my last view of the Alhambra in Granada


The final paella.


I knew it was coming.  For weeks we’d been counting down the days in disbelief—we’ll be on a plane in 10 days, I’ll be walking out the door in 46 hours—and then before I knew it I was sitting in a restaurant with my new best friends around an empty paella pan.


Paella is a dish that really exemplifies my life in Granada.  You start by cooking onions, garlic, tomatoes, and peppers in the pan.  I think this first step was similar to our preparations for Europe—did we sign that last visa document?  Is there enough room in my suitcase to buy gifts?  We planned and we waited, and then during our first days our excitement simmered.


Next you add tomatoes and pour in the rice to be toasted.  Little by little after orientation, things were added to our schedules—5 classes, a new set of rules with our host family, European tours to plan and Granada sites to see—by the end of our first month we were practicing these new adaptations and were looking forward to even more changes to come.


Then, when the broth and the water were added, we felt a little bit overwhelmed.  The pan was full to overflowing.  We had seen so much change and been exposed to so many differences that a lot of us were satiated; being abroad for one week more felt impossible.  We were still accepting everything that was thrown at us, living in an incredible new place and realizing how long 4 months really was.


When you’re not paying attention, the liquid is absorbed and the paella is simmering (a watched pot never boils); your life is nothing like you expected.   Spanish comes naturally and you can converse with your host parents.  You know the hours of the grocery store.  You’ve been to the major cities in Southern Spain, and a few weekend trips have opened your eyes to new ways of life.  Your bed is finally broken in.  You finally have that study spot at a coffee shop.  You have a life in Granada that is your own.


Granada will leave me full for my entire life.