Hell week. Students usually use this term to refer to a difficult period in which: (a) they must take more than one test, (b) these tests are accompanied by a heavy work load in other classes (i.e., projects, papers), and (c) they feel a significant amount of stress due to these expectations, exhaustion due to poor sleeping patterns, and a general feeling of malaise. Last week was very much my hell week, and unfortunately I spent the majority of it preparing two presentations, writing a paper, and studying for our finals, which we had yesterday.
So, a summary of the past week and a half, minus the schoolwork.
The entire Granada trip was amazing. On Saturday morning, we ate in the hotel for breakfast and then travelled to the small house of Federico García Lorca, the Huerta de San Vicente. The whitewashed exterior and the green doors of the summer home blended in beautifully with the towering trees and the shrubbery. Inside the gift shop there were books of poetry by Lorca for sale, and I flipped through them, yearning to completely grasp the beauty of his words. We were given a tour of the humble two-story home, and the simplest things were the most elegant: a piano, the dining room table, a Victrola sitting in the corner. On the second floor, we found Lorca’s bedroom, which only contained a couple of posters for some theater productions, his bed, and a rather bulky desk that looked more fit for a giant than a timid poet. The most interesting part of the tour was the room which contained poems, essays, and other works by Lorca, and I poured over each paper, feeling the writer within me grow more and more content. Here was a man’s spirit, his aspirations and disdains. I felt saddened by Lorca’s early death at the hands of Franco’s Nationalist militia men. The cold incalculable horrors of the Spanish Civil War could never extinguish the fire of Lorca’s artistic endeavors.
For our free weekend, I made the tough choice to stay in Sevilla in order to keep up with my class work. However, I wasn’t going to rob myself of the opportunity to make at least one little trip. My roommate and I, Alfonso, decided to go to Cádiz on Saturday for the afternoon. The trip by bus was uneventful until the last ten minutes, when the port city appeared before us. There were several towering pylons with electric-power cables running between them, and the industrial part of the city was replete with impressive factories that, oddly enough, didn’t detract from the beauty of the sea. When we arrived at the beach, Alfonso and I kicked back and laid down in the sand. The water was cool, and the waves choppy. No homework, no duties. Just time to ourselves. I felt, for the firs time in a few days, like I was really on a vacation.
Although I haven’t always enjoyed the effort required of me by my professors, I really have gained a deeper appreciation for the things I’ve learned in class. The lingering effects of Franco’s dictatorship, the plight of many Spanish youth in the face of unemployment and drugs, and Spain’s everlasting sense of stubborn autonomy are omnipresent wherever we go, whether it be El Corte Inglés or La Catedral de Santa María de La Sede. Learning about 15-M, seeing the news reports on the E-Coli outbreak, and talking with people on the streets has not only improved my Spanish immensely, but also given me a chance to live another life, one defined by a completely different history and culture than that of the U.S.
Now that we’re in Madrid, counting down our last few days, I know I’ll be taking in as much as possible. We’ll see what this busy city holds in store.