion that far exceeds the enthusiasm that Americans show football (or as they like to call it, futbol Americano). People scream, throw drinks, and dance around the room during the game, but when a goal is scored, it’s as if a war has just been won. People hug and cheer, wiping tears from their eyes, proud to be a part of such a great country. If I ever felt a part of the Spanish culture, it was on the night of the Euro Cup, with my cheeks painted yellow and red.
The next city our family conquered was Sevilla, where the cathedral takes up at least four blocks in every direction. The splendor of the catedral was baffling in so many ways. The carvings, artwork, and (my personal favorite) the jewels were all so outrageously grand, I felt like a royal just by being in the presence of such beauty.
Granada was full of beautiful history. There, we explored the famous Alhambra; a fortress so magnificent, that it was almost selected as one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World. The palace was just a beautiful as the pictures, overlooking the entire city from a sun-soaked mountain. It was truly a home for the gods, which is why I understand King Charles’ eagerness to build his home within the grand fortress.
The finale of our trip took place where much of the world’s history began, Estapona. Estapona is located directly across from the Strait of Gibraltar and the African coast. The beach was rocky and the water temperatures were near freezing, but somehow, my sister and I managed to stay in our swim suits long enough to soak in some Spanish sun.
When the time came to board our flight back to America, I felt enlightened, older, and a strong craving for an American Cheeseburger. My stay in Spain suddenly felt like a dream, one that was filled with laughter, excitement, and so much beauty.
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