Friday, July 28, 2006


I met Nelson while I was at the train station in Córdoba, Spain, waiting to go to Barcelona. There was a man sitting across from me staring as I was sewing my daypack together. He was staring hard and unblinking, making me extremely uncomfortable. I proceeded to ignore him and kept sewing. I was still waiting on my friend, Matteo, and wondering where he was. He was late!

After a while, the staring man got up. Next thing I know, he was beside me handing me something I had dropped, saying nothing. I thanked him and he asked me my name. He told me he was Nelson and had been living in Spain for about eight years. He was originally from Nigeria and was on his way to Barcelona for business. We continued to talk for a while, then Matteo showed up 20 minutes before my train left. Matteo and I embraced like long lost friends. He shook Nelson's hand while I introduced them. Matteo led me away as I looked back and bid Nelson adieu. I'd really enjoyed taking to Nelson. He had a powerful & dignified presence. Very admirable. We were both leaving for Barcelona, but on separate trains that left 10 minutes apart. Maybe I'll see him again in Barcelona.

On the train to Barcelona, I kept thinking about Nelson. He'd left quite an impression with his quiet, power, dignified presence. I decided I'd wait for him when I got to Barcelona. After all, our trains would arrive within 10 minutes of each other. When I arrived in Barcelona, I went to find out on which platform the other train from Córdoba would arrive. I waited & waited, but no train for Córdoba. Thinking the train may arrive on a different platform, I found a spot to sit where I had a good view of all stairs leading from the underground platforms. While waiting, I ate a breakfast of fresh fruit. I'd received an email from my friend, Greg, that he and his cousin were arriving later, so I wasn't worried about getting to the hotel any time soon.

Neary 1 1/2 hours had passed & I was still waiting. I was thinking how silly to sit and wait on some strange man in Spain. I'd never do anything like that at home! Even so, I wasn't going to miss the chance of running into him. After a while, it was time to go meet my friends so I gave it up and decided to leave. With so many people moving about, I must've missed him. I gathered up my backpack & daypack and prepared to find a bus to the hotel. As I was leaving, I glanced over at the ticket windows and saw a man standing extremely straight and tall. He looked so dignified and kingly! I immediately thought of Nelson, but the shirt was different. Still, not very many men seem so kingly. I decided to walk closer to get a better look. It was him! He was surprised to see me. I played it off like I had business at the station and it was a coincidence that we'd run into each other. He asked where I was headed and I told him I was on my way to meet my friends at the hotel. He said he'd like to spend more time with me and asked me out to lunch after he'd taken care of his business. I said yes. He offered to get a cab and drop me off at my hotel. I said, "No thanks," but he insisted. He was very take-charge. After we arrived at the hotel, he walked me in and got the number to the hotel so he could call me later. (He and the clerk discussed how well I spoke Spanish with little accent. I beamed.) There was a note from Greg that they were in temporary room until ours was ready, so I bid Nelson goodbye and went upstairs.

After chatting with Greg and his cousin, Angie. I took a quick nap and shower. Nelson called for lunch, as planned. I explained my lunch date to my friends and agreed to meet them later. Angie asked in a surprised voice if I'd just met him, since I called him friend. I told her, "Yes." I didn't even try to explain how things seemed different when you travel. I didn't quite understand the phenomenon myself. I never would've done what what I did back home in the USA. It wasn't like I was all free and let my guard down in Spain, either. As a matter of fact, I was very cautious being on my own in a foreign country. Perhaps because everyone was so friendly and I felt safe. There had been a few moments of unease, but never any incident. Either way, Matteo, Nelson, Catherine, Toby, Glena, Hierom, Lamine, and everyone else I met were really good people who helped me and enhanced my experience in some way. I never felt that anyone was out to get me or take advantage of me in some way, as often is the feeling back home with strangers.

Okay, so Nelson came to collect me from the hotel and he met Angie and Greg. He asked what I wanted to eat & I decided on Chinese. We walked to a very nice restaurant where the food and dessert were really good. Nelson was extremely attentive and anticipated my every need. He talked to me about how he came to Spain not knowing the language and how he would play soccer with the local children who taught and corrected him. He was very patient and taught me some verb tenses and encouraged me to keep learning the language when I returned home. He also told me he has a little girl and owns a store. He was very patient and taught me some verb tenses and encouraged me to keep learning the language when I returned home.

