Remembering My Trip to Spain Through Music This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

It’s a quiet Sunday evening and the constant drone of Vespas fills the calm air. Though at this time I should be getting ready to go out, I feel utterly content lying on the well-worn sofa and conversing with my Spanish homestay family. It is easy, it is soothing– this is the feeling of family that goes beyond race or time.

My homestay mother offers me more shrimp paella with a mischievous smile, always trying to feed me more than I ought to eat. A quick, light tap on my foot causes me to glance to my left to see my homestay sister Paula covertly rolling her eyes and telling me to ignore our mother.

“Ay, ¡No seas como Paula! Necesitas más,” my mother exclaims.

Blushing, Paula punches me on the arm. Though minute in appearance, she packs a hard punch, and is tougher than any of those matónes out on the streets. Rubbing a newly formed bruise, I follow my sister to our room where we both pull our hair into tight ponytails and proceed to spend the rest of the night dancing furiously to Enrique Iglesias on Spanish MTV, taking plenty of photos (most of them too blurred to keep), and laughing until I feel that I’ve developed perfects abs. Because over half the songs were delivered in rapid Spanish, I find myself forgetting most of the lyrics and refrains. By the end of the night, I can only remember one of them. Ironically, it’s the 4th of July, and I’ve just spent the day celebrating Spain.

As the evening finishes its course, we finally grow tired. Collapsing back onto the couch, my mother changes the channel to a Spanish sitcom, currently on commercial break. I unconsciously hum along to the Coca-Cola commercial, and it quietly sneaks into my subconscious and attaches itself to these happy moments. The quiet strum of a country guitar with interspaced “heys” winds down the night. Meanwhile, this song, “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers is taking over TV and radio. As soon as the night ends, the song follows me everywhere.

Walking down the cobblestone streets of Cadiz on the way to Santa Maria beach, I hear it blasting from a makeshift vendor stand. It appears again before a delayed flamenco concert in old town Cadiz, blasting through giant speakers and appeasing bored attendees. The lyrics now resonate through my being, “So show me family / All the blood that I would bleed / I don’t know where I belong”. This time they surge through my mind, wrapping around and shooting through each moment like a common thread. The song was tied to my every experience, and in some cases, it even defined those experiences. I came to know no other way to express my longing for Spain then to hear that melody once again. My emotions could emerge only through those clearly outlined lyrics that seemed to describe my memories better than any depiction or account I could give.

On my last night in Spain, both my American and Spanish friends and I spend the night at the beach. It’s windy and unsheltered, and many of us sit together on the jagged rocks lining the water, huddling for warmth and protection. One boy brings out his iHome, which he has conveniently brought along in his massive backpack. He plugs in his iPod and chooses a song. I suddenly become aware of his actions when I hear the first notes of “Ho Hey”. Unbelievably, the song arrives again; now undeniably the soundtrack of my time in Spain. Its low, familiar, yet haunting melody takes me again, and the nostalgia hits even while I’m still there. This song of love, family, and friendship captures all the bittersweet sadness of leaving, while embraces the joys of all the adventures I have experienced while I lived here.

Saying goodbye to my Spanish sister remains one of the hardest moments I have endured, and I can’t help wondering if this is the last time I’ll ever see her. I take my seat on the bus, plug in my headphones, and push play. Watching through the windowpane, I have a clear view of my crying sister as the Lumineers sing, “I belong with you, you belong with me / You’re my sweet.”

Looking back, glancing through beloved photographs, and reliving experiences of my Spanish friends, “Ho Hey” starts to play again in my head. It’s not the song itself that I hear anymore, but the subtle and thoughtful tune gently pulls open my memories of the unhurried but vibrant lifestyle and personality of the Spanish people in Cadiz. This seemingly lackluster little beach town drew me in and impressed upon me forever with the most pure hearted and sincere people I have ever known. Sometimes in the most regular moments of my life in the States something will bring me back. A wave of nostalgia sweeps over me, and I’ll slowly emerge to find myself humming to myself, “Love, we need it now / Let’s hope for some / Cause oh, we’re bleeding out. / I belong with you, you belong with me / you’re my sweetheart.”

My time in Spain was my first trip alone, apart from my family. With mixed feelings of apprehension, excitement, and loneliness– I ventured into Cadiz. The song’s pulling tensions and the hesitation of the artist completely reflects my yearning to bring along my family combined with my urge to go out, travel alone, and experience as an individual. “Ho Hey” encapsulates my train of thought, demonstrated as the artist begins hesitantly, afraid to admit how scared he is, but slowly (and by the last verse) emerging as a confident individual who claims what he wants. “Ho Hey” has been linked and interconnected to all my memories of Spain, and I know that from that moment I had achieved independence. Not financial independence, nor security, but the emotional independence that comes from knowing you are you. I knew that I was a whole, and though I relied on others, they would not define me.

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Megha Verma said...
Aug. 22, 2014 at 8:04 am
I thought this article was very relatable and described moments that sometimes we all overlook. It also reminds us that the best times, like laughing and dancing with your sister, are times that can't be bought, and how music has a way of reflecting our emotions. I think it can be improved, however, in the middle where the reader tends to lose attention. Maybe by adding some dialogue or separating the paragraphs into smaller ones, or even adding more imagery. Overall great read, I really enj... (more »)
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