my last few weeks in korea, when i told people i was leaving the country soon, i was most commonly met with a sort of sneering, scoffing, “see you in six months.” but what folks don’t seem to understand is that when you leave a place like this

to come to a place like this

you realize you’d have to be a fool to go back to a gray, dead place like korea what with all the san sebastians of the world out there as-yet unexplored.

i feel like i got on a plane and flew to some alternate universe where everything is actually nice. last night, i saw stars for the first time in over a year. the sky here is blue and full of fluffy clouds instead of constant hazy pollution/cloud cover of the ROK. i can actually smell things now because my face isn’t constantly full of yuck. the bags that formed under my eyes and never went away no matter how much eye cream i used or sleep i got — gone two days after i arrived in spain. in korea, i regularly woke up to the sounds of people screaming angrily from the street below my window. two weeks ago, i’m pretty sure i heard a woman being raped somewhere in my neighborhood in the middle of the night. i woke up last night to the sounds of spanish men marching through the streets, singing at the tops of their lungs and laughing from deep in their bellies. when i smile at people on the street here, they smile back. the futterias are overflowing with so-cheap-its-practically-free produce so colorful and multiform, it almost hurts my eyes. i walk down the streets playing “identify that language!” with everyone who passes by. no one stares at me, and i don’t feel people shooting hate-rays, or even curiosity-rays, at me on the train or in line at the little shops. san sebastian is clean and just incredibly beautiful, full of foods so rich and delicious they literally make me a little sick after a year of rice and cold, fermented cabbage. i was so overwhelmed my first day in spain by the culture shock of how wonderful everything was, i felt like a novice traveller all over again. i told dave that i felt like i’d stepped from a black and white world into a color one, a feeling i haven’t shaken three days into the trip. sometimes, i get so caught up in how unbelievably lovely this all is and how absolutely relieved i am to be out of korea that i almost burst into tears in the middle of the street.

but this is a photo blog, after all, not intended to be a place for word-vomity screeds like the above paragraph. hey, wanna see madrid?

museum of ham!!!

standing on the geographical center of spain.

dave assures me this is not a lychee tree.

we spent the day strolling in the botanical gardens and retiro, an enormous park in the middle of the city. got spritzed in the greenhouses,

where they had some very impressive cacti and other things.

the retiro has this little orchard of almond trees, populated by bright green parrots who i imagine spend their whole lives being hard to see and gorging themselves on almonds.

hey, madrid, why did you build that big old lake in the middle of the city and start renting out boats to people on the cheap so they could float around all day being totally european and making out in them? oh, literally just because it’s fun to do? that is why europe kicks ass.

spain, i love you.

9 thoughts on “don’t know why you say goodbye — i say hello

  1. The thing is, you can never really go back. And in this case, there is no place to go back to. Korea is a stop on the road, not a destination Rachel. I hope you always get to say goodbye, because that means something new is right around the corner. Miss you.

  2. ugh, so jealous!! hope i get to travel europe aftet korea as well. that is, if i last the full year and get all that bonus money at the end.

  3. Wonderful pictures and writing. Hopefully not everything was bad in Korea 🙂 but I do know how amazing everything is in Spain.

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