Keys and Locks

18 Sep

Last night I celebrated the small feat in opening up the gated door to my apartment complex in one easy motion. I realized, in fact, that I had been doing so for the past couple of days and smiled as I walked up the stairs to my new home. This seems like nothing, I know, but talk to any student studying abroad here in Sevilla and they will tell you that the simple task of getting into your apartment complex can be one of the hardest endeavors on the walk home. The lock sticks, the key fits but does not move and when it does shift position, it does so with no prosperity. It is as though the lock takes amusement in watching the silly performance of an awkward clown attempting to get inside and when it gets bored, it simply clicks, opens and allows you to pass. There is no way to say how you have succeeded in entering, you just have and relief wafts over you with the ever-welcoming air conditioning in the foyer.

And so, I consider the fluid motion of entering my building a success.

I also went for my first run in Sevilla the other night. It has been a full month (at the cost of my sanity) since my last run due to the country’s heat and my lack of running shoes. I figured I could simply buy a cheap pair of running shoes here, but alas, to no avail. The women in Spain do not work out, and why would they when the department stores are filled with five-inch stilettos that they wear day in and day out, undoubtedly receiving a difficult calf workout in itself? They wouldn’t and they don’t. I borrowed a pair of running shoes from a friend, and ignored the potentially hazardous fact that they are a full size too small.

I began my run in the emerging twilight of 10 p.m., the same time that the streets begin to cool and all the (male) runners appear. It felt amazing, my lungs crunched in and out as my breaths grew quicker, my heartbeat hastened to the beat of metronome, my veins served a greater purpose and my skin began to glisten (girls don’t sweat) in the 90 degree temperatures of the night. I ran through the city and enjoyed the fast-paced sightseeing of Spaniards eating their nightly tapas alongside a glass of wine and small plate of green olives. Under the dark summer sky, my bones, heart and mind found peace once again.

The streets I run down.

It was when I started to grow tired that I noticed the oncoming glances from afar, the frowns and bewilderment on people’s faces. My side ached as a bus honked at me, to go or to stop I was unsure until finally he waved me on in the quick annoyance of hand gesture. I crossed the street and continued in my alien ways. Through the pain, I realized that I knew, after a good four weeks, a run would not be easy, especially a run in such high temperatures, but I went anyways. I went for the pain, for the gasping of air, for the need of water all with a desire to feel again because it is when we grow stale that we become insipid, flat, flavorless. Without pain one does not appreciate comfort, without sickness one does not appreciate health, without thirst one does not appreciate water.

Even in a new country one can become stagnant.

Just as my first run, my time in Sevilla has not been all butterflies and rainbows. Of course I knew it would be hard at times, not knowing what to do or say, missing my family and loved ones, and bumbling down the street as an American. My precursor to this trip took that all into account, but it is not until you actually endure it that it really matters.

Traveling or simply being seen with 50 American college students puts you in a state of constant glares and shakes of the head. It is difficult to deal with, here we are (at least some of us) attempting to fully emerge ourselves into Spanish culture and the people that take great pride in it all the while being dismissed as loud, stupid Americans. And there are the actions of some that, without a doubt, would be grouped into that stereotype by even my American eyes. Consequently, it is exhausting to try to break away from this image.

Simultaneously, it is not easy to break out of this bubble when you only know a limited amount of Spanish and cannot befriend a local without speaking spanglish (which you hope with all your might that they will accept and/or understand) and keeping the conversation limited to how he or she is, what you are studying in school, why and numerous activities or foods that you like or don’t like. “Me gusta correr y comer. Me gusta queso. No me gusta queso azul.” Granted, I am learning and attempting everyday to grow in my conversational skills but, pray for me, it is hard.

Today I went to open the orange, rusty, gated door to my apartment complex and wiggled my key back and forth. An adorable Spanish family walked up with a stroller carrying a six-month old girl dressed in all pink. They waited as I struggled, fighting with the lock. “Why now?” I thought. “Is there not a better time? When I’m alone, fine, have your way with me! But now??” My non-verbal begging did no good, as I laughed embarrassingly and mumbled, “Lo siento” to the family patiently anticipating the cool foyer ahead. The husband, laughed with me and asked, “¿Necesita ayuda?” (Do you need help?) and I handed over the craft to him, which he took with special care and swiftly opened the door for me and his family. It must be a Spanish thing.

I’ve got a ways to go. Soy Americana.

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