Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
I must say, I am quite proud of myself. The first time I went to San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque), I fell in love with it and immediately knew it was my favourite place in Spain. I explored the pubs, had my first tequila shot after several years, met some great people from my hostel, and pic-nicked on the beach. My last afternoon there, as I took my last look at the sea, I realised two things.
1. That peculiar shade of blue would be imprinted on my brain and
2. I had to come back.
Nearly two months later, I was having a bad time at school this past week (which is also why I haven't updated about my spring break). On Tuesday, as I stared blankly at my History of Spain notes in preparation for an exam about the second republic, I thought about how much I wish I could have been enjoying the sunshine that had finally hit northern Spain. And I thought: Fuck it, I'm going to San Sebastian. Just like that.
It amazes me how easy it has become for me over the past 3 months to just...leave things behind and go somewhere. It's something I don't get a lot of in America. I'm less restless here, because when I get that restlessness I can quench it so easily. I can literally run away from my problems and go sleep on the beach instead. Which is exactly what I did. The morning, I had a ticket and a bag packed.
Two days after that, I was sleeping on the bus. I woke up three quarters into the three hour bus ride, just in time for my favourite part. One of the many reasons Basque Country is my favourite part of Spain is the unexpected view. Contary to stereotypes of Spanish topography, northern Spain is emerald green and full of mountains and valleys. The last time I'd see something similar was southern Poland. The last few villages one drives by on the way to Donostia are plopped in the bottoms of the valleys, or scattered over river canals. If I could have taken clear pictures from the bus, I would have. The view is stunning.
But of course, it was not as good as being back in San Seb. The second I stepped off the bus, I got that "I'm on vacation" feeling again, except this time I knew my way around quite well. I knew where to buy the best fruit, where to get dinner, where outside to eat it. After it got dark, I didn't want to spend much time in my room because it had no windows. So I met up with friends, the very same people I met the first time.
It's another reason for my affection for San Sebastian: being one of the first places this semester to re-awaken my travelling itch, it was also the place where I learned the interesting mentality of people who like it as much as I do. People who live in hostels, couchsurf, or take off for the sake of taking off have such a weird and different way of relating, and I must say it agrees with me. They open up to you much more easily than in ordinary circumstances--even if or perhaps because they are aware you will not know eachother for very long. Your lives are only intersecting for a limitted time and everyone's so new to you that you don't stop appreciating them after a time, because...well, you don't have that time.
In any case, between seeing a few really great people I had genuinely missed, meeting a few others that made an impression, and the following day on the beach, I could not have been more satisfied. My Saturday was what I needed to take out the stress of the past week: a book, the beach, and that blue water in front of me. As I napped and listened to music, I would hear the tide coming and going between songs. And I could feel a slight sunburn and, I daresay, a nice tan developing.
As last time, I was sad to get on the bus back to Burgos. Perhaps this time, a little sadder. (this face is appropriate ;D) But as I sat in my classes all morning, I was certainly glad that I had such nice things to daydream about instead of listening to my professor.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
The Beach by Alex Garland
My copy of The Beach is five years old, stained and dog-eared becuase I bought it at a garage sale when I was 15 or so. I remember being overjoyed to pay a quarter for it, because it had affected my 14 year old self so much the first time I had read it. It told me that there were things out there for people as bored and sarcastic as I was back then. And since the moment I purchased my own copy, I have never left home without it. From university to family trips to the Caribbean and Europe, The Beach has always had its own pocket in my suitcase. And I fondly re-read it every time and find something that I hadn't noticed the last time. I've always liked how the story seemed to grow up with me.
So at 20, the one thing I knew I had to pack and read on my own trip was this book. And how god damn fitting it seemed to be reading it on my first time travelling alone. Alone and farther than the 4-hour bus ride from Boston to New York. Little did I know I would very soon say goodbye to my copy, but that's another story and shall be told another time. But then, there were a lot of things about my trip that surprised me.
And the first of those things was you get a little funny in the head the second your airplane leaves the ground. You very quickly learn that things will never go remotely as planned or pictured, and you have to stay cool and think on your feet. At 4 a.m. on the 2nd I took a bus to Barajas Airport in Madrid. I arrive at 7 a.m. and promptly got myself lost within its large complex. Great, I thought. My flight's at 10 and I'm going to miss check-in. I looked at my cellphone for the time: almost 8.
I had taken a shuttle from the bus station to one of the terminals, and of course, it was the wrong one. Now I needed to figure out how to get to Terminal 3. After some running around with my suitcase strapped on my back and my scarf choking me, I found the bus stop and waited. And waited. And waited for another shuttle, silently cursing this country's inability to ever do anything at the appointed hour. Finally, the right bus came and as I rode it to the right terminal, I silently willed it to go faster.
I found the Terminal and made a beeline for the check-in desk only to find I was the only one there.
Where the hell is everyone? Have they all checked in?
I turned left and right, looking for someone who looked like they worked there and zeroed in on a young man in a suit. He was giving someone directions. Since he looked like he knew what he was saying, I approached him. At worst, I figured, he was Spanish and I could wave my blonde hair in his face and beg him to let me on the plane. Faced with the possibility of being stranded in Barajas, I was desperate and silly things were ocurring to me.
"Has check in occured?" I wheezed, panting from running at him.
"No," he said, looking at his watch. "It doesn't start for 30 minutes."
I gaped at him.
That's when this think-on-your-feet talent kicked in for the first time. As I gaped at my little Spanish bullfighter, it came to me: Time for a drink. I hadn't had breakfast yet, and suddenly coffee with Bailey's (or vice versa) seemed a brilliant decision.
Twenty minutes, two drinks and about 10 Euro later, it was. With my body feeling slightly like jell-o, I swaggered back to the check-in to find I was one of the first in line. I picked up my boarding pass, found a quiet corner, and sat down. With time to spare, I pulled out my book. I opened its crumbling paperback cover. And as the narrator Richard began talking about the pros and cons of travelling alone, his words more than the Bailey's Creamy had a tranquilizing effect.
Spain stopped existing. I was calm, collected, and on vacation.