as experienced through the eyes, ears, feet, stomach, and heart of Sj.
If you’re looking for a WHAT to DO, WHAT to EAT, WHERE to STAY type of post regarding San Sebastián, you’re in the wrong place.
Nice meeting you, and I wish you well as you search for all that data.
If you want to know how it FELT to be in San Sebastián, you’re in the right place.
Overall, it felt good; though at times it was quite cold for this Kaua‘i gal. And on two particular days, it was quite hot (37 Celsius or 98.6 Fahrenheit). It was amazing how the temperature could change by about 20 degrees Fahrenheit from one day to the next. Fortunately, I had my Mom’s silk long underwear; so I was ready for anything.
The following is a list of my personal fav experiences and/or thoughts.
Of all the places I’ve visited during my life (and that’s been plenty), I have never before encountered a collection of people who were as consistently kind and helpful.
Yes, for real.
From the grocery clerk who was helping an elderly woman make sure some product didn’t have something in it that would harm a family member who had some particular food allergy to the tour boat captain who must have seen at least 5,000,000 visitors come on his boat and ask the same questions (over and over and over again).
I can’t promise you that that’s what you’ll experience, but for me, I did. Time and time again, I met kind people who looked me in the eye and really listened.
She’s not from San Sebastián; she’s French and lives in Paris, but her performance in a quartet during their annual jazz festival was one of my aural highlights. Her talent, exuberance, joy in doing exactly what she was doing at the particular moment (singing!) was an incredible gift to all of us lucky folk who were there that Saturday evening in late July.
This is the language school that I happened to pick. There are many. Each person who worked there that I had the opportunity to get to know (either as a teacher or as a guide on one of the many excursions they host) was kind, professional, knowledgeable, and just cool. Yup, you guys rock, Silvia, Ester, Gorka, Idoia, Concha, Nora, Sara, and Salva!
The combination of mountains and sea.
Face it. I call Kaua‘i home and to find a place in the world where I could go for a hike and swim on the same day while learning Spanish . . . it just doesn’t get any better than that.
The town itself. It’s not too big; it’s not too small, but it’s . . . just right!
I liked how San Sebastián is laid out, how you can’t get too lost because you just need to figure out where the ocean or a particular hill is and then which bridge you’re seeing . . . and voila! I’d realize where I was.
Okay, it was summer. And the peaches were dripping with yummy goodness. I love fresh, ripe peaches!
For less than a bottle of water (which wasn’t necessary in San Sebastián, per my host, their water comes from the Pyrénées mountains and is very clean), you can buy a glass of vino rosado. I didn’t have it everyday, but when I did, I really enjoyed it. It’s not super sweet like we have the U.S., and the color is really beautiful.
And now for a random collection of photographs . . .
✫ Sj ✫
p.s. You’ll notice that Pintxos (Basque word for tapas) are not on my list. Most people go on and on about them. The locals love them. They were alright, but being a gal who really prefers vegetables over meat, they were just okay to me.
“What’s been happening, Sj? You’ve been in Spain three weeks now. You told us that it was a mind-+&^%$#k moving into another language. You sent us a short video of street music, but that’s it! Are you still alive? Still engaged? Still learning?”
“Kay, but what’s been happening?”
Loads. Bunches. Heaps. Muchas. All KINDS of things!
But what I’m finding is that what I most enjoy is simply being.
Being in Spain.
Being in Europe.
Being on this planet.
A walk to school is an adventure.
Turn here? Or there? Haven’t been on this street yet.
I stop. I look up. I love the architecture. The little balconies. The high windows. The clothes hanging on the accordian-like clothes lines which protrude from the base of random windows. The donging of cathedral bells. I love the city gardens. The green tomatoes I pass as I go down about 5,000 stairs when leaving the villa I’m fortunate enough to be living in while I’m here (in San Sebastián).
I love the random hazelnut in my muesli that I’m currently eating.
I love the view from this extraordinary top floor flat. That I can say hey to Jesus across the way. That I can watch storm clouds gather. See sailboats on the horizon. Barges. Rain upon the window panes. And lots and lots of green all around the mostly terra-cotta roofs to my right (which faces another hill where there are amazing hiking trails).
Yes, it sometimes makes it hard to get things done when all I want to do is stop and be silent. Observe. Feel. Smell.
But I’ve come to realize that that is what we’re really here to do. To be. To experience. To feel.
Sure, we have to do those odd things like go to school, get a job, and then work to earn money to feed and clothe ourselves.
The BEING, I feel, is the absolute most important thing.
The awareness of who we are.
That each and every one of us is a walking miracle.
A walking act of grace in the shape of skin and bones.
Each and every one of us.
So . . . Sj, what’s been happening in Spain? you ask.
Mountainous piles of everything.
Next time I’ll fill you in with some particulars.
But for now, enjoy wherever you are. Feel the air on your skin. Notice your breath.
It was exactly the right length of time to be there (3 weeks).
I’m still amazed that I can converse in French at all!
The school I attended, Alpadia, is really a great school for folks like me wanting to get some input after learning on their own. The variety of ages and nationalities attending the school made it interesting. Bottom line. We were all there to learn French. Some because they had to (for school or work), but most (it seemed to me) because they wanted to (be there).
And this time around, I really got how spoken French is so very different from written French. I don’t mean the absence of sounds, like the s at the end of many words, but rather that they just don’t say what they write. They leave so many things out. And it seems that there’s an *unofficial way of talking that has nothing to do with what one reads, a spoken vocabulary that a non-native like me really has to search for. (Unlike spoken German which matches what we’re taught in school.)
So . . . my biggest take away is that I have to continue listening to French, spoken French, like in movies. This Harry Potter fan will continue to listen to JK Rowling’s books in French, BUT I’ll make sure to add a heaping dose of actual French conversations.
At times learning a new language seems insurmountable, with two steps forward and three steps back. BUT this gal, moi, has a tenacity that surprises even me.
I will continue.
One step at a time.
Both the forward ones.
And the backward ones.
This includes the next four weeks, which I’ll spend in San Sebastian, Spain attending another small language school (this time for Spanish) while residing with a Spanish family.
Where am I at the moment?
In Germany, not too far from Heidelberg, spending a most wonderfully relaxing week with dear, dear friends.
And . . . believe it or not, speaking in German is actually giving me a most welcome rest from intense mental activity. My girlfriend, who I call a walking dictionary and grammar guide, corrects me when I say something a little wacky. I welcome each correction and celebrate as I also recognize that they’re coming less and less frequently.
Meanwhile, here are some photos I took while in Lyon.
*Dear Non-native English Speakers,
I’d love to know about some of your experiences in learning English. What are some specific challenges?