Flamenco- a reminder of why I travel.

He lays his head on the body of his instrument, as if being inside of it helps his fingers to move; the sound takes him. A green light glows from the stage, and smoke curls around its beams. The notes of the Spanish guitar quiver and fluctuate through the dome shaped bar: the flamenco melody readies itself for a voice. A man–wearing a white suit, shocked into boldness by a red tie—staggers to the stage; long ago, age turned his hair white and wrinkled his skin. He takes his seat, bows his head, and listens. After he has allowed the music to enter him, the man begins to clap—intricately birthing another rhythm. When his voice reigns over the crowd, mouths gape open. The deep gypsy cry slices through conscious thought, and directly into the emotional realm. The song ends, and we all clap as we speechlessly linger in a confused enchantment—unsure of what has just happened.  When the next song begins, I let the music pull me into the place where he goes when he lays his head on the guitar’s body; the space where the other goes when the accumulation of all  his years, encompassed by his voice, intersect in timelessness. The proudness of their flamenco does not impede the rawness it transmits through the heavy lamenting words that often change their direction and stroke notes of pure joy. Another song ends, and this time we’ve found our footing in this altered state. People shout olé, and I say wow. The old man, who appeared to have wobbled to the stage, gets up from his chair and begins to vigorously stomp the ground–as is traditionally done in flamenco dancing—with the agility of an adolescent. He ends the verse of his heals by doing a full body spin. The crowd once again breaks into excited cheering. The Spanish woman sitting at the table to our right, has tears in her eyes while she forcefully claps her hands. When the man sits back down in his chair, he welcomes Cataña to the stage.

A young woman saunters to the front from the back of the bar—her body erect and her arms firmly poised in a starting position. Her dress tightly hugs her body and fans out in ruffles at the bottom; as we all expect her to start dancing right away, she takes her seat and waits to be invited by the music. After moments in which the mans voice and the guitar take up the room and our complete attention, she rises from her chair. The importance of sound transfers to the movement of her body. She puts us in a trance. Her sexuality is strong and unwavering: it’s not the kind that acquiesces to the fancies of man or popular culture. The heals of her shoes make their own music and the guitar backs them up. The man with the voice has silenced his mouth, so as to give her the floor, and uses only his hands to clap out a rhythm for her; her presence and power take up the whole room. The twist of her wrists and her slithering arms create a dizzying contrast with her feet that seem to move more quickly and with more precision than is humanly possible. When the music slows, she skims her hand across her belly and raises it to wind in the air. Her hips move slowly in a circle. Without warning, she grabs her skirt to shimmy it around as her feet begin to powerfully beat the floor once again; the music follows the lead of her body. The sudden change in speed lets us know that we have permission to engulf ourselves in her sensuality, but she’s in control of just how lost we become.

The last song ends, and all six of us girls dash out of Le Chien Andalou bar. We begin our race to the hostel: The Makuto backpackers hostel in Granada. Our plan is to pack as many activities into one night as possible—after flamenco, a Spanish rock concert. The whole of our hostel has plans to leave for the concert around twelve P.M., but our flamenco show also got out at twelve, leaving us no time to get back to the hostel. I run ahead with two of the girls, Yuka from Japan and Marion from Norway. Yuka is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met; I’ve heard people tell her that she reminds them of a Japanese cartoon character. I won’t realize how much I’ll miss her one of a kind, enthusiastic energy and sense of humor until we part. She spent a year in Argentina and we speak together in Spanish. Marion is a beautiful scandinavian with bright blonde hair who shares the same distaste for blonde jokes as I. Together we are quite the trio—I love when a connection happens so quickly with a person, or two in this case, that I can laugh with them as I laugh with old friends with whom I share a history of humor.

We run down the cobble stone streets, lighted by the patio’s of closed store fronts, emptied of people by the night. We all agree that we feel pretty glamourous jogging in the ambiance of an antiquated town, painted in stories woven by more years than we can imagine—stories with an arabian flavor, evident in part by the multitude of teteria’s and hookah bar’s that line the streets, but also a feeling of romance a small European town, with flower pots in the windowsills and small cobble stone streets, offers—dolled up and dressed in our best none the less. When we turn the corner to ascend the skinny street leading to our hostel, a man, sitting in the open window of his souvenir shop, sees us coming. He laughs and quickly opens a bottle of water to hold out to us as if we were in a race and he was our life line. Yuka grabs the bottle from him and pretends to voraciously gulp it down. Hysterical with giggles, we continue the last leg of our championship run. Our exerted run causes us to bump into the hostel group on their way down to the main road. Just in time. We join them and catch a taxi to the concert where we blissfully dance all night with a thousand Spanish fans, a few tourists, and our international hostel group.

