Commemorating Christopher Columbus in Spanish Style, Part 1

“In fourteen hundred ninety-two Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” The opening line of the poem “In 1492” about Christopher Columbus takes me back to my childhood when we learned about Columbus and his voyage across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a new trade route to the East Indies.

Portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo, housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

Portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo, housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

I never thought at that time that I would someday travel to Spain or visit the historical places that led to his explorations. But I did!

When I was young, my mind was focused on remembering the dates and details so I could do well in my class. Decades later, the main thing I remember are the names of his first voyage ships—the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria—and the date he discovered the New World: October 12, 1492.

Christopher Columbus’ Significance in Spain

Today is not only Columbus Day in America, it is also a holiday in Spain, Fiesta Nacional de España, or National Day. When I heard that Spain commemorates the day that Columbus set foot in the Americas, it surprised me. Although Columbus claimed vast territory for Spain with his explorations, and governed areas of Hispaniola, Spain doesn’t govern in that part of the world any longer.

When I admitted my ignorance around the subject to Pedro, he explained that Christopher Columbus launched a new era of wealth and power in Spain. Christopher Columbus, known as Cristóbal Colón in Spain, is a national hero. Just like the U.S., there are monuments to Columbus in many places throughout the country.

In my travels in Spain in the summer of 2013, I was fortunate enough to visit some of those monuments and historic places where Columbus ventured on his quest for funding of his journey across the Atlantic. During a week long vacation in the region of Andalucia, in Southern Spain, with Pedro and his parents, I started to get a feel for the vast and complicated history of Spain.

In the summer of 2013, I visited Granada, Cordoba, and Seville, Spain.

In the summer of 2013, I visited Granada, Cordoba, and Seville, Spain.

Let me start out by saying, that before our travels, I had very little knowledge about these places or the history of Spain.

Christopher Columbus Monuments in Granada

My first glimpse at the intersection of American and Spanish history related to Christopher Columbus was in Granada, Spain. We walked through Plaza Isabel La Católica.

In the center of the square was a monument to Queen Isabel and Christopher Columbus. The monument was sculpted in Rome for the 4th centennial of Columbus’ journey to the New World. It depicts Queen Isabel granting permission for Columbus’ voyage.

Day 10 252

Columbus monument in Granada, Spain.

Day 9 103

After strolling through this square we headed to the Granada Cathedral and the neighboring museum, The Royal Chapel of Granada. The Royal Chapel is the final resting place of Queen Isabel I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, known as the Catholic Monarchs. History truly came alive for me when I walked through the Royal Chapel and viewed the tomb and crypt of these people whose names I learned in school decades earlier.

The tomb of the Catholic Monarchs

The tomb of the Catholic Monarchs

The crypt of the Catholic Monarchs

The crypt of the Catholic Monarchs

The next day we toured the Alhambra, the No. 1 tourist site in Spain. While touring the Alhambra, I learned that with the conquest of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs in January 1492, all Islamic rule of the Iberian Peninsula ended. I was starting to piece together the significance of that year and how history really was shifting at that time and under the rule of the Catholic Monarchs.

Alhambra

The Alhambra, a Moorish fortress dating back to 889.

Christopher Columbus Monuments in Córdoba

The next stop on our travels through Andalucia was Córdoba. First, we visited another major tourist attraction, the Mezquita, a former mosque converted into a Catholic cathedral in the 16th century. It is a splendid display of Mudéjar (Moorish) and Renaissance architecture and religious history.

Being so slow and deliberately trying to take in all of the beauty and reverence I missed out on another Columbus monument. We walked through the stifling heat (over 100 degree Fahrenheit), to the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos (the castle of the Christian monarchs). This served as one of the primary residences of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand.

Unfortunately it was closed by the time we arrived. In the summer, the site closes at 3:00 PM due to the heat and the traditional time for a Spanish siesta.

We walked along the exterior medieval walls of the castle, taking a few pictures, and marveling at the structure from the outside. Inside was another statue with Christopher Columbus. This monument commemorates the first meeting here of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand in 1486.

Christopher Columbus Monuments in Seville

Our final destination on this vacation through Andalucia was Seville. It was there that we met Rosa’s brother Paco, and his family. He spoke English and served as my personal tour guide in Seville. He is well versed in the culture and history of Spain and particularly so in the architecture.