Nelson asked me several times to return to Córdoba where he would find me a job teaching English. It sounded interesting, but I declined. (I'd love to live in Spain someday, but Madrid calls me.) Nelson worried that I would forget him when I returned to the States and wanted us to keep in touch. As we parted, Nelson didn't want to let go. I've written before how affectionate Spaniards are, so I was only a little surprised. He wanted multiple goodbye hugs until I firmly told him I had to go. I gave him my number and took his email address. Afterwards, he called my room several times while I was out with my friends. So much so, the front desk found it comical.

He's called three times since I've been back, but I wasn't able to talk during the wee hours he would call. I guess he didn't account for the time difference. Sadly, I never returned the calls, but I did send him an email about 8 months later. Nelson needn't have worried that I would forget him. Meeting him was a very memorable experience and perhaps we'll cross paths again someday.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pig Pen

On one of my first nights here, I was in the shower and happened to look down. To my surprise & dismay, the water was all brown! "Ewwww!" I thought. "They got bad pipes in Spain!" (My thoughts don't have to be grammatically correct.) So I looked up at the water coming out of the showerhead. It was clear as a bell. As it turned out, what was going down the drain was good ol' fashioned dirt & it was coming from me. Ain' been this dirty since I was a kid.

Since then, I've measured the productivity of my day by this. My days are jam-packed with activity and it shows. Beginning at 8:00 AM 'til at least 10 PM, I am on the move, walking an average of 7 - 10 miles per day. The only 2 days I wasn't so "productive" was the time spent in Nerja where the beach was my refuge and relaxation. Other days you could've referred to me as Charlie Brown's Pig Pen, as the dust and grit of the city was all over me after exploring it from top to bottom.

The Breeze in Spain

I know the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain, but the breeze in Spain blows gently & refreshingly. I wish I could record and post it here. After long, hot days, it's like nature is saying, "It's okay, child. I'm here to cool you off now." It's like in addition to the sun going down, a cool breeze is thrown in for an additional respite. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Just Chillin'

It's a nice, pleasant Tuesay evening and I'm sitting here on the plaza in front of the Cathedral in Sevilla. It's 10:30 PM & I've just walked the route I'll take to get to the bus stop in the morning in order to get to the train station so I can be on my way to Córdoba.

As usual, young and old alike are milling about. Mopeds are noisily roaring by and horse carriages are clip-clopping along. Overhead, birds are circling & squawk-chirping. All of these sights & sounds are the #1 reason I didn't bring a headset with me. I wanted to indulge my senses in all of the sights and sounds of the country. It's nice to sit and wallow in the night-time goings on of Spanish culture. I am delighted. This is exactly what I've always dreamed of doing; wandering through the streets of Spain soaking up the culture and the language.

"Why Spain?" everyone would ask. Well, I've been interested in the language ever since I received a Lil' T. Tuff Spanish coloring book in the 2nd grade. It was my first exposure to another language. I've been fascinated ever since.

...And Miles to go Before I Sleep

Whew! I have been all over mid and southern España and only have about two more cities to do. So far, I´ve been to Madrid, Toledo, Avila, Segovia, El Escorial (and Valley of the Dead), Aranjuez, back to Madrid, Granada, Nerja, Frigiliana, Tarifa, Sevilla, La Línea, Málaga, and the Rock of Gibraltar. Every place has something to offer!

I think I'm leaving Spain on Sunday after my last city. I look forward to next time when I come back to complete the north. It's been an amazing experience and I have 652 pictures to prove it!

Monday, July 24, 2006

Cristóbal Colón

Hot & not wanting to spend precious euros on entry fees, I wandered into a free exhibition to beat the heat and take advantage of a little history that wasn't in the guidebook and best of all, gratis (free). The exhibit piqued my curiosity because it talked about Indians and I figured they didn't mean India's Indians. I was right. When I got inside, I saw maps and pictures of Native Americans in America. Then there was a series of maps showing the progress of colonization in America. I also saw intermittent pics of a guy named Colón.

