Musings & Thoughts for Saturday, December 17, 2022, or: Chilly Day in Tampa Bay Area Triggers Memories of Sevilla in 1988


The Torre de Oro in Seville.

“Fare thee well, and if for ever

Still for ever fare thee well.” George Gordon Byron

Today I woke up to an even chillier – by Florida standards, anyway – morning than I did the day before; the sun had only just risen, so it was still semi-dark outside, with temperatures in the low 50s. And as I wrote in yesterday’s post, chilly temperatures trigger memories from the Land of Ago. Sometimes happy ones that I cling to, barnacle-like, but mostly sad ones, or – at best – bittersweet ones.

Today happens to be the 34th anniversary of my last full day in Sevilla (Seville), Spain. It was a Saturday, just like today, and like most of the other students in my Semester in Spain study abroad group (42 students in all, including me), I had – shall we say – mixed emotions about leaving Sevilla.

On the one hand, I was ready to go home. In the 16 years since Mom, my half-sister Vicky, and I had decamped from Bogota in 1972, my 88-day stint with what is now called the International College of Seville but was known – to our group, anyway – as the CCIS Center in Seville was the longest that I had been away from home, far longer than the nearly two-months-long stay with my maternal abuelos in the summer of 1974 in Colombia.

Photo by Ahmed Muntasir on Pexels.com

(It was also the farthest that I had ventured on my own since Sevilla is 4,340 miles; compare that to the 1,726 miles – by plane – from Miami to Denver, CO that mark the farthest I’ve traveled solo domestically.)

As I wrote in a contemporary column for my college campus’ student newspaper:

A cartoon by (then) Catalyst graphics editor Rogers Perez depicting me (on the ground) during a soccer matched we students played in Sevilla in late October 1988.

Written in November 1988, published March 2, 1989

Alex Diaz-Granados

Columnist

SEVILLE, Spain (CCIS Program)

The winter holiday season has arrived and here in Seville the 42 students participating in the CCIS Semester in Spain program are looking beyond the upcoming final exams and planning their return home or further European travel.

Already, they have celebrated Thanksgiving, traditionally a very homey holiday, truly away from home as they are 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean.

Most of the group celebrated a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, prepared by Italian chefs at the three-star restaurant Carlino. The meal, judging by the students’ comments, was psychologically, if not gastronomically, successful.

“The group really came together,” said Sandra Langlois, a freshman from Miami-Dade’s South Campus. “It was really special for me because I am French, and it was my first American Thanksgiving. I really got the true feeling of the tradition of the holiday — togetherness.”

Now, a few weeks later, students’ thoughts are geared to either further travel throughout the holiday or their homecoming.

Melissa Miller, a senior from Lake Forest College in Chicago, said, “I’ll be spending the holidays in Vienna, Austria, so I’ll be sure to have a white Christmas, and I won’t be alone because I’m traveling with a bunch of friends.”

However, the majority of the participants in the program are ready to go home — some more than others.

“I’m ready to go home,” said Bob Holzweiss, a junior from St. Bonaventure College in New York State. “I’ve been here 12 weeks, and that’s enough.”

“I miss the luxuries of home — convenience stores and fast-food joints — and also my car, my family and friends,” said Ingrid Gottlieb, a student from Broward Community College. “And I miss my boyfriend.”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

(While it is true that Miami is a bit over 4,000 miles – as the jumbo jet flies – from Sevilla, I usually wrote 3,000 miles as the average distance from other, more northeasterly cities on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard.)

On this date in 1988, I was eager to see my mom and my chinchilla Persian cat, Natasha, after being away from them for 87 days. I was, as you may know, if you’re a regular visitor to this blog, close to my mother, and had a great parent-son relationship with her. And Natasha was a sweet, loving cat who bonded with me from the first moment we met in the fall of 1987.  

I was a bit cagier about being reunited with my older half-sister Vicky, who had only recently been welcomed back into the family fold by our mother after a months-long estrangement caused by Vicky’s misbehavior a year earlier – she caused a rift between my Uncle Sixto (my father’s brother) and me out of jealousy because he gave me my first home computer as a gift.

The author (center) in a candid shot taken in the Production Room during a lighthearted moment with Graphics Editor Robert Tamayo and Production Manager Jennie Ahrens. (Jim Linn photo)

At the time, I was more forgiving than I am now; in my early to mid-20s, I had no clue that my half-sister might be a narcissist or have a borderline personality disorder. I didn’t even know that “narcissism” and BPD were mental health issues. I only knew that Vicky often lacked control over her bad temper – which is also a problem I have sometimes – and had a tough time with jealousy and repressing impulsive behavior.

