We woke up fairly late Saturday. Apparently both of us needed sleep (I know I did!). In fact, we didn’t rouse ourselves until lunchtime, which in Spain really begins around 2 o’clock. We managed to get up around 1 and went to Courtney’s house so that she could get some things that she had forgotten to bring to the hostel the day before. Now, I had been there briefly on my first day in Granada, but homestays there are terribly different than they are in Italy. Courtney had to call her “mom” before allowing me to come up and see her room because I (along with any other person) am not allowed in the apartment without her being there. I met her briefly and barely said a word to her because I know zero Spanish. She did not give off the warm welcome that Nice, or any of the other Italian mothers do. Instead she treated me as a guest of a hotel resident; I was visiting a person who was temporarily staying in her home. It was not warm and fuzzy. But, I cannot fault her for this. Perhaps there are reasons for her behavior towards her homestay’s boyfriend. I have no idea, and I even understand her rules (or the program’s rules) about not allowing other people in the house without “supervision”, but the coldness seemed a bit extreme. It is the complete opposite in Italy.
In fact hello were the last words that I spoke to Courtney’s homestay mother, even though I would briefly return with Courtney to her room twice more over the weekend. Still, it’s not my place to judge and if Courtney’s happy with the situation (which she is) than I’m happy!
For lunch we went to a place that Courtney’s host mom had actually recommended to her to which to take me (maybe she’s not so cold afterall!). We sat outside on a cold rainy day (I bring bad weather with me wherever I go!) and devoured our plate of Spanish olives before the food had even arrived. Spanish olives are delicious. They are generally green and a bit brinier than Italian. Generally I like my olives spicier than briny, but these were delicious and I made an attempt to eat them with every meal. South Spain is one of the olive capitals of the world and I took full advantage of it. The olive oil, consequently, is amazing. It’s rich and spicy. It’s more like a sauce on its own than an oil. I could eat Spanish bread with their olive oil all day and be perfectly content. Amazing.
After lunch we walked around the city some more. Courtney took me to her favorite fountain where we sat for a long time on a bench talking about life and the abroad experience. It’s surprising to hear how differently it affects each person. Courtney’s really living in Spain. She’s becoming a true part of the culture, absorbing everything, and becoming almost a Spaniard. I, on the other hand, still feel like a stranger in Parma, regardless of how well I speak the language. As such, this experience abroad is a bit different. I don’t see it as some sort of separate life, or even a new home. I see myself in Parma as a fourth month visitor. I’m not an Italian and I never will be. Italy is my temporary home, and I recognize that fact in everything I do. I came abroad to see the world along with Italy. I didn’t root myself in Italy as Courtney has rooted herself in Spain. She’s taking this as an almost second life experience, seeing Spain as her new home. She doesn’t want this experience to be temporary. She wants to hold onto it forever.
And the same is true for me. I will hold onto this magical part of my life forever, but I entered into it with my eyes constantly on the end. I’ve always known that it will end, regardless of whether or not I want it to arrive. I’m not remaining in Italy for the rest of my life. I have a life at home that constantly tugs at my heart; one that I could not put aside easily, even for fourth months. But I did, in a way. I came abroad. I made the leap. Maybe I should have rooted myself more deeply in Italy. Maybe I should have jumped into the deep end instead of wading around the pool, trying to slowly get comfortable. Maybe, despite everything that I’ve said about wanting to really be a part of the Italian culture, I’ve been scared to throw myself into it because I don’t want to lose what I have at home. Maybe I’ve lived with a wall up, one that prevents me from fully living this experience in the off chance that it keeps me here. The sad thing is that I have felt that wall. I stop myself, sometimes, from enjoying every moment here. I’ve looked for the bad instead of the good at times because, I think, subconsciously I’ve been scared to enjoy myself too much. I don’t want to forget my life at home, and I don’t want it to forget me. For some reason I’ve felt that living these four months too intensely might detach me from the real world where I belong.
Then again, have I actually felt that way? I know that I don’t live as Courtney tries. I don’t actively fight off the tugs of home to live in the moment; I try to reconcile both and live them together, and by doing so I necessarily deny myself the ability to live fully in Italy. Of what have I been scared? Am I worried home will disappear? Am I worried I will change? Is it because I witnessed other friends go abroad and return back to the States a completely different person; someone with whom I no longer wanted to be friends? Am I hesitant to become too attached to here for the sole reason that I know that this experience is ending? Is my stubborn resistance to throw myself entirely into Italy some sort of defense mechanism?
No. In the end, I am living Italy. I live here and I let my mind live here. I only operate differently than other people do, just as others operate differently from me. I’m not ‘not living fully’ in Italy because I have not rooted myself firmly in the ground here. I love Italy. I live Italy everyday. I experience Italy everyday. The only difference is that I’m constantly aware, and perhaps constantly wary, that there is my other part of my life; my home to which I will return soon. I love home, so these thoughts are not scary, nor are they disparaging. I don’t want them to disappear and I don’t want this experience to disappear. It’s hard to explain, but perhaps I try constantly to keep them both present because I want neither to depart from me. As such, one could say that I have not firmly grounded myself in the present, but I would answer that I have grounded myself here in Italy, but I’ve allowed my branches to continue to reach towards Hamden, CT.
Well, that had little to do with Spain. Sorry to bother you guys with my “philosophical” mumbo-jumbo, thoughts; back to Granada…
After a gelato and at least an hour of talk under a beautiful fountain, in a lively square swarming with little children and young parents, Courtney and I walked through the rain (goddamn my bad luck! It never rains in Granada!) to the hostel where we spent the remainder of the afternoon napping and doing work. We had planned on going out with her friends once more, but many of them had left Granada for the long weekend. Neither of us were terribly hungry, but Granada being the capital of tapas (or at least the originator of tapas) we figured we could go get ourselves some free dinner while having a couple of drinks. Courtney took me to small place where we had some wine, a mojito and a bunch of fairly decent food. We sat and enjoyed each other’s company. Taking in the night slowly. We left the bar around 12, but still had a couple of hours before we could go to the clubs where we hoped to meet with some of her friends.
We never ended up meeting with her friends, but we still decided to go to the club. Courtney somehow got us in (there was a “list”, but luckily she is an attractive girl) and we entered into a loud, young crowd who were just beginning to start their night of dancing. People in Spain stay out until very, very late in the night or early in the morning, depending on how one looks at it. So at 1:30 the place was only beginning to fill up. We took up our place on the dance floor and tried to make the best of the terrible Spanish music played by the DJ. Interestingly, this was the first time that Courtney and I had gone to a club together! I don’t go clubbing often, in fact quite rarely, in the States, but the stupid drinking age prevents me from going with many friends because in Boston (and some other places) you have to be 21 to enter. This has kind of put a damper on the idea of going out for a night of dancing with Court because she is still a youngin! Damn year off! Anyway, the night was fun. We went home around 3:30 (actually 4:30 because the clocks turned back as we were dancing) and people were still waiting in line to get in. Spain is nuts.