That was most evident when we toured the Seville Cathedral, completed in the early 16th century. This cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral and the 3rd largest church in the world. Unbeknownst to me, it also housed the burial site of Christopher Columbus. It was sort of a surprise at the end of the tour.

At the exit doors to the cathedral, Paco pointed out the tomb of Christopher Columbus. It was a grand monument—with the tomb being carried by four kings of Spain represented by kingdoms in Columbus’ lifetime, from Aragon, Castile, Leon, and Navarre. His remains took a circuitous route from Valladolid, Spain where he died, to the present day Dominican Republic, to Cuba, and now to their final resting place in Seville in 1898.

This partly explains why Paco told me that Columbus’ remains were only rumored to be in this tomb. Depending on who you believe, it does appear that at least some of his remains are buried there. DNA testing was done in 2006 to confirm it.

Seeing this monument with Columbus’ remains towering above the royal figures of Spain gave me much more insight and understanding about the place he played in this country’s culture and history. He was a hero and represented the dawn of wealth and power for this beautiful country.

An Ambassador for Spain

The burial site of Christopher Columbus was a fitting end to my Andalucía vacation and Spanish history lessons. There are many other monuments to Columbus in Spain. Someday I hope to return to Spain and see them—most notably in Barcelona or Valladolid, where he died.

As someone once told me, my travels to Spain have turned me into an American Ambassador for Spain. I still have dozens of ideas on posts I’d love to write about my travels and the sites and history of Spain.

In 2013, I saw it through the eyes of my Spanish hosts. In 2014, I saw it more through the eyes of religious history. I’m fascinated by it and am quick to tell people about Spain whenever I get a captive audience.

Date marker on Columbus monument in Madrid.

Date marker on Columbus monument in Madrid.

In my next post, I’ll describe more about the Columbus monuments in the nation’s capital, Madrid, and my adventures there on National Day (Columbus Day) last year.

God Knows the Desires of our Heart

It was siesta time on Day 29 of my 42-day pilgrimage through Spain in 2013. This was my 5th day in Sóller, near the northwest coast of Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands of Spain. I was sitting poolside at the summer home of my gracious hosts, the parents of Pedro González Arbona, who we met in an exchange program three years prior.

The day was hot—just like the preceding days. I was still not used to the Spanish heat. Sóller was only slightly cooler than Madrid. It was in the mid-90s; and there was no air conditioning. When we left Madrid the week before, I was expecting cool island breezes and relief from the heat. There was no such luck. I adapted as best as I could, and relished the mid-day siesta to take a bite out of the heat.

The view from my bedroom window in Sóller.

The view from the writing desk in my bedroom in Sóller.

Siesta Time in Sóller

After the mid-day meal which was typically served at 2 PM, the family would turn to siesta mode. Some would take a nap, or others would read or relax by the pool. It was a deliberate time of restfulness and solitude.

Most days I would be in my room with the ceiling fan on, either typing away on my laptop trying to catch up on my writing, or sprawled out on my bed catching a few zzzzz. Traveling away from home without the benefit of an American companion, I considered both an investment in my emotional and physical health.

On this day, I relinquished my writing and my napping to another restful activity. I sat in the shade reading the script to Pedro’s most recent film. It was the script to Tempting Fate, the movie that is now showing across Africa with his music wafting through the theaters.

As I sat there reading with the sound of running water filling the pool in the background, all I kept reflecting on was how God really does know the desires of our heart. I’d love to be able to say that was because of the idyllic setting I was in, or the generosity of my family back home, or my Spanish host family. I had many of those moments in my 6 weeks of living with Pedro’s family.

A Holy Plot Twist

No, on this day it was the content of what I was reading that gave me goosebumps and lit the fire of the Holy Spirit within me. The script was ‘hot off the press’ so to speak. Pedro received it electronically and had a copy made at the print shop in town. He had already made his first pass through the script and had ideas running through his mind on the scenes and music.   I was honored to be the next to read it—mostly because I was his manager, but also because I was one of the few family members who could read English.  (His previous scripts were in Spanish and difficult for me to read.)

I knew very little about the story, and so I eagerly read it. The story opened with a bank robbery scene, lots of gun fire, and the death of a police officer. That didn’t sound like my type of movie.

Immediately following that, the story turned to a scene at a church with African worship music being sung. The sudden shift caught me off-guard and peaked my interest. As I read further and further into the script, I was enthralled with the story, and excited to read how this tale of two Nigerian brothers, one with deep faith fighting for his life against cancer, and the other steeped in a life of crime and drugs, would end.