Finished with the downstairs, I went upstairs where the entire floor was dedicated to Colón. Now, I started to pay attention. India, Native Americans, Nuevo País...I remember it all from history, but there's no Colón guy in my high school memory bank. *light bulb* OHHH! Now, I'm looking at the whole name; Cristóbal Colón with references to the reyes (King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel). Could it be Christopher Columbus? If so, how'd his name get changed over in English, especially the last part? Okay, it has to be him. I read through the rest of the exhibit, which is in Spanish of course. I needed to verify, though.

To the guard: ¿Habla usted inglés?

Guard: Un poco.

Me: Cristóbal Colón es Christopher Columbus, si?

Guard: Yes, yes!

Okay. Whew! So my deductive reasoning skills and limited knowledge of Spanish served me well. It's interesting to read other cultures' perspectives on history. The exhibit focused on how Cristóbal Colón helped spread the Spanish culture throughout the new world. That isn't the point of view I was taught in history class. Interestingly enough, I met a couple from Australia, who told me about new research that Cristóbal was not the first to "discover" America, but the Chinese. As a matter of fact, good ol' Cris used their maps. It's all chronicled in the book 1421, which I can't wait to read. See how travel broadens your perspectives?

When in Spain...

I've always wanted to sunbathe in the traditional sense & get brown all over. However, black folks don't do that. We do not lie out naked in the sun. Instead, I've settled for tanning my back at times so it wouldn't be so pale in comparison to my arms when wearing low-back tops in the summer.

But, me as I am, I've always wanted more. I wanted all of the front of me to be a pretty brown, too. Well I found the perfect opportunity in Nerja (pronounced Near-Ha). At the beach, women were sunning topless.

Dare I???

Did I??

Let's just say I'm a shade browner all over.


Sunday, July 23, 2006

Next time...

I'm bringing...

  1. Lighter (less heavy) shoes
  2. Beach towel
  3. Bikini
  4. Laptop
  5. Sturdier daypack
  6. Thinner undies (they dry faster)
  7. Highlighter (for maps)

  1. Peppermint soap
  2. OB's
  3. Money in my budget
  4. Shea butter
  5. Contact lens solution

  1. Clothes
  2. Magazines

French Kiss

As I hiked happily alone down the Rock of Gibraltar, I ran into a nice, young man and asked him the way to the bus stop so I could cross the border back into Spain. He told me I could wait where he was waiting for a bus or continue walking down into the city via the Castle Steps. I'd come this far, so I decided to keep walking.

Halfway down, I heard footsteps behind me. As it turned out, cute, French Hierom wanted to walk with me, so we walked & talked until we got to the border. He even waited patiently at the border crossing while I searched for my passport and again while I purchased my bus ticket to Sevilla. As we parted, we took a picture, then he gave me the infamous French kiss goodbye.

Wow, my first real French kiss! hotels in norfolk (BTW, that's a kiss on each cheek versus the tongued-out version common with Americans.)

What's in a Name?

Moreno! Negrita! That's what the men here call me.

Why is it that men choose to call me by my skin color? Not just here in Spain, either. An ex calls me Black Girl. I've also been Chocolate Girl, Chocolate Star, Island Brown, etc. So whether they know my name or not, my skin color seems to be the title of choice.

Well, while I'm here in Spain, there's never a misunderstanding as to who they're referring to as I am often the only "Negrita" around.

It doesn't matter. After all, what's in a name? My name of choice: Child of GOD.


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Mi Pelo (My Hair)

I am lovin' my hair here on the Costa del Sol. The seaside city of Tarifa is absolutely gorgeous. With the mix of sea (Mediterranean) and oceanic (Atlantic) mist and overall humidity, so is my hair. It looks and feels amazing! I already can't keep my hands out of it. Now I seriously have to make a conscious effort.

Currently, I am sporting the best twistout of my life. I'm not gon' even take another dip in the sea or ocean. I don't feel bad about it 'cause it's too windy to go dippin' anyway. My hair is sho' blowin' in the wind, wild and free.

GOD, thank YOU for this
This wind,
This breeze,
And air.

Thank YOU for
My beautiful,
Nappy hair.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

The more traditional, historical Spanish cities have an obsession with bells. Installed in many churches hundreds of years ago, they have been a mainstay ever since. They chime every hour on the hour. It's quite charming until...BONG! 2am. BONG! 3am. BONG! 4 am.

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Little Things Mean a Lot

As I've traveled around Spain these last few weeks, I've found that the littlest things mean a lot. Nothing is to be taken for granted, especially when your whole world is in a backpack. I learned be thankful for the smallest conveniences.

