Reading, running, and reflections.

I think my host mom thinks I’m crazy for running on top of all the walking we do in Spain. “You get plenty of exercise walking, it’s good for your health,” she tells me. Yeah, and you also have to make up for the copious amounts of bread that Spaniards eat. Which is delicious, don’t get me wrong, but I think when I get back home I’m going to go on a fruit and veggie binge or something, because carb-loading is for marathon runners, which I am not (yet!). Besides, I explain to her, “Correr es bueno para el alma.” Running is good for the soul.

The other afternoon we had a respite from the damp winter chill and enjoyed a bit of warm sunshine. Of course I had to take advantage of the weather and go for a run. This week was one of those culture shock weeks where the wi-fi suddenly wouldn’t work, inside and outside felt equally cold, and I was told that professors here might tell you that you did an excellent job and give you the American equivalent of a C, thinking that’s a good grade (you know, just going to return to the States and start applying to grad schools, so grades might be slightly important, just possibly. But I’m not freaking out or anything). So when Friday hit, wi-fi selectively started somewhat working, I got some encouragement from Mary Alice that it isn’t impossible to work for A’s, and I actually found a café con leche that I liked, it was a whole new level of three-day weekend relief.

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I don’t know if it was the strength of the coffee or what, but I had way too much energy when we returned from breakfast with Mary Alice. (This coffee thing will be fun when I go back to the States and continue working on my thesis, haha). Putting that energy to good use, I set off for the Plaza de España, since I hadn’t been there in a few days and it has quickly become one of my favorite spots. Surrounding the Plaza is El Parque de María Luisa, and there are so many twists and turns and little paths that I discover something new every time I go. I found a small lake with swans and other birds and crossed the bridge and came across some mini bush mazes and small gardens with ceramic fountains. Spaced out on benches throughout were people reading, journaling, even painting near the lake. Aside: if I had any artistic talent whatsoever, it would be so cool to hang out in one of the many beautiful parks/plazas with a sketchbook. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, so I shall stick to my photography and writing arts.

I’ll have to return to the park/plaza to capture some photos of my discoveries, because I’ve been running with my second generation iPod nano and didn’t have my iPhone camera. But a shortage of Plaza de España photos is not exactly a problem for me, so I’ll just select a few of the hundreds I already have to share for now.

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In all my adventurous, coffee-high running bliss, I was reminded of Gustavo Aldofo Bécquer, one of the writers we’ve read in my Women in Spanish Literature class, who says that his poetry is a mere memory of his most real and emotional experiences, the ones that words cannot fully express. There’s something magical about this city, y’all, and my words can’t fully convey why (so come visit!). Instead of trying to explain what is impossible to explain, I’d thought I’d share a few of my favorite quotes from Bécquer’s works we’ve read so far, with my rough translations, that attempt to explain the incomplete link between experience and the written word:

“Si tú supieras cómo las ideas más grandes se empequeñecen al encerrarse en el círculo de hierro la palabra….”—Carta segunda a una mujer

“If only you knew how the biggest ideas shrink when locked in the iron circle of the word.”—Second letter to a woman

“Definiciones! Sobre nada se han dado tantas como sobre las cosas indefinibles.”—Carta tercera a una mujer

“Definitions!  As many have been given to nothing as have been given to the indefinable things.”—Third letter to a woman

“…[P]oesía es, y no otra cosa, esa aspiración melancólica y vaga que agita tu espíritu con el deseo de una perfección imposible.”—Carta tercera a una mujer

“…[P]oetry is, and nothing else, that melancholy and vague aspiration that agitates your spirit with the desire of an impossible perfection.”—Third letter to a woman

-Steph

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