It was Sunday morning at 9:25 am, and everyone was still reeling from their Saturday night fun. A long, arduous day lay ahead. We were all professional complainers so one could say that our college maturity, minds, bodies, and souls, were absolutely decimated like the historical town of Guernica.
Guernica was a flourishing town with it’s own stable government (local and regional) and a solid way of life. During the Spanish Civil War, however, Guernica (and the rest of the Basque Country) functioned under a constant sense of terror. Never knowing if one day a bomb would drop on their house. Never knowing if a Heinkel 52 would sweep by, taking everyone they loved. Never knowing that they would be largest victim of a little German “experiment.” Then came April 26th, 1937. Within minutes, everything that was built was turned into a field of rubble and fire. Simply put, Guernica was completely wiped off the map.
Pulling ourselves out of that image while in the Museum of Peace in Guernica was a hard task, but the museum’s greatest strength proved to be that it did not dwell on the past, but rather chose to remember it and move forwards towards reconciliation and peace. Guernica’s symbol is their tree of peace. Coincidentally, I actually sang a choir song titled, “The Tree of Peace,” but I doubt it was about Guernica. It’s heartwarming, though, to see symbols such as this come up in work around the world. It helps remind one that everyone in this world is connected, even if they don’t know it. The little things always speak the loudest.
Honestly, the theme of this whole study abroad experience seems to appear that the world is a lot smaller and closer than anyone can imagine, yet, it is also vast, wonderous, and holds many surprises that even the most educated person cannot foretell. Our group of students had not really met up with one another before arriving in Spain, and while traveling together some of us learned that we literally have direct connections (family-wise) to one another that we never knew. This leads to another incredible power of traveling and immersing oneself in another culture. You explore the outside world, but somehow also explore and learn more about yourself, internally. When one reads the history and direction of Guernica, they start to realize their role in this world, and how similar situations occur around them everyday. When we were up in the mountains attending a fiesta, watching exhilirated dogs herd sheep, I looked out towards the coast and the beach, and took in tbe breathtaking view. In that moment I realized that the world is huge, and we are each one brush stroke on this enormous canvas, but without that stroke, the painting is incomplete. It’s humbling, slightly terrifying, mind-blowing, and satisfying to know that we all have a vital place in this world.
After the fiesta (with the sheep herding), we ate the largest lunch ever. Period. From french fries, to salted pimientos of Gernika to the large tuna and abundance of chicken (which I didn’t eat, but I’ll take my classmates’ word for it that it was the best chicken ever), it was a feast to remember. In fact, I’m still full from it a day later. The best part, however, was everyone in our class sitting on the picnic bench, along with our professor and his family, laughing, eating, and chatting. It felt like a huge family. Happiness was radiating more intensely than the sun will ever radiate heat in its life. Definitely a snapshot memory that I’ll treasure. The icing on the cake, however, is our professor’s parents singing while we were getting on the bus. Everyone’s heart melted so fast, and, frankly, I am still touched by it. Personally, it reminds me of my family, as we are all very close with each other, not to mention my parents dance with and sing to each other all the time. Funny how much one can reap from eating lunch.
This blog post was supposed to be about the Spanish experience, but the largest takeaways and the strongest memories always seem to come from what may look like the mundane parts of the day. I could talk more about what happened to Guernica, the history of the sheep herding fiesta, and the peculiar setup of the town of Elantxobe (which I’ll get to), but you can read that in a textbook or on the internet. Of course I’m not completely discounting the rich history and cultural differences across the world, but how it changes a person and how it can open your mind is one of the true fruits of such travels. If anything, I hope you, the reader, can understand what I’m saying and perhaps check out the world yourself! A textbook will teach you facts on history, but being there will make you a part of history.
Now back to the regularly scheduled programming. Elantxobe, a port town is set up on a mountain side, with rock/cobblestone boardwalks extended into the ocean. It’s a quiet town, or at least i thought it was, until our professor said that one of the most loudest, energetic fiestas is held here. Outside of that, though, children and families were swimming and jumping into the ocean, while couples sat with one’s head on the other’s shoulder, staring out into the horizon. There was definitely a charm to the town, whether it was how the buildings were setup going up the mountain, or just how people acted there. It was quiet and not screaming for tourist attention (which is a relief, personally). To get to the bus that took us back to Donostia, we had to hike the mountain to near the top. The view was gorgeous and absolutely stunning, though I doubt anyone was in a position to admire it. I believe I put a picture of it in this post. Another note however, pictures do not do justice to anything that we see when we travel. It’s all about being there and capturing it with the best camera of all time, you’re eyes and brain. Nothing beats that.
That concludes Sunday’s long odyssey. I’m writing this blog post on Monday, and yesterday seems forever ago. No one can believe that we have only been here for two weeks, with less than seven days left to go. This brigs me to my final point. Time is short, enjoy it now, and don’t worry about it ending. Easier said than done, but today only comes once, take everything you can in that moment. When you look back later, you won’t regret the time you spent and the growth you made. Also remember: The little things speak the loudest in our small world. I hope my post had something to offer, enjoy! ¡Hasta luego!