Back in February, when I was trying to decide which study abroad program to apply to, I found myself torn between studying in Buenos Aires and Granada. I called upon all my decision-making skills, researching both cities, drawing a list of pros and cons, talking to people who’d been to both places. None of it helped. A friend of mine didn’t understand the agony I was putting myself through. “Both places are amazing– you’ll have a wonderful experience either way” was his true, though not particularly satisfying or helpful answer. When I finally did make the decision to go to Granada, it wasn’t because my careful and meticulous research had shown it was the best or more logical choice. I decided on Granada for reasons that seem, in retrospect, potentially dangerous.
Eight years before, when I was in sixth grade, I went to Andalucía with my family. We stayed in Granada for a few days and I loved it. I had memories of walking narrow, twisting streets full of new and exotic smells and sounds. I had memories of looking at the Alhambra in the evening as the sun was setting, from a terrace surrounded by white buildings. (Now I know we walked through la Alcaicería and saw the Alhambra from el Albaicín). I remembered it being the most magical place I’d ever been and when I wrote several short stories for a creative writing class a few years ago, I found myself writing my characters into these vivid memory-scenes. Whenever I imagined myself abroad, it was in Granada. And only in Granada. So I decided to trust that vision.
Only after I’d applied did I consider that maybe my memories had misled me. Had I mistaken Sevilla or Toledo or Ronda for Granada? I was so young and it was so long ago. And even if I was remembering correctly, would it affect me in the same way? To a child big things are even bigger, dark things even darker, new things even newer. I also wondered whether I’d fictionalized my memories in the process of writing about them. Would these visions turn out to be chimeras?
Ultimately, I’m writing this blog post to say nothing more than no, that I haven’t been disappointed. Granada really, truly is wonderful. Even though I’m no longer a sixth grader, who probably saw things with more wonder and surprise than I do now (though I’d like to think not too much more), it’s not a venture to say that the city’s reality exceeds my expectations; Granada’s streets are full of more life and beauty and magic than I remembered or could have imagined.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Haley Stewart was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, and is currently a Comparative Literature Major at Williams College in Massachusetts. She was lucky enough to be in a Spanish Immersion program from preschool thru high school, an experience which left her a fluent Spanish-speaker, a lover of Latin-American literature and an avid traveler. She's used her Spanish in many ways since, from teaching computer classes in Oaxaca, Mexico, to volunteering at an organization for low-paid farm workers in Oregon, to her classes on Spanish literature and history at Williams. Haley's most recent travel experience, a month and a half long trip to England on a travel fellowship from Williams, hiking alone through the beautiful Lake District in the footsteps of the Romantic poet Wordsworth, has left her even more excited to explore Granada. A lover of Federico Garcia Lorca for many years, Haley looks forward to not only walking, but living, in a city full of such poetry, music and magic.</span></p>