A Row-mantic Afternoon in Spain

You don’t have to spend a lot of time in Seville to understand why it is such a popular city. A sense of drama surrounds the Andalusian capital, from it’s extravagant Catholic churches, to the royal plazas featured in famous movies, to the way the strum of a guitar tends to start a whole room clapping. Contemporary shops, restaurants, and arts spaces line Seville’s narrow stone alleyways, and friendly locals seem to rule the day.

Seville is home to several high-profile architectural sites, but none has gotten more attention than the Metropol Parasol, an immense mushroom-like gridded structure. During our first few hours in this city, I explored this structure and was able to tour its archaeological museum, bars, and restaurants—along with a balcony with a panoramic view of the city center—and I got a free glass of bubbly sangria at the end.

Spain’s cities are characterized by large public squares almost everywhere, places that invite people to linger and to communicate. One of these squares stood above the rest, the Plaza de España! This beautiful square enchanted me. It seemed like a scene straight out of a movie and, as I found out later, it was! This sophisticated yet quirky square was featured in the most popular movie series of all time, Star Wars. It also used to be the home of a public outdoor library—until people began stealing books from the shelves and it was forced to shut down.

photo by Hannah Debeljak

photo by Hannah Debeljak

But this is not the story I want to tell. While visiting this elegant plaza, I was captivated by the swirling tile courtyard and the rainbow that appeared in the misting fountain during the afternoon sunlight. Horse-drawn carriages circled the fountain before heading off to give sightseers a tour of the city, and a little painted pony attached to a kid cart called out with high-pitched pony neighs to his friends.

Ashley, Sam, Michaela, and I decided to rent a rowboat and float around the canal. It was so beautiful! Koi and ducks intermingled around the boats, and the clip-clop of the horses and spraying of the water fountain could be heard as we rowed around the plaza; Michaela even put on “An Evening in Roma” to set the mood. We all were having a fabulous time learning how to row properly and navigate the tiny boat through the canal. I wanted to say “Row!” each time Sam and Michaela used the oars, but Sam insisted on the proper boating term, which was “Stroke!” After steering through the mass of boats for a while, we decided to just float and watch other people as they paddled by. They seemed to be even more incompetent than we were! We watched as people struggled to avoid other boats and tried to figure out how to use and hold the oars. We laughed as one guy ended up completely backward, in both the way he was sitting and the way he was paddling!

It was an extremely amusing half hour: a row-mantic afternoon boating under the Spanish sun!

—Hannah Debeljak

Michelle to the Rescue (or Not)

Have you ever wanted something so badly that you keep finding yourself imagining it over and over again? You can’t go a day without it being on your mind and then when the day comes when you finally get it, you’re overwhelmed with enthusiasm and excitement. That was me, two days ago in Seville when I had my long-awaited white chocolate mocha latte from Starbucks. Here in Tangier, our temporary home, there are no Starbucks. It felt more than nostalgic when I spotted the famous green-and-white mermaid sign and burst in through the door with open arms, almost yelling, “Honey, I’m home.”

My companion Hannah and I happily got our coffees along with some Nutella cookies. We both are your basic early twenty-year-olds, who survive on coffee and are always eager to try anything that has the word Nutella in it. We then joined our friend Sam who had chosen a table outside. It felt almost too good to be true when I finally took a sip of the coffee I had yearned for.

photo by Michelle Krasuski

photo by Michelle Krasuski

It wasn’t too long before a mumbling wrinkled old lady in a silver wheelchair rolled over to us and started speaking to me. I quickly turned to Sam and started a conversation with him, hoping that this would give the lady the idea to leave. The lady started to mumble louder in Spanish. “Hello girl,” she said. “I want your money. I’m hungry and thirsty. Give me some money so I can go buy something at Starbucks.”

I looked over at the determined woman who sat there mumbling and reaching her hands out. When I looked down at her veiny arms, I automatically started to feel bad for her. I looked up into her deep blue eyes and decided to try and help her. Since I didn’t have much money with me, I decided that it would be best not to pull out my wallet, just in case she might snatch it or expect more euros. Instead, I had the bright idea of giving her one of my warm, mouthwatering Nutella cookies. I grabbed one and held it out to her, but she started to shake her head. I insisted on her taking the cookie but she refused it, still parked in her wheelchair next to us. I started to get frustrated with her for not accepting my good deed and not letting me feel like a good Samaritan.

Just then Sam dug into his pocket, pulled out a handful of coins, and gave them to her. The lady thanked us in Spanish, then she called to a man to tell him that she was leaving. I watched her roll her wheelchair past Starbucks and towards a liquor store.

“Well at least I got rid of all my coins,” Sam said. “Those were annoying to carry.”

We got back to drinking our coffees.

“But next time people start talking to us,” Sam continued, “You should start speaking in Polish. Then while they’re really confused, we can escape in the meantime.”

—Michelle Krasuski