Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Spanish Pearls vs. this travel blog

I have found a way to insert my photos into blog but for some reason it only works through my original blog.. PLEASE FOLLOW ME THROUGH SPANISH PEARLS.

Sonrisas de españa

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A photo --- test

Near the Cathedral of Madrid and the king's palace....

Avila, on the mountaintop

Avila was not on my itinerary and sometimes those are the best adventures.  Stevens friend, Ana, assured us we would not be disappointed and driving away from Madrid was both a relief and a wonder.  The landscape changed from the wild city to rolling ochre hills and trees.  We drove toward El Escorial and La Comuna past miles do stone walls across acres of countryside, up, up and up some more until the sights of Avila and the fortified wall stunned us into silence.  It was built in 1100 on ancient remains.  The wall is the oldest, most complete and best preserved in Spain.  It has 4 entrances and we plan to walk 3/4 around the wall tomorrow.  The wall is massive and the stone nearly breathes its history around us.

Ana found us a very quaint, clean and quite beautiful hotel just within one of the archways and we walked miles around the courtyards, old streets and the city before she left on the train back to Madrid.

We are now on our own for tomorrow's explorations and the view of the surrounding... countryside shows us miles and miles of Spain beyond comprehension.

Where are my photos?

I am saddened that my photos are not posting and do not have answers.  I can  see them on my blog here.. Que lastima!  I will attempt to fix it.  I have converter plugs but just realized there is no 3-prong converter among the others so I cannot charge my laptop and must depend only on my iPad...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Madrid in a day

Madrid holds 6 million people and today, we joined the throng. We had a personal tour guide; Steven's friend, Ana.  She is Spanish and lived in America some years where they became friends; an added bonus to my long-dreamed trip.  Her English was great and we laughed most of the day as she pronounced words a big 'off' and Steven helped her and she helped him with his Spanish as well.  Me?  I just tried to twist my ears to keep up..
We began our day at 10 a.m. over breakfast at San Luira's Restaurant and I learned that in Madrid I do not order "cafe nube en tasa grande".  Here, I order cafe con leche.  It wasn't as rich and creamy as Andalucia and the Tortilla Espanole was crusty compared to Andalucia's fresh, soft servings.. Then, we had Gaspacho later in the day and it couldn't meet the wonder of the Gaspacho in Torremolines... but I regress.

We spent 12 hours walking the streets and seeing edifices that rocked my mind.  The king's palace, the iglesia Real with the stained glass, nave, rich wood and colored glass ceiling in tiny pieces of mosaics that sparkled and awed.  Palaces, botanical gardens, statues, stone animal statues on the sides and tops of political buildings and green trees surrounded us in every direction.  It obviously receives more rain than the Costa del Sol.

As I watched so many of the Spaniards around the city, I saw many older women (some much older than me) with their gray hair dyed dark or carrot red.  The other thing I noticed was many women dress elegantly in clothes, shoes and walk with the heads held high, proud and confident.  I fell into the minority with gray hair... women really want to remain youthful --- not in a bad way.  They just appeared to be very cognizant of their femininity. 

Watching the Spanish flag whipping around high on the flag pole above the royal palace of Juan Carlos... (it is now owned by the state and not his official residence)... The red and yellow flag gave me goosebumps, making the reality of my visit emotional and I became more thoughtful of the history that touched me as I stared at the gold leaf on the gates, the cobblestones and felt the royalness on that spot.

I forgot my walking shoes in Malaga and my flip flops soon screamed at me... so Ana knew a shoe store where I found 50% off shoes!  After a rest in Starbucks with cafe au lait, new shoes and Ana's tour guide button set on "GO" we saw a Madrid far beyond the tour books could take us through.

As the day progressed, we began walking toward the Prado Museum.  Ana told us the entrance fee was free from 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. and we arrived in time before the tickets were gone!  It is beautiful and the paintings and scultures were amazing... My favorites were Velaquesa and Madreza.  Goya was not what I imagined and others were filled with war, death and killing.  I found a poster for my gallery wall at home as a memory of my trip to Madrid and hope it arrives in one piece.

We have changed the itinerary to leave Madrid on Tuesday and drive to Avila where Ana plans to show us the city.  She found us a hotel and we are anxious to see it through her eyes.  It is on the border area between Salamanca and Zamora.  We are getting close to Fuentesauco...

By 10 p.m., our feet were crying and we found Cafe Santa Ana near our hostel -- where we ate something new!  BONITO is something I must make at home.  A tomato (tomate) slice first, then a thin tuna steak or tuna (atun) from a can, only not chopped up.. topped with roasted red peppers  (pimientos rojos de horno) that are soaked in olive oil, rosemary and garlic.  This is a salad or tapas.  VERY good.

Tomorrow, a road trip to Avila and more adventures await. Steven is poring over the map and my notes --- I am a bit anxious to leave the big city and see the villages beyond.

Majestic Madrid

After driving through Malaga side streets for some time looking for rental car return, we found it accidentally just in time to jump on a shuttle to the airport to get the train (metro) to the Malaga train station... The woman tossed us and our bags into a van with 5 other people like sacks and drove like a woman on a mission to put out the fire.  I had my eyes closed a few times and nearly spent time in the trunk of a mercedes (I was in the front seat with a bird's eye view).  Then she pointed down a ramp and said we could catch the metro to the train and bye bye.  The day was a bit muggy and we loved watching people flit here and there, some going our way.

When we got to the metro, I felt confident for a bit as I've ridden underground trains in Paris, Rome and London as well as Washington DC and NYC... but those machines weren't in Spanish :)  Steven was unfamiliar with all of it so I asked a man using the machine if he spoke English?  YES!  He pushed about 20 buttons and we got our tickets.  I told Steven we needed to get on a train whose city is listed as the last on that line and we would get off at out stop...somewhere in between.  We needed Maria Zambino stop.  When the train arrived it showed Malaga Centro and I hesitated... Steven headed for the doors and I followed.  I'd quickly forgotten what I'd taught him and he took over.  Thank goodness!

Once at Maria Zambino stop, we found the AVE train office but our reservation on line wasn't in place so we bought new tickets (we will figure out refunds later)... The bullet train is large, long, sleek and quiet.  It was interesting to see the land change from hills to plains.  Steven said it must be where the 'rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains' since the lush orchards of every variety of tree and plants could be seen for miles, terraced on and on and and so evening planted it was as if someone had drawn them into the landscape.

