Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s midafternoon on Friday, December 18, 2020. Here in New Hometown, Florida it is a cold late autumn day; currently, the temperature is 57˚F (14˚C) under sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the northeast at 8 MPH (13 KM/H) and humidity at 47%, the feels-like temperature is 57˚F (14˚C). The rest of the afternoon will see sunny skies and a high of 58˚F (14˚C). The forecast for tonight calls for partly cloudy skies and a low of 45˚F (7˚C).
Today is the 32nd anniversary of my return home from Sevilla (Seville), Spain, where I lived and studied for three months as a participant in the College Consortium for International Studies’ Semester in Spain program (Fall of 1988). I’m reminded of this not only by the calendar date – the history buff in me makes me remember things like that – but by the cold weather. Mainland Spain isn’t as far north as much of the rest of Europe, but it does get chilly in the fall and winter, even though the Mediterranean climate in southern Spain means that winter – which I missed experiencing by a handful of days – is mild in comparison to other regions of Europe and North America.
I remember that on December 18, 1988 I had mixed feelings about going back to Miami. Part of me – well, most of me, really – was ready to go home; I’d been away from home and my mom a few times before, but never had I been 3,000+ miles away from either, and definitely not for 88 days. Like many of my fellow college students, I had bouts of homesickness, I missed my mom and my chinchilla Persian cat, Natasha, and of course I wanted nothing more than to see my friends and colleagues from the college student paper for which I wrote at the time.
On the other hand, by the time I left Sevilla, I was sad that I was leaving. It was, and still is, the most beautiful city that I’ve ever spent an extended period of time in. Even when I missed home and family – yes, even my half-sister Vicky – I would go for long walks from my residencia in Los Remedios to Triana, Casco Antiguo, Sur, and Nervion. Sometimes I’d go to a bookstore that I visited so often that the owner gave me a book as a going-away present when I stopped in to say “Goodbye.”
At other times I would stop by at a café not far from the Parque de Maria Luisa and enjoy my favorite snack (calamares fritos and a bottle of Coca-Cola) at one of the sidewalk tables.
I remember that on the eve of my flight I left the apartment (2E, 1 Virgen de Robledo) that had been my home for 88 days and went for one last nighttime walk. I made my way across the Guadalquivir River over what was then called El Puente del Generalissimo Francisco Franco (but is now known as Puente de Los Remedios) and walked around to take one last look at two of my favorite landmarks: the Torre del Oro and La Giralda.
It was past eight and the night was chilly, but the streets of Seville were brightly lit and I was dressed, as the saying goes, in layers. I went first to the Torre del Oro, which I passed every day on my way to the CCIS Center at its original location on Calle Adolfo Rodriguez Jurado. I usually kept my distance from the Torre, but on this occasion, I walked right up to its stone exterior and touched it. I knew that I probably wouldn’t come back to this place, so I think I wanted to have a tactile memory of that old military fortification built by Sevilla’s Moorish rulers to control access to the Guadalquivir River.
After that, I made my way to the Catedral de Sevilla and walked to the famous belfry tower known as La Giralda. I had been inside it a few months before, having taken the tour of the cathedral and La Giralda early in the semester. I have – somewhere in one of the moving boxes, anyway – a photo of a group of us CCIS’ers posing on the top floor of the belfry. There are no stairs to climb; to get up to the top you must walk up a series of ramps. Less tiring than climbing via steps, I think.
Now, La Giralda was closed to visitors at night, and I had no intention of negotiating the ramps anyway, so again I touched the stone face of the ancient Moorish structure – the only remnant of the mosque built by the Almohad dynasty during the time when the region was called Al-Andalus.
I remember feeling sad as I walked back to my apartment building in Los Remedios. As I walked away from the Cathedral, I turned around, looked at La Giralda, and thought, “Adios, Sevilla. Tomorrow I am going home, and I’ll probably never come back, but I will miss you.”