Grateful in Alicante, Spain

Gratitude.

On a windy afternoon, as I stroll along on the sand of Alicante’s Playa de San Juan, I can’t help but reflect on this past year and a half.  Lockdown-inducing pandemic? Check. Study abroad cancelled not once, but twice? Check. Natural disasters? Check. Political and social turmoil? As long as humans are around, absolutely.

Yet, in this moment I feel grateful. Many other feelings–contentment, sadness, joy, and anger–from this past year arise but gratitude is the one that sits at the forefront of my thoughts.

Showing the author at the beach with some other American students. They are standing on the sand with the sea and some people behind them.
At the Postiguet beach in Alicante with some other American students. This beach was a bit crowded but if you take the tram for 15 minutes you can get to the San Juan beach, which is much more quiet and picturesque.

Until I landed at the Madrid airport, I doubted whether I’d be able to study abroad this semester. During our five hour layover in Madrid, my Linfield peers and I breathed a sigh of relief not only because we knew for sure that we were going to study abroad but also because we got off that darn 11 hour flight.

Ahh, but gratitude! Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. I must return to you, Gratitude! Otherwise, the people reading might get bored.

So let me tell you about what I’m grateful for here in Alicante. First of all, a wonderful host family. My host mother and her adult son, both of whom immigrated to Spain from Argentina about twenty years ago, are very kind and helpful. On Sundays, my host mother’s daughter, son-in-law, grandson, and their fluffy dog come visit. Last Sunday, we celebrated the quinceañera of one of their relatives in Argentina by filming a video in which we had music, balloons, and a special appearance by the grandson dressed as Harry Potter. It was so much fun!

Another thing I´m grateful for: delicious food. As a vegetarian, I was a bit worried about my options but my host family has been very accommodating. Honest communication is key! Telling your host family what foods you like and don´t like is essential, but it´s also important to try new foods. Here I´ve fallen in love with tortillas de patata, which more closely resemble potato sponge cake than the tortillas we eat in the Americas. My host brother says that tortillas de patata are a hot topic of debate among Spaniards, as about half of them prefer their tortillas with onion while the other half go “sin cebolla.” Personally, I like both so hopefully I can broker some peace while I´m here and add that to my resume.

There´s also a lot to do and explore here. Last week, we climbed the castle of Santa Barbara, which sits on a hill overlooking the city of Alicante. Built by Muslims in the 9th century, the castle of Santa Barbara has undergone a series of damages and renovations. On some of the walls, you can even see cannonballs wedged into the stone! Sadly, some of the modern aspects of the castle include satellite antennas, which provide signal to Alicante´s residents from atop the castle. Nonetheless, the view from the castle is spectacular and worth a photoshoot if you find yourself in Alicante.

View from atop the castle of Santa Barbara in Alicante, Spain at sunset. Captures  the sun setting amid clouds.
View from atop the castle of Santa Barbara in Alicante, Spain.

All of these events bring me back to gratitude. I´m so grateful to be able to study abroad this semester (and to be able to swim in ocean waters that won´t give me hypothermia!).

Hasta la próxima (until next time),

David Magnello