far too much writing, far too many photos

There is something so sweet in this season between seasons. The softening of the weather, the sudden lengthening of daylight hours (full darkness not falling until 9 p.m. or beyond). Bird singing their hearts out, such a nice counterpoint to the standard soundtrack of traffic or construction work.

There is, however, one strange aspect of this time of year: the sudden appearance of American high school students, herded by squads of middle-aged chaperones. Most everyone looking stressed and badly-dressed. Possibly having a hard time with the timezone adjustment, most of the kids thrust into foreign surroundings for the first time, dealing as best they can (possibly dealing better than I would have had I been stuffed into a metal tube at 16 or 17 of age, flown across the ocean and dumped into the streets of this city, dragged from one touristy locale to another, short on sleep and long on sensory overload).

(Prime sighting: on an already crowded platform in one of the city’s older Metro stations, a crowd waiting for the next train. American high school students straggle into view, pushing their way down the platform, herded by tired chaperones, everyone appearing worn out. The group — in the neighborhood of 40 souls altogether — pushed forward until the crowd prevented further forward motion, at which point they milled, chaperones trying to maintain order, students murmuring to each other, sideways and backward baseball caps everywhere, baggy jeans worn so far down skinny bums that their owners literally couldn’t do more than shuffle. The locals watched, resigned, pushing forward when a train arrived, elbowing students and chaperones aside, everyone finally finding a place inside, locals and school group crammed together, bodies right up against the doors when the train finally resumes foward motion and disappears into tunnel.)

That happens in the week or two before Easter, the school groups standing out even more than than they might normally with the city being half-empty, quiet. Easter weekend arrives and passes, the locals who had bolted for hometowns or the coast or cities in Andalucia (for the Easter processions hooha) return, and another wave of tourists pours in, this time sprawling groups of Japanese threading their way through touristy points of interest, naturally disciplined and well-behaved, cameras pointing in all directions. And Europeans, speaking French or German, or English-accented English. Sidewalk cafés are suddenly in full swing, local businesses raking in deeply-needed euros after a longer, harder, economically-stressed winter than usual.

And during all that, springtime has quietly taken hold, the frequent rain of recent months giving way to much kinder weather (well, mostly), mornings cool, afternoons warm enough to go without sweaters, jackets, even older folks (traditionally the most resistant to shrugging off winter gear) cautiously surrendering to the freedom of less clothing.

I sat at an outdoor café table with a friend last week, talking about how this kind of weather can destroy the desire to work. I get the sentiment of that from earlier years of indentured servitude, spending days, weeks, months in offices in exchange for paychecks. With my current sitch, however, the shift to more sunnier, sweeter, more user-friendly days has kind of the opposite effect on me. Most of my time is spent indoors in my current squat, perched in front of laptop, doing one of the two kinds of work to which I currently devote myself. With the local world sliding slowly into springtime, I find myself getting sucked out the door, camera in hand, to spend a hours hiking around the city, doing the second kind of work: following whatever catches my eye, taking far too many photos. This city turns out to be ideal for that, providing gritty, beautiful eye candy everywhere. With the weather turning, the urge to run out the door and wander city streets is hard to resist.

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España, te amo.

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