I was not disappointed. It had a powerful message of redemption and forgiveness. Here’s one piece of great dialogue:

“God owes you no explanation, son. He looks out for you and gives you what is best for you. The important question is not why, but what happens next? And trust me, for those that trust God their next chapters are always better than the former chapters.”

Scenes from the movie Tempting Fate.

I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read some of these scenes that challenged the characters in the movie, and would certainly resonate with audiences.

At one point, when I was nearing the end of the script, Pedro asked me what I thought of it. I had a hard time containing my excitement, but told him he would have to wait until I was finished reading. “Only a few more pages,” I told him. “And then we can talk about it.”

“Are you looking for the scenes with music in it?”

“No,” I confessed.

“You are a bad manager,” he teased. I didn’t mind. I was too overwhelmed with the sudden shift in the focus of my trip.

“The first of many more scripts for you to read,” he continued jokingly. But I didn’t take his musical talent or potential success in jest.

God Knows The Desires of our Hearts

God was not only giving me the desires of my heart with this trip of a lifetime, the Lord was giving Pedro the desires of his heart. Pedro dreamed of composing film scores since he was ten years old. Now at the age of 20, he was composing for his first full-feature American film!

A few days earlier, my daily devotional was based on Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” After reading the script of this faith-based movie, I had a teachable moment with Pedro about that scripture and how the Lord’s favor was on his music. He wasn’t sold on the idea that God would really have any interest in his musical success. There were much more pressing things for God to have His attention on like poverty and worldwide issues.  But I begged to differ.

Psalm 37.4

I expressed to him how I believed it was not a coincidence that he had landed this contract at this very point in time. I had been praying for his music to be used by God since the day I found out he was a composer. The script pointed people to God’s love and forgiveness, so his music would do the same. I saw it as an incredible blessing and confirmation that his music really was meant for the big screen.

Since Pedro came into my life five years ago, the Lord has given me many desires of my heart: the friendship of this family across the world, being the benefactor of Pedro’s music, and giving me a mid-life career change into writing (my long lost passion from college).

It’s not because God is like a genie, or I prayed for earthly success or rewards. It is because of my faith shift that started with a deeper and truer relationship with the Lord, and as the scripture says, delighting in Him.

So what about the Movie?

The Lord’s favor is on Tempting Fate too—the movie, the cast and the crew as it plays in theaters across Nigeria and Ghana. It premiered at #3 in the Box Office last week and is getting lots of positive reviews. Nollywood is all a twitter about this Hollywood/Nollywood collaboration.

My prayers continue for this movie and its message. I applaud KevStel Group for producing this film and following their dreams and desires of their hearts to bring quality faith-based entertainment to the big screen.

What about you? Are you delighting in the Lord? Where is He giving you the desires of your heart?

Lights, Camera, Action, Part 1 ~ Making Music in Spain

Those three simple words, “lights, camera, action” are universally associated with filmmaking. Until last summer, my only role remotely associated with the theater was a bit part I was required to play in the annual musical back in junior high school.

For Pedro, the young Spanish man whose music career I help manage, those words have been part of his vocabulary and part of his dreams since he was very young.  Now, at 20 years of age, he is living his dreams.

Pedro González Arbona, professional musician and composer (Madrid, July 2013)

Pedro González Arbona, professional musician and composer (Madrid, July 2013)

Pedro’s First Short Film

When I headed to Madrid nearly six months ago, Pedro was up to his ears putting the finishing touches on the soundtrack for his first professional short film, Sed de Amor (Thirst for Love).  The premiere was held two weeks after my arrival.  Unfortunately, Pedro’s family and I were vacationing in southern Spain and couldn’t attend.  (The soundtrack is at the bottom of this post.)

Sandwiched in between sightseeing excursions and writing, my time in Madrid was spent collaborating with Pedro on his music and promotional projects to prepare for the premiere and beyond.  Together we launched his website (pgarbona.com), developed a site for his music sales, had publicity photo shoots, and worked on a Facebook marketing campaign to build interest in the film and his music.

Launching Pedro's new website.

Launching Pedro’s new website.

The Premiere

Since Pedro couldn’t attend the Thirst for Love premiere, the director, Chani Bas, asked him to create a video to introduce himself and explain his composing and music synchronization process for the film.  “Take 1.  Take 2.  Take 3,” I said as we made light of the multiple takes he had to do to get a flawless video.

