The last time I witnessed the mass exodus from city to pueblo, I was in Jaen headed for Ubeda. I walked to the bus station and bought a ticket to the nearby town, knowing that there were 2 buses leaving for the same destination in the next 20 minutes. In typical wait-for-the-bus fashion, people stood in the exact spot where the bus would park. As you may recall from my earlier bus riding endeavors, there is a mad rush to the bus itself before the driver even descends from his seat.
This time, I am not surrounded by pushy old ladies. There are some of them, to be sure – I’ve been watching the one who has been pacing by her luggage since she committed it to the storage bin on the underside of the bus. No, this time I am surrounded by university students. A flock of them. They come stalking toward the buses with more luggage than they could possibly need. Rolling luggage, backpacks, duffel bags. Let me be clear, this is not a field trip or some group excursion on the cheap. These students are here in the city taking classes at the university, and on Friday afternoons across the country, they can be found making their way home to their respective pueblos … in droves.
Strike up a conversation with any one of them and find out where they’re going and the answer is home. Talk to anyone with Spanish roommates in a big city and you will find that each weekend they disappear as if into thin air. The family unit is an important one in Spanish culture, and these ties do not break when students go away to university. As soon as you can say “weekend” they have packed their bags and bought their bus ticket.
Now don’t sit there and think that José is going home to see his grandmother. He’s actually going home to get his laundry done and pick up some food for the week. They are college students, after all. And once you have a señora’s tortilla de patatas .. well, I’d go home all the time, too.
One phrase I have become attached to in recent months has been “mi tierra.” The translation is easy enough – tierra means earth, ground or land. I first heard this around Christmastime when my colleagues wanted to know if I would go home for the holidays (¿vas a volver a tu tierra en Navidad?). At the time I responded with “mi pais” or my country. Now I find that when I talk about going home in June, I’ve adopted this phrase. It seems more intimate and much more personal – literally, my soil. It conjures up images of weary travelers kissing the dusty ground when they arrive at their destination. Throats parched, legs tired, arms outstretched toward whatever it is they’ve been aiming for – fresh air, family, freedom. Mi tierra.
The girl with the ruby red slippers said there was no place like home, and I agree. Obviously, so do the Spanish. But let’s be honest .. I’m not going to kiss the ground at Newark International Airport. I’ll kiss my mom instead 🙂