I also have a certain amount of naivete and a desire to have a good relationship with others, often to my detriment, so – at least on the surface – I was willing to let bygones be bygones if only to keep peace in the family. And even though I was not 100% thrilled at the prospect of seeing Vicky again as if nothing had happened. I had gone earlier that week to one of those tourist-friendly stores where they make personalized bullfighting match/flamenco dancer show posters and had one printed with her name on it.

I also was looking forward to seeing my many friends, including those from Miami-Dade Community College and the student newspaper staff, going out to our familiar stomping grounds of malls and movie theaters (I think the first movie I saw when I came home from Spain was Working Girl), and sleeping in my bedroom on the second floor of the townhouse where I’d lived for 10 years – and would live for another 27 years, 3 months, 22 days.

And yet….

I felt sad, even depressed, about leaving Sevilla.

Sure, I was looking forward to going home, but I suspected, nay, knew, that I would probably never visit Sevilla again. Or, if I did, it would only be like for a short whirlwind visit, without the same experiences I had while living and studying at the CCIS Center/International College of Seville.

I do remember that at the time I hoped to go back to Spain in 1992 to see the World’s Fair in Sevilla; the city was already making all kinds of preparations for that international event, and I even bought Sevilla ’92 bumper stickers for my friends and me. Alas, even though I had a valid U.S. passport – it expired in 1997 and I only carried it one more time – when I went with Mom to Bogota for the winter holiday season in 1993 – I never managed to make enough money with my occasional writing consultant gigs to return to Spain.

And I had grown attached to the folks at the International College of Seville, especially its director, Dr. Juan Dura, and the Student Activities Director, Lisa Dolan. As a college student, I always enjoyed befriending some of my profs, whether it was on my home campus at Miami-Dade or in Seville. I got along well with all my instructors and the staff, and even today, I still “talk” with Ms. Dolan online, mainly through Instagram.

So, yeah…that day in December of 1988 was full of both euphoria and sadness.  

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

5 thoughts on “Musings & Thoughts for Saturday, December 17, 2022, or: Chilly Day in Tampa Bay Area Triggers Memories of Sevilla in 1988

  1. I have to admit I’ve never been to Spain despite Sweden not being too far away. I’ve been to most other European countries including Russia but not to Spain. I would like to visit one day though. As you say leaving a place you think that you will never return to is bittersweet and can fill you with nostalgia when you think about it later on. However, I don’t feel that way about all the places I’ve been to, not Russia (where I was apprehended at gunpoint), not India (even though I had a nice visit), not Australia (even though that was great). I feel some nostalgia over Costa Rica and Orange county California. I think the difference are the personal connections you make in the place you visit.

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    1. I think that, in my mind, at least, the Semester in Spain experience was the apogee of my college experience; not even becoming the managing editor (#2 in charge) of the student newspaper a year later came close. I proved to myself that I could live away from my mom for extended periods, for one thing, though after that I never did until she died. I also did well academically, although the “foreign correspondent” thing would have worked better had I been born a generation after and in a world where Internet access, email, and digital photography were universally available. (I had no access to email in 1988, so most of the columns I wrote in Sevilla in the fall semester were published in the issues we did in the winter term.

      Also, yeah. I have traveled a few times since, but the only other memorable trip (besides my last one to see my family)….I can’t really write about it on this blog!

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      1. Certainly. Even though the semester was two-three weeks shorter than the one at Miami-Dade; I left Miami on the night of September 21, 1988 and arrived at Madrid around 7 AM local on the 22nd (it was a redeye flight), then caught my connecting flight to Sevilla a couple of hours later. At Miami-Dade, classes had already been in session since late August, and even though I didn’t have to, I still showed up to help with the student paper until Monday afternoon (September 19).

        As in every human experience, it wasn’t always 100% perfect; in the States, in the schedule we received at our home schools, we had been told that our classes would not end until the first week of January 1989, so obviously a lot of us had January ’89 return dates on our Iberia flights. When we were given our orientation the day after we arrived, we found out that there had been a mistake in the data sheet, and that students who wished to go home before Christmas could, because classes would end around December 15. So, obviously, many of us had to go to the nearby Iberia office and reschedule our flights…bam! $100 gone just on that.

        I also had to contend with the Cold from Hell that plagued me from early October till I got home. It came and went and never developed into something serious, but it was uncomfortable and annoying.

        Add to that homesickness, not getting enough mail, dealing with strange roommates, a few bad-weather days, and getting lost (constantly) in the Universidad de Sevilla campus, so, no…it wasn’t always fun.

        On the other hand, the positives outweighed the negatives, so there’s that.

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