Parques y pájaros.
Sangría y siestas.
All of this, and more, make up the rich cultural and literal landscape that is Spain – and in particular, Sevilla.
What strikes me most here is how connected Spaniards are with their loved ones. It is not uncommon to see families – parents and grandparents, children and young adults – sitting down for breakfast together at an outdoor café before school and work. In the streets, many passersby can be heard talking on the phone or sending an audio message to a loved one. Grandparents push newborn babies in strollers throughout María Luisa Park.
It is a culture with family at its heart and which is as warm and welcoming as the golden summer sun.
I will admit that, this being my first solo trip away from home, as well as the longest time I will have spent away from home (3 months), it has been difficult to adjust. I am from Hawai‘i, a tiny group of islands in the middle of the Pacific, on the exact opposite side of the world.
However, little by little, I am learning the streets of Sevilla, and finding joy and magic in small, everyday occurrences.
Today and yesterday, I had lunch beneath an olive tree in the front courtyard of La Universidad de Sevilla.
Every morning, I get to walk past the Plaza de España, something I have admired only in pictures for many years.
The other day, I watched a live flamenco show in a small, out-of-the-way spot in the city center. The dancing and music were intense, beautiful, transcendental, and unlike anything I have ever seen before.
Last night, we toured the historical district of Sevilla, and I saw parts of a building made from stone that was from ancient Roman times, which was over 2,000 years old. I got to see firsthand evidence of how three cultures and three distinct religions – Islam, Judaism and Christianity – quite literally formed and shaped Sevilla’s history, arquitecture, and culture today.
Each day, I see horses in the streets, trotting alongside the street traffic.
The food and drink here are exquisite.
There are orange trees everywhere I look (which I had originally thought were lime trees, because oranges are not in season at the moment and the fruits look green).
People here are friendly. I have enjoyed striking up casual conversations with local market vendors and restaurant waiters. Although my Spanish is not perfect, people here are understanding and warm.
For years, I have dreamed of coming here, and being here now is truly un sueño hecho realidad. I do not think any place is exactly how one imagines it. As such, Spain is different than I imagined it would be, but by no means lesser.
In one week, I have absorbed as much as I can, and there is still more I want to explore during my time here.
In a word, Spain is rich – in culture, in history, in language, in people. It is rich in color, in sights, in smells, in tastes, and in sounds. And it is also a place I have the amazing privilege of getting to know and learn and explore for the next three months.