Today, before my musical adventures, I saw the Alhambra castle. My appointment to enter the castle was during the time Marion and Yuka visited the cave houses—where the hippies and gypsies of Granda live in caves carved into the mountain side. They were invited into a cave where they were the only girls in a party of thirty “naked,” twenty something guys. When they told me the men were all naked my face clearly showed my astonishment and I asked, “So you were two girls alone with thirty men whose penises were flopping around while you all danced?” The girls heaved with laughter, “Of course not, they had pants on, they were just missing their shirts.” And then I explained that in English, when one says someone is naked it means they have absolutely no cloths on. They spent the day smoking hookah, drinking tea, and dancing to live guitar music inside a cave with thirty “naked” guys while I marveled my way through the castle.

The castle is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The gardens are extravagant enough to make it’s visitors feel like royalty. With that said, I’ve had more memorable and enjoyable experiences at other castles. While the Alhambra and it’s gardens, visually, trump any other castle I’ve been to in Spain, I’ve had much more intimate experiences elsewhere. Every person I saw during my visit spent the whole time taking pictures like it was their job. People posing in front of every fountain and flower, to capture every scene before they moved on to the inside of the castle where they would do the same thing in front of every mosaic and pillar. I myself, got photo fever as well, and I have wonderful pictures to show for it but not much of a memory of the experience. When I fully engage with my surroundings and connect with the place I’m visiting, a memory is created. Strong memories actually create nostalgia with smell, touch, taste, etc. —which, if you ask me, can be much more vivid than a picture. There is something odd about the anxiety that comes over people to capture everything they see on their camera, almost as if they could make it their own. Why not just download the photos off the internet? Then one wouldn’t have to spend money on an expensive trip. I’m not anti-photos; I’ve been one of those people I’ve just described, plenty of times. But when I become absorbed by capturing the perfect scene on my camera, I forget to feel and use my senses. I’m not in the moment. A few pictures are fine, but it’s difficult to not get carried away by that anxiety which causes me to always be ready, with my camera in hand, for the next beautiful thing around the corner. I finally had to use self restraint and zip my camera in my purse and promise myself I wouldn’t take it out for the rest of my time in the castle. After that, I walked through the gardens again. The sun was setting and people were clearing out—it was then easier to hear the fountains trickle and take time to smell the flowers without being hurried along by the next person who wants to snap a shot.

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The nonsensical tangle of streets that make up the labyrinth of Sevilla, ate me. “No one goes in without getting lost,” responded the owner of The Garden Backpackers hostel after I’d returned from being lost in the heat for over an hour, completely frazzled. That was my first venture into the maze, however, I can’t claim that after the week I’ve now been here I have come close to discovering any kind of insight revealing the logic by which the streets wind. Though, I have been told that the purpose of the labyrinth is not a cruel joke, but a very contrived design of the city to protect people from the heat. Except for the centers of Plazas, I can almost guarantee, that no matter where one walks in Sevilla there is always shade. In fact, the buildings cover most of the streets and sidewalks with shade even during the hottest part of day at three o’clock in the afternoon. And when there aren’t buildings, there are trees to offer shelter from the sun.

Almost claustrophobically, the buildings which line the streets rob all sense of perspective. Since no space breathes through the rows of houses and businesses, and all of the buildings are stuck together in this way on every street, not even when a person comes to a cross roads are they able to see beyond the path in front of them—rendering people helpless to gain any sort of sense of the direction in which they walk or drive. The map given to me by the hostel helps, but many times it’s almost impossible to locate a street—some of the locals I’ve asked don’t have an idea where many of the streets hide.

