The Children that Never Sleep
This story was submitted by Hallie Sitison to the Stories of Travel collection as part of the May SEEQ sessions.
In June of 2017, I traveled with my peers to Seville, Spain. We went to take a class and receive a credit, but I learned a lot more than Spanish Literature. As a 17-year-old, I did not think that this experience would impact me on the level that it did. As I reflect on my experience, only two years later, I realize that this journey changed my perspectives of the world.
We arrived in Madrid and then took a bus to Sevilla. This ride alone was thought provoking because the geography and landscape is so different than here in the United States. I already knew that this would be a different experience. When we arrived, we pulled up to a bus stop on the side of a tiny street that did not look like it could fit a charter bus. As we sit and wait for our teachers to figure out the logistics, we look out the bus windows and see kids, dogs, and adults everywhere. Little did we know at the time; these were the excited families that would be hosting us for the next two weeks.
Finally, we got off the bus and my two friends and I had to find our family. We knew that it was a family of 4 but did not know their names. After a few confused seconds we started rushing around asking all of the families if we were their students. Finally, a woman responded with yes, and I could see this adventure really begin. With her, Bárbara, my host mom, had two little kids, Ezekiel, 6, and Michelle, 8. I love kids and was stoked to find out that I was going to be living with two munchkins for a little.
It is polite to bring a gift for your host family that represents your culture and life. I had brought along a few tokens of Richmond for the Mom and Dad, and also some candy and stuffed animals for the kids. I didn’t think much of these gifts until I realized that Ezekiel and Michelle would not put down the Beanie Babies I had given them. This touched my heart because it showed me that something that doesn’t mean much to me can mean something huge to someone else.
As time went on and we spent more time with these kids we started learning more and more about the Spanish culture. Ezekiel loves soccer, and I had the honor of playing a great game of it in the hallway (I lost terribly). Let me mention, this was an apartment with 5 bedrooms, one for mom and dad, one for Ezekiel and Michelle, and 3 for international students. There were two bathrooms that branched off the hallway as well. There was no room for soccer, but it made him so happy, so we had to play with him. Had to. And I am so glad that I had the opportunity even though it was 12:30 in the morning.
Before we had to leave, I was cleaning out my purse and wallet that I had been carrying around. Ezekiel and Michelle were hanging out with us in our room, and we were all just giggling at Ezekiel and his goofy self. I dumped the contents of my purse on my bed and started going through the endless receipts to figure out what I could throw away. There was some Chapstick and coins and sunglasses just laying around. Michelle walked over and looked at the pile with this surprised and interested face. I asked her what she saw, and she said the coins. I picked up the quarters and nickels that I had at the bottom from before we got to Spain and handed them to her. She was so excited to see American money. I let her keep a quarter and Ezekiel kept a penny, despite the fact that I told him quarters are worth more. He liked that the penny was a different color. I loved that I got to help Michelle and Ezekiel and Michelle experience something new for the first time.
I was in Spain taking in their culture, but the whole time, they were at home, letting me into their family and taking in my culture as well. It really let me see how lucky I was to come and spread my culture to others.
I learned tons and tons of new things while studying in Sevilla, but what I learned in the classroom was not what stuck with me. It was what the Spaniards shared with me about their day to day life that had an impact on me.