Then since I couldn’t attend the premiere, Pedro gave me my own private showing of Thirst for Love.  Knowing the story, but not understanding the actors’ Spanish dialogue made it difficult to get the full movie viewer’s experience.  That didn’t stop the tears from flowing at the end of the movie though.  My tears were perfectly timed with the closing song “The Last Tear.”   Pedro’s parents joined us for the final minutes of the film, making my joy, and my tears complete.

Celebrating the Thirst for Love premiere while on vacation in Seville.

Celebrating the Thirst for Love premiere while on vacation in Seville.

More Music Collaboration

After our return from vacation, there was still much more music work to do.  Chani had enlisted Pedro to score the soundtrack for his next short film, Always Together.  Those songs filled the family home throughout my remaining days in Madrid as Pedro composed every free moment he got.  We also worked on reviewing and cataloguing Pedro’s ever growing list of compositions—about 120 at the time.

On one of our last days in Madrid, I met Chani, Pedro’s director, face to face at a local Starbucks.  It was a great opportunity to learn a bit more about the film industry, hear firsthand about the Thirst for Love premiere, and get to know each other.  Chani was already preparing for the next film project as well.  (Always Together premiered a few days ago.)

Chani Bas, Ardis A. Nelson and Pedro Gonzalez Arbona

Chani Bas, Ardis A. Nelson and Pedro Gonzalez Arbona

First American Film Project

The biggest music news of the summer though was the contract Pedro negotiated with the KevStel Group, an American production company, for his first full-feature film, Tempting Fate.  Days before we headed off to the island of Mallorca, international calls and email negotiations were flying through cyberspace.  We were rushed to complete it because once we arrived on Mallorca, internet access was extremely limited.

On Mallorca we settled into vacation mode for the remaining 2 ½ weeks of my trip surrounded by Pedro’s family and friends.  But one day while in siesta mode, I sat poolside and read the script of Tempting Fate.  I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read through lines that had a spiritual message of unconditional love, betrayal, sacrifice, and redemption.

I believe it was not a coincidence that this production company or this script landed in Pedro’s lap.  Like the prayer that moved mountains and connected Rosa and I, my prayers for Pedro’s music were again answered in heavenly ways.

Projected release date, July 2014

Projected release date, July 2014

Two Years in the Making

At this season of my life, I am often in awe of all the perfectly timed coincidences that have fallen into place between my Spanish family and me: the timing of the passing of Rosa’s and my mothers, how my trip to Spain came to fruition and its timing, and now, most assuredly, the recognition of Pedro’s musical talent beyond our friends and families.

It was two years ago this week that Pedro’s CD of original compositions, Introducing Pedro González Arbona, first went online at CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon.  What started on a whim and a nudge from God launched Pedro into a professional music and film career, and stepped him into his dreams.  It’s hard to watch these music milestones from 5,300 miles across the globe, but I am very blessed to know that God has done more than I could ever have imagined (Ephesians 3:20).

~ To read about the exciting premiere of ‘Always Together’ recently held in Madrid, check out Part 2 of this series..  To experience his music for yourself, click any of the links below to hear an original composition from the ‘Thirst for Love’ soundtrack, ©2013 Pedro González Arbona, or check out Pedro’s video page of this site.

If this is your first time hearing about the music of Pedro González Arbona, check out his website at pgarbona.com, or “The Music” page on my site for more information about how his music was discovered.  You can support his music career by liking his Facebook page, Pedro Gonzalez Arbona, Composer.

Updated 2/12/2015: The Tempting Fate soundtrack with Pedro’s music released today and is available on Amazon and iTunes. The movie will be released across Nigeria on July 17, 2015.

España Update 3 ~ The Lifestyle

Like other Mediterranean countries, the Spanish lifestyle is steeped in tradition—from the pace of the day, to the food they eat, and more.  It is so very different from America.  Living with my Spanish family has given me a bird’s eye view into the typical Spanish home.

Thanks to hours of Skype calls and dozens of emails with Pedro and his family over the past three years, I knew a lot about the Spanish lifestyle and culture prior to my arrival.  I was ready to blend right in—or so I thought.

For all of the prep I did, language, exercising, dieting, etc., the one thing I didn’t consider was my hair color.  With my red hair, it is like I am wearing a sign that says “Soy Americana.” Other than that, I am doing everything in my control to live like a Spaniard.  Here’s an idea of what that is like.

