More Musings & Thoughts for September 27, 2020: Remembering Seville ‘88
As I sit here in my sunlit, cozy, but somewhat lonely study, I find myself looking back at the past. Right now, as I deal with a breakup that I should have seen coming but didn’t, plus all of the feelings of anger, self-reproach, and the clash between a desire to move out and the realization that, well, I can’t afford to move out, the past is a far, far better place than the present.
As unlikely as it seemed at the time, I think my 88-day stay in Sevilla (Seville) Spain marked the best times of my life. I say “unlikely” because as exciting as a once-in-a-lifetime study-abroad experience can be – and my experiences as one the 42 American college students who participated in the Fall 1988 Semester In Spain program certainly were fun, educational, and exciting – there were quite a few days when many of us were homesick, literally ill with colds or other ailments, or finding that studying abroad required a great deal of maturity and discipline in order to mix European travel and academic work.
As I recall, I left Miami at 6 PM Eastern Daylight Time on Wednesday, September 21, 1988 and arrived at Madrid’s Barajas International Airport aboard an Iberia Airlines 747 the next morning around 11 AM local time. I had never flown a redeye transatlantic flight before, and I was so nervous that I did not sleep at all during the “crossing of the Pond.” And because there are no direct flights from Miami to Seville, there was the added excitement of worrying if the two bags I had checked at the Iberia counter in Miami International Airport (IATA code: MIA) were transferred properly at Madrid-Barajas International Airport (IATA code MAD) for the Sevilla leg of the trip that would end sometime around 1 PM local time in Sevilla International Airport (IATA code SVQ). (For the record, my baggage arrived in Sevilla safely.)
Looking at the calendar for September 1988, the 27th fell on a Tuesday. That means that the group at the College Consortium for International Studies’ Sevilla Center attended class that day. The morning classes were taught there; if memory serves, we started class at 9 AM and were usually dismissed for our two-hour-long lunch break at 1 PM. I took two of my classes (Spanish History, Survey of Spanish Government) at the CCIS Center, went back to my apartment from 1 to 3 PM, then headed off to the University of Seville’s main campus at Calle San Fernando, 21, a few blocks away from my apartment on the other side of the Guadalquivir River.
If I wanted to divine what I was doing 32 years ago at around this same time of day, keep in mind that there’s a six-hour difference between Florida and Spain. As I write this, it’s just past three in the afternoon in my study; in Sevilla it’s a bit past nine. So if I were to guess what I was doing on a Tuesday night at nine in Spain, there are several possibilities:
- Eating dinner by myself. I eventually had two Spanish roommates, but they would not arrive at Apartment 2E, No. 1 Virgen de Robledo for another week or so
- Reading an assigned chapter from one of two books that we had to read for class
- Watching Las chicas de oro (The Golden Girls) on a black-and-white TV in the apartment’s common room
- Feeling a mix of elation and homesickness
- Typing letters to send back to Miami, especially my mother
- Fretting over things I had no control over
I certainly did not venture out much on my own in Sevilla that early in the 12-weeks-long Semester in Spain Program. Later on, yeah. I knew my way around Los Remedios (my barrio) and Downtown Sevilla, but not on September 27, 1988.
I remember that by then, the days were still warm – not Miami warm but not cool enough for sweaters or jackets. The nights, though, did get a bit chilly. That is something I will remember till I die (unless I get dementia, natch).
If I could invent a time machine right the hell now, I think that I would go back in time to that point in my life. I think I’d be happier than I am presently.
 In 1988, Madrid’s main airport was called either Madrid-Barajas or simply Barajas. It was given its present name, Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport in 2014 after the death of Spain’s first post-Franco prime minister.