Here's a list of my little things that meant so much and why.

  • $5 watch from Target - 24:00 time keeper (Spain utilizes the 24 hour clock), date keeper, alarm clock, glow-in-the-dark time teller, especially for those wee hour awakenings when it was time to catch the bus or train.
  • pen flashlight - Useful for dark hallways, finding the light switch in a new room in the middle of the night, and when the lights went out that night at Hostel Metropol in Madrid.
  • $1 mini-sewing kit - For repairing my failing daypack.
  • 1 € (Euro) - Equates to three 2.5 liters of bottled water, lunch, bus fare, or an ice cream cone.
  • $1 four-pack of travel tissue - For the many, many times there was none in public restrooms.
  • Pentel, my favorite pen - Enabled me to journal my experience, write home, jot notes & time tables for travel, phone numbers, and prices. (Luckily I took two. I laid one down with my journal for a minute and somebody swiped the pen.)
  • $2 flip flops from JC Penney's - To allow my feet to breathe and bathe sanitarily in foreign showers.
  • 6€ phone card - 300 minutes to the US so I can call friends and family to let them know my whereabouts.
  • 2 ft string - My clothes line.


Yes, you can do Spain on €25-35/day...if you don't go anywhere or do anything. While I budgeted for travel from city to city, I didn't budget for inner city bus fare for times when it was absolutely necessary, attraction admission fees and other incidentals.

Here's where I went over budget...

  • Museums & other admission fees
  • Inner city bus fare, i.e. Mirador in Granada
  • Lost sunglasses (replacement) - €9
  • Extra lodging - extra night in Nerja (WORTH IT!) & 1 night stuck in Aranjuez
  • Phone cards - €17
  • Internet cafes
  • Lost money - €20 (that hurt!)
  • Increased fare to Barcelona because of last minute ticket purchase
Total - ≈ €180

Luckily I'd budgeted to go overbudget by about $200 (US), so I was okay. I will use this experience to budget wisely for next year's excursion.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What I Miss About America

  1. My mommy
  2. My extended family
  3. Laptop
  4. Customer Service
  5. Personal internet connection
  6. Toilet paper and soap in public restrooms
  7. Gospel Music
  8. Soul Food
  9. Ability to buy my favorite veggies in restaurants
  10. Glad Rags
  11. People saying "excuse me" and waiting their turn.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

El Balcón de Europa

I'm sitting here on the Balcony of Europe, watching & listening to the waves of the Mediterranean roll in. It's 10:45 PM here in Nerja and the nightly paseo is in full effect. Babies and old alike are enjoying this magical evening.

It's almost time for me to head back to my room. I'm a wee bit tired. I arrived in town today with no hotel plans so I got an early start to begin looking. I found one of the best rates in town at €25/night. That's super cheap for this over-priced, but beautiful, seaside resort town. It's also the nicest room I've stayed in thus far. It's large with a private bath, three towels, two stoppers, A/C and TV. A very nice retreat after my last room which was wonderfully priced @ €15/night. It was also matchbox-sized, making it the smallest room I've stayed in. I had to stand outside of the room in order to take a picture.

After I settled in, I picked up lunch at the market, visited the Cuevas Nerja (Caves of Nerja) , purchased a used English/Spanish dictionary for €4 at a used bookstore, lost €16 , and had 1/2 ración varied fried fish. I don't know what all was on that plate, but I took a deep breath and ate most of it. I know there was monkfish, which I've found I like immensely, calamaritos, a new fave, too, squid, sardines, shrimp, crayfish, seahorse(?), and some other things. Did NOT like the fried sardines & seahorse! The fish is totally different here. No perch, grouper, snapper, or catfish. I like the differences, though. That's why I was bold enough to try all that was strange on my plate. Normally, I would've been like, "Ewww!"

Caves of Nerja

When I get back to my room I have some serious laundry to do. I got the whole tub fulla clothes. I'll set my clothesline up and everything should be dry by tomorrow eve, ready to be packed. It's getting cool out here. ~Later~

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Monday, July 17, 2006

España es para Amantes (Spain is for lovers)

Everywhere you look, couples in Spain are holding hands, kissing, groping, you name it. There was even one guy holding open the top of his girl's tank top and having a look-see at her goodies. I'm pretty sure the twins looked the same way they did last night.

