I can’t believe nearly four months have passed since I left Spain. Returning to the U.S. has been like going through reverse culture shock, bringing with it both the good and the bad. Besides my Spanish friends and the Spanish culture in general, what I miss most is having the time to explore the city and discover something new every time I step outside. Living back home in Medford, my route to school is generally a straight line with little exploring and few new sights. I think this stems from a combination of walking with my eyes half-closed from living in the Boston area for all of my life, generally being in a rush for class or work, and simply not making the time to discover an area I simple-mindedly consider well known.
Living in Spain has taught me that, despite this natural tendency to overlook the familiar, there are new locations to discover, new places to visit, and new people to meet no matter where I live and no matter how long I’ve been there; you just have to accept it. So as a reminder to myself and to others that by keeping open eyes and an open mind, and by walking slowly with your head held high, you will always see something you’ve never seen before, whether it be a new person, a house you’ve never noticed, or the first flower buds emerging from the mud-luscious ground, I’ve posted my final dibujo project from last semester.On one of my last Sundays in Alcalá, I headed out for a two hour walk with my camera in an attempt to photograph my personal map of the city. I started in my apartment and headed down my favorite streets, photographing the squares in which I spent most of my time. I edited all of the pictures together as a horizontal journey through the city, overlaying each site above its location on a map of the city and adding it different sketches from throughout the semester. This is Alcalá through my eyes.
What I witnessed on my walk made me realize how much there is to see in the world. Within those two hours, I saw people, young and old, celebrating the holiday season by spraying each other with silly string. I saw children running through the street hammering away on tambourines and vendors roasting chestnuts at the end of Calle Mayor. I saw tourists visiting the Casa de Cervantes and bomberos joking around after having put out a fire at a local restaurant. When I reached the Plaza de Cervantes I came across a Christmas concert where a huge crowed sang along with a local band as friends laughed, danced, played tambourines, and sprayed each other with the aforementioned silly string. Around the corner, a huge line extended from city hall as the people of Alcalá gathered to see Spain’s World Cup. Next to the line, soldiers from the Spanish army cooked lunch for anyone who was interested. While a testament to all that made my semester in Spain an incredible experience, all that I experienced in those two hours reveals what amazing experiences a simple walk down the street can contain.