the worst experience I had in Spain
This post is going to be a little heavy. And, I actually had something else planned to post today, another post about some of the great things I have experienced here in Spain. But, I’m putting that off to write about this because I think it’s important.
To be completely honest, something I always try to do on here, I don’t really want to write about this. I don’t really want to think about it let alone write every detail down. But, like I said, it’s something important… something I don’t want to just ignore.
I’m gonna get to the point, I promise, but I just wanted to start with that context. Now, I’m going to tell you a story.
This morning, I got up around 8:30 AM to go on a bike ride through the city. This is something I had done this past Sunday, and it was one of my favorite experiences here so far. So much so, that I wrote a whole post about that day, but now it is being postponed.
Now I knew it was going to be hot today… over 100 degrees to be exact, so I decided to go for the full workout outfit instead of trying to look cute but actually sweating my ass off. Leggings, tank top, sneakers, the usual. Something I wouldn’t think twice about putting on back at home. But, I distinctly remember my advisor saying that NO ONE in Spain wears leggings out in public unless they are working out. So, I haven’t here, even though I live in them back at home. But I was working out this morning, so I justified it.
I biked about 2.5 miles to the center, no GPS, just enjoying a little adventure before I leave in about 2 days. When I felt done and wanted to get some coffee, I searched for a city bike station to drop off the one I had been using. I ended up having to go a little farther from the center because those stations were all full. I parked the bike and started using Google Maps to get me back to the Cathedral, a pretty good reference point for the historical center.
As I was walking, people were definitely staring at me. It’s one of those feelings you get, like you’re wearing a sign on your chest that flashes, “I AM NOT FROM HERE.” I ignored it, even the cat-calling which frankly freaked me out, and kept my head down and in my phone to see where to go next. Then Google maps started taking me down all of these rather remote side streets.
This one street in particular was very remote, with basically only me walking down it and not another person in sight. About halfway down the street I passed through a tiny construction site with about 3 workers. I kind of had to squeeze through the fence that was bordering on the site, and as I was passing through, my heart suddenly dropped.
It’s not easy, but it’s way less difficult to ignore the remarks on the street if the men are over 10 feet away and you’re in a crowd of people. It’s way harder to not feel fear when they’re about 2 feet from you, and you’re alone. And clearly not from here. And young.
So, they said a couple of things, mostly some slang in Spanish and a whistle or two. My heart dropped for sure, but I kept moving. Head-in-phone, speed-walking.
Then I heard footsteps close behind me. I glanced behind, just for a second, and saw two of the men from the construction site following me, leaving almost no room between us. They were smirking at each other, and then me.
I honestly felt paralyzed with fear, something I haven’t fully felt before. I planned for the worst and started thinking of escape routes. They followed me for what felt like the longest minutes of my life, and then I couldn’t hear their steps anymore. They had turned back and I jogged around the corner, nearly in tears. I walked quickly to the center, hid in a restaurant for a couple of minutes to recover, and then grabbed the first taxi I saw to go home.
This may not seem like a big deal, especially to those who have never experienced something like this… perhaps a month ago I would have just skipped over a post like this. But it was the best-case scenario and yet I am still shaken from it.
For those who are unaware, cat-calling and derogatory comments are something almost accepted in Spain as a part of their city culture. I know it happens throughout the US too, but it is just something I have never really experienced back at home. Here, you can’t walk down the street without hearing numerous comments and taunts.
I got home and just kind of curled up in bed and slept. It made me think a couple of things.
I didn’t want to leave the house again. Especially not alone.
I didn’t want to dress in anything that wasn’t sweatpants and a sweatshirt.
I need to take defense classes this year. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while.
And I just wanted to go home.
But, when I woke up I kind of felt pissed. Well, not kind of, definitely pissed. I don’t care what culture you’re in, how you’re raised, or who you are… who would ever want to make another human terrified? It’s the same thought process I have always had and tried my best to put into practice: why would you ever choose to be mean when you can choose to be nice?
I don’t really know how to end this. First, because I don’t have a solution. Second, because it’s depressing to think that really isn’t a solution. And I am fully aware that this is minor in comparison to some other experiences. We have all heard the horror stories that we can’t bear to think that they actually exist.
But, I hope that someone can read this and it can stick with them. I don’t want to preach that by speaking out I can change the world or men that live thousands of miles away from me. But what I think this can do is serve as a reminder, to anyone, that your actions affect people in ways you can’t possibly fathom.
So, it’s not that we “should”, we MUST make those actions positive ones. We MUST always try and see the world through someone else’s eyes. We MUST take care of one another.