The last reason the city has been set up in this way is because of air flow. In the heart of Sevilla, the streets tightly interconnect without a break—except on the outskirts of the center where the city opens up to the river and major roadways—to create an on going channel where the wind cannot escape and therefore provides a flowing ventilation. A brilliant idea on days in which the wind decides to make an appearance, but on the days when heat stands still and rots away the pleasures of strolling through a beautiful city, nothing can be done—the shade, however, does still offer protection.

Aside from the streets and the heat, Sevilla has charmed me in many ways. Previously, I wrote, with awe-inspired words, about the gardens of the Alcazar castle. These garden are within the castle walls, and if you do not fall under a specific category such as student, you have to pay a fee to enter. But in 1893, princess Maria Luisa d’Orleans donated the gardens of the Palacio de San Telmo to the city of Sevilla. The beauty of these royal gardens, which are now a public park called Parque de Maria Luisa, can be experienced for free. When you enter the park, a sudden drop in temperature takes place and you feel as if you’re walking on a cool, breezy night. The gardens are connected to the Plaza de España and offer a perfect place to spend the day reading a book or just breathing the fresh air which filters through the forest of trees. Flowers decorate the gardens, and the giant trees, which have been nurtured to their size by the same patch of earth for hundreds of years, cloister the park from noises of a bustling city. Fountains sprinkle themselves throughout the park and statues, in particular the Glorieta de Bécquer statue, beautifully pose, hidden within the gathering of trees. The Glorieta de Bécquer staue is an intense representation of the different woes of love; it is incredible and, if you’re visiting the park, it should not be missed.

I’ve also enjoyed watching the Spanish people hurry home to catch some Z’s for their daily siesta’s—walking through the narrow alleyways and streets that are brightened by the flower pots hanging from the colorful windowsills of old buildings, they leave work to hibernate in the cool of their homes durning the hottest part of the day. Yesterday, a couple walked in front of me not realizing I was there; she grabbed his ass affectionately a couple of times, and he just looked over at her and smiled. Which reminds me to mention the kissing in Spain. People here kiss each other with the most disarming passion I’ve ever seen. Almost as if it were the kiss they’d share right before they were about to part from each other for a long period of time. Or a kiss they’d share after being reunited after not seeing each other for months—months in which they were slowly disintegrating due to the physical separation from the person who ignites their hearts with the same love they seem to be experiencing in the moment of the kiss. I’m not exaggerating, their kissing generates enough inspiration for all the lonely bystanders to aspire to behold that kind of love. And on every outing I’ve taken so far in Sevilla, I’ve seen one of these kisses in which the world around the partakers disappears and they float in nothing but their syrupy saliva dream.

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Better Than Concerts in the Park

The stars hover over the castle walls like beaded jewels. The moon glosses the leaves of the lime trees and dimly dusts over pathways that amble through gardens filled with blossoms. A breeze swirls the fragrance of the numerous jasmine bushes through the air and disperses the sent of thyme and rosemary plants. Darkness cocoons the glowing of the open-air corridors and the warmth given by the light of lamps. The soft lamp light illuminates the stage and crawls up the vines that have grown to cover the stone walls. Rows of chairs line up in the open courtyard in front of the stage, and shapes are cast over them by the windows of the second story, royal hall. Elegantly dressed Spanish women air themselves with painted fans while men sit next to them in ties and tuxes.

The voices of a murmuring audience cease when four men appear on the stage. After taking their seats, they close their eyes for a moment, to get a feel for the silence, and they devise a plan to gracefully shatter it with their music. They pick up their instruments and a violin is the first to beautifully steal the quiet from my ears. The multifaceted sound of the Zanfona entwines itself with the violin, and fingers begin tapping on a tambourin. A whole new rhythm is created by the man, still playing the tambourine, who now has his other hand on a drum. After engulfing us in only the sounds of their instruments, a Moroccan man opens his lungs and adds his voice to the entrancing melody. His moaning winds around and encircles me; it taunts me to follow. It takes the shape of a woman who slowly persuades me to abandon my attachments to reality. She offers to lead me through the maze of this new world created by sound waves; but, before I can answer, she turns away and begins to run— she looks back at me every so often to make sure I’m still under her spell as we weave through tangled streets. For a split second, through one of her glances, she looks directly into my eyes and I receive a truth which evades my mind but is received by a part of myself to which I never before had access.