2 1/2 hours later, we arrived into Atoche Train Station.  No signs for restrooms as in America.... they were few and far between..then we found the rental car offices and soon had a red Citroen.  There was something bothering me about the receipt and I noticed I'd been charged for the car rental even though I'd paid it from America.  The attendant said they never got the money... that's another story.

I had the map.  Steven had the keys and we had our hostel reseration, Barbieri Hostel at Victoria, 6.  Two hours later, after driving around until my eyes crossed while reading the map, we found the parking garage and knew we were close.  The magnificence of Madrid left me awestruck and Steven still fighting traffic (glad I am the designated map reader).  And then we arrived!

Calle Victoria, we were told, is a tiny street (that's why we couldn't find it) that is very well known in Madrid;  it is here that one buys tickets to bull fights --- only on Calle Victoria!  Once settled, slipped off into the narrow, cobble stone streets gazing at restaurants, shops, people, buildings and eager for dinner.  Menus line the restaurants and we both agreed the taparia looked cozy and inviting.  It was there at 10 p.m. we ate ensalada de atun (tuna salad), tapas and sangria while discussing the hectic but glorious day and our surroundings.

By 11:30 p.m. as we walked back to the hostel, people were everywhere as if it was 4 in the afternoon.  Music throbbed around us and Spanish chatter made me smile... Today, we meet Steven's friend (Ana) and the Prado (and Starbucks?) await.  No Cafe Mocha here except Starbucks and that is my brother's favorite.  I will drink cafe anywhere as long as it's the color of clouds, as cafe nube en la tasa grande.  I can say it smoothly at last and it is sitting beside me now.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Too many photos

When it rains, it pours....I can't figure how to delete 2 of the 3 photos so please bear with me on previous blog...

Tomorrow I will post our AVE train trip from Malaga to Madrid, our ride through the city LOST and our great dinner at a tapaeria... It is nearly 1 a.m. And the bed calls loudly...

The beach at Torremolines

A wild weekend!  Saturday, Steven introduced me to Torremolinos, a coastal town about 40 minutes east of Malaga just after our second breakfast of Bocadillos filled with Tortilla Espanola, the eggs and potato pie that has become my next best friend.  Between that wonderful omelet-type wake-up food and the cafe with just enough milk to make it frothy and oh so memorable, we were starting the day as Spaniards..

Torremolinos was just a name on the map as I held it tightly, trying to guide us in the right direction away from Campanillas, where we have out little apartment at the Ruiz cousins in the country near Fresneda and Los Nunez.  And we found the "playa" --- a good place to park and found the Mediterranean sparkling alongside the sandy beach among sun-lovers in the Costa del Sol.  Steven got a new straw hat, we each found Spanish-decor towels and flipped flopped our way to rent the hamacas (chaise lounges) beneath straw-covered umbrellas.  It took a little getting used to as women walked around topless but after some while, I noticed nobody really stared (unless the men were being very adept at it behind their sun glasses...)  Old, young, skinny, fat.  It didn't matter.  Everyone was there to enjoy and they did just like we did.... sunburned but happy.

There was a family with 4 umbrellas stuck into the sand, surrounded by children as they talked and enjoyed a family Sunday at the beach... then another family joined them, more children, more kisses on each cheek and another umbrella became a little village.  The familial atmosphere was lovely to watch.  Each woman in the group took turns kissing and hugging the little children of their siblings (I am guessing) and before long, another family arrived, little children running to their cousins, kissing, hugging, laughing and pulling along their buckets and shovels.  It was a sight I'm so glad I didn't miss.  And the Spanish and camaraderie warmed me up (although the sun did a good job too).

I heard many Spanish words around me and I was so pleased to understand some of them.  Each day I can understand a bit more.  Steven teaches me each word, nuance and the Andaluz way.  In there south where we are, everyone drops their "S" and chops off the end of their words so that is the way I am learning.  Buenos dias is now bueno dia...

And more food to enjoy...  Boquerones are grilled anchovies and my brother seems to inhale them...heads or not.  In our cousin's restaurant, the heads were left on.  Here in Torremolinos, they cut them off and I ventured to eat some.  Oh yes... and the gaspacho soup was delicious...along with the sangria.  Ah, the beach was a place we will return to before we leave Spain for sure.  Steven tells me how to pronounce his favorite dish as O-A-O-A = bo-que-ro-nes.  I think I finally have it....

Friday, September 14, 2012

Alora and finding bisabuela Rosa Romero Ruiz

Two posts today... Almogia needed to stand alone.  Alora is about 90 minutes from Tierre de la Torre where we are staying until Sunday when we head for Madrid.  Our first view of this mountain fortress took our breath....we took a wrong turn and drove up the side of a mountain in the wrong direction until the road became a track and then resembled a rocky wide sidewalk...before we agreed turning around made sense...that was a trick... But Steven maneuvered us around as I shook my head...and we avoided the goat herder and his many goats...and within a few miles, the white washed houses sat above us wedged into the mountain as many have sat for too many years to count.  This is the village where ROSA ROMERO RUIZ, our great grandmother was born and died.  Grandpa Bernardo Ruiz was 6 years old and the 4th and baby son when my great grandfather became a widower...  He was Francisco Ruiz Garcia.  Rosa's father was Miguel Romero Fernandez and her mother was Maria Ruiz........  We found an almost-English speaking woman at the tourist office who is helping us "find" Rosa, Miguel and Maria....possibly buried (probably cremated) up on the mountain in the ancient castle courtyard.... Awaiting email notification for our return at the end of the month.

MORE STEEP STREETS....A typical Moorish village.....and absolutely a bit frightening but Steven again persevered (later admitting his knuckles whitened around the steering wheel a few eyes were squeezed shut I think....).   I would have loved to spend the day walking around those tiny streets up and down the hills....this village is hundreds of years old and crunched directly into the mountainside with the castle peering down from a perch so high, we could not figure out how to drive to it....and three men hunched over beers argued with one another while offering Steven directions to do so.....three different versions and complex instructions, none of which helped us find the passage to its gates!

Now we have a contact to further our research into Rosa's line!!!!  Off to celebrate at cousin Pedro's restaurant where his 13 year old daughter, Laura, drenched the rumba for us and without any urging, taught me to tap my feet, swing my hips and dance to the music for everyone's entertainment (especially mine).

And Steven introduced me to his favorite dish here in Spain: gambas...... with their heads and tails still on....

