“We are now entering into the beautiful city of Cadiz [Cadith],” announced the soft-voice of our tour guide on the bus from Madrid to Cadiz; his “z” sounded like a “th.” I peered out the window at my new home. Entering a new country becomes an experience that changes one forever: new sights, new smells, and new sounds. In my time traveling, I learned that to appreciate a culture was to immerse myself completely in it. My trip to Spain proved to be one of these life-changing experiences—landing in Madrid, I had no idea what to expect. The sky looked the same; the sun had followed us from New York and sat in almost the same spot. Our group of thirty Villanova students sleepily piled onto a mega-bus and headed towards our hotel, which would be our home for the next couple of days. Three days later, still jetlagged and overwhelmingly hot, we once again piled into the travel bus and began the five hour descent to southern Spain where we would set up residence for a month. Madrid had been exciting, and all around I found differences in the scenery and architecture that hinted at the country’s ancient history, the kind of history that America never knew. However Madrid still felt like another version of New York City. As Cadiz slowly approached, I realized I was heading towards a new adventure entirely.
One sight during the bus ride particularly stood out in my mind; the sunflowers. Rows upon rows of striking yellow sunflowers stood facing the bright sun. When we passed them, the entire world seemed to turn yellow for a minute. The sight was breathtaking—I couldn’t pull my eyes away as the flowers stretched across the land for miles. As we approached Cadiz, we also approached the ocean, and the horizon blended with the blue of the water as we got closer and closer to our destination.
A small port city, Cadiz and lies directly on the Atlantic. In fact, in order to reach Cadiz, there is only one bridge that connects this jutting out island to the rest of Spain. Cadiz itself is the capital of the Cadiz province, which includes 8 cities in Andalusia. As we pulled into the bus station, we could see a small of group of Spanish women waiting in the parking lot. All of a sudden, everyone’s faces plastered themselves against the windows—“Those are our moms! Look!” Part of the abroad experience included staying with host families, and we felt excited yet extremely anxious to finally meet our Spanish parents. Immediately when the bus door opened, the smell of salt water flowed through the stuffiness of the bus and filled our heads with thoughts of the relaxing beach days ahead of us; Paradise, we’ve arrived.
Slowly, pairs of students on my trip met their families and ushered off to see their new and foreign dwellings. We all glanced at each other as each pair left, nervous to separate, scared of what was to come. Suddenly, Sara (my best friend who had come on the trip with me) and I were the only ones left waiting for our mother. We began to giggle nervously, joking that we weren’t going to have a mother, when we saw an elderly woman tottering down towards us, waving, and yelling in Spanish how sorry she was. Thus, we met Rosario, or Charo, as she preferred to be called. By the end of the month we lovingly addressed her as our Mama Charo.