I woke up my first morning, in the afternoon, 1pm actually. I think this woman was tired! I stepped out of my room finding a set of keys and a note telling me to enjoy myself. I walked out on the terrace and took the first look of the day in. All was dark the night before, and now I got to see it for the first time in the light. The waves crashed only feet away and people bustled on the paseo below. Where darkness filled the space, cafes, umbrellas and tourists filled the canvas below.
I needed to get out an explore! So I changed my clothes, grabbed the keys and took off down the paseo. The paseo hugs the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea for several miles. I could walk for miles, but was not dressed appropriately. So I strolled for about a mile, I smiled as I observed everything. I become like a child on Christmas morning when I’m in new places. Every person, every sight, every sound, so new and full of life that is actually familiar to someone else. It’s amazing to me that at the same time I’m in my small world of Littleton, Colorado, there is life everywhere around the globe, so familiar to those who live nestled in their own cities and communities. I had stepped into someone else’s home and wanted to greet it with a desire to know, to understand and to experience.
As I walked I heard people speaking French, Norwegian, German, Spanish and a few other languages, including English with varied accents. I watched families walk together, elderly couples riding bikes, individuals lounging holding drinks and watching people as if they too were soaking in the experience for themselves. It was nearly 4pm and that is siesta time here in Altea, so it was quiet. From 2-5 every day, the locals and I guess those of us who are locals only for a week or so, take a nap. But seeing as I had slept until 1, no nap was needed for me on this day.
I ended up at a small internet cafe, where I caught up with a few people and ate a lunch of a ham and cheese crepe and a tuna salad. (Yes I ate fish)
One thing I’ve learned already is that there is a lot of ham in Altea… and Spain. (important things to know)
After finishing my lunch and walking some more I made my way back to my home. I got out my journal and started to write. My thoughts ran ahead of me and kept yelling back at me to catch up! “Come on Cari, get it all down!” They’d yell at me. I did my best, but was shortly interrupted by Ariana and her daughter.
Ariana and I had a much more coherent conversation, though she loves this place so much that she would listen and burst out with some fact or story. I’m enjoying this pattern. Her excitement and love for this place is inspiring. It makes me think of places I love to share and how I get almost giddy thinking about having others experience my favorite things for the first time.
We talked for a few hours and then got ready for our evening out. We left the house about 8pm and began our walk to Old Town near the big church. The big church was at one time a mosque and had been converted several hundred years ago to become a Catholic Church. Besides the big church, there are no churches to speak of in Altea.
To get to Old Town we had to walk up several hundred stairs, as Altea is built into a mountain. The cobblestone streets had been constructed by locals thousands of years earlier, the stones are small, not like the large river rock, to which I was accustomed. Every rock is different and are also different colors, creating a sort of masterpiece out of each passage way.
As we made our way up the cobblestone stairs to old town, we passed by Ariana’s house and art gallery. The house is falling apart as it is built into the oldest standing structure in all of Altea, a wall that has been there for literally thousands of years. Her home is having severe structural issues as the city has neglected to care for water run off and has only pieced together solutions instead of addressing the real problem. As we looked at the house, the neighbors came out and I was greeted with a kiss. One on each cheek. I like this custom. I stood and tired to pick up on what was being said as I know very little spanish. (This is already about doing me in! I want to know it so badly!)
We chatted for a bit, every once in a while I’d figure out what was being said and then someone would fill me in. (This makes me think about all the talking I do about how I live and what I do. I often use words others don’t understand. I think I have some growth ahead!)
We once again took to the stairs and we turned left to see the home where I will be staying once the students arrive. It was beautiful and it is built into the side of the mountain so it’s view is fantastic! Though I will not be living on the water for the entire summer, I am excited to live in this place. Our walk took us up many more stairs to an open plaza where restaurants were just opening for the evening. Sounds of conversation, glasses clinking and laughter echoed through the plaza. The plaza, is one of my favorite memories from when I was in Assisi a few years back. So much life taking place in a central gathering place.
The Old Church, hovered over the plaza creating a wall and then restaurants outlined the remainder of the square. Children ran and travelers stopped to photograph the church. I said very little and watched as my brain tried to soak in each detail. The church looks more like a mosque than a church. It towers with two big navy blue domes. The domes once signified that the structure was a mosque, built in the highest place of Altea, now had crosses on them. I wonder how this went over years ago?
We continued our walk through the side streets. Each was filled with cafes and bars and stores, every nook and cranny was filled with something delectable for the senses. We made our way through the side street and ended up at a tiny little cafe, Ariana’s favorite. A local friend met us there and we ordered drinks and tapas. Everything is slower. Everything is done with an artistic eye. As the food hit the table, I had to table my midwest roots and eat what was presented. I ate truffle croquets (not chocolate, but truffles from the earth), caramelized sardines, cheese, asparagus and something else so delicious, but I can’t pronounce let a lone spell.
Meals in Spain are meant to be experienced not rushed, so we sat for nearly 3 hours, talking, laughing, drinking and enjoying one another. After we finished (11:45pm) we walked to another cafe where we met two couples. One of the couples was the son and daughter in law of the woman with whom we ate dinner. Ariana and I sat down and had a glass of wine. In Spain, sitting and having a glass of wine is a way of saying I’m interested in getting to know you, as opposed to meeting and saying you’ll get in touch soon. We stayed for an hour and a half. The two women are very excited to get together with me and teach me spanish and I help them with their english. This makes me incredibly happy! We start next week.
I began to fade. It was now 1:45 and my body had no real idea what time it was. But 1:45 was too late. So Ariana and I started our walk back to the house. But she, being a bit like me in her relationships with people, knows everyone in Altea. So, as we walked we met people along the way and talked and laughed and listened and kissed. Under normal circumstances I would have been so excited and would have so much energy to engage, but 2:30 was too late and I was still adjusting to life in a new timezone and a new language. The language thing really got to me. I wish I could simply pick it up, in an instant, but I must be patient, which I know is not my strongest quality.
Eventually, Ariana and I walked in our front door and I laid down to sleep about 3:45a.m.
I tossed and turned as I listened to the sounds of the city out my window and fought with sleepiness like a five year old not wanting to nap. The sleep won at about 4:15 or so.
I don’t really know what I’m expecting, if anything, but I do know that I will learn and grow from my time here. I will be made new in many ways. I expect to meet Jesus, to love people and to allow a new place and people to press into me and chisel off rough patches and make me knew.
So, chisel me dear Jesus. Chisel me dear Altea. Chisel me dear people. Allow my heart and mind to be sharpened by what you bring to me.