Almogia and Alora, moorish towns

Reading my first blog I realized I was too tired to see it was 12:30 a.m., not p.m. When I posted it... Today I will write about yesterday and today.  Amazing in a word.  Almogia is a village I've heard of for years.  Yesterday, we drove through the streets until the streets were too steep and too narrow to traverse.  My brother's driving is exemplary and I'd still be crying in a corner if it had been me trying to back up a block after our front tires spun out of control when our little car refused to jump hurdles.  TIGHT spaces to say the least.  Then we walked through the streets, peeking into courtyards and marveling at ceramic tiled doors and saying "hola" to everyone we met along the way.. Then we found the ayuntamiento where our father had been the vice mayor and had a chilled Limon drink in our fathers favorite bar.  Steven introduced himself to the barman and the mans face lit up and I saw him pump my brothers hand.  Señor Fernandez was delighted to meet us and sad to hear of our fathers death... And gave us directions to CALLE WINTERS that was named especially due to our fathers diligent work to make Almogia and Winters, Ca "sister cities".   He knew our father well.  After another mile (?) of traipsing through the quaint village on a mountainside, notably 1000 years old, we found the street our father dreamed of seeing in this town....

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Spain at last....

Simply put, I have arrived in Spain with a full heart and exhausted mind since arriving 34 hours ago (it is now 1:00 a.m. Thursday/September 13). The flight was smooth until we were locked in the plane for nearly an hour after landing in Atlanta….the approach tunnel wouldn’t move to unload us… Once we hit the ground running, we heard our names over the loud speaker, a man stood at the approach to the gate asking us if we were “Steele and Bettencourt” – We obviously looked a bit stressed…on the run. Then, we were at the gate and happy to hear they held the plane for us!
We had a 4 hour layover in Paris, where my friend (Chloe) met us over café au lait and pastries. I was surprised we left the concourse, went through customs and into the public area, unlike American airports. Later, I found Paris was much less lenient when it came to our bags. The agent went through everything with great care and I realized my fold-up fan looked like a large switchblade. I understood just enough French to realize I was on their list.. However, I passed and once on the plane again --- Delta does not charge for the first bag and we soon found the wine and two meals included at no charge. So, the next seven hours over the Atlantic were kind to us.
Glancing out the plane windows over Madrid, I saw the Atlantic Ocean and the coast with the waters rushing white waves across the sand. Then, the Madrid airport looked like a tiny game board and the mountains followed closely afterward. Tiny villages dotted the landscape as if someone rolled dice in little pockets of jewels. Farming communities, citrus trees, olive orchards and vineyards could be seen as we began to descend toward Malaga. Spain at last.
Our cousin wasn’t there to meet us at the airport and I was nervous but Steven wasn’t. We found our rental car and my brother had a map… So off to the first cousins we sped to Fresneda, a district in the province of Malaga. I met Paco, Encarna, Encarnacita, Natalia and Francisco --- my cousins to the Ruiz family who gathered me up like a long-lost friend. Steven’s Spanish and translations helped me enjoy the visit and I learned to taste fresh figs (higo) Encarna showed me the giant trees, pulled the fruit, peeled one and showed me how to eat it… reminding me of a time as a child that I enjoyed stomping them into the sidewalk much better than eating them. Here, they were ambrosia. She fed us salad filled with vegetables and mixed with something that looked like sour cream. She said it was “milk from mayonnaise” Huh… when my Spanish improved, maybe I will be able to figure that out… and get the recipe to share. Then, chicken, salad and fruit. Later, coffee and tea with plates of “postres” – cakes, cakes and more cakes.
Steven’s Spanish phone wasn’t charged, so we couldn’t call our missing cousin. So we drove to their country house in Puerto de la Torre only to find he’d never received the letter saying we were on our way…. So of course how could he meet us as the airport?? And that was where we were supposed to spend our first week.. They were lovely; it was 8 o’clock in the evening, we’d been awake about 28 hours and my eyelids were quickly becoming so heavy, I could barely keep them open more than a minute at a time. Pepa called her friend in the village and led us to a wonderful hotel/restaurant where the Hibiscus and Palms swayed above the wrought iron covered windows and doors… When I pulled out my bag, her friend refused to let me carry it up a bank of steps… and I was younger than she was. No matter how I argued, she lugged it upward so I grabbed the clip/strap and “helped” her. The room had 3 beds and was sparkling clean. The windows were covered with a metal shade so it was very dark in the room…. After our quick showers, we fell into such deep slumber; we both slept the clock around….. 14 hours!!! We ‘d stayed in bed because the room was so dark ----- both waiting for the sun to rise, not realizing it rose without us… Imagine our surprise: it was 1:30 p.m. Wednesday already~
My super duper idea of making my iPhone into a “hotspot” to deliver the internet to my computer didn’t work! So, no emails and no Skype was available. I was too tired before bed and now it was so important I let my family know we arrived safely! Nothing worked! So, at 2:00 p.m. (being the mathematician that I am NOT) I called home, thinking it was 11:00 a.m. Tuesday when in reality it was 5:00 a.m. Wednesday. Steven said add 3 hours to the time here and go back 12 hours.. Makes sense now ~
After checking out of our hotel, we sat down in the beautiful restaurant and ordered “café nube en tasa grande” – Coffee / cloud (just a little milk) in a large cup. (This cup was 2 x larger than an espresso cup) and was fabulous. The china was delicately painted with yellow loops entwined around burgundy ribbons and served with a quiet word and tiny bags of azucar (sugar). I loved it…. And I wanted the cup and saucer (a girl thing I guess?) No coffeemate here… but this café nube was exactly to my taste..
Our next stop was driving through Campanillas, the home of some of the other Ruiz familia – a small town with winding roads, lots of brightly painted ceramic signs and flowers everywhere. I took photos of a little boy sneaking around the edge of the gas station wall, looking around slyly before pulling the water hose off the water/air tank and hiding behind it while he slurped up a cold drink. Quite entertaining and he saw me, dropped the hose and waved gaily before running away.
Back to Pepa’s and Pepe’s house in the countryside, there were so many prickly pear cactus budding profusely. Encarna told me they used it to make….. more Spanish than I could understand. I thoroughly regret not studying my Spanish with consistency as she was an amazingly friendly woman who spoke to me in amazingly indecipherable Spanish and we were both frustrated when I didn’t understand her and she didn’t understand me. Cactus is pronounced CACTU here in Andalucia. The “s” is dropped so Cactu in Andalu…. Not cactus in Andalucia. I am learning bit by bit with my patient brother’s help and actually I am beginning to understand conversations in just 2 days! I want to stop saying, “No entiendo”…
Everyone wants to feed us and there are so many meals, my head spins.
  1. (no name that we know of yet): Coffee and sweet pastries
  2. Desayuno: around 10 a.m. is breakfast
  3. Al Muerzo: lunch is at 2 p.m. punto (sharp)
  4. Merienda: tapas (snacks) is about 5:30 or 6:00 p.m.
  5. Cena: dinner is served around 9:00 p.m.
  6. Visiting: with coffee and drinks until about 11:00 p.m. spending real people time
Now, we are up to date. It is Wednesday at 12:26 p.m. as I write this. The road is quiet around us – we are settled into Pepe’s and Pepa’s empty apartment (they are landlords) and we are planning our Thursday. Despite not having internet (yet) or Wi-Fi, we learned Pepa’s granddaughter has internet! So, I will post this very long missive and prepare shorter travel log with photos and description of the countryside and how each place I look makes me feel Spanish genes floating inside me..

