In Pain in Spain

My Spanish experience was inaugurated by a ten day seminar in which 29 other students and I traveled around Spain and learned about the conquests of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The first four days of that was the most severely jet lagged I’ve ever felt in my whole life. I didn’t even feel like a real person. I have a severe disorder in which I can’t say no (have you ever seen Ella Enchanted?) to anything so if you can imagine my first 24 hours in Spain, I was doing a lot of stuff. Considering the fact that I didn’t sleep on the plane because it was a flying a metal tube, or the night before at home because I didn’t start packing until midnight, my body was quite angry at me. I ignored it of course because I’m young and resilient.

On the third day spent at our first stop, Toledo, we visited an incredibly old and beautiful cathedral built by the ancient Christians. I don’t have any pictures of the actual cathedral because raising my hands that high up at the moment was close to impossible. However, somehow I did muster the ability to take a picture of myself walking out of the cathedral. Notice my relaxed attire and sunglasses. Both very, very necessary. My strongest memories consist of looking up at baby Jesus and asking him why I was in so much pain. Now I associate pictures of baby Jesus with severe pain and fatigue so I’ve been avoiding old lady’s houses.

That afternoon we drove from Toledo to Cordova on a bus ride in which I tried to move as little as possible. That night I realized that I wasn’t going to start feeling balanced again unless I implemented some kind of change on my own. While everyone else went out to explore the night, I went to bed as early as our itinerary allowed. Most impressively, I said no. I said no to doing anything other than sleeping, really. I was so proud of myself for this because it wasn’t even that hard for me. I woke up not in pain! However I didn’t feel fully gathered. After a morning excursion, I went on a run.

That run took my body and soul, spun it around and spent it flying the opposite direction that it had just been crawling. I had been walking around Spain amongst a cluster of other Americans, looking at impossibly old structures, and I hadn’t realized it but those things simply left me unsatisfied. I felt as if I had been in a very crowded circle of people, and if I looked past all the bodies I could see little flickers of the fascinations of another country and finally, as my feet hit the pavement when I went running, I felt as if I had broken through all the bodies and found myself standing in pure sunlight. There was one moment while I was jogging through the park when a huge gust of wind flew through the otherwise sunny day and swept up the little blades of grass, then the branches on the trees, then finally my own hair. It was so strong that it was all I could hear in my ears and I closed my eyes because I knew the path was clear and strait in front of me, so it was all my senses could perceive and it was as if that single gust resorted my energy in full all at once.

And after that, everything changed.

We went to a castle high up on the hill the next day in Cordova. While the other students made their way up slowly, I skipped. I had time to get pictures of the town below.

The castle was like a jungle gym to me. There were so many walk ways and stair ways and I explored them all.
“Where have you been?” one of my friends asked when I encountered a group of them mid-sprint through the hall.
“I went into the dungeon! If you keep going through the downhill hallways, you’ll find a weird looking trap door, then its down a few flights of spiral staircases!” I replied in excited and out of breath detail.
“I don’t think I can make it that far,” one girl jokes, “Mia likes exploring.”
When I got back I realized everyone else had mostly been sitting down in a comfortable spot in the shade and hadn’t gone into the deeper parts of the castle that had enchanted my imagination so much.
I do like exploring, I thought.

The third city we visited, Granada, was by far my favorite. It was a modern, busy city with great shopping surrounded by history. All the while there were beautiful forests at each turn you didn’t expect. I went running there, too. I had originally went running with the intention of making it all the way to the city to buy a bathing suit (which I forgot to bring) for the hotel pool. However I went the wrong way and if I didn’t turn back I would have been late to our class session and God forbid I miss a two hour lecture in the small convention room of the hotel. Depending on how you define success, I was and wasn’t successful. I didn’t get a bathing suit or even make it to the city but I did find this view. So you tell me.

I could go on and on about the rest of the seminar which eventually took us to Seville but I’ll try to restrict this to the experiences that are still swimming around the in the forefront of my mind.
One night I went to go get ice cream in Seville with friends and there was absolutely no one out. Out of the desolation two men with shoulder length hair and one girl with more freckles than I’ve ever seen on anyone appeared outside the ice cream shop. I shot up as I realized they were speaking English. I talked to anyone that spoke English while we were there because it was such a refreshing and rare find.
“Are y’all speaking English?!” I run up to them.
“Yes, we are!” the girl replies to me in an Australian accent, “Where are you from?”
“I’m from Texas,” I say, “Where are you from?”
“We’re from Sydney, can’t you tell by the accent?” one of the guys replies.
“I’m studying abroad next semester in Brisbane!” I inform them.
They all looked at me. 
“You’ll love it there,” they all say it with the most convincing nature that any doubt that I would have had, left my mind. Before I knew it they disappeared. I literally don’t know where they went. I’m convinced they were my Australian angels from the future, or something like that. 
The most Spanish thing to ever happen to me was the flamenco show we attended. It took place in a white-walled cave and the dancers had so much conviction on their face. I’m pretty sure I was just staring at them with a huge smile on my face throughout the entire show.
Despite what I was trying to convince myself, there was actually a 3-credit class hidden amongst those 10 adventure-filled days. So I spent a couple of hours studying for our midterm at the rooftop pool of our Seville hotel. It was by far the pretties place I’ve ever studied in. It was a bit difficult to concentrate though when all I could think about was how I needed to get so much more tan to blend in with Spaniards.
Then all the sudden, we were on the bus to Madrid. 

Published by Mia Olea Garza

I am a photography, videographer, and filmmaker in Austin, Texas.

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