The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

A Summer Experience

On July 25, 2006, I found myself lying on a bench in Madrid Barajas Airport at 3:00 a.m. My entire body ached and heaven to me was a fluffy bed. The soles of my feet were as black as my flip-flops and a photo booth three feet away repeated the same welcome message every five minutes.

This was how I spent my first night in Spain. Although I didn’t picture myself shivering on an airport bench, this was what I had wanted since I was 17 years old.

Before applying to college, I took a guided tour on a college campus. The guide, a college junior, mentioned she had just returned from a semester abroad in London. I told myself I would do that, too; my college experience would be incomplete otherwise.

And three years later, I was doing just that. I had found two other students, Schari and John, who were studying abroad, too. With plane tickets to Spain, we were ready. On July 24, I was able to say, with my eyes ready to see another world-“Espa√±a, here I come!”

Despite our excitement, our flight from New York was delayed, leading to us missing a connecting flight and the airline losing our luggage. So there we were, stranded on cold, hard benches. At 5:00 a.m. we, with all our luggage, jumped into a taxi to the train station, where we took the first train of the day to Sevilla, from which we took another train to Cadiz. An entire day later, we arrived in Cadiz.

We stayed in the old part of the city, with narrow, cobblestone streets. There was a plaza five minutes away from anywhere in the city. The beach was a 15-minute walk from the residence hall, and so was every other attraction.

The sun rose at 7:00 a.m. and set at 10:00 p.m. At two, people religiously observed siesta, a break in the middle of the day to have lunch and nap. Everyone woke again at six to enjoy the long summer nights and dance in the streets until it was day again.

This city, everyone on the trip agreed, had a certain charm. No other city had made me feel so enamored in such a short time.
Everything was new to me, but at the same time, I felt as if I had been there before. I saw the old city of Cadiz and was reminded of the Philippines, where I grew up. I saw the churches that had been around since the Spanish colonized and Christianized the Philippines. I saw the people who shared the culture and history as the ones now around me.

On our last morning in Cadiz, we said goodbye to this enchanting city and left for Madrid, where we spent our last week in Spain. Riding the metro reminded me of riding NYC subways, in which a car was filled with people from various backgrounds, speaking different languages. This diversity was comforting, as if this busy city welcomed us, too. Madrid offered so much to see and experience, that unfortunately could not all be done in one week.

The celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary welcomed us to Madrid. On August 15, people filled the streets of Madrid, eating, drinking and dancing. Grandmothers danced the night away alongside teenagers outside a bar that played Reggaeton. That night I concluded that the Madrilenos, the people of Madrid, and the Gaditanos, the people of Cadiz, knew how to party.

Madrid was modern and metropolitan; Cadiz, historic and captivating. Both cities gave us a glimpse of Spain, the new and the old. They reminded me of my world, New York and the Philippines. They introduced me to people who knew that life was to be celebrated everyday.

I look forward to someday going back to Spain, to Cadiz, Madrid and other cities I didn’t get to visit. I look forward to seeing more of the world, to finding connections between myself and everyone else. And perhaps I’m even looking forward to wandering in other international airports.

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