The Value We Leave on the Table


In 1989, in my early twenties, I was in Sevilla, in the Plaza de Espana, walking with a man in his early twenties from Korea. He spoke no English; I spoke no Korean. Neither of us spoke Spanish. We communicated with expressions and gestures. The plaza is “a landmark example of the Regionalism Architecture.” I did not know that then, nor did I know that nearby were buildings of dazzling Mudéjar architecture.

Now I am back, and my daughter, in her early twenties, is living in Sevilla. My wife and I follow her through the narrow streets of the old city, turning as she turns, listening to her speak Spanish and then asking, “What did he say?”

We find our way to the Alcazar, a Christian palace built on a Muslim fortress. I sit on a stone bench next to a fountain in one of the gardens, lined with orange trees. A group of Japanese walk by. A man near me oil paints the scene. I would like to stay longer. Just sit. Just be. But nearby is the third largest church in Europe, and tapas, and sangria, and more.

We leave this beautiful place too early to go to another beautiful place, which we also leave too early, so we don’t miss out, as though quantity matters more than quality. Maybe thirty years ago I had it right. Or, more likely, maybe my daughter has it right, as she lives here like a local.



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