The night before my nine hour bus trip to Barajas Airport was another random holiday in Spain: San Juan. At around 22:00 my host brother and I met up with Kirsten, her host sister, Sara and Jess and we walked down La Caleta with folded up note cards in our pockets. We got to the Columbus fichus trees and saw crowds of people…hundreds walking down to the sea. Walking down the ramp onto the sand, the view of the beach reminded me of Carnaval. Groups of people sat together in circles; drinking, talking, smoking. Old, young, infant, elderly; everyone seemed to be on the beach. BOOM! Everyone shuttered from the loud noise and the sky lit up. BOOM BOOM! More fireworks lit up the sky above the fortress to the right of the beach. Reds, blues, greens, and yellows illuminated the crowd and the little boats floating in the ocean. We watched it under a bungalow until they ended and then found a spot in the sand.
I looked back at the group of teens smoking behind me, asked for their lighter and we all took out our note cards and burned them in a pile. There were a bunch of fires on the beach ranging from tiny ones like ours to bonfires where University of Cádiz students burned their notebooks and printed out slides. On a piece of paper we wrote down a wish and burned it at midnight in regular custom of San Juan. Then everyone went into the ocean for some symbolic reason (no one seemed to know why).
We made our way to the port to a dance party by some pirate ship looking boats and then made our way down to the discotecas to dance the night away. We danced on stage, sweated to death in the packed crowd of “Aki Te Quiero”, took a couple breathers and decided to leave early to head down to the beach again. At around five we got back to the Caleta, stripped down to our skivvies and ran into the warm ocean while groups of people looked on by their scattered fires on the bottle and bag littered beach.
We swam out farther and farther until we got to some boats floating in the middle of the outlet. We pulled ourselves inside and sat on the wooden bench alone in the middle of the ocean inlet looking up at the stars and on the glittering fires on the beach. The night was still somewhat warm and the peaceful slapping of water splashed up with the small waves heading to shore. Kirsten and Yeyo jumped back in the water while Jess and I stayed back in the boat for a few. I sat back and soaked in the quiet starry night and looked out onto my Spanish city. The beach held so many memories: Our first day in the city, tanning, stealing boats, February swimming adventures, studying, bridge jumping, parties, and too much more. La Caleta turned into a symbol of Cádiz, of all of the good times and great adventures in the past 6 months: a kiss under the stars, countless sunsets, friends, new family…As I sat in the boat looking back at my city and my second home I realized that in hours I would be leaving it for my American home. It was time I guess…even though I love my new friends and family, and even though deep down I never wanted to leave Spain, it was time to go. So with that, I jumped in the water and swam back to shore leaving behind a boat filled with memories, ready to start the next chapter in my life. Cádiz I will miss you.