My flight to Spain left early the morning of September 1 and I wasn’t on it. Instead, I was lying in bed with a swollen face and bloody gauze shoved into the back corners of my mouth, recovering from an emergency wisdom tooth surgery. A few days before I was supposed to leave for Spain my dentist advised me to check in with my oral surgeon, just to make sure everything was okay before I left the country. Everything wasn’t. “Hmmm…so you’ll be in Spain for three weeks? You should be okay to get your teeth out in about a month,” my oral surgeon said, after telling me all my wisdom teeth had erupted and should be removed as soon as possible. “No, I’ll be gone almost four months,” I said.
I scheduled a last-minute appointment to have the surgery and changed my flight to a week later. Fortunately, the surgery went well and I had almost fully recovered by the time I left. After traveling on three flights and testing out all the seating options in the Madrid airport during my 6-hour layover, I arrived at my host family’s apartment late Sunday night. “I think it’s here,” I told the taxi driver, a little disoriented after driving through a maze of twisty, cobblestone streets. “Bienvenido, mi hija,” my host mom, Loli, greeted me, as she ran down the stairs to meet me. I’m 5’3″ and I towered over her as she hugged me. She then began hauling my giant suitcase, which probably weighed more than she did, up the stairs.
Luckily, I didn’t feel very overwhelmed despite my late arrival. It may sound strange, but I can best describe Seville as a happy city. The streets are always full of people, walking, biking, eating, shopping, laughing, chatting, singing…it’s also pretty normal to see people giving impromptu guitar concerts or flamenco performances in the middle of the sidewalk. The only unpleasant thing that’s happened was when my host brother, disguised in his motorcycle gear and helmet, greeted me as I was arriving home. I jumped and nearly screamed because I didn’t recognize him, but we laughed about it after.
My exchange program has taken us on quite a few visits to famous sites in Seville: Real Alcázar, Catedral de Sevilla, las Setas, Museo de Bellas Artes, Mercado de Triana (where the Spanish Inquisition began) and we took a boat trip along the Río Guadalquivir. Some of us also visited Cádiz last weekend and swam in the ocean–the warmest and saltiest ocean I’ve been in.
I also started training with a swim team here since I’m a member of Linfield’s team and wanted to continue practicing while abroad. I’d been in touch with the swim coach from Club Náutico Sevilla over the summer, so I showed up at the pool to check it out a couple days after I arrived. “You can sign up later. Bring your stuff and start practicing with us tomorrow,” he told me. I met what felt like everyone at Club Náutico the next day: the guy at the gate chatted wanted to chat New York and was disappointed when I said I’d never been . The lifeguards told me never to buy snacks at the pool. “Son malísimas,” they said. A couple of elderly ladies sunbathing asked me if I was from Germany. The coach dove into the pool, floated on his back, then got out and introduced me to the whole team. The practice was very similar to any other team I’ve trained with, except for that the sunbathing ladies jumped into our lanes to cool off in the middle of the set. No one seemed to notice. The laid-back atmosphere surprised me a little, but I enjoyed it. But it seems like that’s just Spain, relaxed yet full of energy.