Two weekends ago I took another trip, this time to Andalusia: Granada and Seville. Eh, only a 7+ hour bus ride. But there were no bus mishaps (thank, goodness) and in Granada I had one of my favorite experiences of Spain (no, it wasn't getting wasted off of Sangria and absinthe and dancing salsa through the streets of Granada, although this would have been a very spanish experience). I went with a few friends to a local bar to watch native Flamenco dancing. We were in this little crowded room; chairs on three sides. On the little worn stage, flooded with big lights from the opposite side, were a guitar player, floutest, singer, three female dancers and one male dancer. The guitarist played like I wish I could and the singer sang from her neck and it was like a stream of emotion coming out raw. The dancers did a few songs together and then each dancer had a solo time and did as many songs as they seemed up for. The first songs would be correographed (at least the music) and then they seemed more and more improv by the end, with multiple endings that the dancer could choose from.
One of the women had the most beautiful hands. They were perfection and I could not look away from them. They were like a man’s hands but too knowledgeable and well executed to be. Her arms leading up to those hands were just as perfect, like a pair by Michelangelo. I always think about Jack Dawson from 'Titanic' and his appreciation for hands: hands are the sex appeal. He didn’t fall in love with a prostitute, he just drew her hands.
The older, most experienced dancer began her solo pieces with a shawl around her shoulders. As she danced between the spotlight and gave life to her shawl it looked like a black raven descending from the sun with each feather outstretched separately. She danced and danced with such passion. She lifted her skirt like we were her man but it was her feet that were precious; that we lusted to see. The sweat ran into her eyes and them streamed back out afresh.
The young dancer had fingers like birds. Her hands could flutter or stick stiff. They were small like she was, and lithe and beautiful like she was. She was clearly the youngest; not just in her natural beauty. She was the youngest because she didn’t dance for the love of dancing, which was beautiful and full of passion in its own, but she danced for the love in life. When she looked out off the dance floor she demanded a deep love from all of us, a love that bleeds out from behind the bones in your chest. We all fell in love with her. In her gaze you saw the deepest but most anguished love. She was young enough to still be consumed by the pain and anguish of life. I fell in love and cried.
Some of the best parts of the trip:
-Riding my rented bike in Amsterdam. Looking back, signaling with one hand, reading the map with the other, and seeing my cousins there; all of us on an adventure through new worlds.
-Swimming in a gold specked ocean in Barcelona and being in two places at once: surrounded by my friends and family at home in the lake and floating by nude Spaniards in the Mediterranean.
-Living as a rich family in their summer villa on the outskirts of Firenze, listening to opera and eating homemade ravioli and ice cream.
-Hearing from one of the UM girls that I had never gone out with before, that the first night she ever spent with me and my close friends, the final night of the trip filled with Tapas, dancing, and goodbyes, was her favorite night of the trip.
There is such a beauty in the streets here and in Portugal. And it is not just the old couples supporting each other as they walk together through the years. It is not just the young children who speak in spanish and laugh in spanish and teach me how to love on first sight. It is the streets themselves that hold something within them. Here all of the sidewalks are made brick by brick, different colors. In portugal, ever step brought a continuation of some beautiful design that spread down the street. In Portugal, many of the walls of the buildings were made from bright, glazed, ceramic tile. The walls were canvases as well. In Segovia this past weekend, many of the buildings were also etched into, spirals of indentation crawling up their sides. And the buildings themselves. Wherever I walk here I find myself walking by someplace beautiful. I think it is the history that seeps from between their cracks, maybe that's it.
But this beauty is tarnished by the pollution that lingers in Spain. We may not have the history, in the United States, but I am thankful of our respect, usually, of our environment. On every walk you take in Spain there are always mystery wet spots on the sidewalks. Quite frequently you get dripped on from above and you'll think it's raining for ten seconds, and then you start hoping to God that that mini rain was clean. Here everyone smokes and when they are done with those cigarettes they throw them on the ground. When we went to Portugal and saw those beautiful brick sidewalks, a part of me wondered whether the bricks weren't really just a place for the cigarette butts so that people can pretend they are not there uglying their streets. Every sidewalk is littered with butts within the cracks, some with lipstick around the ends, some still smoking. There are so many that every night the streets are cleaned. They have huge street cleaners here that come with loud, spinning brooms on the bottom that gobble up the trash and the remnants of cancer smoked that day. Many times a week men also come and spray down a whole street with hoses of gushing water. Just make sure you don't try to walk by one of those guys when they're not paying attention or in a bad mood.
These past six weeks I’ve been learning a lot about the civil war and the Franco regime in Spain. The dictator Franco didn’t die until 1975. Until then Spain was a dictatorship and there were censorships on the arts as well as the economy. Reading literature that recorded these things made me really appreciate our freedom. In the US and in the modern democratic of Spain we have more than one brand of pop, we can choose which phone company we want to use, we can read political cartoons. Our authors don’t have to leave the country to write what they want. We have such freedom.
We also discussed the meaning and role of the literature we read. Sometimes it is difficult to look at the past and not just ignore it. In present day Spain it is a constant back and forth: should we go back and examine our ugly past or not? For some Spaniards, the past wasn’t ugly. For some, the present day economic slump is the fault of the democracy; during Franco’s rule they never had problems like this.
I believe that it is important to look back and remember the past. We should examine what was written and we should learn from it. We read a piece of literature about the time before the civil war, when the church and the right did not want teachers speaking out and teaching new, worldly ideas. The teachers were the strength behind the revolution into a Republic because when people were educated they too wanted to fight for freedom.
Literature from the past is our teacher. It has the power to urge us to fight for and protect our freedom. We can look back at the Francos and the Hitlers and recognize them when they surface again.
After skyping about a billion people in the last few months (as well as the most wonderful mirror in my apartment here), I've realized that 'a person's beauty depends more on the light than on their face'. There are more factors to your beauty than just your basic physical attributes.
I wish I had something amazing to say as a conclusion to this Blog. Maybe I can just say that I hope this is not an end; that I will be exploring new universes in the future. And I do believe that traveling abroad helps. I have become a different person after this summer, one with new experiences that will never be forgotten, even the not so great ones. Going abroad is not just learning about the world but about yourself. But I also think that this can be done at home as well and we cannot forget that. Do not think that staying in one place means that you are limited as a person or limited in your growth. Look at the world around you in a new light. Take some time to think about things you have never considered before. Breath a little slower, gaze a little higher, smell a little deeper. Talk a little more and then a little less. Try to remember a feeling or an image for more than just that fleeting moment. Meet someone new, go somewhere new, love something new. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to accept the amazing things that come and do not be afraid to give amazing things back. We live in an absolutely astounding universe of space and light and thoughts and emotions. Don't let it slid by. Laugh.