I don’t know what I was expecting this morning, after dancing the night away with friends from countries all over the world and tiptoeing in, drenched from the rain, around 6:00 am. Among my list of possibilities were extreme exhaustion, sleeping as long as I could, finding sand all over the floor from walking along the beaches at night, and maybe a bit of a headache. What I never expected was to be woken up at 10:30 am by the banging of drums and the blaring of brass instruments from just outside my window. As I was unceremoniously thrust from my beautiful, peaceful slumber, I vaguely recalled my host mother mentioning that today was a religious holiday. In the United States, we often have parades to celebrate nationally recognized holidays, and so I expected them to proceed down the street and farther out of earshot. Much to my groggy dismay, they remained just below my balcony for another thirty minutes before finally moving on to their next location. I stood out on the terrace, squinting against the glare of the sun through the clouds, and watched as the musicians played and surrounding onlookers cheered. I found myself smiling, despite being sleep deprived, sandy, and overall just a bit of a mess. Just when I start to feel as though I’m beginning to understand how things work in this beautiful city, something new and exciting happens, and I’m left struggling to take in as much of it as I can before the moment is gone.
I decided to get dressed and seize the day, despite the looming clouds that never quite cleared from the downpour of rain the night before. My body protested as I walked to meet up with a few friends for lunch, because I developed a minor case of shin splints from our “short”, very hilly hike through the Oma Forest the day before. A walk, full of very steep inclines, that my host mother insists is “muy facil,” or very easy. It was a beautiful location, but the muscles in my legs can attest to the fact that it definitely was NOT “muy facil.”
After filling my stomach with delicious food and a couple ibuprofen tablets, my friends and I set off to browse for souvenirs in the light rain that had begun to fall. Unlike the United States, many shops close on Sunday’s here in San Sebastián. After perusing the stores in our neighborhood and having no luck, my roommate and I decided to drag our aching muscles back to bed for our daily siesta. This is one of the many aspects of Spanish culture that I definitely have fallen in love with.
The rest of my day was spent indoors, bonding with my roommate through our mutual love of sleep and with our lovely host mother – an 87 year old woman with more spunk than most of my friends. After a family dinner, we headed out to meet up with a small group of people for gelato. This is a regular indulgence for many people in our group, almost to the point of becoming routine. After choosing my flavor of the day (I try a new one every time we order gelato), I joined my amigas in sitting along the stone wall, looking out over the ocean. The sky was no longer a gloomy grey, but instead a beautiful contrast of darker colors with the faint hint of a sunset peeking through on the horizon. We laughed together, sharing stories and making plans for the rest of our short time here.
As I licked my delicious dessert, smiling with a group of people I didn’t know two and a half weeks ago, it started to set in how fleeting this trip has been. The days feel long, but the time flies by. Every day is a new adventure here in San Sebastián, and my experiences have been exciting and revitalizing. My Spanish has improved immensely, but more importantly, I’ve experienced an entirely different culture and I’ve fallen in love with it. I’ve had the opportunity to bond with people from all over the world, and learn about their experiences and opinions. Over the past two weeks, I have made memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I’m almost dreading going home, back to a routine life without pintxos and ancient history. I don’t want this entire trip to become a memory. Whether I spend my time literally dancing in the rain, or basking in the calm after the storm, I am always left feeling fulfilled and perfectly content. If there’s one thing I take home with me at the end of this journey, it’s the desire to change my habitual life in the states to one that leaves me smiling at the end of each day, the way I am right now.