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The first Santiago

I have traveled to two Santiagos: Santiago, Chile and Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The first Santiago I went to, the one that started me along the strange path that eventually led to an interest in Brazil, Portuguese, Latin America, a handsome Chilean, Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt and finally Sociology at Vanderbilt, was Santiago de Compostela. Around this time six years ago, I flew to Santiago de Compostela with my friend Ame to study abroad for 6 months. I can safely say it was one of the most formative and tremendous experiences of my life. He viajado a dos Santiagos: Santiago de Chile y Santiago de Compostela, España. El primer Santiago que fui, el Santiago que me dejó en un camino extraño que me llevo eventualmente a un interés en Brasil, Portugues, America Latina, un Chileno muy guapo, el Centro de Estudios Latinoamericanos en Vanderbilt y finalmente a Sociologia en Vanderbilt, fue Santiago de Compostela. Hace seis años viajé a Santiago de Compostela con mi amiga Ame para estudiar por seis meses. Puedo decir sin dudas que fue uno de los eventos mas formativos y tremendos de mi vida. 
Santiago - the Cathedral
travel guitar, gigantic suitcase, etc etc...(2006)
Every year ever since, around this time of the year, my good friend Tara puts up a reminder on her facebook (usually complete with photos) about the exact day that she landed in Santiago. See, this city has some kind of special magic – I really can’t describe it – but it pulls you back and makes you remember. The city is the final destination of a pilgrimage that’s been around since the 9th century, and the cobbled streets and centuries-old buildings leave pilgrims and visitors with a mysterious impression that they’ve visited a place that is like no other in the world. Cada año desde entonces, cerca de esta fecha, mi buena amiga Tara pone un recuerdo en su facebook (normalmente con fotos) sobre el dia exacta que llegó a Santiago. Ves, esta ciudad tiene una cierta magica especial – no lo puedo describir muy bien – pero te hace querer volver. La ciudad es la destinacion final de un peregrinage que ha existido desde el siglo IX, y las called de adoquin y los edificios de cientos de anos deja a los peregrinos y visitantes con una misteriosa impresion de que han visitado un lugar unico en el mundo.

When I first found out I was going to a small city in the northwest corner of Spain called Santiago de Compostela, I was unenthused. I wanted to go to a big city – Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla – somewhere cool with warm weather and sexy people. When I looked up the weather for Santiago, I saw rain and clouds. When I looked up images of Galicia, I saw farms, countryside, and people dressed up in very traditional clothing…not quite the sexy I had envisioned. I could not have been more mistaken about the city, or the meaning of study abroad. In Santiago, I was completely enshrouded in another culture – a completely different kind of world than I had ever experienced with different food, traditions and language. Nobody spoke English, which was fabulous for me because I had to learn a new language. Cuando por primera vez supe que iba a ir a Santiago de Compostela, no me emocione mucho. Yo queria una ciudad grande – Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla – algun lugar con clima calido y gente sexy. Cuando vi el clima de Santiago, vi lluvia y nubes. Cuando busque imagenes de Galicia, vi granjas, campo, y gente vestida con ropa tradicional…no exactamente lo sexy que me imagine. No podia haber estado mas equivocada sobre el significado de estudiar en el extranjero. En Santiago, fui immersa en otra cultura – un tipo completamente diferente al tipo de mundo que yo estaba acostumbrada, con comida diferente, otras tradiciones y otro idioma. Nadie hablaba ingles, lo que era fabuloso para mi porque tenia que aprender un nuevo idioma.
my Spanish teacher Ana - she was amazing!
One of the first things I learned when I landed in Spain was that Spaniards had zero interest in befriending an American (or at least this particular American). Bush was still the president and Americans weren’t very popular in Europe. I said stupid things like “estoy caliente” instead of “tengo calor” and I had a dreadful accent. Those kinds of mistakes, though, quickly endeared me to a group of hilarious Brazilian girls in my class who laughed with (and mostly at) me throughout those 6 months (one of those girls has since visited me several times in the U.S…remember Camila?). So I actually wound up learning arguably as much or more Portuguese and Gallego, Galicia’s dialect, than Spanish. Una de las primeras cosas que aprendi cuando llegue a Espana era que los Espanoles tenian cero interes en hacer amigos con los Americanos (o tal vez con esta Americana en particular). Bush todavia era el presidente y los americanos no eran muy populares en Europa. Dije cosas estupidas como “estoy caliente” en vez de “tengo calor” y tenia un acento horrible. Esos tipos de errores, me llevaron a hacerme amiga de un grupo de chicas brasileras muy graciosas de mi clase con quienes me rei (o se rieron de mi) durante esos 6 meses (una de esas chicas me a visitado varias veces en los Estados Unidos…se acuerdan de Camila?). Asi que al final termine aprendiendo mas Portugues y Gallego, que Espanol.
Hugo - the grandson of the woman I lived with. He only spoke Gallego to me.
my bedroom
One of the best things I took away from Spain were the friendships I made and still maintain. I befriended Brazilians, Dutch, Canadians and Americans – and the friendships have remained rich, thanks in no small part to facebook, skype, blogs and e-mail. While I was living in Spain I also took the utmost advantage of being close to so many other countries and traveled as much as possible. I went to Canterbury and Dover over St. Patrick’s day to visit my friend Garrett who was also studying abroad, I visited my friend Miriam in Holland on Queen’s Day, I took a long trip with Ame to Paris, Rome and Florence and I spent Semana Santa traveling with Camila to Granada, Malaga and Sevilla. My friends and I would also take weekend trips to Coruña and Vigo, two towns a few stops away from Santiago by train. I don’t think we’ll ever be so carefree again. Una de las mejores cosas que me traje de Espana fueron las amistades que hice y todavia mantengo. Me hice amiga de Brasileras, Holandesa, Canadienses y Americanas – y las amistades se han mantenido fuertes gracias a facebook, skype, blogs, y email. Mientras estuve en Espana tambien me aproveche de la cercania otros lugares y viaje a mas paises lo mas posible. Fui a Canterbury y Dover para el dia de San Patricio a visitar a mi amigo Garrett que tambien estaba estudiando en el extranjero, visite a mi amiga Miriam en Holanda para el dia de la reina, hice un viaje a Roma, Paris y Florencia con mi amiga Ame y pase semana santa viajando con Camila a Granada, Malaga y Sevilla. Mis amigos y yo fuimos unos fines de semana a Coruna y Vigo, dos cuidades cerca de Santiago en tren. No creo que sere tan descuidada y libre de nuevo.

