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September 20, 2003

Europe Part 2: Spain

Eduardo (or Aita—the word for father in the language of northern Spain) is waiting for me just outside the baggage claim area, in the same way he waited for me eleven years ago when I met him for the first time. This time, no sign needed. I know exactly who he is, and he knows me. His hair is a bit longer, and much of it is now silver, but otherwise he is the same.

He takes me straight to an exchange student orientation, for high school students who arrived just the day before. He would like me to share a few words on my experience. I feel silly giving them advice, pretentious, and I know they are probably already sick of being talked at, but I say what I think might have helped me. The things that I was never told that I wish I would have been prepared for. Be patient with yourselves, I said. And that three-month magic you-will-be-fluent timeline that everyone always tells you about? Forget about it.

My Spanish is much better than it was ten years ago. Ten years ago being when I left Spain, not when I arrived. I slipped with surprising ease into a world of Spanish thoughts and phrases, with the Spanish coming more readily than the English and the Spanish accent easier than I’d remembered it. Oh, what time will do. (Thank you, time.)

After the meeting, to which my sister had also arrived—I had to greet her for the first time on stage—we three, sister, father, and me, headed home for lunch. A comer! It was one of my favorite calls eleven years ago. I love to eat. Home at last—how I’ve wanted to return to this place. The kitchen is completely remodeled, a room gone and another created, but the rest of the flat is the same. On the door of my little brother’s room, which before was decorated with stuffed animals, is a Bob Marley poster. Yet he is the same endearing Edu, just older.

The week was too packed to summarize, so I will have to resort to a few pics with captions. The week in photos:


Aita and Ibon, my older host brother.

Noami, Ibon's girlfriend, and my host mother, Mari Carmen (Ama).

The abuelo's cena (dinner). My mother's father moved in from his own flat in Madrid just a few short weeks before I arrived. Not understanding my family's new-fangled kitchen, he buses and subways home to Madrid occasionally, buys seafood, cooks it in his flat, and subways and buses it back to Majadahona (about a 25 minute trip). On the menu: shrimp, muscles (which he brought fresh rather than cooking), and octopus.


Me with Tio Pepe. This one's for Bridget. Puerta del Sol.

Museum of Ham. Those are legs of pork hanging in the window.

Toilet paper sculpture. And me. Plaza Mayor.

Spanish truffles are one of the best things ever. Edu and me.

Street in Madrid.


My friend Bill, who I met in Costa Rica, and his wife Jess met up with me on their honeymoon in Spain, which happened to coincide with my visit. They're crazy. But it was great to see Billy, and to meet Jess.

Bill and Jess.

Street in Toledo.

Cathedral interior.

Candles in cathedral.

Window of sword store in Toledo.



Velazquez outside the Prado.

Crystal Palace (and moon) in Madrid's Parque del Retiro.

My afternoon in el Retiro.

Retiro's centerpiece.

Moncloa--the meeting spot of my exchange student friends back in 92/93.

McDonalds, our unfortunate point of convergence. Commonly, though, we'd move to the bar next door for some cerveza (only the guys, as it turns out) and tortilla de patata. I went back to find this bar, and check out the downstairs--we'd once ventured downstairs, only to find people drinking out of very long straws in a dark, black-lit room which creeped us out--but the downstairs of the bars in the vicinity apparently only have bathrooms now. So, instead, I had a calimocho (mix of red wine and Coca-Cola) with the nice bartender and a nice patron.

I did, though, have to peak around the corner at another sometimes-destination of ours: The Crazy Chicken.


Fiesta on Main Street (La Gran Via).

The bullring:

Rules for la corrida (the running of the bulls):

Men playing bocci ball (I can't remember the Spanish name) in the park. This one's for Tanja, Jacqui, and Tom.

Women on the town.

Posted by beth at September 20, 2003 4:13 PM