Monday, June 23, 2014

Is there joy in being alone?

Last year, I wrote about how hard it was to be a tourist alone in the small towns of Jaén. There seems to be a general consensus that people do everything together, and being alone seems to be regarded as the worst thing in the world. Eating solo and going to events solo is just not done in Úbeda and Villacarrillo. In a pinch, when you're hungry there's no problem standing at the bar and downing a coffee or a beer and a tapa. But it's rare for a woman to do it, nevermind an Asian woman.

Because of my new fear of going out alone, I'd been missing out on a lot: concerts, the San Isidro party in the countryside, and foodie events, just to name a few. So when the opportunity came to watch my student perform in a flamenco show, I decided to bite the bullet and go alone, as none of my friends were interested. I didn't care if I'd end up sitting alone with strangers. This was going to be my first time watching flamenco, Carmen was one of my favorite students, and I wasn't about to repeat my abysmal track record of missing out on opportunities.

When I arrived at the theatre, Carmen's mother spotted me and I told her I didn't have a seat. She prompted me to sit with the family. I detected a slight air of confusion as to why I was alone, but we chatted and the awkwardness disappeared quickly.
Carmen - always in the centre, because she was an excellent dancer.

Los niños bailando!
As soon as I saw Carmen perform I thanked my lucky stars I'd gone to the theatre. She was a spectacular dancer – maybe even the best one! She didn't look like a teenager; she had the air of a woman – her movements spelled confidence from years of training. I was awestruck.

After the show, friends invited me to a verbena - an outdoor plaza party with live music and a bar. I went to bed early – 3:30 a.m. is early for me now – while the band was still churning it out.
 The next day, I checked out Corpus Cristi. This is a yearly event where people decorate the streets with olive tree trimmings, flowers, coloured sawdust, and pebbles, amongst other things.

Near the end of my walk, I suddenly felt hungry and was glad I'd gone alone. If I'd been with a group I would have felt obliged to stick with them, or perhaps go to a bar and spend money I didn't have. Instead, because I defied the norm and took a chance, I had great experiences that got me in touch with local culture.

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