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Almost gone...

The bag is completely packed and the taxi arrives at 4:30 in the morning.  The alarm is set and I wonder if I will get to sleep at all?  Imagine my surprise when I printed out my boarding pass to find my bag flies FREE !!?  An airline who gives a ticket and doesn't expect more $$ to fly you across the ocean?  Lovely.  US Airways.

I'm beginning to think in Spanish.  Stay tuned.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Do NOT save packing to the last minute!!

Today, my plan was to finish packing and relax before flying to Portland tomorrow... The best laid plans are..... (not happening).

It was a wild day and much more than I was prepared for!  I planned to finish packing today, spend a leisure time and relax.  Then, the washer broke down (I have a new front-loader) about 8:30 and when I finally got the door opened, all the water rushed out like Niagara Falls!  I followed the book’s troubleshooting steps and thought I had it beat--- so I put in a light load.  I was wrong. The error message was defined (EO) as bad drainage.  I pulled drainage hose out, cleaned filter, squeezed behind the washer (ouch) and unplugged it before working on it and then the water rushed out again!  I called LG customer service and he tried several things.  No go.  So, here it is the last day before I leave, a broken washer, 4 loads of wash and the repairman can’t come until Wednesday.  Shaking my head, trying to keep UP, I knew I’d have to find a Laundromat.  

Well, I found one with my GPS and I put all the clothes in 4 washers (the place was empty --- not even an attendant) and then I couldn't find the slots to put the quarters.  Dollars instead, I thought?  No space for that either except it looked like it had a space for a credit card instead?  I walked around the place (very annoyed by then) and found 2 machines and after studying it well, I saw I had to buy a “card” for $1 and once I had my card, I could “add value” by putting more dollar bills into the machine.  Then, I had to take the card to the machine to begin my wash…. I bought a card and when I put it in (as instructed) to “add value” the machine had a message that it couldn't ‘read my card’ and to go to the attendant (which was no place in sight).  So, thinking it was dysfunctional, I bought another card from the other machine.  So far, so good.  When I followed all the directions, I put in my card and another $12 and then when I finalized it….. yep --- the machine “ couldn't read the card.  Annoyed change to major frustration!  I went over and pulled all my dirty clothes out of the washers, put them back into my baskets and marched them to the car.  

Then I got my GPS out again to find another Laundromat.  I found one and realized it was in the mall close to my house!!  Following the directions and watching my car as a little blue dot on my iPhone, I followed it to a STONE WALL!!!  Then I called the place (no, I have no idea why I didn't call sooner…. I decided that driving around and getting lost for 20 minutes was more fun J)  UGH.   I was told that the place was a cleaners with “laundry options” and they’d wash my clothes for $6.50 a load!  I told her I wanted to wash only but she said the $6.50 included drying and folding too.  How nice ~  So, I took out the stupid GPS (I’d lost completely trust in it by now) and found 2 others across town and headed their way.  Suddenly, it dawned on me that I was absolutely nuts!  My friends, Linda and Gary, had a washer at their house and after 2 hours of crazed laundry-mentality, I headed over.  They saved my bacon.

Their house was 91 degrees (I’d turned off the A/C for them as instructed a couple months ago) but their washer worked!  So, from 11:00 to 1:30, I wandered on my mission.  Then, I finally began my washing and got home about 5:00 p.m.  So much for the leisure day and being treated to dinner OUT.  We had leftovers (they were good, by the way) and I had my wine call with Mom.  And then the packing was waiting. 

A glass of wine made it all better at the end of the day and I’m nearly packed now…
Off to visit Mom for the weekend and then Monday España awaits!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Memories, Abuelita and music

I can hear her singing.  I can see her eyes sparkling as she laughed and looked at me with love etched on her lined face and shining from her chocolate brown eyes.  It is my abuelita and the music makes me smile.  There has been music in our family way back... to a time when her father couldn't leave his drum, el bombo, behind in Fuentesauco.  To the time when music filled the family gatherings in such a way that there could be no gathering without it.  I'm told my aunts were known to dance on the farm tables during the 1920s with their cousins and the little children who could climb up with them, danced too.  Music.

Another memory.  When my daughter, Audrie, was about 7 years old, she sat on abuelita's lap in Woodland, California in Aunt Millie's kitchen.  Abuelita was singing to her and Audrie reached up and touched her face.  Then it was Audrie's turn.  She looked into her great grandmothers face and sang back to her:  "Two little lovebirds sitting in a tree..... K_I_S_S_I_N_G.

Abuelita was enthralled.  She gathered herself up and sang back to my daughter, "Two little lovebirds sitting in a tree..... DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA... in the exact tune with exact timing.  She couldn't spell and had no idea what Audrie said after tree.... but she didn't miss a beat.   The room erupted in laughter and my heart overflowed.  Can you see me smiling still?

This woman was so special to me and my eagerness to find where the core of this lady began moves me forward toward Monday when I fly away at 6:30 a.m.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Costa del Sol and landscaping

My many hours of research has told me the Spanish immigrants wanted to farm in California because they were told the weather was similar to their own in Spain.  They were agricultural jornaleros mostly (farmers).  Despite the hardships and near starvation, they survived and learned self-sustaining gardening and bartering for the food they couldn't grow themselves.  And they loved flowers and flowering trees.

While looking at images of various villages on the internet where many Spaniards came from it dawned on me that the landscapes in the south part of Spain included Palm Trees and  Bougainvillea and a number of magnificently glorious other types of scented flowering shrubs.  But I hadn't realized they also grow Prickly Pear Cactus!  

