Sunday, June 20, 2010

So Long, Sweet Sevilla

One might say that any good love story ends in a tragedy; that happy endings are just too cliché. Someone is always left crying, or if they’re not quite so lucky, dying. But every once in awhile, you find that certain tale that leaves you with a great sense of satisfaction and a glimmer of hope that the world isn't so bad after all.

Despite the fact that I left Sevilla one week ago with puffed eyes and quivering lips, I’d like to say that my love story with El Toro ended on a positive note. For starters, I am still alive (although another bite of jamón and I could quite possibly have been died of a clogged artery.) But Spain’s sacred animal aside, I end this story on good terms because I just spent the last six months of my life living in a city that literally stole my heart. From its sweet sangria to three-hour siestas, its reputation for charm rang true. But that’s not to say that Sevilla was all rainbows and ponies either—it’s a city that lets their dogs poo in the middle of the sidewalk and doesn’t believe in picking it up; a city that drinks beer instead of water after finishing 10K races; a city whose professors go out dancing at the discotecas with their students until 5am. But it is these very unique aspects about Sevilla that really captivated me. Where else will you find small children dressed in Ku Klux Klan apparel marching down the streets at 3 am?

Sevilla has a famous motto, which you can see branded on everything from architecture to pamphlets to Christopher Columbus’s tomb in the Cathedral. The slogan reads NO8DO, which combines the Spanish syllables “No” and “Do” with a figure eight representing a coiled piece of yarn (‘madeja’ in Spanish.) When read all together, the motto sounds like the phrase “No me ha dejado” (You have not abandoned me.) The story is traced back to Alfonso X (‘The Wise’), who was caught in a brutal civil war over who would rule Spain after his own son tried to usurp the throne from him. Eventually, Alfonso lost, yet there were three cities that continued to remain faithful to Alfonso, Sevilla being the most important. Thus when Alfonso’s own son had turned his back on him, Sevilla had still not abandoned him.

I take a certain comfort in knowing that after my semester in Sevilla, the city is and always will be ingrained into the person I am and have become. As I walked into the dentist’s office the other day, my dentist greeted me in the waiting room with “Gayle! Long time no see!” And I instinctively responded “Yo sé!” (I know!) before throwing my hand over my mouth in shock at the Spanish words that just escaped my mouth. SO even if I wanted it to, Sevilla will never abandon me, nor I it. While I may not be physically in Sevilla anymore, the experiences I had there and the things I’ve learned will continue to affect my everyday life from here on out.

I was put to shame this past semester at how much the international community knows about my own country—our history, culture and traditions—in comparison to how little I know about the rest of the world. But it took me being immersed in a completely different culture to realize my own ignorance, and consequently ignite my passion to change that. Forget mandatory classes and homework, I finally WANT to have a better grasp on world history, want to be able to recognize famous art when I see it, and want to speak more languages. I am ready to take the initiative. There is too much left out there to experience to just sit in my own little corner of the world for the rest of my life wondering what else there is.

So yes, I am dying to see what the rest of the world has to offer. However Sevilla will still always hold an especially special place in my heart. After far too many days soaked to the bone from the February rain, all my lost in translation failures, and my fair share of second-hand smoke, I am walking away from this past semester fluent in another language, with an ignited desire to see the world, and best of all, an incredible new family. I know I will be back one day, because anyone knows you can’t just leave your family forever. And just like my family, Sevilla won’t be leaving me either. So NO8DO Sevilla. I’ll be seeing you soon.

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