Toledo wasn’t just an opportunity to improve my Spanish through the course, but it was also an opportunity to make connections with people from all over the world. I was so lucky to have met some incredible people during my time in Toledo, and I was surprised by the strength of the connections made.
The HENS Party for Marion, combined with the birthday party for Madison went off like a bang! However, I was to realise that people couldn’t handle their alcohol as I had planned and hoped. The three-bar, two-club crawl turned into two-bar and taco takeaway joint jaunt. Maccas closed seven minutes early much to EVERYONE’S disappointment! It was, however, a brilliant night, yes the penis straws and lollies came out. But as there were also BOYS coming to the event, I cleverly found some CHICK straws to go with the penis-themed ones, which were literally baby chicken straws. I thought I was hilarious. Others not so much.
The weekend following the wedding, along with three other students, I was off to Pamplona to witness the Festival of San Fermín, aka Running with the Bulls. While I have so many mixed feelings about the festival itself, a friend- some would call him brave, others simply insane, wanted to participate. So off we were to watch and support. It was an incredible vibe in the city. I was SO surprised by just how many people were wearing the traditional ‘outfit’ for the festival- essentially white clothing with a little red necktie and belt. Literally, EVERYONE in the streets, shops, restaurants- EVERYONE EVERYWHERE was wearing it. Upon our arrival in Pamplona, it rained for the first time in four weeks. It was insane, it simply pelted down, and the Spanish people just stopped everything, hid in doorways and waited for it to pass. If you were to do this in Sydney, London, Melbourne, surely anywhere else in the world- you’d be waiting for infinite time, surely people have things to do. Apparently, not in Spain.
An early morning and trek back to the city to get a good spot for the show, and we were still three people deep in the crowd. BUT Shane, glorious Shane, weaselled his way into the crowd and got a reasonable spot to capture some videos! Madison thankfully survived to tell the tale of touching a bull, and the horrors of being pushed and shoved by the hoards of runners while numerous bulls come running full pelt at you. Apparently, bulls are NOT slow runners. On the day we witnessed, there were 6 serious injuries requiring hospitalisation, including a broken skull and internal bleeding. However, there were also women in white jeans and WEDGES “running”, however, they were positioned at the very start of the run, closest to the stadium and most out of harm’s way. I guess its all about the position you take! While I enjoyed the running of the bulls festivities, I definitely disagree with the bullfighting that followed in the afternoon. As such, as a mini-stand, I booked train tickets out of the city before they started. Not that ANYONE noticed, but it made me feel a little bit better about partaking in the festival and contributing to the hype.
The final week in Toledo was largely occupied by a little bit of stress, a few exams, a lot of sunning and pretend studying by the pool, a lot of ‘lasts’ and a lot of sad farewells. Surprisingly, I managed to do pretty well in my final exams- both written and oral, so was happy with myself! That happiness was swiftly quashed when my fellow students voted me and another student “Seok” from South Korea to present the farewell speech on behalf of our class at the fiesta. Well, at least we think it was meant to be Seok- someone wrote his name on the ballot paper as ‘Soup’… BUT, originally it wasn’t even meant to be us, the majority of the class votes actually went to Madison (we all knew he would HATE us for it- all the more reason to put his name down), but it was only after the vote that our teacher informed us she wouldn’t count votes for him because he wasn’t in class- instead he was taking another exam in Madrid. SO RUDE. But it all went well.
Some special moments from some very special friends that I will remember for a long while to come; when Sam said “So, is flamenco Spanish for flamingo?“, when Marion serenaded strangers on the escalators with the song Despacito, when Madi said “imagine if the birds fly in the window of the classroom, we’d have to yell at it in Spanish to get it out“, when Sam (again with the great ones) said “It tasted like hot dog but without the hot dog taste“- this pretty much captures the calibre of meals at the residence, as does when Marion demonstrated the hardness of the bread by smashing it on her lunch tray, Salma yelling at a specific boy to “STOP staring” only to have very obvious photos taken of her at the natural pools, when the rest of the team abandoned us at the club after the final fiesta wrapped up and Marion and I had to be informed by our teacher that they cancelled the second bus and we met, had ice (not the drug, just actual ice from ice-trays) from the boot of Jesus’ car and secured a free ride home, when Madison skipped class on the 4th of July because of “Freedom“… Oh, there’s so many more that simply don’t translate well to the written word, so I won’t bore you.
Toledo was a time full of learning, laughter and memories. I had an absolute ball and it will be a month that I will hope to remember for a long time coming. It’s so hard to put in words just how much fun I had meeting such special people, and it’s something that I truly believe has changed my perceptions of the world and people from different countries. Never before had I met anyone from Jordan, never before had I had a conversation in Japanese-Spanish-English, never before had I gotten drunk on the 4th of July with Americans, never before had I taken Flamenco classes, never before had I made great friends with our bartender and invited her to join our birthday/hens party, never before had I thrown a hens party (great practice for Nicola’s!), never before had I had such a multicultural experience, and I am so happy that I was able to share it with some amazing people I hope to call my friends for years and years to come. Now I simply have to travel the world and visit them all again, because I will miss them immensely!
But for now, the next chapter, off on a mini jaunt around Europe visiting friends and family!