While the younger couples are more demonstrative and flagrant, the older couples are more subtle & sweet. 80-year-old couples walk down the street holding hands. They obviously know how to be like Keith Sweat and "make it last forever." It's enough to make a sistah re-thank (re-think for those of you not familiar with Ebonics) this relationship thang. Could it be folks? Who knows? Stay tuned!

Where There's Smoke

...there's a Spaniard. The "No Smoking" campaign doesn't seem to have caught on in Spain. There are smokers EVERYWHERE! There are even signs on the doors of many establishments alerting smokers that they are indeed welcome to light up.

I am choking over here! I'll be sitting down in a quiet park or on a square writing, reading, or simply chillin' and someone will come sit next to me & light up without a second thought. Of course, I can't ask them not to. After all, it's their country. I'm not sure if my getting up & moving to another spot is any less rude.

While I'm enjoying atmospherically cleaner, fresher air than the US, the toxic fumes piping from its citizens is suffocating.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Mucho Gusto en Conocerle (Nice Meeting You)

Today, while purchasing a ticket back to Madrid at the bus station in Aranjuez, a superly, deliciously, chocolatey brotha sat down next to me and began speaking softly in French. I pretended not to hear him so he'd have to keep talking. I finally acknowledged him & he began to speak to me in English. D@mn! I was lovin' the French!

Anyway, his name is Lamine and he's originally from New Guinea, living in Madrid for the past 5 years. He and a friend own a grocery store. We conversed for a while about this and that, then I had to get back to my side of town. He wanted to keep in touch, if that was okay with me, so he gave me his email address. Shoot, I'm learning French after Spanish.

Pinching Euros in Spain

I'm sitting in Pans & Co, a local Subway/Quiznos-type restaurant, listening to Aaliyah over the loudspeakers & eating, and began to calculate what I've spent today.

Breakfast: Cereal & hot coco @ hostal = $0

Lunch: 1/2 loaf of bread from yesterday's sandwiches @ the market, patatas fritas purchased 3 days ago in Toledo (still fresh), cookies from breakfast, water purchased yesterday in Cercedilla ( 2 liters for .33) = $0

The Prado: Free on Sundays = $0

Reina Sofia Museum: Free on Sundays = $0

Super tasty Magnum ice cream €1.50

Dinner: 1/2 bocadillo, grande ensalada, fresca - €4.75

Hostel stay: €17

Grand total: €23.25

Greco From a Gecko

I have seen so many Grecos since I've been in Spain it ain't even funny. Considered one Spain's greatest artists, the work of Dominikos Theotokópulos, a.k.a. El Greco, is on display in churches and museums throughout the country. Never having an overwhelming interest in art, I have become a huge admirer of El Greco (The Greek). I even raced through the uphill, winding streets of Toledo (pronounced Tow-lay-do) the other day hoping to catch his exhibit before it closed. Not only did I make it in time, I got in free with my handy dandy International Teacher´s Card. (Yay for a saved €3.50.) I'll have to study his life in greater detail when I get home.

I'm so enthralled I'm returning to the Prado in Madrid to catch another glimpse and play my personal game of A Greco or Not and Name the Greco. His use of emotion, color, and light mesmerize me. The painting shown is one of my favorites. It's titled, The Spoliation (The Disrobing of CHRIST), which is on display in the Sacristy of the Cathedral in Toledo. It shows CHRIST surrounded by Roman soldiers as he's about to be stripped in public. The ladies in the bottom corner look away in modesty and focus on the man in corner who's readying the Cross for the Crucifixion. A very moving piece.

Thanks to Spain, I can now tell a Greco from a gecko.

Rolls Off My Tongue Like Honey

While walking & reading, I almost ran into this little old lady. "¡Lo siento, Señora!" was my immediate response. I find myself doing that more and more; responding in Spanish first. I guess when English isn´t an option, you have no choice.

I'm beginning to understand spoken Spanish better, too. It sounds crisper and clearer to me here than in the US. I look forward to picking up my study of the language when I get back. I need to be fluent by my next trip, which will include northern Spain and Portugal. Wanna join me?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hostel Metropol

I'm waiting in the rec room of Hostel Metropol during my second trip to Madrid, Spain. This would be my first stay at a hostel & I'm waiting to see if they have a bed available. (That's what happens when you show up in a city without reservations.) Woohoo! There's free Internet! Gotta check my mail. It's been days.

