and then… like lightning…

First, to all of you who were worried, I did leave my pineapple enzyme mask in Buffalo. Today, on my exciting second purchase in Spain, I bought a new face scrub. Please try to resist gasping with delight. It is exciting news, but we should try to behave in a civilized manner about it.

Thanks to clearly labeled price tags and cash registers with keen green digital numbers stating the total price, it is possible here, just like in the US, to make a purchase without ever speaking to an employee. As you can imagine, I am stoked. Not only are my first-week-in-another-country fears of not being able to buy feminine hygiene products due to my inability to learn Spanish unfounded, I can now make an Olay-armed attempt to keep my nose from descending into the tenth level of hell.

This town is about fifteen minutes away from the Mediterranean. I saw it the other day. In fact, if you’ve paid any attention, you saw it, too, in my cool Picassa photo gallery below. Watching passersby today, I realized, with the same universe-altering awareness that Newton reputedly felt when bopped on the bean by an apple, that lo, I live near a beach. These people go to the beach. Maybe that’s why they’re so damn… tan. And… bleached of hair… and well-sandaled.

Obviously I should visit a town inland, to find out if people there are quite so chi-chi. My guess is, I’m living in a Spanish equivalent to a town fifteen minutes away from Carmel. Without the tacos.

I think leaving my sweaters behind was a good call.

While the rest of Reus saunters around in their post-beach garb, I sit and sweat. But this afternoon the heat, and my resistance to this experience, broke, and it was good.

Emailing friends and family this morning I remarked to every one in turn that this lovely little European town just wasn’t moving me. “Moving me” was the phrase I used again and again, comparing it to how I felt the first year I was in New York, when that city moved me like a 7.5 earthquake every time I stepped off the train, and sometimes while I was still on it. Here, sitting at an outdoor bar next to a six hundred year old monastery, or staring over a Roman ruin at the aforementioned Mediterranean, I just wasn’t feelin’ it. Intellectually I knew it was incredible; emotionally I could have been buying a Slurpee in Salem, Oregon.

Until today. Showered, freshly dressed in clothes that weren’t covered in dirt from a two year old’s sandals, daring to sport mascara despite the likelihood it would have dribbled off my eyelashes before I even put on my shoes, I carried my hideous, un-Spanish laptop bag to the Placa Prim (insert one of those little swooshes under that “c,” please) and sat, facing the square. Benches outline this square, which is faced on one side by a cafe’s outdoor seating, and displaying, in the center, a tall statue of a man on a horse waving a sword. I don’t know who this man is, but I’ll bet if you ask the Catalan pigeons sitting on his head, they could tell you.

It was stepping close to five o’clock. Overcast sky, the first hint of coolness I’d felt outside since arriving in the country. The pigeons. Old men and young lovers (like a Nat King Cole song) sitting on the benches. And in the center, people. Milling about. Mothers chasing after toddlers, stopping to gossip while rocking their strollers. Older women chatting before parting ways. Handsome husbands. Overhead, those stucco apartment buildings watch with their tiny railings and shuttered windows.

I thought, “This is so beautiful it might actually kill me.”

Just like that. After several days of struggle to orient myself and discover what this experience was all about, I sat in that square and found exactly- to the letter- what I hoped to find when I left family and friends behind. Everything I dislike about my native country just… isn’t here. Consider that Reus is a town of 100,000 people, yet not a commuter town or bedroom community for a larger city. It just is. Within it, you’ll find a large fresh market, several supermarkets, charming shops with trendy and affordable clothes, restaurants, cafes, and a variety of bars and clubs. I’m not quoting a tourism brochure, I saw this stuff just this afternoon.

And people walk. They walk everywhere, and why shouldn’t they- these narrow streets were built long before cars were even invented. They walk, and because they’re walking, they’ll stop along the way to enjoy the scenery or talk to friends. It’s community. And it’s beautiful, not only in a theoretical sense, but an aesthetic sense- these people are visually gorgeous. I’ve had a fantasy for years that I’d meet a man who dressed well, all on his own… the men in this town put me to shame. Even the garbage sweeper wore fantastic eyewear to dress up his green jumpsuit.

So that’s the verdict. I’m staying here to admire the pretty, thin, walking, Walmart-shunning people. I’m staying here forever and ever and ever, even if, at the rate I’m perspiring, this summer is my last. Pack your bags, people. You’ll find me in the salty puddle gathering around my ankles.

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