My Sheltered Port

Connor R. is currently a junior at SYA Spain and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. He comes to SYA from St. Paul's School in New Hampshire.

Well, this is certainly different: a campus reporter entry written from my bedroom, in the United States. It’s almost ironic; uniquely peculiar and difficult to understand. Having been home for about three weeks now, the memory of those last two days which brimmed with chaos, exhaustion, and emotion is omnipresent; yet, oddly enough, intangible. Those last few memories bookended an episode of my life in which opportunity seemed so abundant and evident; and occupy a strange corner of my mind, one that I have yet to revisit since coming back to the United States. Naturally, I felt dispirited facing such a jarring end to my School Year Abroad experience. Even after trying as hard as I could not to let the circumstances topple what little pluck I could gather, I succumbed to a pitiful sense of helplessness. However, what plenty of time to reflect has revealed to me is that the greatest memories are the ones that remain lucid and accessible. Luckily, I have seven months-worth of those memories.

Perhaps one of my favorites came only a few hours after I met my host family for the first time at the train station. Languid and shy, I followed my host brother all the way down Paseo Independencia, answering his questions; self conscious of my own ability to speak Spanish. The sun falling below the horizon produced one of the strangest, yet welcoming and beautiful skies I’ve ever seen. The night was hot, yet it seemed there were hundreds of people out in the street. The further we went towards Plaza de España, the more I began to talk longer, stand up a little straighter, walk a little faster. And then, all of a sudden, rounding the corner I would come to love so much from Calle Coso to Calle Alfonso, I was confronted with the massive southern façade of El Pilar. Situated in front of the painted sky, I felt as if I somehow had been frozen in some fleeting moment. No matter how many new lands I tread in my time on this Earth, I will never forget standing there, paralyzed with awe, feeling the life-force of an ancient city welcoming me.

Having always been a reserved kid, some of the memories that curl the ends of my mouth
into a smile are the ones in which I was in good company. If I am to be completely honest, there are too many that I remember so fondly as to highlight just one. So, I will present you with some of the most prevailing images in my mind. Dirty, white Supergas stomping up clouds of dust in the canyons of the Sierra de Albarracín. Bitter, opaque cups of espresso beneath the inviting shade and rain of flower petals from the almond tree outside of el Criollo. Expressive sunsets over the skyline from the top of Parque Grande. Glints of light bouncing off the Ebro in the quiet of the night. It was during moments like these that, as a good friend of mine put it, I desired to “slow down the fervor of time.” Despite my newfound teenage blissful ignorance, I knew that was a futile wish.

Ironically, a mantra that I attempt to live by (an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road) reads as follows: “ …. However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters we must not anchor here, / However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while.” Having to leave a sheltered port where I had sunk my anchor deep into the mud proved to make those last few days, quite frankly, emotionally anguishing. But what’s a few days to seven months? To my family, who offered me the hospitality of their home, to the teachers and students at SYA who offered me their unflagging friendship, and to Spain, that beautifully honest land which offered me its charm and welcomed a foreigner as one of its own, I extend my gratitude. I’ll see you all soon.

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