Granada In The Rain

Women in Zafra Street, Granada

My first thought when I arrived in the Plaza de Colón on Friday morning was that I wished I had a winter coat. I mean, I do have a winter coat, but the 3,000 miles separating me from it rendered it fairly useless in that chilly moment.
My second thought when I arrived in the Plaza de Colón was that Spain has some reckoning to do with its distant past. In the heart of Madrid, the traffic still revolves around a statue of Christopher Columbus. The notion made me shiver, an icy feeling only compounded by my glaring lack of sufficient outerwear.
All told, I was glad when the bus came. It conveyed my fellow program members and me to the southern city of Granada, the city in which Queen Isabella I met with Christopher Columbus to give him her blessing and money to go plunder the New World.
I didn’t know that bit yet, though. As we approached Granada, all I knew was that after the six-hour journey, my legs were stiff. Right around the third picturesque valley through which we traveled, my right foot fell asleep, and upon catching a glimpse of the fourth quaint, isolated town, my left foot took a snooze, too.
My eyes, however, remained alert, and they were rewarded for their diligence with a view of the awesome, ageless Sierra Nevada mountain range. It stood in snowcapped silence in the misty distance, but its sheer size still took my breath away. Seated before it (with my seatbelt securely fastened, as per our chaperones’ request), I felt humbled and grounded. I mean, I still couldn’t feel the ground, what with the unfortunate fact that my feet still hadn’t returned to life, but I felt small.
When I finally stepped off the bus, I felt cold. My winter coat hadn’t made a surprise Columbian voyage across the Atlantic, and even if it were in the process, I couldn’t have expected it for another several months.
Anyway, my second thought after making landfall was that it was annoying that there was a homeless woman outside of our swanky hotel. Shortly thereafter, I had my third thought, which was that the homeless woman probably thought so, too. She, at least, was suitably wrapped in a winter coat, or maybe even two, and she had a frayed scarf around her thin, wrinkled neck. A weather-beaten gray hat that might once have been black left only the tips of her unwashed hair exposed, and she huddled behind an improvised fortress of two blue suitcases much like the ones in a storage closet in the basement of my home in America.
When I am home, I have access to that storage closet. When I am home, I also have access to my coat. In Spain, I rely on a steady supply of money that can compensate for the logistical challenges of only having two bulging suitcases of clothing in Spain.
When the homeless woman is in Spain, by definition, she does not have a home. She has two suitcases, and that is all. She relies on the occasional scrap of food that some satiated person tosses in her direction. Unlike Columbus, I doubt that she has seen America, and unlike me, she didn’t get to warm up in a lavish, heated hotel room on that cool Friday afternoon.
I saw her several more times over the course of our stay in Granada. She remained in place as our coach came to transport us to the Alhambra, for example, with her arms outstretched in a pitiful plea for sustenance. In the Alhambra, a sprawling palatial complex constructed by the Moors in the thirteenth century and expanded on by the Catholic kings, we craned our necks to take in jaw-dropping walls inlaid with gold and ceilings carved with unparalleled intricacy. I doubt that the Alhambra’s imperial inhabitants ever went hungry, and after Columbus closed his greedy fists on a fat sack of Spanish gold in another room of the Alhambra, I doubt that he ever wanted for food, either.
When I swallowed the last morsel of my subsequent lunch, I still felt hungry, but I knew that I’d be able to resolve the situation using my own allotment of jingling euros. On my way to dinner that night, I found the homeless woman faintly whimpering in the darkness, and I snuck a glance in her direction one final time as our bus departed from Granada in the rain to whisk us away to Madrid and the Plaza de Colón. She did not look happy.
In time, I will post pictures of my time in Granada. In those pictures, I look happy, much happier than the Native Americans looked when the Spaniards enslaved them, and much happier than the woman in Granada looked without a home. My first thought is that I don’t deserve to be so happy when there are people who look so sad, and my second thought is that I should be so grateful for what I have.
My third thought is that I need to leverage my privilege for good, and my fourth thought is that I still need to buy a winter coat.


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