Saturday, November 28

Parallel Universes

Well, after a really terrible time at home, I had a really terrible trip back.  On both my flights I had a window seat with no one sitting next to me which means I had to kick my shoes off, kick my feet up and enjoy the long journey back to Spain in as much comfort as a coach ticket can buy.  I worried that my Spanish would falter having turned on the off-switch for two weeks, but when I dropped something and an "Ay Dios Mio" fell out of my mouth, I knew I was back.  I sailed through customs and stepped on to my own little version of heaven: public transportation.  I promise you this: if you want to truly get to know a city’s people, ride the bus, metro or at least get friendly with your cabbie.  It doesn’t get more real or honest than that.  Stare (this is highly acceptable in Spain, almost encouraged), eavesdrop and take it all in.

An uber-friendly German and I got to talking and as he helped me with my bag up and down the metro station’s labyrinth of stairs, he regaled me with tales of meeting his first cousins for the very first time when the Berlin wall fell – he was 25.  Can you imagine not even having the chance to know family that close (in both relation AND location) because of the government?  Now I tell ya, you just don’t get education like that from a textbook.

I retraced my route in reverse from the Madrid airport to the Madrid train station.  It was about 11a when I arrived.  The next train to Jaen was at 4p.  VERY upset, I was forced to spend my day in Madrid (insert obvious sarcasm here).  I checked my bag and set out to explore a new city with nothing but my camera.  I was in heaven.  I took in the ambiance of everyday Madrid during a bustling Wednesday in the fall.  I saw students on field trips.  I saw deliverymen making their rounds.  I saw busy workers getting the city dressed for a big city Christmas (whoever told me Spain isn’t big on Christmas was LYING!!!).  I frolicked in the infamous Plaza Mayor and the chic Puerta del Sol.  I took myself to the Prado Museum and saw masterpieces by Francisco Goya, Diego Velazquez, El Greco and El Bosco (he was actually Dutch).  I had no map, no real schedule… I knew what to see thanks to Mr. Rick Steves and I was pleased that between well-placed signs and remarkably pleasant locals, I found my way around quite easily and proceeded to hit my 8-mile/day Spanish walk tally on my very first day back.

I acclimated back into the Spanish lifestyle pretty well… my vocab and pronunciation have suffered a bit, but I think that’s mostly because I have been sleeping very off-hours (3p to midnight?!  Pretty sure that doesn’t qualify for a siesta...) and fighting a cold.  Definitely more a case of laziness than ability! 

It’s quite a strange sensation to feel like you are living two lives simultaneously.  It was INCREDIBLE to be home for my brother’s wedding, especially for such a heartwarming affair.  I covered a lot of ground in my short two weeks: a weekend with my girls, my sister’s volleyball playoffs, support for my friend’s show/a fun night out with the crew, Me N Ed’s, Mika’s (twice! Thanks, Dad and Shawna!), lots o’ quality time with my Mama, cuddling with my Fancy Pants, a few days at the beach house with aunties and cousins, my brother’s AMAZING wedding weekend filled with the best of friends and family galore.  But as I caught up with friends in Spain and saw pics of life going on there as well, I realized that I have two homes.  I am fully aware this puts me in the “Very Lucky” category, seeing how some people go through their whole lives not feeling even 1/8 the amount of love I do.  I remind myself of that each day and take in every moment as though it was the most special of my life.

Getting back to Jaen was certainly a joyous affair… my kids broke from a crowd and ran to me, showering me with hugs and “I miss yous” and questions of my “exotic” life in California.  My Spanish family filled my tummy with all my favorite local dishes and some Rioja to help me sleep… they enjoyed the little tastes of California I had brought for them and seemed touched I had thought of them while away.  I reunited with my Jaen crew to celebrate Thanksgiving potluck style and marveled at sharing the first-time experience with some of our Italian, British and Spanish friends.

I was thrilled to be home, I’m thrilled to be back and I can’t wait to see what frills and thrills are in store for me next!  Pretty sure Christmas with my family thanks to my incredible selfless friends and courting the girls around Spain and as we kick off 2010 will do it for me :)