Ariana and Xana wanted to take me to Alicante to meet a good friend of theirs. She is a young artist name Mariam. Ariana drove and I watched as the road twisted to places I’d only seen under the light of the moon. The dirt is white here. It is dry and hot. There are olive trees, bougainvillea, palm trees and windy fig trees. The wind blows constantly along the coast line and as we drove, windows down, the wind blew our hair every which direction. We drove past Benidorm, the Manhattan of Europe (It has the tallest hotel in all of Europe and takes much pride in that fact. ). Then we drove past a large bull the size of 4 semi-trucks. He towered alongside the road, I laughed as he was well proportioned and seemed a bit over stated. We then came up over a hill and there rested a city that followed the shoreline and the crests and valleys of the coast.
Alicante is an old city. There is a rather large castle on it’s highest point and a wall that was built to protect it. The wall stretches farther than I could see. I find it so incredible that at some point, someone, well many someones built this huge wall and castle without any transportation. We have become so lazy with our technology.
We picked up Xana in a park filled with towering palm trees and made our way back through the traffic, like scurrying mice. We drove through the main district of Alicante and found parking below where we were to meet Mariam. The parking garage seemed a little more like a disco than a parking garage. Brightly light and overwhelmingly pink walls, with polished floors, shining as though they had just been waxed, met us at each turn. This garage was much cleaner than the streets above.
We found our parking and made our way to meet Mariam. She was a tiny, delightful young woman. She stood against a bus stop awaiting our arrival. Her tiny frame and pixie hair cut seemed to be so comfortable in the midst of the noise of the streets. When Ariana and Xana called out to her, she quickly put her book down and she and Xana ran towards one another as long lost friends often do. The reunion was sweet, we greeted with a kiss and began our walk.
My day of Spanish integration was upon me. We went to a very typical cafe and ordered drinks. We sat right along the streets and I was told, “This is not Altea any longer, hold on to your things.” I moved my wallet closer, but assumed someone would have to be very brazen to come through the maze of tables in which we sat, reach over four people and grab my brightly colored wallet from its resting place.
Ariana, Xana and Mariam chatted away and I listened intently, as though they were speaking in a secret code which I’d be able to decipher if I concentrated hard enough. The funny thing was, I was able to decipher the code! I sat understanding a good deal of their conversation. Which surprised everyone, though I’m sure it surprised me the most.
Mariam and Ariana and I headed out for a walk, while Xana met a friend. We walked around the city, it was full of life. As we made our way down one crowded street, I heard the voice of someone who sounded as though she was an American, sure enough, she was and she needed help finding her way. We were able to help her and then both continued on our travels.
We walked through a part of town that looked much like Disneyland. Lights everywhere, chandeliers up and down the street, lights outlining every building. I am sure it would have been quite the sight at night, but we were told it is not the part of town one wants to be in after dark. Just as those words hit my ears, I looked up and saw a sex shop and nodded with understanding.
Our walk took us to a large basilica, an open square, up and down narrow cobblestone roads and plazas filled with life. People were everywhere. And everywhere, people were enjoying relationship and life together. There is something different about life here. People gather to be, not to do. People gather to linger, not to quickly say hi and move on to the next thing. People gather to listen, laugh and live. In this way I feel as though I fit in. The picture of life painted by these Spaniards is one that I want painted of my life.
We weaved in and out of smaller streets looking for the best local and most typical Spanish restaurant we could find. We ended up in a small bar, where tapas and wine were on the menu. Tapas and wine are on every menu. A very handsome spaniard came to our table and asked what we wanted. I was once again able to order in my three year old spanish and within moments our wine came to the table as did our food. Custom is that you must wait to take the first drink of your drink until all are seated and the host invites us to drink together. We swirled our wine in our glasses, smelled its robust scent and toasted with a “Salud”.
We lingered here for some time, then went on to the next bar. This apparently is very normal in the Spanish culture. Tapas and wine in one place and then more at the next. We only had time for one more stop and chose to do so at a restaurant on an open plaza, with orange umbrellas. It was quaint and quite large compared to the last place we had been. This placed served Spanish cider, which for all purposes is fermented apple cider vinegar. It has a very particular way of being poured out. I don’t know why, but apparently all cider places do it the same.
I continued to listen and learn. My head was about to burst with the amount of concentration I’d kept, simply trying to keep up with the conversation. But I did it and I’m learning. I’m far far far from reaching my goal of being able to speak the language, but I must give my self some grace as it’s only my third day here.
Every moment seems to hold some sort of history, culture, meaning and purpose. I want to see Jesus in it. I know he is here. I know he is working in me. I just wish I could pry open the process to allow me to see the growth before it happens.
I may be a bit impatient.