Standing out with my red hair and enjoying the laid back lifestyle Spanish style (with Sangria).

Standing out with my red hair and enjoying the laid back lifestyle Spanish style (with Sangria).

Pace of Life

The Spanish lifestyle is much slower paced than in the U.S.  However, my personal pace of life has been very hectic as we tour parts of the country and sightsee almost daily.  The Spanish are hard workers, putting in a full day’s work, from 9AM to 7PM, but also fitting in a long lunch for the traditional summer siesta.  In the summer, families usually take a month long holiday (vacation), like I am now.

The Spanish pace of life revolves around their scheduled meal times.  With no set time to wake up in the morning in my family, breakfast (desayuno) for each of us has been on our own.  The mid-day meal, lunch or almuerzo, is generally at 2:00 in the afternoon.  Unlike America, lunch is the main meal of the day.  It is served in courses, with all family members finishing each course before moving on to the next.

Rosa wheels a cart with the family dinner to the dining area.

Rosa wheels a cart with the family dinner to the dining area.

The Siesta

With a big mid-day meal and an uncomfortably hot summer climate, the traditional siesta is definitely in order after lunch.  In America, I usually get a bit drowsy after lunch, but I fight the urge because I always have so much to do.

Before I arrived in Spain, Pedro asked me if I was going to participate in the Spanish tradition of siesta.  I laughed and told him I was planning on writing during the daily siesta time.  He jokingly told me the siesta is the best invention since electricity.  And now, four weeks later, I have to agree; I love the siesta.  Sadly that means my writing has suffered.

30 minute siesta to rest and rejuvenate.

30 minute siesta to rest and rejuvenate.

When I awake from my siesta, I feel refreshed and ready to continue on with my day.  The siesta splits my day in two and makes me feel like I fit more into the day.  The next several hours of the day are always very productive.  While in Madrid I tried to spend this time of the day with Pedro working on music projects or we would go out exploring.

When was the last time you answered your body’s call for an afternoon nap?  The equivalent in America would be the power nap—a rare luxury—something I am seriously considering instituting when I return home.

End of the Day

In America, the late afternoon hours are a sign of the end of the day. In Spain, there are still many more hours of productivity left in the day.

Between 9 and 10 PM when Americans are settling down for the evening and getting ready to call it a day, the Spanish are coming alive.  This is the normal time for dinner.  In my family home, dinner is followed by a late night movie, ending the day at midnight or later. (My tired body would normally fall asleep shortly after the start of the movie.)

Outdoor seating is common at restaurants in Spain.

Outdoor seating is common at restaurants in Spain.

For the young, or young at heart, the night is still early.  Many nights Pedro would go out late with his friends. I have experienced a few late night evenings while traveling in Spain with Pedro’s family.

I haven’t experienced the disco or bar scene per se, but I have been privy to the familial connections that transpires at these outings.  They aren’t necessarily drunken parties that the American news channels love to exploit.  They are times to relax with friends and family over a light and long leisurely dinner, usually tapas (appetizers), and drinks.

Two More Weeks

Today’s post marks the end of four weeks in Spain.  My time on the mainland is now complete, leaving Madrid and Pedro’s piano behind a few days ago.  I have captured nearly 3,000 photos on my adventure.

Blogging on the Wifi in Puerta de Soller, Mallorca, Spain

Blogging on the Wifi in Puerta de Soller, Mallorca, Spain

I am currently on Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain, on holiday with my family.  I will return home directly from here two weeks from today.  ¡Hasta la vista!

~ If this is your first time visiting my blog, you can start reading about my Spanish travels here.

España Update 2 ~ Adjusting to Life in Spain

Writing doesn’t come easy in Spain.  In fact, it seems that not much of anything comes easy for me here.  That isn’t at all an indictment of the family I am staying with or the Spanish life.  It is just an indication of how different everything has been for me to adjust too.

Grateful to be reading chapter upon chapter of this part of the world.

Grateful to be reading chapter upon chapter of this part of the world.

Sure I am having the time of my life.  I am seeing amazing historical and religious sites.  I am living with a family that I adore.  But with a mid-life body, an American way of life that is entrenched in me, and having a 5,300-mile and a nine-hour time difference between friends and family, it has been hard to adapt.

I have come to realize that there are so many things that we take for granted in the US.  We don’t think about how different everyday life is in other parts of the world.