Garrett and me in Dover
with Ame in Paris
the day after Queens Day in Amsterdam
Florence with Ame
While we were in Santiago, we spent our time perusing the old zone, shopping during rebajas, drinking coffee in ancient buildings, taking pictures and laying on the grass in our favorite park, Bonaval. I had a travel guitar with me and I would take my guitar to the park to play and sing, and I eventually got a regular gig at a restaurant called Ambigu in the old zone on Wednesday nights. Cuando estabamos en Santiago, pasabamos la mayor parte del tiempo recorriendo la zona vieja, comprando durante rebajas, bebiendo cafe en edificios antiguos, tomando fotos y tiradas en el pasto de nuestro parque favorito, Bonaval. Tenia mi guitarra de viaje conmigo y la llevaba al parque para tocar y cantar, y eventualmente me dieron un evento regular para cantar en un restaurant llamado Ambigu en la zona vieja los miercoles en la noche. 
playing music in Bonaval
playing music in Ambigu
And speaking of music, I wrote enough songs while I was living there to fill a CD. When I came home, after crying for about a week straight, my dad and I started recording the songs that eventually formed my first album, The Santiago Set. It’s basically an entire CD dedicated to Santiago and all my friends I met there…and all the people who travel there and know what I mean when I say that it’s one of the most mysterious and wonderful places on earth. Y hablando de musica, escribi suficientes canciones mientras vivia alla para llenar un CD. Cuando volvi a casa, despues de llorar por una semana entera, mi papa y yo comenzamos a grabar las canciones que eventualmente se transformaron en mi primer dico, The Santiago Set. Es basicamente un CD entero dedicado a Santiago y todos los amigos que conoci alla…y toda la gente que viaja para lla y sabe lo que quiero decir cuando digo que es uno de los lugares mas misteriosos e increibles del planeta tierra.
I’ve since been back to Santiago twice. I traveled back the following summer (2007) to stay with my friends for almost 2 months and try to relive those wonderful days I spent the year before. While I was there I was preparing to write my senior thesis on the medieval pilgrimage and I actually did 110 kilometers of the pilgrimage in 3 days. You have to do a minimum of 110 km to be deemed an official pilgrim, and when I arrived in Santiago I lined up with all the other dirty, soaked (it rained half the time) and sleep-deprived pilgrims to get my official peregrino certificate. That certificate is framed next to my back door in the office…a reminder that I’m always a pilgrim every time I leave my house. I also traveled a bit when I went back in 2007 – I went to Prague and Barcelona for the first time. He vuelto a Santiago dos veces. Viaje de vuelta el siguiente verano (2007) pra quedarme con mis amigos por casi 2 meses e intente revivir esos dias tan especiales que pase el ano anterior. Mientras estaba alla, estaba preparandome para escribir mi tesis de ultimo ano sobre el peregrinaje medieval y recorri 110 kilometros del peregrinaje en 3 dias. Tienes que hacer un minimo de 11o kilometros para ser nombrado oficialmente un peregrino, y cuando llegue a Santiago me puse en linea con otros muchos peregrino todos sucios, cansados y mojados (llovio la mitad del tiempo) para recibir un certificado oficial de peregrino. El certificado esta enmarcado al lado de la puerta de atras de mi casa…un recuerdo de que siempre soy una peregrina cada vez que salgo de casa. Y tambien viaje un poco mas la segunda vez que fui a Santiago – fui a Praga y Barcelona por primera vez.
heading back to Santiago in 2007