Now, the music changes subtly; flamenco tones begin to harmonize with the elusive Arabian notes. The world isn’t gone, but the pace of the run has changed. A man, who sits without an instrument at his side, begins clapping his hands. His eyes are still closed when his voice extends out of his soul and expands over the audience. The pure emotion his voice conjures, looks as if it burns him as it stirs about within him. Deep wrinkles contort his face as he strains himself to communicate his story of pain and passion.


This concert was held at the Royal Alcázar castle of Sevilla; the program was called Flamenco tántrico, and the band is the Sbo-zos. It is a fusion of sounds from Morocco and other Arab nations with the sounds of traditional flamenco. This concert was a part of a summer series called Noches En Los Jardines Del Real Alcázar—Night in the Gardens of the Royal Alcázar.

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The perfect waves

The sun filters through the olive tree and rouses me from sleep. I see Ami sitting on a small hill beside our tent, drawing in her journal. She’s been up for a while and has a pot of coffee brewing on the small propane stove. Stretched out in the sun, there’s a blanket she’s set up with a lovely breakfast, ready for us to eat. Miriam, having also just awakened, looks at me with a euphoric, half asleep smile. “Good morning!” she says in a high volume, as if she’s excited about something but doesn’t know what. She hugs me and then wriggles out of her sleeping bag. I giggle and wriggle out of mine. We eat cucumbers with cream cheese on a fresh baguette and begin another engaged and interesting conversation, this time about the environment. It’s incredible when I meet people with whom I connect in so many different ways; I feel like I’ve known these girls for years–everything just flows, there’s never any awkwardness. From the very start, they have shared everything open heartedly. Before we left on this trip, I asked them what I should buy in the way of food; they told me not to worry about it, they’d already bought everything, and they had enough for all three of us. I asked them how much I owed them, and they looked at me funny. It’s not about who owes whom, it’s about sharing. To complete the circuit of giving and receiving, I am always coming up with ways I can share with them. Our sharing surpasses simple reciprocity and arrives in a place of community— everyone takes care of everyone else. When they invited me on this trip they didn’t say ‘you can come if you want,’ they said “we really want you to come, it will be so much fun.” It’s so beautiful, to be here with them.

When we’re finished with breakfast, we pack up and head to the beach.

The scenery flickering past the bus’s window, on the ride through Albufeira, is akin to that of a scene in suburbia—new, identical houses built side by side and super grocery stores on ever corner. Not exactly what we imagined when we thought of Portugal–but when does anything turn out exactly as we imagine?

When the bus drops us off at the beach stop, the driver tells us that we’ve arrived in the historical part of town.  Now, the scenery gratifies our imaginations instead of defying them. A white town of buildings spiced with age, perches itself on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Many of the fronts of houses have been turned into touristy souvenir shops, but it’s still a handsome little town with cobble stone streets. We walk through a tunnel and down to the beach. People, umbrellas, and towels suffocate the sand; the water is a pretty, not completely transparent, blue color; however, the most magnificent characteristic of the sea is its perfect waves.

We twirl, laugh, play, and body surf in the waves for hours. When we finish, the sun begins slipping behind the cliff, silhouetted by the white village. The air has managed to hold onto the heat of the afternoon, and when we get out of the water, we quickly air dry. We rest our bodies after the strenuous swimming we’ve done, and Ami gets out her guitar and plays “You look wonderful tonight,” by Eric Clapton. She has a wonderful voice; her German accent compliments the song. She finishes with a few songs she learned from her six month trip around Cuba. A Portuguese couple walks by, smiles warmly, and thanks her (in English) for playing her beautiful music. The sounds of the waves mingled with her music drain any last bit of worry and stress from my body; I lie back and melt into the sand.

When we arrive at the gate to our campsite, I realize I’ve forgotten my swipe card. The girls enter with theirs, and the guard recognizes me and lets me pass. Without much thought, having heard him speak English a few times before, I say Thank You to him. He corrects me by saying, “Here it’s not Thank You, it’s Obrigado.” His statement offers me a soft reminder that, no matter for how long one visits a country—in my case, only three days—it’s vital to know how to express gratitude in the language of that country. Thank you goes a long way, and as a traveler I have been helped countless times by the locals of the different countries to which I’ve been. I usually make it a point to learn how to say—at least—please, thank you, excuse me, help, and sorry in the language of the country to which I’m a foreigner. However, since this trip was last minute and very short, I didn’t think to do that. But, it’s a lovely reminder for myself, and backpackers around Europe, who often times only stay in one country for three to seven days, to learn the bare minimum of how to say thank you in the language of the country. It only takes a few seconds to learn, and gratitude from the traveller to the people who are hosting them in their country is extremely important.