Here in Arizona, it is everywhere and I especially like the rose/pink/lavender tinted Prickly Pear.  Arizonans make jelly out of this cactus among other things, all pretty amazing.  Now, to add to my genealogy research --- as a gardening addict, I will take note and photograph all the amazing flora and fauna of Spain.  

It reminded me of another old memory shared with my abuelita many years ago...

In her back yard stood an apricot tree, tall and green. 
It is more than an apricot tree she told me as she pulled an apricot off a leafy branch and pulled it apart with her fingernail.  "Mire esto!" (Look at this!) 

"Este es un almendra," she whispered as if she was telling me a secret.  Deep within the apricot seed sat a tiny almond!  She'd cultivated the amazing tree by planting each tree as one, and there grew a hybrid almond/apricot tree.  I'd forgotten about that until the landscape photos piqued my mind back to then...  It seemed so natural to her, this love of gardening and I am so thankful she has passed it on to many of her children and grandchildren. 

I am very anxious to have a look around Fuentesauco to see what the village is filled with now, 100 years after she left.  Soon... 5 days

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Maps, villages and family trees

Eight villages are pinned on my map of Spain and the itinerary is prepared, although still fluid since we want to explore and research combined with fun and information.  Sometimes I remember when history lessons took my mind to Spain, France, England and beyond.  I shrugged it off, never imagining I might go to any of those places.

In 1991, I had the opportunity to visit France with a friend because her sister's child broke his leg and she needed a companion.  France, I thought?  Why not?  It was the beginning of my gypsy days.  Nancy introduced me to traveling, her French friends and magic.  I was never the same ever again.  In 1995, I told my mother we should go to Paris --- we needed only to buy a ticket.  She hesitated one second and agreed. Over the next few days, she said she'd like to ride the Chunnel Train.  That's in England, I told her.  Uh-Huh.  So, we added that to our agenda.  Then she said she always wanted to see Venice.  That's in Italy, I told her.  Uh-Huh.  So, that was the beginning of my book, A Roundabout Passage to Venice, that I published a couple years ago.  So -- I saw France, England (a bit) and Italy.  In 2005, my dear friend, Caroline, asked if I'd be interested in going to England for 2 weeks.  YES!  So, that was a fabulous view of England, Canterbury, Stonehenge, London and good memories.

Now, on to Spain.  How can one person be so lucky to see these far away places?  My abuelita's eyes sparkled when we spoke of far away places and now I will soon see where she was born and spent the first nine years of her life.  I will go to Calle San Salvador in Fuentesauco, the street where she lived and wander, sit and gaze, smell, and touch her homeland.  Yep, I'm definitely a Spanish gypsy.

My brother, Steven, and I will be part of where the Silvan family began and both of wish our brother, Rick, could be part of the crew.  Instead, we will live it and share it with every part of our being upon our return.  8 more days.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dollars, Pounds or Euros?? Rule #2 about car rentals

This post is a duplication from my Spanish Pearls blog but wanted to share with others for sure.
I have been so focused on EUROS and SPAIN for the past months, that I clearly missed something quite important when I reserved a rental car for our Spain jaunt.  Fully expecting that the prices are listed as Euros, I dutifully converted those "Euros" to American dollars for my files when I charged it.  Imagine my surprise when the charges were much higher than they should be.  I was frustrated and very annoyed.

Until I was told by the English-owned car rental company that it was "Pounds" not Euros -- Oh!  That was what that little icon was to the left of the numbers.  As if I didn't know that!?  I visited England in 2006 with my good friend, Caroline, and we saw the symbol for pound all the time.  It was right in front of me and I still "saw" Euro because I assumed it was Euro.  So, I'm just saying..... I had a surprise.  Instead of $345 it was $450 --

1 British pound sterling = 1.5881 US dollars

Code: POUND   

Symbol for the Pound is£

1 Euro = 1.2580 US dollars

Code:  EUR
Symbol for the Euro is €

Friday, August 31, 2012

Driving in Spain

One more piece of new-found information ~  When you rent a car in Spain, the person who charges/reserves the automobile must have an International Driving Permit alongside their state's driver's license.  I added it to my To Do list and started researching where to find one!

The woman at the Arizona department of motor vehicles never heard of such a thing and was adamant that Arizona did not offer one.  I asked where she suggested I get one?  She told me that Arizona did not allow for international driver's licenses.  "It's not a license," I told her patiently.  "It is a photo ID that states I have an Arizona driver's license."  She shook her head as if I was nuts but the look on her face told me she was seeing my lips move but hearing Greek....

So, on to Plan B (again).  I went on the internet and found my user-friendly AAA Automobile Club offered the cards so today, not only did I get my International Driving Permit but enjoyed lunch at the Kokopelli Wine and Bistro Cafe in Chandler, Arizona as a bonus~  This winery was the first of its kind in Arizona and the Cabernet Sauvignon was smooth and rich.

Just one more item to check off my list.
10 more days...

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Zamora in Spain and also in California

Since I was born in Woodland and many of my relatives live in the surrounding towns, one town always sounded foreign to me and I always wondered why.  Zamora.   I can imagine my grandmother roll her Spanish 'r' over the name as I type it here.

Zamora was formerly called Black's, Black's Station and Prairie and officials estimated its 2005 population at 61.  It is an unincorporated community in rural Yolo County, California, U.S. located on I-5 just west of Knights Landing.  It is in the northern part of the county and Zamora’s children attend schools to the south in Woodland; Zamora’s older children attend Woodland High School.  Zamora is served by its own post office and a volunteer fire department. There is one Catholic church and the town sits at an elevation of 52 feet.

As I continue my daily preparation for my trip to Spain, the town's name popped into my head due to the area I will be visiting.  Fuentesauco, Toro, Villamor de los Escuderos and Villaescusa are all villages smack in the center of the Province of Zamora.  

Imagination, curiosity and an abundance of questions centered on Zamora today and wonder how many Spaniards settled there and brought the name of Zamora to their new homeland.  So, instead of guessing, I did some research.  In actuality, the town's name was changed in 1906 to Zamora;  not after the Province of Zamora at all but the name of a specific soil!  So, I'll stop romanticizing Zamora as a place from whence they came but instead,, I shall enjoy the Province of Zamora in 12 more days!

