Tuesday, October 27

"The World is a Book and Those Who Do Not Travel Read Only a Page..."

This has long been one of my favorite quotes, more so when I fully discovered its true meaning during my first adventure abroad six years ago.  There is so much more to traveling than being on vacation.  No classroom can prepare you for what you learn on the road, albeit the historical sites you see, the traditional food you taste and absolutely most importantly, the people you meet.  The characters in my travel story have played so much more than a simple role during a brief scene with a beautiful backdrop.  They have opened my eyes to an unknown and fascinating world which has only, in turn, made me increasingly aware of the concept of "home."

It's no foreign fact that I have the tendency to collect friends wherever I go as if they were stamps in my passport.  I have done this very thing since I was but a wee tyke when my brother used to ask my mom just why I had to boogie-board with those other kids.  I thrive on the possibility of adventure meeting new people can bring... you never know what secret outlooks or life lessons are locked in the heart of a former stranger.  Life in a foreign country provides the all-too-perfect stage for just this very thing.  Whether it's the cafe owner,  the rosy-cheeked 12-year-old girl in my barrio or man at the local copy shop, there's just something about going where everybody knows my name (even if they happen to call me Benji, Lassie or Gwendolyn.  More about that another time... for now, just chalk it up to phonetics!).

People in remote Spanish provinces have a fervent sense of local pride and from what I've encountered here in Andalusia, rightfully so.  Aside from the obvious region-defining customs and landmarks, businesses have been established in the same spot for decades at a time, forming communities, friendships and ultimately, families.  This has created a huge support system within Jaen.  Luckily, Jenna and I share the belief that loyalty is the root of solid relationships, and have steadfastly turned some of the local shops in our barrio into living versions of Cheers' reruns.  Our reward?  These families have welcomed us with open arms.  Whether it's the small act of a round "on the house," a spot in the cheering section of a Sunday afternoon futbol game or an invitation for paella and horse-riding on a ranch, we have happily settled into our Barrio Belen family.  Home IS where the heart is, but when you can't be there, it's certainly a joy to feel it in another sense of the word.

With the family stamp etched in permanent ink in my Jiennense passport and happy reminders of those cheering me on from afar, the concepts of family and home are constantly on my mind.  I have been ever so fortunate to have had the wondrous wanderings that I have, so much that when posed with the question of "Where to next?", besides mega-adventures such as Japan, India, Egypt and Israel, the answer is transparently clear: Armenia.

In this wild journey of connecting with the world's past, new people and colorful interpretations of the concept of home, it makes much sense a trip to Armenia would be stirring about.  I think of all that my family went through, the horrors of the genocide and how, if my great-grandmother Cora had not escaped, I wouldn't even be here today.  It seems unfair to be exploring so much of other peoples' pasts when I have so much to discover of my own.  Even a trip to my family's hometown of Bitlis (same as Mr. William Saroyan's himself!), would require a trip to Turkey, seeing as how most of our country was "relocated."  When Armenia was finally liberated, they found but 500 of the previous 16,000 population in Bitlis.

For now, both money and the (only slight) fear for my safety given the geographic location of Armenia in today's current affairs make this a distant yet attainable next chapter.  But hey, a girl can dream... in fact, a girl always should.


Unknown said...

How did you add that twitter thing to your page? AND FOLLOW ME! @jacquio148

Real jealous about that free Spanish class thing... unfortunately I think there are so many of us damn extranajeros in Málaga, they will never off that. Sad.

Unknown said...

Beautiful post my dear. I love it... and I love the quote! Keep writing!

Juanra said...

Me encanta vuestra (Jacqui's and yours)americanizada visión de España! La veis como lo haría un niño que abre los ojos al mundo por primera vez.
Aunque... me sorprende saber que yo la veo tan extraña como vosotras...
Tal vez si reflexionáis un poco veríais que yo me sorprendería mucho al ver las tradiciones, costumbres,... de una ciudad "provinciana" de USA.
Happy stay here!

Jenna Bushway said...

Could not have been written any better, Benj. You always have such great insight.

Juanra said...

Ah! Pregunta a tu equipo directivo por la "Ley de protección de datos del menor" en tu colegio; hay muchos padres que no quieren que aparezcan las fotos de sus hijos en internet. ¡Absurdo pero cierto!
(or don't tell anydody in Jaén about your blog...)

Free as a Songbird said...

Gracias a todos por las palabras muy simpaticas! Y gracias, JuanRa, por el consejo. Ya pregunte de las reglas de mis fotos y mi equipo directivo dijo que no hay ningun problema :)