Two weeks ago the weather was rainy and gray, helping all the Pacific Northwest people feel right at home. The street vendors who normally sell shoes, jewelry and CDs scrambled off at the first sign of rain, only to reappear at every street corner with umbrellas for sale. The rain brings a change of pace to the city. Stores roll out their awnings, residents carry inside their apartments the colorful laundry that normally adorns patios, people avoid the plazas which become notoriously slippery with their tiled walkways and my host mom looks out the window and tells us that she is “harta de esta mierda.”
For study abroad students with a dwindling number of days left in Granada, the weather presented a fun challenge as we decided to spend the whole night Thursday exploring the streets of Granada and then hike up to a view point to watch the sunrise.
The night begins for me at 8:00pm, with a game of pickup soccer with some friends and then to my program’s last open mic of the semester, where people read poetry, belly dance and rap to “Ice Ice Baby.”
Our first stop after our sentimental hours of music and art is an Irish pub. We play cards and sing happy birthday as loud as we can to a girl in our program. My roommate pulls out his guitar and begins to serenade the pub just as things begin to calm down. A fact of human nature is that once the excitement dies down, humans naturally turn to their next major interest, food! So we march the streets once again and stop at a shawarma restaurant.
For those that don’t know, shawarma is a staple food of the Granada study abroad diet. One of the tasty seasoned-meat wraps costs just three euros. So we crowd into the restaurant and chat with Jose, the man working the counter, about his life and all the different people he sees everyday. The restaurant becomes even livelier as three middle-aged Spanish brothers join our conversation. Somehow the conversation ends with one of the brothers lifting up his shirt and showing us an enclave of lint in his belly button. I wish I could tell you how we got to this point but I really can’t think of any natural progression in a conversation that lead to this.
Meanwhile, the other half of the group is outside in the rain singing camp songs and writing new lyrics about shawarma to the melody of “Message in a Bottle” by the Police. We’ve ended up keeping the neighborhood up with the sweet songs of a soggy guitar and some mismatched voices.
By now its 5 o’clock and we’ve spent two hours in the restaurant. Jose is genuinely enjoying the conversation but he needs to close up and we need to keep moving. So under the cover of cheap umbrellas we hurry indecisively to our next undecided location. We wave to Jose as he drives past, stopping briefly to ask us why we are standing around aimlessly in the rain. He has a good point so we heads towards our final destination, the Mirador San Nicolás in the Albayzín, Granada’s old quarter.
To get to the Mirador, we wander through narrow streets of stone, gradually climbing the hill that the old city is built on. The rain gives the streets an eerie but comforting effect. The lights reflect off of the centuries of sun and rain stained onto the stone. At last we make it to the Mirador, a plaza that looks down on the city center and huddled together eating chocolate under our umbrellas, we take in the show that is the sky lightening and the sun rising. It’s odd to stay out the whole night and feel so grateful to finally have the sun rise so you can go home, take off your wet shoes and go to bed, but also feel a tinge of sadness knowing that all the fun and absurd moments you just had have been replaced by the sun and the sounds as the city awakens.
I’m not really sure why this night seems so special because reading back over this post, it just seems like a lot of random moments that I’ve regurgitated into a word document. However, I guess the real significance is in the people I got to share these moments with and the beauty of the city I was walking through. It is kind of like the ending to the Ocean’s Eleven, where all the eccentric and wild crooks who we have grown to love over the course of the movie are standing in front of the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas while Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune plays in the background. Here’s a YouTube link: https://youtu.be/4wTD-jwmz5s?t=28s. Something giant has been accomplished that goes beyond just robbing a casino, or in our case huddling in the rain all night. Beautiful friendships have been created among completely different people over many months and this moment is a testament to these connections. The characters know that there will never be another moment quite like this again and so all they can do is savor it while it lasts. And kind of like the movie, after looking around at each other’s faces glowing in the shimmer of the new morning sun, we all quietly walk away from the Mirador towards our respective neighborhoods, glad to be alive but also tired as hell.