After swimming in the sun all day, we fall asleep instantly.

The next morning we have breakfast and quickly pack our stuff—we have a bus to catch. But their bus will be taking them on to Lisbon, and mine will take me back to Sevilla. I start feeling sad when I realize how comfortable I got with the girls; the trip felt like a weekend away with best friends. I remind myself that traveling alone means constantly adjusting to new environments, evolving in myself, and expanding my comfort zone. It’s still tough though.

We say goodbye with lots of hugs and promises to see each other again, whether it be in their country or mine. We’ve invited each other to stay at our houses and to show each other around our countries. I will, however, get to see Miriam before she returns to Germany. She’ll be stopping in Sevilla for a few days, after a week in Portugal, to see me. They wave to me vigorously through their windows as I see them off.

I wait an hour for my bus and return to Sevilla.

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Albufeira and it’s bus station

Traveling means constantly leaving my comfort zone; I grow the most when I’m outside of my norm, but leaving it is difficult. I left my first comfort zone, on this trip, when I arrived at the hostel—all of the new people, all at once, overwhelmed me. However, very quickly I began to relax into it and started to be able to talk to anyone. I made connections with people and had amazing conversations. The accommodations at the hostel became comfortable as well. I expanded my zone and felt at ease again. But on the bus to Portugal the uncomfortable feeling, which comes with the unknown, began once more to stir inside me.

The girls thought the bus ride would only be two hours long, but it ends up to be five hours. For the whole ride I trudge through a panicky, nostalgic place where I worry about everything possible. The two girls are sitting together while I sit in the back of them; they both offered to be the one to sit alone so I wouldn’t have to, but I knew what I was stewing in and decided it would be better for us all if I stewed alone.

I’d been wondering when I would have my routine travel freak-out, since I didn’t the first few days in Sevilla. Though, this episode is much milder compared to my other trips. When I backpacked through Italy and Greece alone, when I was eighteen, I had panic and nosthagia episodes throughout the whole trip; through these struggles I claimed my power as a young woman. At the beginning of my seven month trip to Peru, I felt so alone, I cried for two days and contemplated changing my ticket for a two week stay instead of seven months; on this trip I grew into myself and learned more then I ever had in any other seven month period in my life; I also made connections with people that will last a lifetime.

So, I’m used to the routine. I get a really great idea to travel somewhere, but when I arrive I have an “Oh my god, what have I done?” moment with lots of panic, sometimes crying, and nostalgia for the people who bring me comfort. And when I get over the hard part I begin growing, expanding, and learning at a highly accelerated rate. Then I begin to fall in love with what’s around me, and a new place for which to feel nostalgia is created. Of course, what I learn and how I expand is different on every trip.

We arrive at the Albufeira bus station exhausted. The girls are so sweet, and they make me feel so welcomed into their friendship that the heaviness I feel, begins to lift. We shed our luggage onto the floor of the recently built, clean station. Ami and I rush to the bathroom first, while Miriam stays with the bags. With a glance, when exiting the bathroom, I see a young man masterbating in the reflection of the mirror in the mens facility. I tell Ami and we run to Miriam slightly laughing but also jumping and shaking off our disgust. The lady at the front desk doesn’t speak English or Spanish, and there is no one else around to tell. Miriam urgently needs to use the bathroom, and since we know the situation is questionable, Ami decides to go with her. A few minutes later, I’m sitting with our luggage when I hear a shrill scream from the bathroom. I jump up to see what happened; first, I see the man laughing while he speed walks out the doors of the station, and then I see girls run out of the bathroom.

