August 10, 2002

8/10/02 Hacinas Spain

Welcome to Salas de los Infantes

I'm not sure how this will read because I've been up for about 34 hours if don't count the catnap I had on the plane.

Ricardo was excited when the second movie started: K9 with Jim Balushi. After it finished, we both tried to get some sleep. Kind of different because of the cramped quarters. Not an hour went by when they turned up the lights to serve breakfast.

Weird to watch the sun set from the airplane and then sit it rise again before landing. On the ground, I got my bags, got some Euros, and proceeded to Customs. Not questions, just a stamp and waved on. As I was leaving, passed the doors to find lots of people waiting for family and friends to arrive. Weird, I didn't see anyone's bags checked or any questions about the contents.

"Jim! Jim!" is what I heard and then a hand waving above the crowd. Santi, which is short for Santiago, is the husband of Amparo, my contact at the school. Although I didn't expect it, he spoke English so we were able to communicate on the couple hour drive north to Salas de los Infantes. He thought after my long flight, I would be too tired to jump into learning Spanish by "immersion."

I really couldn't thank Santi and Amparo enough for arranging to pick me up. Santi had dropped his 2-year-old daughter at her grandparents home in Madrid. Otherwise I would have had to take two subway trains to the bus station, get a ticket to Burgos, where I would catch another bus to Salas de los Infantes. The way I felt, it probably would have ended in a disaster or some "bad" adventure like getting robbed in Nairobi years ago in Kenya.

The country-side reminded me a lot of the western US. It was raining and there was very little traffic. I gather from Santi that people don't drive long distances (or maybe just him ). The roads curved a lot and it was a little scary because of the rain.

The sun was coming out when we reached Salas de los Infantes. First, we met Amparo, who is younger than I imagined. Both of them are in their early 30's. She has a wonderful smile and seems very happy. Then we went to the city hall where Santi is the lawyer for the mayor office, and also to meet Nati, her name being short for Natividad. Nati and her husband José will be my host family while I'm studying here in Salas. Everyone is very friendly and I feel very welcome.

Santi & Amparo

Later, we all went to Hacinas several kilometers away where Nati and José were putting finishing touches on a house they built. I met their son Javier, who just had a birthday party. He is three years old. José studied English in high school years ago but I think he still knows more English than I know Spanish.

After a quick two hour nap, we had lunch. Javier acts just like a kid going through his "terrible two's" sometimes. He seems frustrated when I don't reply to him and there is no way to tell him why.

I feel like I've jumped into the deep end of the "cultural pool". Javier, José and I took our evening walk around Hacinas. Even though it only has 200 people, it still had many younger people, mainly teenagers. But only the preschool is still open. The town is situated on a rocky outcropping, with the church at the top. It is lit up at night so you can see it for miles. We even got to climb the bell town where they still rang the bell b hand. I held Javier while José helped with the four large bells.

Some community gathering was going on at the school. I watched the women play tuta, a game like horse shoes but played with flat metal discs. José said that it is only recently that women were allowed to play. It's a game only known in a few towns in this area.

So far, we haven't stopped moving. Next, we went back to Salas to watch a 5K running race. Instead of everyone running at the same time, the run is in stages even though several groups only and four or five competitors. Then it was to the bar, which is more like a café, for coffee. They keep introducing me to family and friends but I can't keep all the names straight. I fell asleep several times before they finally took pity on me and we left.

Maybe the reason the Spanish eat so late is because the sun doesn't set here till 9 or 10pm. So far, I've eaten everything they've given me but I can't keep the food names straight. Finally collapsed into bed, some 34-hours after leaving KC!