The great thing about Altea is that it’s so small that you see the same people again and again. Those familiar faces become comforting faces, and, before you know it, they have become your friends. The difficult thing about Altea is that it can be transient at times, especially when the art university lets out for the school year and the students leave – some just for the Summer but others for good.
For the past several weeks, we’ve been saying goodbye as, one by one, the students disperse. It started with Aga. Gentle Aga from Poland who has a super sweet smile. She had left a great and, by all definitions, successful job in Poland to pursue art in Spain and we had first bonded when we found out that we had the same Spanish teacher. But when she got a Summer job near Barcelona, we had to say goodbye. We were honored, though, when she requested to have her going away party at AlteArte. The fact that she wanted to spend her remaining moments with us meant a lot.
Lucia and Shanti were next. Lucia will be returning in the Fall but Shanti, along with her boyfriend, Javi, won’t be. Shanti and Javi have been dating for nearly a decade yet are only in their mid 20s. They had been coming since we had taken over AlteArte and not having them here now leaves a big hole. The day before Shanti and Javi left last week, they invited us for coffee in the small house that they were renting. It was the first time that we were meeting outside of AlteArte and it was nice to see what their lives were like. And in the comfort of their home, Javi and his friend pulled out their guitars and started playing. Although, for them, this was normal as this was often how they spent their evenings before coming to AlteArte, for me, the moment was magical. With a breeze entering through the open door, an unobstructed view of the Mediterranean, in a cute Altean house and surrounded by good people as beautiful music lofted through the air, I knew that a moment like this wouldn’t come around again soon, and I savored each moment. And, in an effort to make it last longer, we asked if they would come play later that night at AlteArte. But when it was nearly closing time and they still hadn’t arrived, we started doubting that they would make it. Then, just as things were winding down, they came. And they took out their guitars and they treated us to a special performance and the magical moment continued until nearly 3 in the morning. Captivated by their music, they created an ambiance unlike any other. And I couldn’t help but feel thrilled, for the fact that they had brought the music here meant that they felt as much at ease at AlteArte as they did at home. That unspoken – yet fully expressed – message spoke volumes and was just as beautiful as the music they were creating.
But it was when Daria left that the weight and sadness of having to say goodbye finally took its toll and I couldn’t keep back the tears. Daria will always hold a special place in my heart ever since the first day that she approached us about having an exhibition of her art at AlteArte. Out of all the places in Altea, she specifically wanted to display her paintings and drawings at AlteArte and brought her portfolio so that we could determine whether it was the type of art we wanted to display. It didn’t take long for us to see that it was. Soft colors, gentle strokes, her paintings are as delicately gentle and beautiful as she is. But what struck us more than her art was how professional, serious and passionate she was about her work. Her portfolio was professional, she took the time to show and explain each piece, and when we told her how much we liked her art and how happy we’d be to exhibit it at AlteArte, her eyes welled with tears, and I was equally touched to see how much it meant to her. And, together, we planned the opening and she made posters that we put up and she made her own invitations, and AlteArte got packed with people that day. And it was touching to see how many came out to show their support for Daria and for local art. And during the months that followed, we got to know her better. We met her family who came from Poland and, last Friday, we bid her farewell when she spent her last evening in Altea at AlteArte. And, before she left, she thanked us and told us how great the energy was at AlteArte. And hearing those words from someone like Daria touched me for it confirmed that we were accomplishing what we had set out to. And after she left, the tears started falling, and they only continued to fall as Pepa, Nadia and Sini hugged me and others showed their concern. And the intensity of my emotions surprised even me, for the connection that I felt with Aga, Lucia, Shanti, Javi and Daria had happened so quickly yet somehow had become so strong.
The good thing about Altea is that it is small enough that it’s easy to quickly become part of the community. You get to know people, you see when they’re having a rough day, you experience the joy when their sister has just given birth, you personally feel the heartache when their father or grandmother is unexpectedly rushed to the hospital. The difficult thing is that it’s easy getting used to seeing certain people frequently so it’s hard to say goodbye when they have to leave.
These people have captured a piece of my heart, and I realize that, although it was Altea’s gorgeous views and climbing, pedestrian streets that initially made me fall head over heels in love, it’s the people that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet since I’ve arrived that is keeping me in love.