Miriam laughs histerically and then begins to cry. “I was squatting over the toilet while talking to Ami in the other stall. I didn’t even hear the lock click or the door open but the next thing I saw was that man touching himself, right in front of my face. I screamed and then instinctively kicked him as hard as I could. He yelped in pain and then quickly ran off, but he had this awful smirk on his face like he was satisfied just to have scared me.” Tears drip down her checks as she shakes her hands frantically and wrinkles her nose in disgust. Ami rushes over to tell the woman in the front what’s happened. The lady doesn’t understand, but calls the security guard to the front. We explain the situation, and he replies “Well there’s nothing we can do about it now, the man already left.” Stunned at his reaction, we sit back down for a while to discuss our next move. We would have to walk in the dark to the police station to report it, wherein we decide it will probably be safer to take the bus, where there are plenty of other people, to our campsite—away from the man. While waiting, we deliberately stay in lighted areas where there are other people. I anxiously look around to see if we are being watched or followed.

It’s a relief when we see how the camp site is set up. It’s more like a luxurious resort offering a swimming pool and bungalows, with an area for tents. There are gates surrounding the property and one has to have a swipe car to get past the entrance where the guard keeps watch. The campsite is a fifteen minute drive from the bus station—but just to be on the safe side, we let the front desk and the guards know what happened at the bus station.

Stone steps lead up to the pool which is surrounded by a garden. All of the facilities are new and spotlessly clean. We find a place under an olive tree with sage colored leaves, next to a fruiting fig tree. The tent is for one person but we squeeze two mats in and vow to share, between the three of us, the two sleeping bags we have.

When we’ve set everything up, we sit under the olive tree and eat dinner with candle light. The stars peak through the leaves and branches as we munch on fresh bread with gouda cheese and salami. A breeze pushes the rippling clouds, tinted with the last orange blush of the sun, across the sky. “It’s so interesting that we were just talking  about women’s rights and then that happened.” I say in between bites. “Yeah, men can be so disgusting. I think he just wanted to scare me. I don’t know if he was actually going to rape me, but I think he got a lot of satisfaction by just scaring me and showing off his penis. How sick do you have to be? And now when I close my eyes, all I can see is his disgusting dick in my face.” Miriam shivers. “Maybe this is to show us something. Of course, the best option is to avoid situations like that as much as possible. Stay where there are people, don’t go places that are poorly lighted, don’t go out at night alone, and try to go places in a group. But sometimes it happens so quickly. The set up of that station was so weird—usually the bathrooms are in plain sight, but these ones were tucked away, behind the reception desk, where no one can see who goes in or comes out. I think as women it’s important to always be aware of what’s around us, and to know that there are dangers. But it’s also important not to feel helpless or like a victim.” Ami responded. “Yeah, I agree. Miri, your reaction was perfect. Your scream alerted everyone. And between your kick and your scream, you made him flee. Your voice is your power, and with your body you can learn to defend yourself. I’ve taken a self defense class before, but now I definitely want to learn more. Instinct is really powerful but it’s important to know how to use it.” I add. “We took classes in Germany as well. It’s so important to know how to defend yourself. You don’t have to be afraid but you have to be aware and able to defend yourself.” Miriam finished.

Crunched together on the mats, we fall asleep under the stars.

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Ami and Miriam

Last night after a wonderful conversation with Ami and Miriam from Germany, they invited me to go with them to Portugal for a few days. At first I couldn’t decide– I’m supposed to be studying in Spain. However, my other intention for my trip is to go with the flow and to see where it leads me. I feel drawn to further my connection with these girls. Last night, after our ranting about Peru, Ami joined in our conversation; she went to Ecuador for a year and Cuba for six month, which extended our conversation into Latin  American politics and history. Both girls passionately speak of feminism and this may be the point that most draws me to them. Miriam is half Indian and half German, she went to India for six months a year ago.  “I would get so angry sometimes when I saw the way women are treated in Peru and India. Sometimes it made me want to scream. The smallest things would spark me– for example, when my twenty-two year old host brother would wake up for school, and if his mother didn’t have a freshly ironed and washed shirt waiting for him (which was rare, since she was superwoman and usually had all of her gender assigned work complete), he would wake his sister up at six in the morning to do it for him because it “wasn’t his job as a man.” That being the most mild case, imagine how I felt when I heard of things like rape that were happening. Sometimes I just wanted to convince the women to fight for something better. But it’s so much more complicated then that. And it’s not my culture to change.” Miriam added. “I know I used to get so frustrated when I saw women who were mistreated in Peru, and women mistreated in my own country for that matter. However, in contrast with the U.S., in Peru if a woman is married with kids and has never had an education, it’s more difficult for her to leave abusive or oppressive situations because she has little opportunity to support herself and her children, and there is little to none governmental support for single mothers. I think as a foreigner, I realized it would never help to convince people of my ideas about feminism. Your right, it’s not my culture to change. But what I found was that many women were already passionate about feminism in Peru, and that in solidarity with these women we were able to create a summer program for young girls, which encouraged them to follow their dreams and get educations. Strong women from their own community spoke to the girls about how they had attained their goals by following their dreams. I helped start and organize the program but the most important part was that the voices of the women and girls were louder then my own.” I said. We all agreed how difficult it is to see and experience the inequality women are faced with around the world and in our own countries. Ami spoke about how it was for women in Ecuador and also brought up the important subject about how race and class also play into the oppression of women. I love to meet people who can passionately sustain a conversation about feminism.