Okay, there is a bed and I'll share a room with a girl from Germany & a guy. I haven't met him yet. I didn't know it was co-ed. There's also no air, no towels, one flat sheet, & street noise. There IS free breakfast, free Internet, a bathroom in the room, and only €17/night. (You get what you pay for, right? Thank goodness I brought my own towels and sleep sheet. Good thing I had a flashlight, too, because the lights went out for a few hours one night.) I'm overjoyed a bed's available, though, because they were full when I called, so I simply showed up with a prayer. I did not feel like lugging my pack all over town in hopes of finding a room.

It felt good being in Madrid; familiar. I got lost on the Metro for hours, but I sure know how to use that sucka now & it's not such a mystery maze to me. After I dropped my pack off in the room, I headed to Cercedilla which I'd missed earlier in my trip. I wanted to try one of the hiking trails, but I got into the city too late. Not many trains stop in Cercedilla. I basically explored the simple non-descript town, which had beautiful views. I took some pictures & found my mommy a postcard. Afterwards, I headed back to Madrid.

My roommate, Katherine was cool. We had so much in common it was scary. We only saw our male roommate briefly. He'd partied all night, so he came in about 4am and left about 6am. I was so tired, the street noise lulled me to sleep without a problem. Breakfast was good the next morning, too. I think I'll stay another night.

View in Cercedilla

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Friday, July 14, 2006

An Unexpected Stay

It's Friday, July 14th. Today, I'd planned to stop in Aranjuez to eat some of their famous strawberries then be on my merry way to Cuenca. When I went to check what time the next bus to Cuenca leaves, imagine my surprise when I was told LUNES! What?! I know Spanish well enough, I suppose, so I know Lunes is Monday in English, but still... Anyway, I asked 4x just to be sure. I even left, then went back to the window & the frustrated attendant pointed to a calendar for me. Oh well, I guess I'm spending the night. Thank GOD a hotel wasn't far away. I checked in for €21.

Single Room - 21
This room only has one bed so it seems larger than the others. It has a sink and a fan, too! The fan is most welcome since the last room had no A/C. After washing some items, (Yippee! The sink has a stopper) I went out to see what else Aranjuez has to offer besides fresones (large strawberries). I made my way to the tourist office where the attendant spoke a little English. He was more than happy to practice on me. When I left there with map in tow, I visited some gardens left by royalty past, and walked around the city in general. I found some fresh strawberries con nata (with cream) and they were awesome! Definitely worth the trip.
Strawberries with Cream
During my continued exploration of the city, I saw a woman of color who looked like she could be American. I've been in Spain long enough to know that you rarely find someone who speaks English, so here I go. ¿Habla, usted, inglés o español? Her response: "I'm from New York. " I was overjoyed! She was a teacher on a three-week language program in Madrid and was in Aranjuez on a day trip because it wasn't in her guidebook. She wanted to go someplace different. She asked me how to get to the bus station, so I walked her to it. I'd been here all of two hours. I'm directionally challenged, so this was a personal triumph for me. (Finding my way around Spain by myself, without anyone to rely on, really helped my map-reading skills.)

Next, I walked to the train station to check on trains to Cuenca. Too expensive, so I'll take the bus to Madrid instead. At the station, I met a girl from Sweden. She was in town for a two-week work camp for people with AIDS. She was so excited. Shoot, how I can get involved in activities like the Swede and the New Yorker?

After sight-seeing and before grabbing dinner & returning to my room, I went to get water from the market I'd found earlier. They were out. No surprise at .45/1.5 liters, so I had to find another store. Outside, I met Juan (looked like a brotha) from Portugal. Between my broken Spanish & hand gestures, we exchanged names & info about where we're from. He kindly walked me to the supermercado, which wasn't very super, but it had my precious water.

Note to self: Learn to speak another language. Juan spoke Spanish, Portugese, and French and my Swedish friend spoke at least two.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Don´t Drink the Water!

