Melissa tells me I know the city better than she does after just a few weeks, but I really enjoy just walking and listening to the sound of Spanish on the streets and kind of laughing to myself about the tourists with their maps out, trying to find their way around Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter. Yesterday, I was out doing a route for my new job at We Love Spain, a company that provides cultural interaction activities, excursions and parties for tourists and study abroad students. It was nearing dusk, so the sun was blinding. I had to find two language schools that are kind of wedged between Los Jardines del Alcázar and the rest of the barrio. It’s got narrow, winding streets and it’s easy to get lost because of all the small alleyways (hence mine and Helen’s hour-long trip to find a museum a few months ago!). I am happy to say I have a great sense of direction, but just finding little plazas and fountains and small restaurants is something I can’t get sick of. The streets were built to hide the sun, so they’re shady and breezing and wonderously beautiful. I have a job where I just get to walk around and talk to people, and get free excursions. That almost makes up for only getting 100 euro a month!

There are some things, like Santa Cruz, I won’t get sick of. Like the way people live on the streets. Or the shoes stores. Or bodegas that are gritty and crowded. Or hearing the flamenco school down the street clapping and singing. Or getting standing ovations from my students. Or how beautiful the countryside is when you’re riding the bus and the sun comes up. Or how fresh goat’s cheese can taste. Or the sound of the semana santa bands playing near the river. Or the sunset over the river, for that matter. Or how good I feel after spinning class, drenched in sweat and barely able to walk. Or seeing someone I know on the street in an enormous city. Or finding the old ramparts when you’re drunk and you run up and take pictures. Or having someone ask you for directions in Spanish. Or a really good tinto de verano. Or finding cheap plane fares. Or the way Nieves laughs and her whole body shakes because she’s really laughing. Or going out with coworkers and having a coffee and not paying. I could seriously go on forever. There’s a lot of things I like about Chicago, but being here makes everything so new and different and interesting.
After some time, people and things start to wear on me. I was willing to scratch my eyes out if I didn’t leave Iowa City any sooner. I had to wait 12 days to graduate and leave. When I’m back in Wheaton for more than a few days, I’m ready to head back to Iowa City. It’s a very strange paradox. I’ve been here in Spain for two months already, and I seem to just be wandering around in amazement that I could be fortunate enough to live in a city that’s centuries old and that is more and more beautiful every day. I’m already anticipating SEVERE reverse culture shock when I get back to the States (that is, if I ever get back…)
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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

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