I waver back and forth between weather to go with them to Portugal. We’ll be camping and I have no gear with which to camp; they’ve offered to share their one person tent and two sleeping bags with me. At the last minute I stuff my small back pack full of a few changes of cloths and hop on a bus with them headed for Albufeira, Portugal.

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Reales Alcazares de Sevilla

In the moorish gardens, in the courtyards of The Alcazar Castle in Sevilla,  I sit under towers of thick trunked pines, yellow blossoming branches, and the fanned out leaves of palm trees. At first, the sounds overwhelm me. Insects hiss and buzz while birds hoo in a deep throat. The people are quiet, but the ivory fountain drips from many different angles—making a scattered effort to provide tranquillity. A tree, near to where I sit, sheds a long, heavy branch which then crashes onto the side walk; the splintering wood echos. I focus on the water, the droplets fall with the cadence of rain, and I begin to feel soothed when the other sounds fade into the background. Rain would be received as a gift today; the beginning days of September in Sevilla don’t  carry with them a fall breeze, but hang tightly onto the stale heat of summer—even in the shade, sweat drips down my face. The heat isn’t sticky or wet, but it’s unmoving and never gives way to the wind.

The smell inside of the castle has layers; it’s one of those time warping smells that tugs at memories you’ve never had but swear you can remember.  The depth of the musky, damp stone causes me to waver in past and present.

After visiting the castle I wander through the narrow streets of Sevilla and find my way back to the hostel.

I endure the heat with the other backpackers on the patio. It’s the hostel owners birthday, and he has treated us to cake and white wine sangria. I choose the lemon flavor cake out of the whisky and chocolate flavors. Two australian guys start a conversation with me in English, while German and Spanish mingle together in the background, creating a whole range of tones and sounds.  The conversation quickly begins to bore me when it becomes centered around their drinking crusades through Spain. I walk away from the conversations when one of the two reveals the reason his buddy had to wear an “I love my boyfriend” t-shirt during the tomato fest in Valencia. He laughs as he tells me how he was hugging on his friend, who was for the day proud to be gay, to draw even more attention to him. I laugh along for a while and try to get them to tell me the reason he had to do this. Hesitantly, they finally confess that they had a bet to see how many girls they could each sleep with, and the one who lost had to wear the shirt for the day. No judgement, but I thought maybe I could find a better conversations else where. Earlier, three German girls had invited me to dance but we found out that there was no where to dance on a Tuesday night. I wander over to where they’re sitting–they quickly change their language to English and warmly invite me into the conversation. The four of us talk for a while, and then Miri and I begin our own conversation. Earlier, I over heard her speaking Spanish and so I asked her how she’d learned. She tells me she was in Peru for a year, in Ariquipa. The sweetly tinged nostalgia begins rippling in my heart. She notices my face light up after she tells me. “Why? Do you know Spanish?” “Yes, I was also in Peru for a year.” I say with a grin. Her eyes light up and she places her hand over her heart. And then a steady stream of reminiscing comes from both of us as we giggle and exuberantly squeal at our similar memories. “Los Caribeños y Grupo Cinco?” “Yes! Of Course!” “Inca Cola? Cui?” “Que Rico!!”

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