Found on the internet:  
Zamora soils
The town lends its name to a type of soil which is classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as "a member of the fine-silty, mixed, thermic family of Mollic Haploxeralfs. Typically, Zamora soils have grayish brown, slightly acid loam A horizons; brown silty clay loam, neutral Bt horizons; and yellowish brown C horizons." They are found "Along the west side of the Sacramento Valley in central California and other parts of California" and are "used for growing orchards, row, field, and truck crops. Native vegetation is annual grasses and forbs and widely spaced oaks."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spain then and Spain now

I have always lived my life though rose-colored glasses.  I'm not apologizing for it nor do I feel ashamed to do so.  It's the old adage about whether my glass is half full or half empty.  Mine has always been half full despite burying a child, a crumbled marriage and losing both of my fathers.  My life has been blessed and protected from all the nasties that befall so many.  That doesn't mean I am unaware of the world around me.

In Spain, I'm told there is a 22% unemployment rate. People are hurting and my mind has been focused on genealogy and finding the stories amid the spirits of lives who walked over Spanish soil over 100 years ago.   Its not as if I don't acknowledge the troubles or the dangers around the world but I don't run from them.  I will go to Spain with an open mind and be careful of my surroundings but I absolutely refuse to give in to the fears expressed in the news and allow others to deflate my dreams and holiday.  Nor will I allow terrorists to deny me the right to be who I am and keep me home in a bubble.

Sometimes those rose-colored glasses can help us see others the way children see an adventure and through a vulnerable state of mind.  My heart aches for the pain and suffering around the world but as much as I would like to change it,  I can only cry for the sad throng of humanity and feel blessed to be an American with choices and freedoms to make the kind of trip ahead of me.  I refuse to think my trip is frivolous but instead, a promise for those descendants who crave to know where our family lines began.  A bit melancholy tonight and anxious for Spain to materialize before me, to see the white villages, smell chorizo, taste real Spanish olives, sip Sangria as the orange slice dips and dances around the ice.  13 days before list off.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hostels, hotels or paradors

There are several differences between hostels and hotels, including:
  1. Hostels tend to be budget-oriented because there are shared options vs. private to lower costs.
  2. For those who prefer an informal environment, hostels are typically more informal than hotels.
  3. For those who prefer to socialize with their fellow guests, hostels usually have more common areas and opportunities to socialize. 
  4. Hostels are generally self-catering.
  5. Hostels generally attract more "adventure travel" oriented visitors rather than "leisure travel" oriented.

The Spanish Paradors are hotels for luxury accommodation in Castles, Palaces, Fortresses, Convents, Monasteries and other historic buildings. One can also find modern Spanish hotels

These hotels can be found throughout Spain.  Many parador hotels were set up so tourism could act as a guardian for the national and artistic heritage of Spain and to invest in poorer regions. 

Carefully sifting through the options facing us, my brother and I have opted for hostels in Seville for 2 nights.  
Later, several nights in Salamanca will be our home base when exploring and researching within the Fuentesauco region in northern Spain.  He reminded me last night that walking will be our major mode of transportation so it's a good thing I have been walking every day to strengthen my Spanish legs.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mapping out the Silvan and Ruiz villages in Spain

My little lime-green book's pages have small notes, family trees, maps, family names and the slippery itinerary.  Slippery because I'm sure some of the days will be moved hither and yon because a village may come into view that we don't want to drive by, but enter and explore ~

There are fourteen (14) grandparents from four villages in the northern part of Spain in the Province of Zamora (Fuentesauco, Toro, Villaescusa and Villamor de los Escuderos) not far from Salamanca.

And the southern ancestors near Malaga count ten (10) from four villages in the Costa del Sol (Almogia, Alora, Campanillas and Benagalbon).

AND preparing to make the trek the Silvan families followed all the way south:

The family trees barely fit in the little book so I adjusted my letters and barely see them but I know they are there and where they are from... We have added the stars to our map and counting the days until we leave:  15 more days.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rosetta Stone ~ I'm back in business....

My nephew, Joseph Bettencourt, has the magic of a computer guru and it has saved my sanity more times than I can count.  This young man has built my website, manages it with aplomb and always appears at the end of the phone line or text message or email.... when I cry for help.  This time, while he was helping me with my browser, I hesitantly mentioned my issue with Rosetta Stone.  And he repaired the problem!

Ahora, no problema que estudio Espanol...  I may not have that right but essentially, I can no longer justify NOT studying my Spanish program in the next two weeks...

And, Joseph has his own computer business so, check out his website --- he actually traveled through cyberspace into my work his magic without even leaving his office today.

16 days and hasta la vista en Espanol

I have had the Rosetta Stone language program for over a year and have tried to educate myself with the Spanish language of European Spain.  It has been a very user-friendly program but since the beginning of the year I have been too busy in other pursuits to be consistent with it.

Knowing time is now of the essence, I knew I would need to do a crash last night I turned it on and I found an error message....couldn't open the program!!!  What in the world

Lo siento mucho y no entiendo Espanol ....... And I can't blame myself now for speaking Espanol un poquito

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Practicing my Spanish

Living in Casa Grande now, I see signs, brochures and stores with Spanish words (palabras) nearly every place I turn.  I've been trying to translate each word and sometimes I don't realize my lips are moving and people are beginning to stare.  I believe most of the Spanish-speaking people in my new town are Mexicans and even though their Spanish isn't the Spanish I will hear spoken in Spain, the written words are bound to get me going in the right direction.  (I hope).

In a restaurant recently, I requested my "Tacos de Pescado" and the man smiled as if to say, "keep trying, lady, you have a long way to go....."  But at least I'm trying (and smiling). 

Since I wasn't raised around Spanish speaking people like many of my new-found cousins and new-found Spanish friends, I don't have the memories of hearing my father or grandparents or aunts and uncles speaking Spanish and I'm told that is because they wanted to sound American!  I shake my head when I think of them trying to get away from the language and those of us trying to fill up our family trees trying to learn it again.  I am sure our old ones would laugh themselves silly or maybe they would be proud we care enough to learn their old language and their ways?  I choose to believe the latter. 

Thank you, Bobbie F. for the "mucha suerte, prima"
Thank you, Ramona for the "Besos y Abrazos"
Thank you, Steven A. for the "..............con pensamientos de mis abuelos y de buenos tiempos."

SONRISAS A USTEDES (smiles to you)

Credit cards in Spain

There is something to be said about bank fees.  And I wonder how many of us are aware of all the little words in our account contracts that do not surface until we use our credit card or another "service" the friendly bank offers.  You place your money into the bank and then pay the bank to use it.  Yesterday was another red letter day as I looked closer at all those little words in both the Chase Visa, checking and savings account contract and the Capital One credit card contract.

