Monday, April 14, 2008

oh, Spain, where have you been all my life?

I´m now in Malaga, on the south coast of Spain. A quick itinerary: I flew from Paris to Barcelona (I first spent seven hours in the Beauvais airport, an hour out of Paris and away from everything. I spent my time there getting to know a Belgian-born Tullio who grew up in Ibizia and now lives between Paris and Barcelona, wandering through the village Tille, and writing a short short story); after six sun-soaked days staying in a hostel in Barcelona, I took an overnight train to Granada, finding out six hours before I left that I had a CouchSurfer to stay with when I got there. Upon arrival in Granada, our hosts took me and four other arrivals (US students who study in Barcelona) to their mountain home in Quentar, a half hour out of the city. The next morning we headed to Sevilla, and two days later (which is to say, today) I find myself in Malaga, Spain at another CouchSurfer´s gorgeous flat on his even gorgeouser Mac computer.

Between all those pin points on a map fit many new faces and even more emotions. I hit a wall in my first days in Spain: I contemplated loneliness in a country where I didn´t know the language, witnessed the death of another part of my ego, almost went insane contemplating what it means to disidentify with everything I thought defined me. The universe sent me Daniel, an Aussie who calmly listened to my philosophical meanderings and kept me on an even keel. I said before I left Canada that I´d go to an meeting when it occurred to me to do so, and sitting in sunny Spain and not knowing what else to do, asking for guidance brought me to a webpage with clear instructions on how to get to a meeting. International AA is amazing (of course, of course) - in the four meetings in four days I met travelers, locals, and expats, some residents some visitors, and I found my serenity again. I realized the pride was keeping me from finding what I was looking for, so I got humble and...surprise, found what I needed the moment I admitted I didn´t know it all, after all.

From that moment it´s been a watershed of amazing people and open hearts. Two Singaporean girls and I trekked up a mountain overlooking the city, and Daniel and I wandered the gothic quarter and Gaudi park. Kirsty and Issach, a Kiwi couple who just finished working on a yacht (a big industry in the port cities...a great way to make cash and travel the Meditteranean. I just have to sell my soul to ultra rich yachters, and I´m not sure if I´m ready to make that leap yet...) introduced me to the Barcelona wax museum and another Aussie named Nick who drove me to the train station and saw me off to Granada.

The next few days were a whirlwind: Axel and his family welcomed us to his mountain home, and Sara met us in Plaza Einstein, took us to eat borscht in her flat, invited us to a Spanish fiesta in a friend´s backyard. Diego and David and I (the bickering boys from Barcelona) trekked up to the gypsy caves overlooking the Alhambra and ate tapas to get out of the rain. Even though I don´t understand Spanish, I´ve been lucky enough to find locals who speak English or travelers who speak Spanish, and I´m trying to pick up "un pequito" so I can come back here and live forever.

From Granada to Sevilla for feria, a festival that reminds me of the Calgary Stampede: fairground on one side, complete with overpriced rides and candied apples, and on the other, a remnant of semi-forgotten tradition. In Calgary it´s rodeo, in Sevilla it´s the Sevillana dance (strongly influenced by flamenco) done in the casetas (tents that line the fairground rented out by families and companies). Strolling the grounds with Sarajean and Candace (the other half of the Barcelona foursome) gave me a taste of "traditional" Spain, with horse drawn carriages and girls in flouncy dresses and men in suits, however superficial it may now be.

Last night we prepared to camp out in the bus station until Sarajean got a call from a friend of our CSers in Granada who offered us their flat and a delicious dinner. Thank you, universe. I sent a random email to a CSer in Malaga who answered immediately, so this morning I hopped a bus, met Carlos, got on the back of his motorbike, and slept on his couch as he prepared me a traiditional Spanish lunch (eaten here at three or four in the afternoon) of green beans, potatoes and olive oil, and cold tomato-based soup (gazpatcho). All vegetarian, all deliciousness.

If India taught me how to let go, Spain teaches me to relax absolutely. I´m not sure if it´s the new headspace I found after my old one died in Barcelona, the people I´ve met, or the place itself, but the combination makes this country my favourite yet. I say that about each place I go, but if today is the best day of my entire life, then I can´t wait for tomorrow.

This life, this life: so beautiful and ebullient.

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