I’ve never been very good at strolling.
I like to have a purpose, a destination. I don’t often take walks for the sake of talking a walk, without a place in mind to go. But today, a beautiful Sunday in Seville, I couldn’t simply sit inside and study all day. I pulled on my brown boots and black jacket and traversed out the front door of the apartment building. My daily routine takes me left here, down to Asuncion Avenue and then to the bridge. However, today would be different. Right. I was going to turn right at the door, and find out just what was beyond the river bend… I mean, corner.
So I did. My senora had recommended a restaurant that was a block or two away, and I thought I’d find out where it was. It was easy to discover, with its tables commanding the sidewalk and the scent of food in the air. But I just had lunch, so there was no need to stop. I passed the restaurant and the families still finishing their Sunday meal, and continued down the road.
The street curved right, and I followed. It was then that I saw the park, calling to me from across the street. On this nearly-spring, sunny day, who could pass up a walk in the park? I crossed, and found the entrance. As I entered, a small boy chased a ball on to the sidewalk, and threw it back in the field, ready for more play. I followed the path in the park, passing two old men sitting side by side on a green bench. The bench was desperately in need of a new coat of paint, but the men paid no mind and simply enjoyed the sun from their perch.
To my right was a playground. I could hear laughter and screams and chatter, the noise of children. The bright colors of the slides and swings reminded me of all the playgrounds back home. Kids will be kids, and their toys will always be colorful. As I passed the playground, I noticed a presence behind me. A dog. I would say he was average-sized, but my standards may be different than your own. The dog, white and black, followed me for a few steps, then paused while I continued on. A few steps later, I realized he had plodded a few more feet as well. His owner, dosing near the path, awoke and called him back. “¡Hola, hola!” he yelled and whistled. Apparently the dog paid no heed, as the man whistled louder and louder. I was far from the pair by now, the dog no longer interested in me but instead in the field around him. With a quick glance behind me, I saw that the dog had indeed returned to his owner, content in the grass. I smiled to myself and continued on.
The strange thing about walks in this country is that no one looks up. I often raise my head as someone walks by me, ready to smile or nod, but then I remember that I’m not in the States. Here there is no smile or nod, or acknowledgement of any kind. There is rarely eye contact with any passerby. It’s not that the people here are unfriendly or rude, but that kind of greeting is just not custom. In my neighborhood and university at home, eye contact is expected and a greeting is recommended. But here… that’s simply not how they stroll.
I’ve come to the end of the path, lost in my thoughts. I exit the park, thinking I will return to the apartment. But as I pass another entrance to the same park, I change my mind. I need to learn how to take a relaxing Sunday walk, right? I enter the park again, and follow a different path. This one leads me to a covered path, the sunlight shining in through the wood. I rest on a bench for a few minutes. I want to people-watch, but I dare not raise my head to observe. In the US, people-watching is common. Here, not quite. So I listen. The noises of Sunday afternoon are simple: children laughing, adults talking, glasses clinking, dogs barking. I remain on my bench for a few minutes before deciding to walk again. I leave the park with no destination in mind.
I take a right at the exit, headed back in the direction of the apartment building. I pass the same restaurant, the families I saw earlier buttoning up their jackets and pulling on their gloves. Two boys with soccer balls play just past the restaurant, while two girls climb a stone wall behind them. I smile, missing the kids I taught last semester. I approach the apartment building on my left, but decide the weather is still too nice to go back inside.
I pass the closed Chocolateria, and promise myself that one day soon I will go to the Chocolateria for some churros and chocolate. I turn left on Asuncion and listen as people call to each other from their cars and laugh at a distant joke. Two blocks down, I turn left again, on a street I haven’t been down before. There’s a gelato shop, and a store with Cola Cao in the window – that’s where I can buy some before I leave. I turn left again and head back to the road I recognize, knowing I’m nearing the end of my walk.
Once again I come up the apartment building. I check my watch. An hour. I strolled for an hour. Impressed with my ever-increasing strolling skills, I head inside for a glass of water. A Sunday afternoon stroll was exactly what I needed to clear my head and prepare for a full week of classes. I smile to the sun one last time and unlock the gate to the apartment building. Until next week.