  I found the answers to my posting from a few days ago:
Chase would receive a charge transaction from Spain, exchange the Euro amount into dollars and charge me 3% for the pleasure of using the card.  They also charge $5 if I want a money order and $3.50 if I want to give someone a Chase gift card... What????

Capital One charges NO fee for the exchange transaction!
They also include auto insurance and accident with medical coverage to a cap for me and my ummediate family which would include Steven when I use the charge card to get the rental car.

One more serious consideration decided.  I will leave the Chase Visa at home!!

Monday, August 20, 2012

More questions for the Ruiz research

I have found another genealogy nut like me!  Jeri's mother was a Ruiz and she is a font of information that has given me a list of tidy questions.  It pertains to birthdates.  Grandpa Ben Ruiz had many siblings from his biological mother and others from his step mother.  Trying to piece together birthdates by using a census or ship's manifest is not documentable evidence (I know, author's license with new word there). 

Census takers did not always get the names or ages correct.  For example, a German census taker listening to a Spanish woman pronounce the names and ages of her family 'sounds' foreign to their ears.  Hence, when the r is rolled or the s is pronounced th --- the German would automatically put his/her own connotation and pronounciation on the names and his/her brain would assimilate what he/she hears into his/her own language.  So, Ruiz was often spelled RING, RUEY etc.  Then, the names of the children were changed to nicknames or Americanized.  The lovely little things that make a genealogist's eyes cross and heart speed up is 'finding' a relative whose name is spelled like a German, Russian, Italian etc.. and the clues tell us it is our family!

I am off and running now, filling my Ruiz file for my research trip and with the help of fellow Ruiz family members, like Jeri, I will be smiling every mile of the way.

Euros vs. American dollars

Despite my realization that euros are worth significantly less than our dollar, I was unprepared for my bank visit today --- to order euros for my trip.  The euro's value has been simmering around .81 compares to one of our dollars for several months.  Today, it was the same; however, after the bank deducted its share to arrange for putting euros into my hands, the value dropped down to .76 ~

 To add to this dilemma, a further rude awakening is this:
1.  Using a credit card in Spain, I'll be charged an additional 3% for the transfer fee (convenience).
2.  Using an ATM card, I'll be charged for the pleasure of popping my card into their machines.
3.  If I forget to alert my credit card bank I am going out of the country, my card could be rejected.

The bank employee told me it was important before a trip out of the country to:
1. Find out if my credit card company waives the 3% transfer fee
2. Find out if my debit card / bank waives ATM fees
3. Remember a debit card will run through as a credit card for purchases, EFT from bank with the fees involved unless the card has specific waivers.  There could be duplicate charges here!

What ever happened to buy a ticket, pack a bag, hop on a plane and arrive in Spain in time for sangria and tapas?  

Should I charge, use ATM, or pay with a euro when I find that charming Spanish fan or shiny castenets? 

At least I will have euros in hand and my zip-it socks and fanny pack will be the hiding place for these bits of paper that are colorful and look like Monopoly money.  It reminds me of when my mother and I went to Europe in 1995 and spent our French francs and Italian lira as if it was play money.  With a .76 exchange, I believe I will watch it a bit closer this time to make sure there's plenty for Tempranillo or Malbec wine to go with all the tapas my brother promises that awaits for us!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

23 more days...

Yesterday I did what women do best before a trip ----- I went shopping.  I am determined to take only one bag filled with clothes and my backpack for computer, files, and paraphanalia that goes along with research and technology.... I do not know where we will stay the northern part of our trip other than a the university city of Salamanca for our day trips around Fuentesauco but there must be laundromats... So one week of clothes for three weeks...

Crop pants, slacks, sundress, tops and all the things for my ablutions.. Check...
I fly to Portland three weeks from today!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Spain connections

With all the technology racing in and out of our lives, one would think I was computer savvy enough to sustain communication from Spain to America without doubts. I ran a remote office for 13 years without too much difficulty. Many hours were spent under my desk corralling computer cables, satellite wiring and the Fax machine plugs. One would think I wouldn't be too nervous trying to assimilate into the world of wi-fi, phones, sim cards, SD cards and thumb drives. However, as I continue my preparation for being on Spanish soil, I decided I did not want to rely on Internet cafes just in case I was left unconnected! Never!!

After an hour on the phone, I found all the marbles rattling around in my head were for naught. I am now set up and feel sort of like a witch.... No electricity flowing out of blue fingers, no broom to get me across the water and I will have to light my own candles....but my phone will create magic! It will offer its own Internet service to "up to 5 devices" so it will be magic in my pocket wherever I go as I pull our Spanish ancestors out of the shadows..

At this rate, all I may have to think about will be Sangria and tapas or Rioja or Tempranillo wine and keeping up with conversation. Thank goodness Steven is fluent in Spanish. Otherwise I suppose I could use sign language...the age-old connection... But happy to know I will be carrying my own power with me!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Where's my passport?

Pulled out my backpack, my rolling bag and travel pillow.  Packed up my itinerary, eTicket to Malaga and notes.  Then, I opened the safe to pull out my passport.  I wanted everything in a nice order as my countdown is now 25 days.  No passport. 

I jerked through the nooks and crannies, pulled envelopes, packages and boxes out and thrashed through everything.  No passport.  Where in the world??? 

Breathe out with the bad.
Breathe in with the good.
Breathe out with..... ah Ha!  Found it.
Now, I can breathe again.  Stashed in between all the "stuff" I found the little blue booklet peeking at me, laughing its crazy head off.  Panic attack?  Well, at least a mini-anxiety attack.  Good thing I have to sit down to get into the safe; otherwise, I'd have fallen down.  Now, it's where it belongs and I can move on to other preparations!  Spain here I come ~

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gathering Ruiz history

I am, as always, overwhelmed with the amount of information my Ruiz cousins, who are complete strangers, have shared with me.  Wholeheartedly and anxious to please.  Thank you, Jeri and  Janet.

In my first posting, I shared my father's diligence and pride at promoting and creating a sister city program between Winters, California and Almogia, Spain.  I hadn't thought about it much until a cousin recently told me the Almogia flag is no longer flying above City Hall.  I contacted the Chamber of Commerce and was distressed and disappointed to find that the program evidently died with my father in 2006.  So, I have decided to open it up again!

Whether in Winters or Almogia, I have the choice of setting it into place again.  Winters was such an important town where so many Spaniards landed, became successful, grew their families and so many of us call our ancestral beginnings in America.  Why not make sure those links carry on, I wondered?  So, I am on another quest to add to the others and hopefully when I am walking through the village of Almogia the mayor in that little village will agree with me!

