Day 2 — Saludos desde Salamanca, hermanos y hermanas…

If you’ve never had jet lag, prepare for an experience on par with a fever dream. Details seem awfully out of focus, a particular challenge when you’re trying to share a journey in written form in an Instalife world. But, I can’t describe it any better than that right now as I approach 1 am in Salamanca.

Taking this journey at this stage of my life took guts. I recognize that. We are supposed to be settled into a certain type of productive life. I was supposed to be either married, extolling the virtues of being a parent and/or have reached a career peak of responsibility and financial gain by now.

That’s not what happened.

I never wanted to be the type that treats the mundane as being the ultimate Facebook status update. No, that’s not living to me. Ordinary tasks are just a part of life. I don’t want to be validated for simply getting through the routine of a day. That’s not being blessed. I wanted to find the extraordinary in the ordinariness of it all. In many ways I have done just that, but I also know I bought that 80s myth of having it all.  No, you can’t. You can have an item from column A or B, and egg rolls will definitely cost you more. Now matter the order, you will be forced to make a choice.

Who knew the Everest I thought I was scaling was just to the middle! Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret any road traveled. The degrees of selfishness with which I’ve lived my life have fluctuated wildly over the years. Now, I find myself penning a second act I never expected to create and it can’t be one derived from being selfish, either. I was so secure in my choice to pick career over everything. Tonight, I am embracing the fever dream of having a middle-aged adventure of rediscovery and reinvention in Salamanca, Spain.

As I sit in the home of the kind woman who has made quite a life caring for the international contingent of students that descend upon this beautiful town daily, I am reminded of a quote by St. Augustine:

The world is a book, and those who don’t travel only read one page.

It is interesting how that quote came my way. I took a moment to visit my dear friend Kimberlee Andrews in San Diego a few weeks ago. It was a piece of graphic art found in a design store. (Amazing how design stores are EVERYWHERE these days. We may be broke, but dammit, we will nest with style!) It was literally a sign and a sign of things to come.

I don’t want to rehash how I’ve seen the world because of my career. At times, it was as glossy as an issue of Travel & Leisure. Other times, it was as urgent and eye-opening as the documentaries presented for a week at the Laemmle’s. Yet, right now, I am sitting in a humble room with a single bed, a single light, a single desk and a single standing wardrobe holding the 54 lbs. of personal items I thought necessary for this trip. It is a single life being chronicled right now, but here’s the difference.

I’m fucking happy to live in it again.

I think too much. I talk too much. I know it. I’ve lived so long in my head, I’m getting rickets when I should be a high kicking Rockette. Haha.

Earlier tonight, I received an Email from my close friend, Dr. Norma Vega. Much of why this is happening is because of her encouragement. She’s also staked her own “view from a broad” this summer in Portugal and Spain. (This continent doesn’t seem so expansive knowing there are several people from home having similar journeys at the same time. It’s beyond comforting.)

She asked for the details on this first day and I found myself having a hard time not vomiting it all up over this keyboard! I initially wanted to go on this whole tangent on how I wished people just took some pride in how they present themselves to the world when they travel, blah, blah, blah.

(I don’t want to see your Parmesan heels in swim slides, favorite sweat shorts or any other sign that you literally rolled out of bed to get to your flight. I mean, I did bust out a nice navy button shirt, cropped navy Gap jeans, navy/cream striped H&M plimsolls and this scarf from Zara for that element of pop. Yeah, I went for the effete and comfort, earning quite a few bemused stares from the Southies picking up their rough edged, hoodie sporting kin at Logan. So ends my Derek Blasberg moment.)

Instead, I’m gonna crib what I wrote to her in slightly wonky Spanish…

Treks are an essential aspect of life. We need to leave the comfort of a secure, safe journey to change roads once in a while. We should make an effort to take in as much of the human condition as we can, not stay tied to the devices that present such a small window of the world. It was interesting to see how many of the students I’ve joined on this trip were so worried they couldn’t Instagram or how they were glad that T-Mobile was their carrier. That got more interest than the fact we were on the road to Salamanca, Spain.

I fought the good fight once we left Barajas airport. Cue Aerosmith, I, too, didn’t want to miss a thing. Damn this jet lag. I slept nothing on the plane from Boston to Madrid, forcing a double feature of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Moulin Rouge.”

I kept my gaze out the window just to witness the pigeon that decided to make the bus windshield its final destination. I refused to think it was an omen, thank you. I spoke to everyone around me, trying to get a sense of who they were and what they wanted out of the month ahead. But, I kept coming back to a single thought: I’m really here.
Sure, some of the road felt like the trip to Palm Springs. Yet, every image of steers grazing, gas stations and sign posts leading to Valladolid, Segovia, Avila and Portugal was added proof I was here.
I wasn’t so sure about any of this when I arrived at Barajas at 630am. After a few hours of wondering, “Shit. What did I just do?,” I discovered  a student from West LA College that  was also a part of this group. We were both looking at every group passing through customs with the face of “Please be someone from my group!” She’d been in Madrid for two days alone and was relieved to meet a fellow student. I was fried, but her impulsive hug was restorative. I admired her courage.
When the whole group finally gathered, it was hard not to notice the youth and innocence of them all. Many had never left the confines of southern California. More, the group was comprised in large part by girls. Some spoke the language, while others would probably blanch at a Taco Bell menu. Still, I also met an older gentleman who has been forced to take disability. Like me, he’s a student at ELAC. Mexican-born, he has turned some tough events in his life to realize a dream: to become a writer. Or the young Cal Poly Student who was just laid off, who opted to extend his Spanish soujourn into a full European venture.
Then, I was in Salamanca.
God, it’s beautiful here. It has the Old World and the marks of the 21st century. It was then I realized the journey really began.
We all design our own lives. Mine is not finished yet, but I have more confidence in choosing  what layers will be added next. It was right to come here. When our group director, professor Josefina Culton, introduced me to my host, I felt event better. Manoli is a wonderful woman, cultivated, full of spirit and with passionate opinions. I think we’re going to get along just fine. I mean, how many people even THINK to make you paella on the first day? It’s funny, the biggest concern I had was that she’d be disappointed to see my Hemingway in transition self walk to her with the bag I paid $100 in overweight charges. But nope. We walked to the bus station together and chatted away like it was the normal thing in the world.
We sat around her kitchen table and TALKED. As for the content of said conversation, I won’t go into too much detail, but if I were Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz, I’d watch out. Man, it’s like sitting at home with my mom and my cherished Tia Tayde from Mexico City. Someone is def watching over me.
I’m rambling and there is so much more I’m still trying to process.
Changing your narrative is not easy. But when you do it with integrity and humility, you will discover the best part of who you are hasn’t been lost at all.
To think, I came to Spain to be found again. And guess what, St. Augustine?  I’m not content to read just one page in a book. I’m gonna write my own damn book.
Sunday, June 29 from Manoli’s house in Salamanca, Spain.


One thought on “Day 2 — Saludos desde Salamanca, hermanos y hermanas…

  1. This is awesome! I am so happy you love your host. Knowing you, you both are chatting and discussing the worlds problems, movies, food, and fun around her kitchen table. I bet her Paella is amazing as well! Please POST PICTURES!!! Enjoy the adventure. Miss you already, but so happy you are having an amazing start!! Lovis Youse. xoxo

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