Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I sit on the kitchen terrace and stare across this strange town, the rooftops chipped and aged, the endless sea of laundry hanging up to dry in the horizon. It's almost November now, but the palm trees in front of my apartment, and the mountains of Morocco in the distance remind me that the cold I'm so accustomed to waiting for will never come here.

I'm a nomad. I guess I've always been at the core. I try to root myself...but the wind always picks me up and blows me elsewhere. So here I am with a suitcase from my life back home, using things that don't belong to me, sleeping in a bed that isn't mine. And on the weekends, I leave my little town to seek more adventures. I guess I never really did listen when momma told me to sit still.

But who can argue with this view?

Still, with the world wide open and my bags already packed, I hear Arkansas and its people calling me home from time to time. Perhaps its asking me not to forget. (But no te preocupes, that could never happen).
 (photo taken by my lovely sister, back home in Arkansas)

With all of this time to reflect, after a month of reading Vonnegut, Borges, Extebarria, and soothing my mind with the only medicine that calms me, poetry, I started thinking about Sylvia Plath and the Bell Jar.

"I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story.  From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.  One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out.  I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.  I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet."

 So here I am, Sylvia, sitting under your fig tree, a thousand branches above me and all of the possibilities coming to fruition. Which will you have me choose?

Friday, October 8, 2010

a day for healing

Before I left for Spain, a few people told me that I might get sick adjusting to the new climate, food, spices, etc. I thought they were crazy. ME? Nah...the baby who could tear open a crawdad at two? the girl who eats whole peppers without water and asks for more? And furthermore, I'd be in Spain, not a third world country.

I thought I was invincible, I guess. Or, at the very least, so eager to travel my whole life that my body had instinctively adjusted during my 22 years of anticipation.

Man, was I wrong. We were all wrong.

It all started Friday when Hillary noticed a couple of red bumps on her arm...which quickly spread to her chest, then legs, then feet. By Sunday, she looked like one giant hive with bumps from her toes to her eyelids. It became so intense that we had to go to the emergency room, but thank god for socialized medicine, we got in quickly, Hill got a quick shot in the ass, and we were on our way. Turns out she was allergic to the laundry detergent. No problem. So Monday I spent the entire day washing all of her sheets, blankets, whatever clothes had touched her blankets. And the hives healed.

So the storm was over, the clouds had parted, the hives had cleared...all was well in La Linea. Or so we thought. After a weekend of taking care of Hill, washing her clothes, making her tea, concocting different anti-itch remedies with my essential oils...I woke up Tuesday with a terrible sensation in my stomach.

Was it a spice I ate? A sick child blowing her nose and then hugging me goodbye? A little bug that flew from the winds of Africa up my nose and right into my stomach? We will never know. All I can say is that I was in so much pain that I couldn't sleep, I was nauseous, my stomach turned all day. I was certain I would die, right there in my bed, victim of some new disease that would be reported on in the following months. I would be the girl in the headlines: American dies after less than a month of being in Spain...the first victim of the newest MRSA pork flu.

And then once the nausea stopped, I started running a fever. But like my Mom always taught me, that's a good thing. So Hill made me a cold rag that I kept on my forehead, I refused any medicine (because the body needs to heat up in order to kill the virus) and by Wednesday afternoon I could finally eat again.

And that's when Zach started sneezing.

And so that was our week, swollen with hives, nauseous with some foreign bug, and sneezing repetitively on the couch.

Today, was indeed, a day of healing. We drank our tea...

experimented with some new food together...
...and explored the beaches of La Linea.

So, there you go, Spain! We survived your test...we're here to stay, at least for a year.
 ...and we'll climb any mountain you dare us to.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Making a home away from home

We hopped a train to the south of Spain with a years worth of luggage and life tucked away in the overhead compartments.

My entire life I've dreamed of this type of foreign adventure...where my former identity would become a bit blurred and I would have to find myself all over again in a new country. The feeling of not knowing where you will sleep, where you will eat, what the city you'll call home for a year will be like is both terrifying and liberating. And I've never been the type of person to just sit at the edge of the cliff and stare. So I did what I've always done...I jumped.

On the way to La Linea de la Concepcion, we stopped in Cadiz for an hour or two, which is the oldest city in Europe built in the 8th century B.C. by the Phoenicians. That's before the Roman Empire folks, which translates to mean: pretty damn old. We tasted traditional foods, marveled at the architecture and danced like children in the streets.

After months of waiting to explore the streets of the town I'd be teaching in, we finally arrived to La Linea de la Concepcion, a little town of about 30,000 people that sits on the border of Gibraltar. From the center of town, the Bay is to your right, the Mediterranean to your left, and Morocco straight ahead.

The race was on to find an apartment as soon as we arrived. We had five days at the hotel, and then, we were completely on our own. After a few stressful days of searching we finally had some promising in the center of town in the Calle del Sol, and the other in the Plaza Cruz Herrera. After comparing all of the apartments, the answer was clear. The apartment in the Plaza was hands-down perfect, in a safe area, AND it came with an adorable landlady named Loreto who is grandmotherly and kind. We spent the first few days cleaning and scrubbing. I heard my mother's voice the whole time saying, "don't forget to wash the couch covers...and the sheets...oh and all of the dishes too, you don't know who's been eating out of them!"

And finally, after searching and worrying and then scrubbing and cleaning...I lit a vanilla candle and a cinnamon candle to remind me of home. A home away from home (although it could never compare to the real thing).