Initially I didn’t want to go. When I arrived, I wanted to go home. But I stayed. And it’s a good thing that I did.
I hated leaving Jerez de los Caballeros. I felt I was leaving too soon. It’s great to be with my family and friends, but leaving my Spanish family and friends in Jerez was a challenge. I cried on the way to the bus as I looked out on the town for the last time. I can be so sappy sometimes. Just as I cried wanting to go home on the first day, I cried not wanting to leave on my last day. Life is funny like that. Full circle.
It wasn’t until February when I really started to enjoy my time. A few Spanish friends came to my birthday and that made me feel really good. I built on those friendships to meet more people until I had many friends in Jerez. When I go back, I know I will have plenty of places to stay and friends to meet up with. I hope I don’t lose my Spanish.
My blog also helped open up the city for me. I would go and introduce myself saying “ Hi, I’m Laura Parkinson. I live here. I studied journalism and would like to practice Spanish, journalism and photography. May I come and take your photo and interview you?” They always said yes.
My first face of Jerez de los Caballeros
I was open to the town and it opened itself up to me. One person welcomed me in their store, their life or their home and I shared their story. I wanted to learn everything there was to learn about Jerez and its people. I asked questions, was invited to things and the town became alive.
I had some pretty great experiences including:
Matanza – This is a traditional pig slaughter. I saw all of the families work together to cut up and prepare three pigs to be eaten and shared.
Spanish Wedding— The ceremony was beautiful, the celebration was fun and I ate way too much.
Semana Santa – Seeing nazerenos for the first time, taking photos and being invited to dress up as a nazereno next year was quite an honor.
Romeria – Authentic music, dance, horse riding and an all day/all night party was an unforgettable experience. Spain loves to party and I learned how to participate. I have yet to upload the pictures from this.
Bullfight – Having a bullfighting friend who allowed me to take photos of practice, and preparation until his bullfight was really a unique experience.
I am filled with nothing but gratitude as I leave the town I have called home for eight months. Initially I felt the town was closed off to me; people stared and I knew no one. Soon, I embraced the differences and sought out ways I could participate and feel like a citizen of the town. I grabbed my camera and captured stories of the town. My interviewing skills weren’t perfect but the people were patient and kind. They wanted me to succeed and I wanted to share their stories.
Little by little, I learned Spanish. In the all day parties (Feria de Jamon, Paella party, parties in the campo etc.) I spoke with many interesting people who had read my blog and complimented my photos. I was the “American with the Camera.” I like that legacy.
I can’t thank the people of the town enough for sharing a little piece of their lives with me. My landlady and in all senses, Spanish mother in Jerez, helped me greatly, made introductions and encouraged me to pursue my project ideas. For this I am grateful.
I have wonderful friends in Jerez. They are open, patient, sympathetic and FUN. They showed me how to enjoy an all day/all night party. They showed me how to take things slowly and enjoy each moment. I learned that just hanging out for hours is okay and good for you. These are things I hope to bring back stateside (however I know the parties will be a bit different without the discos).
Above all, I am so proud of all the experiences I have had. I could stay in Jerez and be happy because I have great friends to support me. It’s a great town, maybe a bit down on its luck due to unemployment but nonetheless, the people are still kind, willing to help and open.
On my last weekend, I hung out all weekend. Friday night we had a dinner (at the same place we had gone for my birthday dinner and where I had done a blog post ), and I said my goodbyes at Cachipe. We later went to botellon (outdoor drinking party) and then the disco until a respectable hour (7 a.m.).
The next day involved drinking in the plaza and then a dinner. After dinner, some men composing a band started playing an impromptu concert. It was a perfect moment. No, I wasn’t able to sing along with the crowd who had gathered around, but I drank in every second of it. The one night I didn’t have my camera, but at least my memory is very vivid of that evening.
Sunday we had dinner at a place I went to my first day in Jerez de los Caballeros. He was closing his doors that day to move on. It was a symbolic place to have my last lunch with my friends. We toasted with champagne and enjoyed the hours of the afternoon – going to a friend’s campo and later hanging out around town. I said my goodbyes. On my last day I had dinner with my landlady and her family and tried not to feel sad.
I later said my goodbyes to the place I’ve called home for the last eight months. It’s been a great ride. I don’t know what’s next and I’m ready for the challenge. Jerez de los Caballeros has been good to me. It’s not goodbye when you plan on being back (although I don’t know when). It’s more like see you later.
So see you later Jerez de los Caballeros. And thank you.