Today marks exactly two months that I have been living in Valencia. I’ve traversed the city on foot and on valenbisi, by metro and by bus, and have explored many of the 4,000 streets of this beautiful city. I’ve been to all of the touristy spots and many local favorites, too. I could go on for days about how beautiful this place is! El Centro has the most beautiful medieval architecture and narrow winding streets; the City of Arts and Sciences is modern and gorgeous (especially at night from its lounge/discoteca L’umbracle); the beach sands stretch from gorgeous restaurants and hotels to the incredible Mediterranean Sea.
However, after living here for a few months I have discovered much more than beautiful landmarks and fun clubs. The past few months have been extremely tumultuous in Spain. The current government has made some decisions that have really upset the people of Spain. And, as Valencia is one of the cities hurt most by the country’s economic crisis, I see the effects of it everyday. There have been strikes of all sorts since I’ve been here–transportation, schools, pharmacies, doctors, and more. This week there will even be a ‘general strike’ that will take place all over Spain to hopefully spark some change in the government. I hear people talking about it everyday on the metro and on the street walking to class.
More than just the turmoil, though, I notice the way that Spaniards handle it. When the economic crisis peaked in the US a few years ago, everyone stopped going out to restaurants and movies, stopped going to get drinks with friends. It’s simply not like that here. Having fun and enjoying friends and family is so important to the Spanish culture that, no matter the state of the economy or politics, that will never change. No, most people don’t have the extra money to spend shopping or taking vacations right now, but everyone still goes out. Bars and restaurants are full on every corner–especially during fútbol games. It seems to me that, even with all of the hardships, Spaniards are able to still truly enjoy the company of their friends and family and engaging in a social life. It’s inspiring to me that even through the toughest of times they don’t let it really get them down. This year will be known in history as one of extreme change in Spain, and I’m glad that I’m here to experience it as a student and a citizen of Valencia.