This time last year, I was preparing to spend five months in Granada, Spain. I had never heard of the city before but after researching the city and curriculum and suddenly seeing Granada in books, on the news, and once in conversation, I took it as a sign and applied. Ready to practice my Spanish and finally see the rainbow-ish sunset against the picturesque mountains that frequented the brochures, the only thing in between Granada and me was a long summer of waiting.
The months leading up to my departure date went quickly but nowhere near quick enough. I had packed, printed out my ticket conformation, and brought an international phone a month before I was scheduled to leave. Besides being eager to step foot in Granada, I was more excited for the three-day orientation in London. However, the threat of a hurricane canceled my flight less than 24 hours before I was due for takeoff. Finally, after a two-day wait and an extra plane ticket, I was on my way.
After a five- hour layover in London, a two-hour flight to Malaga, and a two-hour car ride to Granada I was finally there. When my cab pulled into the narrow street, equally lined with apartment buildings and convenience stores, it felt like all the nervousness that I had previously escaped suddenly caught up with me. For the first time since deciding to come to Spain, I was second-guessing my trip. A few moments later, a little women with short curly red hair, glasses, and an endearing waddle walked out of the nearest apartment building, introduced herself with a hug and a kiss on both checks, and whisked me and my overstuffed luggage inside.
Food and Clubbing and the Alhambra , Oh My !
Once introduced to the rest of the family and given the grand tour of the four-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment my nerves once again withered away. The family, which consisted of my Señora Maria, her husband, and her 25-year old son, was immediately welcoming. Despite not speaking a word of Spanish all summer, I was able to follow the conversation and even tell them a little about my life back in the states. I felt like I won the lottery when Maria said, “ Tu español es muy bien.”
My Señora’s apartment, along with the rest of Granada, was colorful, clean, and a bit more fancy than I was accustomed to. My roommate and I shared a bedroom with an enormous wardrobe, desk, bookcase, and large window that overlooked the patio. The typical day included waking for a light breakfast of café con leche, orange juice, and several assortments of pastries. (My favorite was the pan de leche with a generous helping of some crema de cocoa). After school, or some time exploring, our senora served us an always delicious and always heavy lunch. Soups of every kind, creamy pastas with chicken and vegetables, tortillas, Seafood Paella, and fish smothered in some kind of raisin broth were all frequent recipes. After a three-hour siesta, schoolwork or a quick outing, a light dinner was served. Usually this was a small salad, homemade pizza, or a bocadia ( a sub-like sandwich). My favorite was always atún con lechuga y tomates.
The few days in between arrival and the start of school were spent adjusting to the apartment and neighborhood as well as studying for the upcoming placement tests that would determine the classes I would be taking in Spain.
Without several part-time jobs for the very first time in my college career I decided to partake in the phenomenon known as clubbing by visiting local hotspots like Kapital, Granada 10, Cambodio (a multi-story club nestled in the mountains that overlooked the ancient walls of the Alhambra), and the botellon , a giant parking lot that turns into a pregame spot every Friday and Saturday.
Besides partying, Granada offered much more in terms of entertainment. There are several movie theaters and malls in the downtown area along with parks and department stores that doubled as travel agencies. When I didn’t feel like clubbing, I spent my afternoons and weekends browsing the aisles of El Corte Ingles, sipping café con leche in the many coffee shops, walking the lush gardens named for the poet, and former Granada resident, Garcia Lorca, and exploring the many Tapa bars in the vicinity. As I tend to do wherever I am, I also found the local library and camped out there some afternoons. In between school, weekend trips to other countries, excursions with my program, and the volunteer group I joined, every day spent in Granada now stands out as unique. Before I knew it, the five months were up and I was packing once again.
Departure and Missing It
I’ve been back in the states for almost seven months and still think about my trip almost daily. Sometimes I’m not sure if it’s Granada I miss or the lifestyle I had while living there. Things like a schedule not overwhelmed with jobs and five essays a week, having five-star meals prepared for me daily, finding myself in a different country or town every weekend was quite easy to get used to. I do know that I have no regrets about choosing to live and study in Granada. You could walk from one end of the town to the other, find yourself at the beach or skiing within an hour, and there were airports and buses to charter you to other adventures. Simply put, it was the experience of a lifetime.
Next week, I’ll go into detail about the school system in Granada and include a list of my top 10 likes and dislikes about my time there.