There is a story about the last Moorish king that is told in Granada. When he came to power, the Catholic king and queen had taken back every other piece of the country except Granada. Because it is surrounded by mountains the province of Granada was difficult to invade, and fighting within was tricky due to terrain. Therefore, the Moors were able to hold out for over 200 more years. They built the Alhambra, and a beautiful city grew up around it. However, eventually the reconquista made its way to Granada, and the city was taken by the Spanish monarchy in 1492. In the end, the Moorish king Boabdil decided to surrender, with the condition that he and his family could safely leave and his people would be welcome to stay. His family left by foot, walking through the mountains to a location outside of the city. While they were walking, Boabdil kept looking back at the city he had lost. When they reached the last pass where there is a view of the city, Boabdil stopped and turned back and sighed. His mother also stopped, and said, “Cry like a woman, because you could not defend your country like a man.” This pass is now known as “The Moorish Sigh.”
My goodbye to the beautiful city of Granada won’t be talked about for years to come, and it wasn’t as dramatic or emotional. But, on some level, I like to think I know what that king was feeling on his departure from the city. It certainly is a hard goodbye to say. A little over four months ago, when I thought of Spain I would feel terrified, and think that it wasn’t too late to back out of the whole study abroad thing. I did not think I could handle four months away from everything and everyone I knew and loved. I was not brave enough, I was not strong enough. Now when I think of Spain, I feel happy that I got to be there, sad that I had to leave, and a little, tiny aching to go back. I have been home for over a week, and almost everything is still in my suitcase. I am so happy to be home, but part of me still is, and probably always will be, in Spain.
In my first blog I wrote about my five goals I had for the semester. Going back and reading them made me smile, because I truly believe I accomplished each one. The simplest and easiest to realize was to try new foods. When you have no choice in what you are eating, you learn to like things very quickly. I am now a fan of many vegetables, of beans and lentils, of over easy eggs. The list of things I like now but didn’t before could go on and on, but I’ll end it there. You get the idea. Another goal of mine was to not stress. I have to be honest, it’s hard to stress when you are studying abroad in a place like Spain. The laid back pace of life, the easy classes, and all the traveling made it hard to get stressed. Although traveling can be stressful, after a while you learn to relax, and obstacles just become simple changes in your plans.
Another goal was to see new places, and I certainly did that. I did not travel every weekend, or see many other countries, but I got to know Granada and many parts of Spain, and I have no regrets about where we did or didn’t travel. One of my biggest goals was to not be shy, or afraid of meeting new friends. Most people who study abroad arrive in Spain not knowing anybody, more or less alone. The benefit of going through a program is that you meet people right away. The first person I met was Anna, on our bus ride from the airport to the hotel in Madrid. Anna introduced me to Shelley, who later introduced me to Jennie (Yennie). Shelley, Yennie and I became fast friends and for four months those girls were my closest allies and greatest friends. Later on in the program, we became friends with Cristen and Brittni. We traveled together, celebrated small and big events, and got each other through some really hard stuff. I could not have asked for better friends. I will miss Yennie’s infectious laugh, Shelley’s quiet confidence, Cristen’s enthusiasm and Brittni’s funny stories and vast knowledge of Harry Potter, but I know we will be friends for a long, long time.
The last goal was definitely the biggest. I wanted to learn a language but within the context of the Spanish culture. I wanted to be a part of something completely different from what I knew. And for four months, I was. I was doubly lucky, because I was able to learn about two cultures. I lived with a woman from Argentina, named Ana. I do not know if I could have placed with a more welcoming and loving host mother. She was always there for me, helped me learn Spanish, and eventually going back to her and the cat Rocio felt a lot like going home. I also got to learn all about the history, people, and culture of Spain. I was able to take classes taught in Spanish. I settled in Granada, had my favorite restaurants, pastry places, and plazas. I constantly say “vale”, the Spanish “ok”. I am excited that I now get to bring bits and pieces of a culture I grew to love back home with me. I love that I can explain why the Spaniards love ham so much, and other quirks and characteristics of the Spanish people. I feel as though I am now a representative of two cultures and places. Study abroad taught me so much about learning about other people and places, about me, and about what life can be. I have every intention of traveling more throughout my life, and becoming a small part of other places. For now I am staying home. It is time to get reacquainted with everything back home, a place I appreciate more now that I have been lucky enough to travel for a while. I loved being abroad, but Dorothy was right when she said there is no place like home. But now, I have two homes to go back to. How lucky am I?