22 March, 2007

online activity

Well, I am finally settled in my new house! it's an actual house, not an apartment AND I only have one roommate not 4.
The only downfall is that we do not have internet access in the new place, so I will not be able to get online but a couple times a week...but the benefit is that I will have to find places to get online and at this moment I am sitting in a cafe (with wireless internet) looking out over the ocean....not a bad place to reflect on my thoughts, huh? It's a pretty sweet location!

12 March, 2007

Magdelana Festival Starts....

This celebration is a reminder to me that one year ago, I sold most everything I own, dropped off my dog, my cat and the items I couldn’t bear to part with in Kansas (my mother says thankfully that I never had a child) and boarded a plane to Spain. In reflection I can’t believe a year has gone by…according to my birth certificate, I am a year older; according to my Masters Certificate of completions, I am smarter; according to myself, I have changed beyond recognition. Physically, I am the same (more or less); the changes are in my heart and soul. I am definitely not the person I was a year ago; and since I have met M, I am not the person I was a month ago. I see the world, specifically Spain, with new eyes. This 10 day festival the “Fiestas de la Magdalena” celebrates the relocation of the people from the mountains to the farmlands on the plain. "The history of Castellon de la Plana started in the desert mountain range, where there used to be an Arab castle which was conquered by James I in 1233. It's hard living conditions made the king grant a permission in 1251 to relocate the population to Benirabe farmstead on the plains where the current town is located. The Magdalena week ends when the queen of the fiestas shouts: "vitol" in front of a multitude of citizens gathered at Plaza Mayor."

Today as I walked the streets of Castellon and watched the numerous parades, I took a good look at the people. A year ago this festival was filled with partying, drinking and celebrating the newness of my surrounding. This year, I see the tradition, the culture, the families coming together. This year I am enjoying the “daytime” festivities and trying to comprehend the fact that many families can trace their roots back to the 1400’s. Pieces of ancient fort walls are still standing randomly in these towns as well as some towers and many castles (which I am still fascinated with…)

Instead of being disappointed when I didn’t get the job in D.C. I actually felt a big sense of relief. I had convinced myself that it was the right move for me, but when I knew I was going to continue to live in this country, things became really clear to me. It would have been a great job for my future, but working as a personal assistant AGAIN is not the way I want to get there. I want to use that as a “backup” like my “nannying”. I have skills and will use them when necessary, but I do not want to be a full-time assistant any more than I want to be a full-time nanny. Although I am working a fraction of the hours I did in the US, I am saving so much more money. My life is so simplistic it’s amazing. I am reminded of my roommate S who came into my life with, a couple of backpacks, a laptop and a set of golf clubs. I struggled once upon a time with the realization that “things” cannot make me happy but I continued to try and prove that theory wrong. Thousands of dollars in CC debt didn’t help me find meaning in my life. It didn’t make me “successful”, although to some I’m sure I appeared so. It only made me search harder….for what I didn’t know.

Now I realize I was searching for inner peace, something I have not found completely, but I do know I am well on my way to achieving just that. It’s like when a person can’t truly love another person until they truly love themselves; how can I strive for “world peace” when I have not achieved it internally? In the past year, I have begun the process of becoming aware of who I am; what I am capable of; and ultimately learning to let go. Let go of the control I continue to try to have on myself. It’s an extremely difficult process for me, but in order to move forward, I must not try so hard to control how I get there.

03 March, 2007

Happy Birthday to me....day 2

The next morning we headed off on the hike. It was a bit cold, since I freeze if it's under 50 degrees, but luckily M had packed tons of clothes for me...The views were so incredible. I have traveled so much and seen many mountains and every time I get to a place, it seems as if the others can't compare...but of course looking back at photo's, sometimes I can't tell one place from another, but it's actually experiencing it, that makes all the difference in the world.

Along the way there were houses built hundreds of years ago into and on the mountains and it was amazing to think about what it would have been like living that way, so long ago…I imagine I would have liked it…peaceful but challenging.

After about 2.5 hours of hiking up and over various mountains we started to descend down in the crevice of two mountains....Now would be a good time to state that I use the term mountain loosely, as I am from Kansas and the highest peak is atop my sisters silo....about 15 minutes from the bottom it started to rain. As I was already freezing a serious decision had to be made...continue on to the waterfall, or continue on the circular trail back to the hostel. After huddling under a tree for shelter we were still undecided as to what to do but upon stepping out from under the tree, the clouds parted and the sun shone down with such power that I figured that it was as good a sign as any for me.

Down in the crevice was a waterfall (cascada) which emptied into a natural spring. We stopped there to have lunch. It reminded me so much of Hamilton Pool in Austin (just a bit smaller…and much colder). I was starving by the time we got there and wolfed down a huge sandwich! After that I just enjoyed the calmness and quiet and relaxed before starting off again for the final 1.5 hour hike back to the hostel...the only bad part was that it was over about 4 "mountains" and the last one was the steepest yet. Once I got to it, I was so stiff from, ahem..well, lack of physical activity...My dream of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro kind of dwindled away...

