Storm in the City of the Sun

The chemistry of Lorca (known as the City of the Sun), with its warm light, dusty orange flavour, and its mysterious life under construction after the earthquake that hit it roughly in May 2011, changed myself. No, I haven't start smoking, nor coloured my hair (OK, I admit, I had a brunette wig though). After nine months, I still had trouble with remembering that stores are closed during siesta, I wasn't drinking so much coffee (only Frappe from time to time, thanks to my Greek colleague), my skin was of the same uncertain yellowish white and my relationship with "El Subjuntivo" was, however, complicated. I can imagine your raised eyebrow that says "So..??". Well, the change was more subtle, as I lived there times of unexpected, of unknown, of daring the impossible. Hahaha... what a cliché, right? Except that it is true.

Step by step, I've learnt that I can find the balance, walking on the wire, redefining my limits and finding solutions in crisis situations (during our afternoon of "Tirolina" in the last day of on-arrival training), that I must trust myself and trust the others in order to build something on common ground (participating in "Castells", human towers, an extremely appreciated tradition from Catalunya, declared UNESCO patrimony), that to motivate the youngsters you have to give them the chance to express their creativity (being part of "Radiografiando Lorca" Project, that offered local young people a free range of workshops and alternative activities), that asking questions or help is not shameful (through my tasks as a support person in "Net.working" TC and "Silk roads to EVS" Networking seminar), that not remembering the name of the nicest guy on the Earth after asking three times and talking half of the night with him cannot stop me from dreaming of a wonderful love story because miracles are made in the heart (so during our first date, while he was using my real name and me all the cute Spanish nicknames I knew, he somehow mentioned it in a story and I had a flashback with the moment when he whispered to me: "Yo soy Pablo"), that children can be the best teachers (yes, I've learnt a lot of Spanish with them, by teaching them English), that I should never give up, but try and try again instead (our initiative, "Intercambio de idiomas" didn't work the first time, but after re-thinking and re-designing and efficiently promoting the activity, it was our successful project that keeps functioning long after we left) and, nevertheless, that borders are man-made and should never stop us from starting beautiful friendships.

Maybe I have thousands of other similar lessons learnt during my EVS, but I would like to tell you about the moment when it rained heavily in the City of the Sun: 28th of September 2012; it was pouring for two days and, after almost 60 years, there was a river in Lorca. And no, this is not a joke. Although my short description might make it seem an episode of a cartoon, it was actually a dramatic moment. At first, electricity and Internet connection stopped in the office. In the middle of the day it was dark as at midnight. We were still laughing, as we had the 1st of October deadline approaching fast for our projects, but couldn't finish anything. Moreover, we didn't have any umbrella, nor raining clothes or shoes. We went to the closest bar and enjoyed the rainy weather chatting while having "cervecitas y tapas". When it stopped, under some pale sun rays, we could see the sad reality: the streets were full of mud and garbage, buildings were full of water, people were missing. And bad news kept coming from outside the town. The entire region was flooded, around ten people died - including children; houses, cars and fields were destroyed, one highway broke in two and the railway was damaged. Of course, "Feria" (the second most famous celebration after "Semana Santa") was also cancelled. No smile now, huh? The same happened to us.

Immediately, a small group of people decided to give a hand to those in need. Me and my crazy ginger colleague from Poland were two of them. We went with small buses to some families, whose houses were totally destroyed after the floods. Dressed in white overalls, wearing three or four size bigger rubber boots, we had a tough physical work, but no one complaint. We couldn't understand at first their regional Spanish accent, between the sounds of the workers and through the protecting masks that hidden the lips and seemed to shut our ears too. It was really impressive to see those people throwing away all their books, photos, and documents -, all their work - ceramic, paintings, and music instruments -, and actually all they had - clothes, shoes, food, or furniture. It was terrible to see in their eyes the sadness for their loss, and in the same time, it was great to feel the hope when they met us and the joy they've survived. Inhabited continuously since 5,500 years ago, the antique frontier town between Christian and Muslim in Spain, Lorca has enriched its people with a strong character and made them aware that the best things in life are not things. Some of the people in and outside of the organization were surprised to see us working like that. It was the moment when they realized that we didn't come only for "fiesta y siesta" and we actually want to help. It was one of the hardest EVS times that I transformed in a rich learning experience. In the few mornings we were cleaning, there it was, the lesson of life, between the mud and the tears, in the middle of the fields without any fruits, but where with effort we can seed again.

The rain in the City of the Sun washed away my greedy pride, and made me feel rich by having some new friends, a smile, and an open heart. And when I left Lorca, they were standing still, confident they can endure anything. They were dreaming out loud, colourfully and daring in the most beautiful spring I've ever seen during the winter months.