June 25, 2005

6/25/05 Across the Atlantic

What better way to face battle, than with a send off with the families next generation. My nieces Andrea and Lauren picked me up to give me a ride to the airport shuttle pickup. Andrea seems so grownup, much more than I was at seventeen. Watching her drive with one hand on the wheel and a cell phone in the other, all on five hours of sleep she said, was a little frightening. But I love my nieces to death.

Flying into New Jersey gave us a great view of the New York skyline. I even saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. The oddest thing that I saw in the airport was a 'Meditation Room' Go figure. After a long delay, we finally made it back into the air. On my right are three Spaniards who speak no English. And on my left is a teenage girl with her family but she doesn't talk because of the iPod plugged into her ears.

Found this in the airport

It wasn't really a long flight, only six and half hours, but to leave the sunshine, fly at night, and then arrive in the sunshine just throws your internal clock off. I tried to sleep but airplane seats are not conducive to that. [smile] And it wasn't until we landed that I realized the teenager sitting next to me was flying alone and didn't speak English. No wonder she didn't talk to this American stranger.

The surprise at the airport was that not only was Santi, my teacher's husband, there but also my friends from the Camino, Sonia and César. I was happy to see them all. After a short conversation of English and Spanish, Sonia and César said their goodbyes but promised to come and see me in Almansa on their way to Alicante in July.

Santi was the one who picked me up at the airport the last time I came to Spain in 2002. I could speak a little bit more Spanish but it was mostly words slammed together instead of real sentences. But most of the dri I drifted in and out of sleep. We did stop once so Santi could feed a little chick that his daughter Miranda had found a few days ago. Just like a mother bird, he gently opened the chick's mouth so he could push in some overripe apple.

It was about a three or four hour drive to get to Almansa. The town sure feels bigger than Salas (2002). Lots of people out but then it's Saturday too. After saying hello to Amparo, Santi took me to get some pizza. We walked around town while we waited. There are lots of sops, a big park, and some of the streets are for pedestrians only. Traffic is a mess, lots of narrow one-way streets, but they all zig-zag so much it would be easy to get lost. Santi says that the main industry in town is making shoes, but just like what happened in the US, cheap 'made in China' products are hurting the shoe industry here.

I didn't realize it, but I came on a hectic weekend for Santi and Amparo. They had decided to move into a home closer to the hostel (they live in the next town) and this weekend was when they were moving.

Let me tell you about the school/hostel. Amparo designed this 16-bed building to both accommodate her students, but also to rent out the spare rooms as a hostel. I guess officially the place is called “El Estudio”. The room I have is nicer than anything I've ever stayed in, even counting all my trips across the US. I have a small kitchenette with pans and dishes, a huge bathroom that would easily be handicapped accessible. Just outside my door is a huge 'salon' that leads to an outdoor patio. Everything is very modern, like the electronic keys for the doors, and Amparo even had an elevator put in. Downstairs is the school/hostel office, along with classrooms and a computer room. She has done an incredible job with the building (I saw the original plans in 2002 when in Salas).

My room

A good kitchen

And bathroom

After taking a five-hour nap when we got back from lunch, I tried to settle in. That's when the culture shock hit me. Pretty scary finding yourself in a town where no one speaks English. Even though I have a place to stay and friends to look out for me. I still feel a bit isolated because of the language, or at least my lack of it. It's not like Amparo can be with me all the time. So I guess this is what they really mean when they say total immersion, that sink or swim kind of experience. Only time will tell, since the last time I couldn't get out of the 'shallow end of the pool' so to speak.

Got cleaned up and just relaxed for the evening. I watched the 'Dirty Dozen' in Spanish of course, and explored the hostel. Tomorrow could be a bit scary as I will mostly be on my own while Amparo and Santi move. I did offer to help but they wouldn't think of letting me do that. [smile] Then class starts on Monday.