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Paris was a blur, dreamlike. My jetlag and the weather conspired to convince me I was still asleep. The fog in the air mirrored the fog in my mind. I was too tired for where I was to register. I was on automatic pilot: out of the hotel, onto the tour bus, sleep, get out of the bus, stumble around, take pictures that never came out (there were great big white gaps in the negatives; swathes of time lost entirely), get back on the bus, sleep, get out again, more stumbling, return to hotel, and crash. Though I supposedly spoke French, I found myself unable to understand anything. The only thing that I can remember with any clarity about Paris is the smell. The whole place smelled like an overused locker room. The odors of hundreds of years’ worth of unwashed people had seeped into the streets. I was glad to get out of there.

I got on the train to Toulouse with my headphones cranked up. The station looked like it had been bombed out. The walls didn’t reach all the way to the corrugated steel ceiling. I tried to call home; after quite a bit of difficulty with phone cards my little brother picked up.

“Uh, hello?”

“Yeah, its Will. Is mom there?”

“Nah, she’s out. What, do you need a ride or something?”

“Well, that would be kind of difficult, considering I’m not on the same CONTINENT as you guys.”

“Oh yeah. How’s it going then?”

“Oh, it’s all right, I guess.”

It figured; he didn’t know where I was, and neither did I, really. The train ran on through the night; I finally got some real rest with the sound of the tracks under me. I got off the train the next morning, and onto yet another bus. It took us most of the day to get to Barcelona.

The sun in Spain began to clear my brain. Almost immediately after arriving at the hotel, we were off again, in search of Park Gruell. I was glad to be where it was warm and dry for a while. We climbed up miles and miles of stairs. The centers of the staircases were actually escalators, but they didn’t seem to be running. We were all euphorically exhausted; four days wasn’t enough to have shaken off the jetlag. It was that sort of 4 am feeling, where it is far too late to go to bed, and you just have to see it through to the dawn; only this was late afternoon. We finally reached the top of the hill, and started along the boardwalk.

The afternoon light shone down on Barcelona. There was a haze in the distance; the weakening sun no longer had the strength to burn it off. I could just barely see the ocean; the haze turned blue where the buildings stopped. The broad streets were canyons stretching out in straight lines towards the sea. The buildings of the city were beautiful in their diversity. The overall effect was a sort of mottled white and sandy color. Right below us, a dilapidated high-rise bore graffiti in Spanish; white letters painted on shingles next to a red A for anarchy. The words “okupa y resiste”- occupy and resist. This was separatist graffiti, scrawled by Catalan squatters. I looked out to the sea on the horizon and realized how far I was from home. There was this moment of perfect clarity and understanding. I felt at peace with the world, and yet felt the need and ability to reach out and mold it into something entirely different. Here, things were happening; there are no revolutionaries in upstate New York.

We paused there for a moment in the fleeting light, staring out across the city; then turned, and continued on the path into the park. I was greeted by the surreal ceramic sculptures of Gaudi. A great green lizard with bulbous blue eyes guarded the stairs. Many of the structures looked like they were melting. The same foreignness was apparent here, as well. Instead of being frightening, it was attractively different, a change of pace. The rest of the world beckoned.

Later on, I sat in a café with Simon, Annika and Dave on Las Ramblas. None of us spoke Spanish; we were totally out of our element, and yet this didn’t really bother me. Fortunately, our waiter was from the UK. Amongst all that foreignness, he offered some distorted sense of home. British accents I could deal with. Items on the menu were strangely familiar, and yet entirely different. We ordered pizza; it was hardly recognizable as such. The crust was just all wrong. Simon looked across the street, did that little Simon face he does with the scrunched shoulders and the bugged out eyes, and scribbled furiously in his notebook. He held up a little sign that said “I (heart) you.” The object of his affection, a total stranger, gave him a strange look, then glanced at her friends, and continued down the street. We all burst into laughter.

I descended into the blur of events again, across the countryside of Spain, and into Madrid. My lungs had finally succumbed to the thick clouds of second hand smoke; I could hardly breathe. As my head stuffed up, the clarity I had experienced on the top of that hill vanished. It was like slipping back below the clouds from a high place. I went through Madrid blindly. The constant pounding schedule we had kept up throughout the trip was really starting to wear on me. I finally stumbled into the airport and onto the plane. I would spend the next two weeks recovering, and trying to sort out just what had happened. I was glad to be back, but I wished I could spend a little more time on that hill, looking out over the city, so far from home.

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