So it’s been a while since I posted. Something that I have been acutely aware of and which now leaves me in a position where I am not quite sure where to begin.
I owe you all another blog on Seville, not to mention a post on the places I have been to in between then and now; Granada, Lisbon, Barcelona and London to name but a few. But I am going to cut to the chase and tell you about my past few months in Cordoba.
There’s definitely something romantic about the concept of selling your worldly possessions and taking off to the other side of the world to live. And as much as you think you can anticipate the challenges you might potentially face on this journey and then brush briskly off as ‘all part of the experience’, it really is one thing to say it and another to actually do it.
I’m just going to come right out and say it. While the past few months, have been amazing in so many ways, the road from November to here has been a whirlwind of excitement, chaos, adventure and well, difficulty.
It was never going to be easy. But it’s taken a good while to get to a point where I feel vaguely like I know what I am doing. Gone are all the creature comforts of home, the freedom of being able to walk into a shop and ask (without thinking) for whatever you want. Wait… let me take two steps backward here. Gone is the ease of even knowing what shop to visit to begin with. Let alone, what time you can go there and guarantee it’ll be open (thanks very much, siesta).
The challenges of getting registered in the Spanish system to work, setting up a bank account and finding a place to live cannot be underestimated. Then, there’s the daunting prospect of settling in. Building a network of friends, finding things to pass the time on a Sunday when all shops are closed and the people of the city seem to “hibernate” from existence. Accepting that this place is what you will call your home for an indefinite period of time, despite it feeling so foreign, so contrary to anything you’re ever accustomed to can be a hard pill to swallow at times and learning to accept it’s quirks for what they are – different. Not in a bad way, nor a good. Just, different. This can take time. Life unexpected? A little. Reality check? Definitely.
However, despite it all, you learn to take the good with the bad. There are extraordinary cities that captivate you and leave a lasting impression from the minute you arrive and there are cities that don’t. And although I am quick to admit that Cordoba for me, originally fell into the latter category, being a place that I didn’t fall instantly in love with, the more I’ve discovered, the more I’m coming to love it. Cordoba is a wonderful city if you allow yourself to see it and better yet, if you know where to look.
So after a trying few months of ‘settling in’, grasping a new language, building a new life for myself – not to mention a brief stint in hospital (but we won’t go there), I am somehow finding myself in a place where all the things that originally made my experience here horrible, are all the more endearing. Funny that.
I have met an incredible bunch of friends here, in many ways; they’ve made this experience for me. There’s always somewhere to go, something to do and the icing on the cake? Someone to do it with. This is crucial, especially if you are moving abroad alone. Surround yourself with people, do your best to keep busy, don’t let yourself dwell on being homesick. These are my words of advice, but hell, it sure can be easier said than done. Eventually, you do push through. There’s nothing worse than feeling lonely when you are 19,586km from home.
If it’s not eating out in the city’s ridiculously affordable restaurants, taking tea and Arabic sweets in a tea salon in the Jewish Quarter (la Juderia), wandering the white-washed, cobbled streets of the surprisingly large historic quarter or catching some sun in Parque Colon, I’m learning that it’s all about adjusting to the pace of life and embracing it.
The simple touches of yellow in the architecture here remind you that you’re in the depths of Spain and not somewhere roaming around Greece (although that wouldn’t be at all bad either). And the streets are a far cry from the hustling, bustling city life I have grown accustomed to, perhaps part of the original shock in arriving here – one minute I’m hurtling along a highway of change, excitement and thriving off the frenetic energy of visiting one big city after the next to then arrive here and find a somewhat quiet, peaceful city where it feels not much has changed since 1943.
In many more ways than one living in the South of Spain, Cordoba especially, feels somewhat as though you’ve journeyed back in time. It’s not just the look and feel of the city, or the cultural attitudes that stem from a deeply Catholic community that have remained unchanged for centuries and indeed grew even more fervent during the years of dictatorship… it’s the soul of the place as well. Cordoba is an ancient city with a very interesting story to tell. It’s up to you to listen out for it. Understanding the history of a place does certainly help explain some of those quirks you originally found astonishing.
Suddenly, my time here has begun to accelerate double-speed and I feel as though I am running out of time to do and see all the things that I want to. How are we halfway through February already, please someone tell me? With my work contract at a close at the end of June, I will find myself faced with new challenges and new places to see but for now, I need to do all in my power to make the most of it. In reality, I have never stopped doing this – it’s now just time to up the ante.
So with a brief stint in Madrid (for work) next weekend, a trip to Cadiz for Carnival the following and a sightseeing excursion to Almodovar del Rio the week after – all on the agenda, we’ll be well into March before I know it. And then it’s off to Alicante for Semana Santa. And I am hanging out for the Feria de Mayo here in Cordoba in May. Set to be one of the best times to be in Andalucia, with traditional dancing and patios adorned with flowers, it’s be something to look forward to for sure.
And here’s where I add my disclaimer – I don’t in any way mean to put anyone off embarking on an adventure of this kind. You’ll see now after reading this, that at times you loose your inspiration and I’m not going to lie, it’s hard. But you do somehow become more immune to change. You learn to land on your feet after each hurdle and you become more flexible and able to adapt when things don’t go the way you originally thought they would. Just be prepared. And god forbid, don’t ever get sick!