As my adventure in Sevilla, Spain came to a close I turned my sights on a new type of adventure. Upon the ending of my study abroad experience I boarded a 3 hour train to Jaen, Spain, transferred to a 2 hour bus ride to Carzola, Spain where I then spent the night in a nice hotel. The next morning I woke up and enjoyed a breakfast of coffee and bread, before I began my first attempt at traveling by hitchhiking. You see, I was attempting to travel to a farm, or granja, in the middle of the Sierra de Carzola.
This farm not only required a train and a bus ride, but also a 40 minute drive up the beginnings of a mountain range and then a 3 hour hike through said trees. I hoped to catch a ride up to the beginning of the trail. I stopped by a local store to buy some snacks ( cookies) and began walking. I quickly learned that it was better to stop walking when the cars drove by for two reasons: there was very little shoulder on the road and I needed to get out of the way, and I figured my chances of getting a ride were more likely if they could see my face. About 10 minutes in I began to feel worried, these cars weren’t even slowing down; do people even hitchhike in Spain? What do I do if I don’t want to get into the car? Although these thoughts had crossed through my mind previously I find the act itself usually brings my concerns to the forefront. I was also not at all interested in the prospect of hiking between 10-12 hours in the middle of a 100 degree day. Thankfully, five minutes later a car slowed down and offered me a ride. There was a nice couple in the front and I decided to take the risk and get in the car.
After a clumsy greeting in Spanish (for some reason it’s harder to speak spanish when I get into a strangers car and am nervous, shocking I know) the couple asked where I was from. Upon my revelation of my USA origins the woman states, “Oh thank god, that will make communicating much easier). Turns out the couple were visiting from the Netherlands and I knew English. There were very nice, expressed concern for my plans to hike, offered me water, and then dropped me off at the start of my hike.
This hike was incredibly beautiful (the location of the largest continual field of olive trees in the world) , and also one of the hardest things I have ever done. Following directions from an email sent by the owner of the farm I began looking for things like ” The third ruin on your left” and “the second gate that has a red bandana”. After what felt like a long time I sat down trying to get a break from the sun and to figure out where the heck I was. My stomach dropped all the way to my feet when I realized I had been forgetting a whole page to my directions. With no watch, I estimated that I had been walking for over 3 hours. Something didn’t feel right with where I was, and the direction I was walking so I decided to turn around. I looked over my directions and thought I may have missed the “the second road on your left after the lookout/house”. At this point I had almost run out of water, judging by the sun it was about 1 o’clock, and I was starting to get dizzy. I began taking pictures with my camera to beginning marking the passing of the time. One hour later I reached the turn off I had missed and began climbing the almost vertical hike. Four hours into my hike, I no longer had the energy to worry about my situation and could only focus on two things: “Dont sit down, if you do, you will not get back up” and “keep walking”. Words cannot describe the feeling when I rounded the corner and saw the farm in the distance. I stumbled onto the farm in the middle of the siesta asked for some water and then crashed on a bed, waiting for the others to return.
At my age it can be hard to see the big picture. Hard to grasp how quickly time passes. At 20 I’m relatively young, yet for the first time, I also feel old. Tonight is my last night in Sevilla and its taken this moment for me to realize how much I’m going to miss the town. I often don’t realize how good something is until its gone, or changing. The study abroad program has not been easy. I have struggled, I almost quit, and I have not always been thankful for the gifts and opportunities I have been given. My roommate and I went to a big festival in Triana today which turned out to be a perfect way to end our part of the trip. We laughed, drank tinto, and experienced the culture of Sevilla. One of my favorite things about Sevilla is the diverse crowd of people. At 1 am there were young kids and babies as well as grand parents, parents, teenagers, and college students.
Tomorrow I have a long day of traveling. A train to Jaen, a bus to Cazorla, and a night spent in Cazorla. Sunday I have 9miles to walk or hitch hike, then a 4 hour walk to the middle of la Sierra de Cazorla to the organic farm I’m working on. I’m nervous for my first true trip alone, yet all I can do now is wait and see.
