Saturday, December 19

"Life's a Journey, Not a Destination"

While I'm all too aware it wasn't the epically profound Steven Tyler who penned this famous quote, it's through his melodic delivery that these words resonate through my hyperactive brain.

In an effort to see who, what, when, where, how and why is infiltrating the current travel writing market, I have schlepped through a sizable stack of travel tales since my journey in Spain began.  My current victim makes note that not everyone is meant to travel.  Travel, in the most literal sense, being the getting to from Point A to Point B.  Spaniards, for instance, have the tendency to need to scoop their jaws off the ground when they hear my response ("24 hours") to their question ("How long does it take you to get home?").  Mind you, we're talking from my door in Jaen, Spain to my door in Fresno, California, utilizing several modes of transportation, including planes, trains, metros, cars and good old-fashion walking (I don't believe in taxis when I have legs, especially when, these days, two miles feels like two blocks).

It is during these moments that some of my favorite travel memories are born.  For example: 

...being stuck in a snowstorm on a train in the middle of the Spanish countryside sure shows you something about a country's character.  How does the train company handle it?  Are the passengers calm or is it pandemonius mayhem? (Let's just say I learned a few new vocab words that I won't be repeating in front of children!)

...running into a new friend you just met last weekend in Jaen who happens to be on the same flight as you from Madrid to Dallas is not just ironic, but a surefire way to form a solid bond perhaps not otherwise made.

...helping an elderly MadrileƱo know what to expect when he lands in the US of A for the first time through a smattering of attempted broken English and slightly better Spanish.  Poor guy was going to miss his connecting flight and had not a clue how to rectify the issue, especially in English.  I guess I can add translator and international travel agent to my list of current job titles!

...seeing one of the most spectacular sights I will never forget thanks to my new Spanish friend: the actual meeting of the day with the night, as we soared through times zones and continent jumped the globe.  As clear as, well, night and day, the two were joined with an incredibly defined horizontal line of sunset pinks and starry blacks.

Like my last trek's eye-opening encounter with the German one regular Tuesday on a Metro in Madrid, life happens on the road and luckily, you have a moment to actually notice it.  The time of travel is meant for reading, writing, relaxing and interacting... living, if you will. 

As Steven Tyler says, it's "Amazing... with the blink of an eye..."

Sunday, December 6

Love, Actually.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my life in Spain?  In case you've forgotten, here are a few more reasons:

Reason #467: The super cool thing about teaching private classes is that I LOVE IT!  What an experience it is to be welcomed into these people's homes and teach them my native language.  It's crazy!  I have three clients (seven people in total) now.  The first is an entire family: Manolo (the dad), is VERY advanced. For example, this past week, I helped him write a paper on computer science he has to present at an upcoming international conference. His wife, Candy, is literally just a beginner.  We started with the alphabet!  She is also a singer at the local Conservatory, so I helped her with an upcoming Christmas carol in English, so she could pronounce it properly and know what she was signing about.  Their daughter, Natalia, is 17 and is in the intermediate level.  I try to make her assignments fun, using movies, boys, etc. as the subject matter.  The son, Alvaro, is 12 and is also my student at school.  It's fun with him because I know what he's already learned, what he needs more help with, etc.  Candy asked me one time if I wanted anything to drink and I asked if she had any hot tea.  She said they didn't have caffeine in the house (they're very straight-edged).  So this past week, she was all excited because she said she bought some for me.  She mentioned had never bought it before so she asked everyone at the store what was the best tea they had... "Give me the tea they drink in London!" she said hahaha.  Adorable.

My new student, Rocyo, is 18 and ridiculously sweet.  She is studying tourism at the university and all her classes are in English, but she doesn't speak a lick of it hahaha.  She understands pretty ok, but it's back to the basics with her, too.  Her mom took the night off work to meet me for the first night and said their house was my house now and to help myself to whatever I wanted.  She invited me for dinner and everything!  Spaniards really have a knack for hospitality.

I meet my newest clients next Wednesday... a four-year-old and a seven-year-old!  Talk about all across the board!  The mom is Candy's sister, so I must be doing something right, as they said I come highly recommended :)  

Anyhow, the private stuff is EXHAUSTING as they are all different levels and I have to stay in tune to what each of their needs and goals are.  Plus, I really have to be on my toes with my Spanish.  Not only is it the hours I am putting in, but it takes time to prep for them find exercises online, etc.  Plus, for every session I have, it's a one-hour walk.  On some days, I have work, private classes AND uni, which accounts for about 12 miles in one day.  My landlord said I looked "dried up" since the last time he saw me, but I took that as a compliment!!  It's fun though, because since I am going to new spots in town, I get to explore some new places, which of course, I love!  Especially when the city is all dressed for Christmas!!!

Reason #753: So I was reading the paper the other day for the first time in a while.  It was NOT a coincidence I picked it up that day, as I saw that the official lighting of the city was going to be on Friday at 6 (the deco's had been up all week, but not lit)!!  Jenna and I went and while the actual lighting was just a flick of the switch, we decided to just do some Christmas window shopping.  All of a sudden, we heard a drumline, so we went running to find it.  Sure enough, they had a MARCHING BAND (an ode to my Grandpa Neil!) parading through the city playing Christmas songs.  I D-I-E-D!!!  Jenna and I followed them throughout the whole brightly and magically lit city as they marched on, finally having their grand finale at the Cathedral.  I ran all over the place trying to get the best camera and video angles to capture the magic, almost plummeting to a cobblestone death in the process!  It was AWESOME!!!!  I even recognized one of the Spanish Christmas songs they were playing because it's a song my students are learning in music class!  I loved that.

Check the incredible shots I managed to get here.

In my VERY little free time these days, I managed to have gotten myself into the mess of agreeing to cook a Sicilian dish for a Sicilian!  That should be interesting, considering I still haven't found Marsala wine here ahahah.  I may have to switch it to a Spanish dish and use Sherry instead...

In the midst of all this, I am still putting together a New Year's trip for seven people in three different cities, two different countries, attending six hours of uni per week and travel writing for my new job on the side!  Siesta is a word of my past.