Most Americans don’t get an opportunity to experience living in a foreign country.  Those that do are generally doing it through a work requirement, a missionary trip or as part of an educational exchange program.

In light of that, I thought it would be of interest to share some of the adjustments I had to make to live in Spain and a few differences between our two countries.

Mediterranean Food

One of the biggest adjustments for me has been the food.  A few months prior to my trip, I made radical changes in my diet to get healthier—doing a cleanse and eliminating allergens like wheat and milk.  I was amazed at how much better I felt.  I knew it would be difficult to maintain this new diet, especially since bread (pan) is such an integral part of the Spanish diet.  The first few days I declined the bread, but that didn’t last.

Drinking gazpacho, a chilled tomato based soup.

Drinking gazpacho, a chilled tomato based soup.

Now I am embracing and experiencing all of the Mediterranean food I can, eating things I’d never dream of trying in America.  I have many favorites including some that Pedro prepared for us in his previous stays in our home, like gazpacho.  My food adventures will be fodder for another full blog post though.  İEs muy delicioso!

It’s Hot in Spain!

Another radical adjustment for me has been adapting to the heat.  Thankfully I leave for the Balearic Islands and cooler temperatures in two days.

The first week of my trip, the temperatures were in the 90s.  Pedro’s family kept telling me how lucky I was to be here with the cooler temperatures.  Last week, the mercury in the thermometer rose past 100 degrees and has remained there most days.  (I’ve also had to adjust to Celsius versus Fahrenheit temperature readings.)

Hace calor! 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hace calor! 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

For me, it hasn’t been just a matter of adjusting to the heat, it has also been staying hydrated.  We have been out sightseeing almost every day.  I finally wised up to carrying a bottle of water (aqua) with me whenever I leave the flat.  By the time lunch rolls around at 2PM—another adjustment—a chilled beer (cerveza) or glass of summer wine (tinto de verano) is in order to quench my thirst.

Unlike America, air conditioning isn’t as available–including the cathedrals and monuments I’ve visited.  At night I sleep with the windows open and a ceiling fan running—the same as I would at home in Seattle.  A shower doesn’t seem to help during the day either as I’m sweating as soon as I dry off.

Avoiding the Heat

One way women keep refreshed in the heat is by carrying a fan (abanico).  I carry my fan with me everywhere I go, a gift from Rosa a few years ago.  I’d probably stand out like a sore thumb in the States if I used it, but here, it is a common site.

The best way to avoid the heat though is by taking a traditional siesta (afternoon nap).  The siesta doesn’t necessary require sleeping, but is used to relax in other ways as well, to read the paper, watch a movie, etc.  It is a way of slowing down and not doing activity during the heat of the day.

Abanicos in a Spanish shop window

Abanicos in a Spanish shop window

Most shops even close a few hours in the afternoon due to siesta.  Only tourists and those unfamiliar with Spanish custom would dare be out in the streets at that time of the day.  I love siesta and how recharged I feel when I awake.

Hopefully that gives you a feel for some of the differences.  Stay tuned for more information about the Spanish lifestyle and sights of this amazing country–my home away from home for three more weeks.

~ If this is your first time visiting my blog, you can start reading about my Spanish travels here.

España Update 1 ~ The Longest Day

I knew that dealing with a 9-hour time difference and jet lag would be a difficult process.  I had watched Pedro do it twice before when he visited our home.  Both times he was a real trooper, immediately attending welcome parties and staying up late on his first night in America to do a gift exchange with our family.

During the first few days of my stay in Spain, several times Pedro said to me, “Now you know what it felt like for me.  It was horrible.”  And now I agree.

The Longest Day

Actually I think I did quite well, all things considered.  I managed to get 30 minutes of sleep, basically a cat nap, the night before I left.  When my alarm clock went off at 3:15 in the morning, I felt ready for the day.  I had dreamed of this day and meeting Rosa many times in the months, weeks and days preceding my trip.  I hoped for lots of sleep on the plane and knew my adrenaline rush would get me through the day.

Approaching Madrid from the air.

Approaching Madrid from the air.

The flight and my first days in Spain are a complete blur in my memory.  What I can clearly recall is that it felt like the longest day of my life—and it was.  By the time my head hit the pillow for my first night’s sleep in Spain, 40 hours had physically passed.

Touchdown Madrid

The anticipation grew as I negotiated the Spanish airport signs, long corridors and what seemed like an eternity waiting for my baggage to slide down the carousel.  I expected long lines to get through Customs as well, but the agent barely gave me or my passport a second look.

