Monday, October 24, 2016

Returning to a City You (Once) Loved and Moving On

When I studied abroad in Seville the spring of 2014, I knew I was going to have the time of my life, live it up with my best friend, and drink numerous amounts of wine while dancing the night away. What I didn't know was that my anticipation and excitement to study abroad would progressively snowball into this overwhelming, deep, unconditional love for this beautiful city. How could I love a city so much? How did I ever get so lucky to live here? Similar questions to these popped into my head every single day I woke up in this majestic city. There was life at every corner, always something to do, and the passion of the culture lingered in the air and in between the centuries old, moorish buildings.

But there was a part of me that was scared and dreaded the day when I wasn't going to be able to call the place I fell madly in love with home. No joke, I'd have nightmares that my study abroad program ending early than excepted and crying on the flight back home....the love was too real. And then, on May 26th that day finally became real life. I remember being in denial my last two weeks there. I remember walking around the city trying to capture the city with all my senses, trying to take the best mental note I possibly could. I wanted to record everything- how I felt being there, the smells, the pub we always went to at the end of the night, how I felt when I re-fell in love with traveling, the little hidden corner we discovered next to the Rio Guadilquivir, the commute every morning to school on the metro, the live guitar music play by the Giralda, the mom and pop churro stand that turned out to be a diamond in the rust, the unforgettable memories created.

By the time I was seated on the AVE train with my life bundled into two bags and a carry-on, I was scared out of my mind I was going to forget everything. As the train took off, I tried not to think about the perfect life I left there and was broken-hearted as the city I loved appeared smaller and smaller with each mile the train had moved away from it. I felt sort of pathetic, but nevertheless empty. Call me pessimistic, but I knew nothing will match up to those amazing four months. Although I was confident I'd be able to reach the same amount of happiness at some point later down the road, it wouldn't be the same.

My love affair with Seville had ended, and it definitely made my heart ache for months. I remember going back for my senior year and being terribly sad the first weeks of school. I remember sharing my feelings with my best friend who had gone on the trip with me and talking to her about my broken heart, reminiscing, and trying to hold on to those memories and feelings...I couldn't let go. Months later, with a little bit of luck, I was able to return to the place where I (thought ) I'd left my heart.

I was excited to finally capture and restore those memories, the feelings I had once left there. Stepping into the city I was able to go back to the places where I'd loved most- my favorite rooftop terrace to sip a glass of wine, the pub with our favorite Chilean waiter, the "rinconcito" down by the river Guadilquivir. I visited my study abroad office where I spent my days registering for classes, the cafe bar where I did my homework, I was reminded how cold it felt in the shade and in between the moor-styled houses but how warm and welcoming the sun felt on your skin. Everything was the same....but at the same time it wasn't. Everything was how I remembered it to be, but the feelings weren't and I was surprisingly OK with that. I felt as if I was a hopeless romantic revisiting an old love- you appreciate them, care about them, and still love them, but that flaming passionate feeling is gone with only the memories lingering.

Sevilla to me remains one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited and I doubt that will ever change. I'm lucky enough to be able to visit every other month and admire its beauty (10 times more charming my current home, Madrid, but shh...we'll keep that a secret).

Y cuando vuelva a Sevilla en primavera, volverá a mis viente años, recorriendo sus callejas-y volveré, a el olor de los naranjos, a vivir un jueves santos y una mañana de feria-y embriagaré de jazmines y azahares, y de tinto de Morales, manzanilla, sanluqueña- me enamoraré de un (niño) de Triana, y renacerá en mi alma la alegría cuando vuelva. 
-Siempre Así

It's a strange feeling, honestly. I've now lived in Madrid for over a year now and it's a city I've known and come to love. It has become my home- a new, unique place in my heart. Every time the plane hits the tarmac in Barajas I get this sparkle in my heart (I know, it's corny) because it knows it's the place where it belongs. 

I've come to love the little things it offers, just like I did once upon a time with Sevilla. Its oversaturated streets that never seem to empty out, having a picnic in el Retiro (and getting kicked out by the automatic sprinklers), the way the city transforms at sunset while admiring it from a rooftop bar, eating the best bocadillo de calamares for only 2.70 euros, the little stand in Nuevos Ministerios where I get my daily fresh pressed orange juice, the thrill of the city life rush. 

Maybe the day I realized I've learned how to live la vida madrileña was when I was walking past the crowded streets of Goya when I spot a solicitor in my periphery coming up to me. Without even thinking, I immediately grabbed my phone, pretended to answer my non-existing call, and said "hey Brian, what's up?" right in front of the no-speak-english Spaniard. It didn't surprise me when he made a complete 360 and moved on to his next victim. Smirking to myself, and also being thankful for being bilingual (thanks mom and dad for always speaking to me in Spanish!), I realized this "big city life" has become almost second nature to me. 

It's those things that make you realize that you as an individual have moved on, have adapted to a different city, embraced it, and know how to "bregar" with everyday life there. Just like everything else, the heart learns how to adapt, move on, adjust, and fall in love again. Returning to Sevilla is like having a reencounter with an old lover. You remember the memories, appreciate, savor them, yet they are just memories, sealed in a vault, and that's okay. It's funny how I feel now in Madrid- I ask myself the same question my 20-year-old self asked when she was studying abroad, how did I ever get so lucky to live here

Porque Madrid, en realidad, no es nada especial. No tiene un gran río. Ni apenas rascacielos. Ni canales, ni lagos. Ni gloriosas ruinas. Ni mar. A Madrid le falta muchas cosas. Pero tiene la gente por las calles. El rincón inesperado. La variedad. El contraste. La animación constante. Y sus costumbres. Vale la pena levantarse temprano-por una sola vez-para vivir un día la vida de Madrid.


  1. I love this post! I studied abroad in Granada last semester and absolutely fell in love. I constantly think about it and want to go back, although I know that it will be bittersweet because it won't be the same. I love your perspective on this... that's it's not the same, but it's okay. Thank you for sharing!


  2. Thank you for this post. I studied in Sevilla in the spring of 2000 (a few years before you 😀). I remember walking the city simply trying to capture the essence- the smells, the people, everything- in the hopes I would never lose them. I knew what an incredible journey I was on and it was a true love affair with the city. I had the opportunity to return in May 2015 and it was the same...but different. Sevilla will always hold a special place in my heart ❤️.

  3. You perfectly captured exactly how I feel about Granada. I studied abroad there for 8 months in 2010. It was the most magical time of my life and I have the most amazing memories of that city. I have been back twice since then and each time I go I am a bit sad because it is not the same. It looks the same, there are many of the same restaurants, pubs, and other locations but it feels different.

    I admire you for moving to Spain and living out your dream. I would give so much to pick up and move there. It is impossible for my due to family but I love Spain with all of my heart.