The past couple of weeks I have been working in a Spanish play school, attempting to teach Spanish kids English. A task much easier said than done. There are five age groups: 4-5, 6-7, 7-8, 8-9, and a teenage group, and I work with group one, 4-5 year olds. It has been interested to observe the differences between the children I’ve worked with in the States and the children I’m working with here. The children here show me much more affection in a public place. They hold my hand, crawl on my lap, grab my arms, touch my hair, even after only knowing me for a couple of hours. They also demand a lot more attention. In class I may be working one on one with a child who needs extra help, yet if another child wants help they will walk up and throw their work in your face. On an average day I will have between 4-10 kids around me all demanding my attention.
There is one little boy in my class and the other teacher and I aren’t sure but we think he may have some developmental disabilities. He is only three, unfortunately there are about 4-6 three year olds in my class, and constantly needs help. He gets over whelmed with loud noises, very concerned about being clean, doesn’t seem to understand face expressions very well, doesn’t usually listen, asks the same question ten times, and doesn’t like new people. Yet, he can be very cuddly, talkative, and a times listen well. However, it is very challenging to have him in a class teaching English. He appears to struggle with Spanish and other ideas such as coloring by number, and always is the first to finish crafts( never done well), and if you put all those things on top if having 15 other 3-5 year olds it’s hard to give him the attention he needs. I really understand and appreciate the trouble teachers have when there is a huge ability range in the classroom. At this point I really think that arranging kids by age is the biggest problem, because age does not mean ability level. Although it has been very challenging, this job has also been very enjoyable and given me many great memories, and I thought I might share a few.
Most of the boys here are very, very, very into futbol. There is one boy in particular, who is also in my class, that takes futbol as life and death. Every day the kids have a half an hour break in between classes, during which a group always plays futbol. They play a very backyard game on a concrete patio, with two tables as goals, and a soft squishy futbol. This does not, however, stop a few boys in my class from bring both shinguards and goalie gloves. Anyways, this little boy, dressed in a red futbol jersey is running around bossing the older kids, and dictating the rules of the game. Half way through the game he makes a goal, which of course means a celebration. Running around like an airplane the little boy goes to slide on his knees, forgetting the ground is concrete. The moment his knees hit the ground his movement halts and his face twists in pain, however you can’t cry right after you make a goal, so the little boy looks around with pain etched in his face, and stands up. Needless to say he never celebrated like that again.
During one of the first recesses, I played with two of the smallest boys in my class. As I was running around chasing them, one of the little boys who has a lot of attitude, turns to me and says, “deja! O digo mi mama”! Which more or less means stop or I’ll tell my mom.
The other day I was in class and one if the little boys finished his artwork on the very hungry caterpillar. This little boy is one of a group of three inseparable friends. The other two boys in the group of friends are two of the best English speakers in the class, and Pablo is often grouped with those two boys, even though he doesn’t know nearly as much. Thus I wanted to work one on one with him, so I asked him to tell me about everything in his picture. As he starts to tell me he puts his knees in my leg( I’m sitting criss cross apple sauce on the floor), and begins to run his hand through my hair. The longer he talks the more he begins to crawl into my lap and rub my head. By the end of the worksheet he was in my lap and my hair told of the intensive head rub I had just received.
On the final excursion for my school I went to a small city south east of Sevilla. Starting the day was a little rough: sleeping though my alarm, still feeling the night before, and having about four hours of sleep. Dressing, eating, and getting out the door took a total of 10 minutes, and needless to say I was not looking forward to spending my day walking in the heat, up and down hills, while listening to a tour guide drone on about this special place and that special place. My winner attitude really set me up to have a great day, and I only became more enthusiastic through the hour and a half of winding roads, jerky driving, and heat it took to get to Ronda. Despite the fantastic start of my day, Ronda turned out to be one of, if not thee, most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen. Situated amongst farmland, and surrounding hills, Ronda sits on two separate high plateaus divided by a deep gorge with a river decorating the bottom, connected by a bridge. The city was a very quaint old town, with small winding streets, the oldest bullfighting ring in the world(?). I could keep talking about how amazing this town is, however I believe the pictures will do a better job than my rambling.
Went to the first permanent roman settlement in the south Iberian peninsula. I walked on a street with the stones dating back to the beginning of the 2nd century. Although its not necessarily a “stunning” place I loved the rich history. As I walked down the streets I couldn’t help but think about how many people walked here, how much had happened on these streets in a time so different than mine. Sevilla is an old city full of rich history and I am very thankful to have such an experience as this one, and to put my life into perspective.