And why not? Okay, okay. I must admit that I was afraid to drink the water based on all I´d read about my stomach not being used to the bactria over here, stick to bottled water, boil the water, put some kind of tablets in it to purify it, etc. Well, the first night I was here, I did my usual when dining out and ordered agua del grifo (plain ol´ water). I was on my 4th glass before I realized it and panicked. ¨Oh, NO!¨, I thought. I anticipated being up all night with diarrhea. My next thought was ¨I have a strong constitution, so I´ll be aiight.¨ And I was.

This is just one example of the many, many warnings I was given about traveling to Spain. From news reports of derailed trains, expected bouts of diarrhea, and overt racism, it´s a wonder I decided to come. I realize that as Americans, fear is a manufactured part of our daily lives. Just look at the news. Killings, murders, wars, threats of terrorism, etc. are the order of the day. If there is good news reported, it´s about some animal that´s been rescued. Thank goodness for Michael Moore´s movie, Fahrenheit 911, which brought that fact to my attention. In it, he made comparisons to news in Canada, which is remarkably more positive. Yes, the media must inform us of the bad, but there are more good things happening in our communities that could and should be reported.

Well, I am happy to report (come on in) the water´s fine, no one´s called me a nigger, and no one has mistaken me for a woman of the night. Although, on the latter, I did get some leering looks last night. I didn´t take it personally, though. I´d get those in the US if I were walking through downtown at 2 AM. No worries, ya´ll. We were coming back from a game of Scrabble in the park, which was packed. Spaniards seem to really enjoy life and want to remain awake for most of it.

Well, I´m on my way out of Madrid and will update the next time I run into a computer with Internet access. ¡Hasta luego!

Friday, July 07, 2006

First Class All the Way

When I initially found out how long the flight from Phoenix (via Philadephia) to Madrid was, I almost chose another destination. Departure was at 6:15 AM on Wednesday and arrival in Madrid was 8:30 AM on Thursday. What would I do with myself all that time?? Taking my entertainment bag was out of the question because I´d have to carry it all around Spain with me and there are only so many magazines & crossword puzzles a person can do.

As it turns out, I had absolutely nothing to fear. Although first class from Phoenix to Philly was full, Philly to Madrid was not. This would be my second time flying first class internationally, the first time being 4 years ago. That was nothing compared to this experience. (Perhaps Phoenix to Toronto, Canada doesn´t count.) Between the on-demand TV shows, movies, and music and the Sony noise reduction-like headsets, it was enough to keep a sistah entertained for hours.

Alas, I didn´t get to have a look-see at all that was offered. After a nice salad, dinner choices of Eastern Shore Crab Cakes (my choice), Texas Cowboy Chili Spiced Filet Mignon, or Mason Dixon Pecan Crusted Chicken and dessert of cheeses, fresh fruit, and chocolate mousse, you know what I was ready to do. I didn´t do it right away, though. 7:oo PM was too early to sleep, so I read through a Budget Travel and Ebony magazine. (Umm, umm, UMM! LL was on the cover.) Eventually, it got to me so I reclined my space shuttle-ish seat (capable of laying completely flat), cocooned myself in the ultra soft throw I was given and knocked out. When I woke up, we were landing in Madrid. Needless to say, it was the best sleep I had ever gotten on a plane.

I thanked GOD for a safe arrival and the opportunity for new and exciting experiences. I have been through some trials recently and have another battle to fight when I return home. I am thankful for them because I know they are designed to make me stronger in order to be of service to my community on a larger scale. They also reinforce GOD´s faithfulness towards me and HIS neverending mercies. At the same time, I am thankful for this respite and plan to enjoy every little detail...even the plane ride.

Monday, July 03, 2006

¿Habla Usted Español?

"Solo un poco, pero yo estoy aprendiendo." Ha! How you like me now!

As I'm preparing for my trip, I've been brushing up on my Spanish. I took 1.5 years in college and to quote Meatloaf, "It's all coming back to me now." As is common when learning a new language, I understand its written form much better than its spoken form. For that reason, I have been listening to Spanish language CDs in order to familiarize myself with the pronunciations and rhythm of the language. All this preparation must be working since I dreamed in Spanish last night. I was gonna try out my new skills with the Spanish-speaking girl at the checkout register last night, but chickened out. I'll try again today and let you know what happened.

I'll also take a handy dandy little phrase book that I picked up at my local library. It covers everything from everyday phrases and colloquialisms to eating out and health. Between my good-hearted attempts and cuteness, communication will be a breeze. for me, ya'll.