walking the Camino with Carolina
up at dawn to walk
The third time I went back to Santiago was for my friend Tara’s wedding. As I said before, Santiago has a weird pull that brings you back…often to stay. Tara and Molly, two students from Loras College who became friends of mine in Santiago in 2006, eventually went back to Santiago to teach and live for a few years. Molly returned to the states this past summer, Tara found a handsome Spaniard named Jorge and made Santiago her permanent home. In  May of 2010 Tara flew me back to Spain to sing in her wedding – a wedding I will never ever forget – and I stayed for 10 more days in my friend (another Brazilian) Carolina’s apartment. La tercera vez que fui a Santiago fue para la boda de Tara. Como dije antes, Santiago tiene una energia rara que te atrae a volver….muchas veces para quedarte. Tara y Molly, dos estudiantes de Loras College que se volvieron amigas mias en Santiago el 2006, eventualmente volvieron a Santiago para ensenar y vivir por unos anos. Molly volvio a los Estados Unidos esta verano pasado, Tara encontro un espanol muy guapo llamado Jorge e hizo Santiago su hogar permanente. En Mayo del 2010 Tara me llevo a Santiago para cantar en su boda – una boda que nunca olvidare – y me quede alla por 10 dias con mi otra amiga brasilena Carolina.
It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve been to Santiago and I can feel the city calling me again. I’m dying to get back, especially to show Javi the city that takes up so much room in my heart and memory. Some day I’ll put up posts about the pilgrimage and Tara’s wedding – they are adventures worth recording and stories certainly worth telling. This post is long enough (goodness…I still have to translate it…), and I’ll never be able to do Santiago de Compostela justice, but this will have to do, for now at least. Han sido casi 2 anos desde que he fui a Santiago por ultima vez, y puedo sentor que la ciudad me llama. Me muero por volver, especialmente para mostrarle a Javi la ciudad que tiene mucho lugar de mi corazon y mi memoria. Algun dia pondre un post sobre el peregrinaje y la boda de Tara – son aventuras que valen la pena grabar y definitivamente contar la historia. Este post es muy largo ya (cielos…y todavia me falta traducir), y nunca podre hablar lo suficiente sobre Santiago, pero esto tendra que hacerlo, por ahora al menos.

29 thoughts on “The first Santiago Leave a comment

  1. Love your story – I am dying to walk the Camino and what you said about there being something about the Camino – I have heard that from many people! Looks like you have made some great lifetime friends! That is what travel is all about! Thanks for the smiles this aft in front of the computer!

  2. Just listened to your music – beautiful sound. I see you can download to MP3 – pardon my terrible lack of computer skills – but does this also download to iTunes?

    • Hi Anita – So glad you liked the post! I highly, highly recommend doing the Camino!! It’s an incredible experience and I wish I had had more time to do more than just the 110 km. You can actually go to iTunes and download that CD there – just search for Leslie McClure in iTunes! 🙂 A good chunk of the songs are about travel, and after taking a look at your blog (love it!) I think you’ll be able to resonate! 🙂

  3. Lady, you definately know how to put beautiful words on paper!! Thank you SO much for this amazingl post!! Reliving it all 🙂


  4. The most justice that can be done are those photos of the streets of Old Town. I will never tire of them and you´ve inspired me to get out my film camera and get some shots of how beautiful they are.
    Oh, those nights in Ambigu and those afternoons in the park… How I miss hearing your voice! I guess that´s why your two albums are the only songs on my 25-most-played.
    I could never repay you for all that you did on the day of our wedding. I don´t know what I would have done without you.
    Be sure I´m one of the first to know when you decide to come back. You know you will forever have a place to stay.

    • 🙂 Thank you Tara!! I can’t thank you enough for bringing me back the last time! You will definitely be the first to know when we have plans to come back. I can’t wait to see your photos – film and from your new digital baby!

  5. I had to do a double take to realize that was you with short hair and I have to say you and your friend were drop dead gorgeous in those dresses. Thanks for sharing these memories.

  6. En buena hora. Congratulations on El Camino. Just on the weekend we watched “The Way” and we got an urged to go. My husband Gerardo is from Galicia and a very proud “Gallego”. And yes he speaks Gallego. Galicia is so beautiful, so different from the over commercial south. Very green, unlike Australia. I love ‘caldo’, the chorizos, and home grown vegetables. I will tell my hubby about your trip to Galicia and its calling to you. I think its always calling my husband cause when we mention going to Europe he only thinks of going to Galicia. I am studying Ceramics at The University of Sydney and Spain was not in the list of universities that I could go on exchange. But to my surprised, Chile was on the list. I applied to go to Chile but it’s not my first option. I only hope that my experienced will be as good as the one you had. We often fantasize about going to live in Spain, somewhere on El Camino, but I know that my husband would want to go and live in Ponteareas. I’m sorry but I get a bit carried away with my comments but I am just so happy to have found your blog. Will visit soon. Chao.

    • Oh Galicia is so wonderful! It really is magic. I wish someone in my family was from there so I’d have an excuse to go all the time! But Chile is amazing too – that’s of course where my husband is from and it’s such an amazing place with beautiful mountains and every city is totally different. Your artwork is beautiful by the way! Good luck!

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