I was so excited to communicate my first Spanish words to someone—even just a passing “Hola” or “Buenas dias” would’ve been enough to confirm I was on Spanish soil.  But no, he was just pushing paper and not at all interested in the journey I had physically, emotionally and spiritually traveled to get to this time and place.

Navigating Barajas International Airport in Madrid

Navigating Barajas International Airport in Madrid

With Customs cleared and baggage dragging behind me, I knew my next stop, per se, was connecting with Pedro’s family.  More importantly, it was meeting Rosa face to face for the first time.  My camera was ready in hand and somewhere in Madrid’s Barajas International Airport, Rafa, Pedro’s father, was waiting with his camera perched to capture this moment for me.  The only problem was I had no idea around what corner we would meet.  And then it happened.

Meeting at the airport

Meeting at the airport

Meeting Rosa

A large set of opaque sliding glass doors opened wide to reveal a group of people standing behind a gated area.  I heard cheers and saw smiling faces.  I think I even heard my name; and then I made visual contact with Pedro and his family.

Rosa was definitely excited.  She was shouting my name in her thick Spanish accent and didn’t let the metal barricade keep her from rushing up to greet me.  I reciprocated with the standard European hug, a cheek kiss on both sides of the face.  All of our initial words and greetings are now gone from my memory, but the excitement of those first moments are still lingering.

First Hours in Spain

When I got to their home, all I wanted to do was eat and go to sleep, but travelers are recommended to get on the new time zone by forgetting the time difference and embracing the current hour of the day.  My body knew it was after midnight back home, but at my new home the day was just starting.  Ay, (Spanish for ‘oh my gosh’)! I dreaded the thought of getting through this day without sleep.

Pedro and family outside his former school.

Pedro and family outside his former school.

My host family did allow me to take my first siesta later though.  It was sandwiched between two walks in the neighborhood.  On our first walk I was delighted as we toured the Catholic school Pedro attended from 1st-12th grade.  The halls were lined with the framed first communion photos from previous year’s classes.  What a treat to see Pedro’s young face and proud moment plastered on the school wall along with some of his friends, who at this point I only knew by name.

Our second walk was to Retiro Park, similar to Central Park in New York City.  I found my first geocache here—one I remembered Pedro telling me about two years prior.  Now it was my turn to “log a smilie”.  That’s geocaching lingo for finding a cache.  My camera, and my feet, got a real workout on both of my outings.

My first geocache in Spain, Retiro Park, Madrid.

My first geocache in Spain, Retiro Park, Madrid.

Priceless Memories

The real highlights of this longest day were the heart connections that confirmed my love for this family and why I traveled around the world to be here.  My first was watching Pedro play the piano minutes after my arrival to their home.  No words could describe the pride and joy that filled me in this moment—three years in the making.  And then when Rosa joined us, well, the tears naturally came too.

Later in the day when I awoke from my siesta, Pedro’s music was filling the flat again, and my senses.  Rosa and I had some quiet time together with his music playing in the background.  It was all so surreal to me, like a movie soundtrack was playing in the background.  It was priceless.

Pedro at the piano

Pedro at the piano

After 12 days in Spain, I have adjusted to a new way of living and my beloved Spanish family. What I haven’t adjusted to though is how and when to write.  I originally thought I’d be writing during the traditional siesta time, but I have fallen in love with my siesta.  Today I have foregone it to finish this post that was started days ago.

There is so much happening, so many sights, and so much emotion.  I am pushing myself hard to keep up with all we are doing.  What my mind and fingers don’t have time to capture on the computer, my camera is capturing ‘on film’.  That is enough to keep me writing and blogging back home for the months to come.

I am sending much love to my family and friends back home and beyond who made this trip possible.  It is a dream come true.  It is especially for them that I am writing today.  Tomorrow I will siesta again.

Until we meet again, que tenga un buen dia. (Have a good day.)

Rosa & me beaming over Pedro's music and the delight of finally meeting.

Rosa & me beaming over Pedro’s music and the delight of finally meeting.

  • WELCOME to my site!

    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

    I am thankful to God for Making Me Bold in the process. Now I use my writing and speaking voice to help others on their journey to turn healing into hope.

  • Returning to Spain

    Arrival on Spanish SoilApril 29th, 2018
    Vamos a España!
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