October 9, 2014

BARCELONA BOUND | Dear Europe, I Love You

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Dear Europe,

I love you.

I love your old cities.  I love walking around knowing that millions of people passed through these structures built so many years before me. I love learning from my passing conversations I have with people who grew up in a country different from mine.

In one such conversation, a man living in Santorini told me that there are no hospitals on the island, so the mothers fly over to Athens to have their babies. This was a simple sentence, said to me while I was buying a bell at his store. However, I was intrigued to hear about a way of life different than my own. I thought about how lucky I am to have had hospitals nearby when growing up.

Such differences provide me with continuously growing perspectives. As I walked past the Acropolis in Athens, looking up at the Parthenon lit up at night, a group of Greek students passed by.  I pointed up at the Parthenon and said, “I can’t believe you get to see this every day.”  They shrugged, saying they were accustomed to it by now. I looked at them in disbelief, thinking I could never get used to such a sight. But then again, I worked in Times Square this summer. I suppose that was a sight that I got used to as well, despite the masses of people traveling there each day just to see it. Looking up at the Parthenon again, I thought to myself that I could get past gawking at it every time I saw it. But the sight would always impress me. I compared this to how I felt about Times Square. I could walk by casually, but I will always feel invigorated when I stop amidst the crowds and flashing lights to look up at it all.

Another sight I could see over and over again is the sun setting on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It’s places like this that I have heard about, seen in movies, and learned about in school.  While I am actually at each place, I am continually soaking in the excitement of seeing these places in real life.

Yet, I have thought about how I am fortunate to mainly experience the fun parts of each place. I realize there is much more depth to each of these countries than what I have seen. For instance, right now in Barcelona there is tension over the possibility of Catalan independence. Barcelona is located in Catalonia, an autonomous community of Spain. Currently, many Catalonians are protesting that they want to vote for Catalan Independence. The legality of such a vote has come into question, and there is tension over what will result if allowed or not allowed to vote on the issue. I have spoken with Catalan and Castilian (Spanish) people on different sides of the issue. Though I am only beginning to understand the issue, I have sympathy for people on all sides. I have heard their perspectives and seen the real emotion they have when talking about how the feel about the possibility of independence.

While I am loving my time in Europe, I am careful to remember I am lucky for this chance to travel and “tour.” The Parthenon, the Eiffel Tower and the city of Barcelona are all places that I cannot help but stare at in awe sometimes; they are quite impressive. But, these places gain meaning that I can only get a glimpse of, when speaking with a man who was born in Athens, but grew up in Santorini.