Written last week while on a train traveling from the northwest to southeast of Spain
Last year, we traversed Spain from east to west using only our feet to carry us. Over the past few days, we have been reversing that journey via bus, feet, car, and train. Very soon, an airplane will carry us over the ocean again and back into the familiarity of our own country.
The terrain and vegetation are changing all around us. High, craggy mountains are giving way to low hills, carved by the wind and the scarce flow of water. But it seems that in Spain, the mountains are never too far away, always out there looming on some not so distant horizon. We have been from the coast of Galicia through the Meseta of Castile Y León, across Basque Country, and I can only assume will be entering Catalonia soon if we are not already within it. So much variety, culture, and language packed into a country that can be crossed in one day by train.
Slipping in and out of the semi-consciousness of travel. Wide-eyed and wide awake one moment, lulled into sleep by the motion and the blur the next. Half awake and asleep, we hurtle across Spain. Soon the wash of smashing through time zones will be added to this cocktail, further numbing and enhancing my senses.
As I travel, I find myself afraid and fascinated simultaneously. The fear comes from the unknown. Where will I sleep tonight? What does that sign mean and is it telling me something I really ought to know? What happens when I have to ask someone a question and will I be able to understand the answer? The fascination comes from a childlike wonder of experiencing something new and the excited anticipation of what might come next.
Ironically, as we near departure (and enter a region of Spain that doesn’t like to speak Spanish), I feel that I am finally getting a glimpse of listening comprehension. The conversations I have listened to over the past few days have not seemed so opaque. I seem to pick up enough words to at least get some sense of what the subject matter is and how people feel about it. It is as if while still remaining in a thick fog, there are moments of its parting, allowing me to see what is hidden. If only this had happened sooner. I could have used the encouragement.