Salamanca is a medium-sized city in the Region of Castilla and León, Spain. This region is made up of nine provinces; each province consists of several cities and villages, and one of the cities in each province is the capital of that province. Salamanca is a Capital city.
Well, one day, Laney arrived in Salamanca, famous for its University, Plaza Mayor, and plenty of churches and historical monuments. She came from New Hampshire, USA, where she lived with her 16-year-old brother and their mother. It was the summer of 2009. Seasons follow one another with predictable regularity in this city. Summer is hot and dry; winter long and cold; spring short and sweet, and autumn rainy and gray. My wife, Laney’s grandmother, went to Manchester, NH, to pick her up , and they traveled together to Spain. We had invited Laney to spend a month with us. We had moved to Salamanca, Spain, from California a few months earlier, after retirement.
Laney showed a contentment of being in Salamanca from the moment she arrived. She was quite an attractive girl—tall and slender, with golden tanned skin, black, straight, shoulder length hair, and dark, inquisitive eyes. Agile of body and mind, she moved graciously and busied herself exploring everything in her surroundings.
We lived in a centric area of the city, close to the Plaza Mayor, where there were many pedestrian streets—people shopping or strolling or killing time during a break from work. Children were constantly moving around, watched by their parents or guardians. Frequently, we saw groups of tourists, and students from other countries, there to learn Spanish and have some fun. In the summer, some streets and plazas became a stage for musicians, jugglers, and other street artists who exhibited their skills to the delight of children (and often to that of adults). Vendors set their varied merchandise—usually crafted small articles that they offer at a low price—on small stands. They positioned themselves at strategic corners, where people could pause and browse their articles.
“How much for this bracelet?” Laney would point to it.
“Moroccan. This bracelet, from Morocco,” The vendor would explain in half English.
“And the fan, how much for it?”
“That one. The flowered one, there.”
“This one?” The vendor would show it to her. “This one, Spanish. This one, painted by hand. Three euros.”
At times, we allowed Laney to wander through safe streets. She loved window shopping. After these little outings, she would chat about what she had seen out there. She remembered the places where she had seen a pair of nice shoes or a dress she would like to wear. Sometimes, we made sure her wishes would come true, which procured her much satisfaction.
Another source of enjoyment for her was to walk with us after midnight and buy a chocolate-flavored ice cream at the Plaza Mayor. This experience would be unusual in Manchester, but not in Salamanca. Many restaurants and coffee-shops keep their terraces open after midnight. People in Spain like to dine at a later hour than in most other European countries and North America. After dinner, in the summer, they like to sit down on the terraces of restaurants, under the stars, chatting and sipping coffee or other beverages.
One day, Laney stopped across from a street musician who played his violin while standing at a corner. He was a medium size man in his forties, with a pleasing appearance, dressed in jeans, plaid shirt, and sandals, whom I had sometimes seen and enjoyed his music. His dog, a griffon mix with white and orange fur, liked to lie on a blanket by his side. Laney squatted and listened attentively. She was his only audience at that time. She wanted to find out more about the musician and his dog. The violinist probably read her mind.
“Misty,” he said while playing his violin.
When she came back home, she said that the artist had played ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ and smiled at her.
Laney continued exploring her new environment with enthusiasm until the moment she departed back to America, and every day she would make new discoveries. And I thought she had taken a few steps to embrace a new culture.