We kept on climbing on up higher and higher and every turn of the trail, would cause me to think "oh now we will probably now head back down" but to my dismay the trail continued to climb. In the end (as always) it was worth it! After 6 hours I was freezing, aching, hungry (again) and completely overjoyed at the opportunities I have in this life. If this is the end of my thirties, I cannot wait to start my 40's!!

happy birthday Day one!

39..39…39..It’s just a number which reflects the number of years I have been on this planet. It is also the last year I can honestly say “I’m in my thirty’s”. What does this mean…does it actually mean anything?? I got tired of people saying “Wow! You are 38, you don’t look 38! How exactly is a 38 year old supposed to look? How does a 39 year old look??? Hell next year I’ll be 40, what will I look like then…I imagine not much different, just a couple more gray hairs and a few more wrinkles. I feel like people expect me to be different, like slower or something. I don’t like telling people my age, but not because I am ashamed or embarrassed or something about it, but because I get that “Really?”, “No way”, or “Wow…” I now know why my mom used to get pissed when someone would say that about her…I used to think “Mom, just be proud that you look young”, but I understand now. I just want to be “Me” not “Me at 39”, not “Me at 40”. I look at my future and don’t see much difference in then and now…probably a different country, but not a different life. At this moment, I am sitting enjoying a cafe cortado at a beach café and a few moments ago an “old” gray haired woman was walking along the beach. She had a walking stick in each hand and was just moving steadily, slowly and seemingly without a care in the world, as her small dog was scooting along at her feet. She looked content and happy…and that is all that really matters in this life…not age.

All that said…..I did have one of the best birthday’s I can remember! I do love celebrating my birthday and since I was born at 1:10 in the morning, the whole day is mine! This year the celebrations started on Saturday the 24th. During my morning class with 16-17 year olds, as they were getting bored with the lesson, I told them that if we do one more page, then we can stop for the day and just talk (to practice their English). They promptly finished the lesson and proceeded to grill me on their typical topic of choice “my life”. I told them my birthday was the next day and they got really excited and said they wanted to buy me a cake, so being the “cool” teacher that I am I said sure and the 8 of them left. About 20 minutes later, I casually asked A, the receptionist at the academy if she thinks they are coming back, ha ha. They finally did and shooed me out of the classroom and shut the door. About 10 minutes later they told me to come in and there on the table was a plate of misc. Spanish sweets with tons of lit candles sticking out all over. As I entered they sang “Happy Birthday” to me and I was cracking up at the amount of candles. I blew them out and we all devoured the sweets! They then inquired as to what I was doing on the “big day” and when I mentioned I was going camping with a “guapo”, they giggled and said they wanted to hear ALL about it next week! I think I will be able to have them finish about 3 pages in the workbook before divulging my day.

After class I rushed home from the train station to pack for the “camping” trip. It was a surprise for me, since I didn’t know where we were going, only that it would involve hiking in the mountains. My friend M picked me up at 3:30 and we proceeded to drive for about 1.5 hours away from the coast into the mountains. We ended up at Penagalosa, the highest point in the Castellon region. The little town was so quiet and beautiful. We walked around the town and then settled in a bar/restaurant and had a cortado tocado de bailey’s. An espresso with Bailey’s Irish Crème, yum. We just sat there for about 2 hours talking and just enjoying the atmosphere. We decided to stay there for dinner instead of going to another restaurant. M asked the waiter to prepare grilled vegetables and other food without meat, which the normal Spanish response is “a quizzical look, a suggestion of just a little ham and then a sigh when told , no”. The end result was (as it always is) amazing. First course a couple of eggs on a plate with a huge chunk of grilled fresh cheese and homemade bread with some wine. The next course was a plateful of various veggies (artichoke, asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms….) drizzled with olive oil and grilled to perfection. We ate relishing in the wonderful taste of these locally grown veggies and the beautiful presentation of such. After that there was the flan, which normally I pass on since it tends to taste way too sweet, but I was informed that we “have” to get it since it is made a special way by the restaurant and the waiter was obviously not going to take no for an answer. Since the man was forced to prepare us a dinner without his precious Spanish ham, I decided to allow him the pleasure of serving us his house speciality….and was I glad I did, it was indescribable and delicious with a low sweetness level.

After finishing the entire meal as well as the bottle of wine, I couldn’t have been more content. We walked around the town a little more looking for a place to have a final café before retiring for the night. There wasn’t any that could compare to what we just experienced, so we headed for the campgrounds…an old church/hostel, which used to be used by migrating Arabs on their pilgrimage to some holy place hundreds of years ago and at the stroke of midnight I had the pleasure of having "Cumpleaños Feliz" sung to me :-)