Until then, I have the evening planned to study in my Spanish Rosetta Stone program.  I must learn Spanish so Steven doesn't shake his head at me when I can't understand our cousins upon arrival!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Epiphanies and kindred spirits

There are times in each of our lives when we meet people and they shake our being.  Did this happen to our ancestors also?  Did they meet someone on their trip from Spain or while in Hawaii that they would always remember being there, at that time, in that place?   Our lives have so many chapters or drawers... Some private, silent and others wildly open and loud, shared with so many.  Sometimes the quiet times, when we reach within ourselves are the special moments we have to savor those special people who touch our souls.  I think it doesn't happen often or to everyone but when it does we feel blessed.  For me, where I am right now in my life, as I am on the brink of touching part of the family that is quietly part of me, I found a kindred spirit and feel blessed.  If only I could learn Spanish as Steven reprimands me about!!!!

When I traveled to France, I learned to say "where is the toilet". "may I have a room with two beds and a shower" and "may I have a glass of wine.?".  Now, heading to Spain, my brain is soft and forgiving.  Yes, maybe lazy because I will rely on my brother to say the words, get information, and lead me in the right direction.  Yep... Lazy as a drip hose but alas!  Spain awaits and I know how or roll my "r" and say "th" for my "s" in the southern part of Spain.  Will it be enough?  If not, I will smile and drink sangria, eat tapas and smile some more.  I am ready to become the quintessential Spanish lady and I'm counting the days.....18 days left in August..... And 10 days left in September and I will be on that plane pointed toward Espana.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lining up family notes for Spain

How many times do we work on a project and get interrupted or set it aside for various reasons?  How many times do we pull it out only to find clues to family history we'd overlooked before or been in too much of a hurry to SEE it when we look at it?  In the past few years as I've been working on genealogy, this has happened and epiphanies shock me silly.

Audrie helped me SEE the name of the ship (Orteric) that our ancestors left Spain on (Silvan family).  I'd looked at the document several times without seeing all the clues!

This brings me to today --- as this has happened many times during this family historical quest.  I knew I'd better gather all the RUIZ family notes since half of my research in Spain would include my Abuelo/Grandpa Ben Ruiz's family.  There are so many holes in that history and one of the big ones is finding his biological mother who died when he was 6 years old.  Rosa Romero.  I know her father's name was Miguel Romero Fernandez.  It's been over a year since I received Grandpa Ben's Spanish birth certificate and I've looked it over, translating it many times.  The script was very difficult to read which added to the discomfort of deciphering Spanish words as well. 

TODAY I GOT SERIOUS!  And found clues that knocked my socks off so to speak ~
The certificate lists BERNARDO RUIZ ROMERO clearly.  And the names of his parents, Francisco Ruiz Romero and Rosa Romero Ruiz.  It listed them from Malaga even though I'm sure this should have been Campanillas or Almogia but it is Malaga as the major province where his certificate was documented...

Paternal Grandparents:  Juan Ruiz Vallejo and Maria Garcia Garcia.  I grew frustrated because I couldn't read the name of the village they both hailed from .... only that it was a village in the provincia of Malaga.  As a final resort, I sent a copy of the document to a friend who has helped me in the past and he had no problem~  They are from the village of BENAGALBON, which is east of Malaga about 12 km.  This is about 7.5 miles and the the wonder of it all?  This village is very close to my friend's ancestors from Chilches.  So, I must add both these villages to my itinerary! 

Maternal Grandparents:  Miguel Romero Fernandez and Maria (can't read last name).  Now I know where their village was:  ALORA.  This is the same village as Grandpa Ben's stepmother's family and the whitewashed village is beautiful.  Cousin Janet Ruiz Martin visited a few months ago and sent photos.  Now, maybe I will be able to find the elusive Rosa Romero and her family there?  Despite the blurry last name, if the church records list Rosa's birth and/or baptism I will hit gold once again.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

In their space...

Almogia, Spain
After being mesmerized over Steven’s photographs from his last trip to Spain, I have been dying to see for myself whether the fields of flowers, stretches of meadows, olive trees, ocean views, white-washed villas and tapas were simply a trick of his photography or the promise of another world.   I will soon see it all for myself and give my brother the pleasure of speaking Spanish for me (I’m way behind in my Rosetta Stone studies), sharing his knowledge of Spanish wines, tapas bars and the beauty waiting for us there.

I’ve created three separate itinerary scenarios that will take us north, south and in between driving through the country vistas our ancestors walked so many years ago in their quest for a new life.  I truly cannot imagine their hardship as I get up in the morning, pour myself a cup of coffee in a large airy kitchen from an electric coffee pot with just the flick of my finger.  I can’t imagine our ancestors working from dawn until dusk, feeding animals, gardening vegetables, working in their orchards, baking all their bread, killing their animals for food or bartering with neighbors in trade for the items they couldn’t grow and create for themselves. 

Yes, we will be in their villages.  We will stand under the same sky, walk on the same streets, and breathe in the same air.  We will essentially be Spanish in Spain and feel the rush of ancestral memories invade our souls as our anxiety to learn about them pushes us forward. 

My cousin, Patte, sent an email today that put it so aptly… “ must be over the moon with excitement.”   And my reply to Patte?  “¡Absolutamente!”

Friday, August 10, 2012

Villages near Fuentesauco


With recent documents received from the Diocese of Zamora, I found ancestors layered into the Silvan family from 3 other villages. Steven, my brother, and I will tiptoe through all of them and I will post photos and musings as often as possible.With recent documents received from the Diocese of Zamora, I found ancestors layered into the Silvan family from 3 other villages. Steven, my brother, and I will tiptoe through all of them and I will post photos and musings as often as possible.With recent documents received from the Diocese of Zamora, I found ancestors layered into the Silvan family from 3 other villages. Steven, my brother, and I will tiptoe through all of them and I will post photos and musings as often as possible.


Preparing to blog correctly

Countdown to a Spanish Dream

Early in my life, my biological father, Michael Silvan Ruiz, asked me to travel to Spain to meet the Ruiz family he'd met in the early 1970s.  He wanted to introduce his daughter to them and his quasi-homeland to me.  Over time, we could never coordinate timelines.  In the interim, he saw a dream of his come true in areas of his life that his siblings and mother shared vicariously through his actions and stories.

During his first trip to Spain, he was filled with excitement and anticipation along with a bulging briefcase filled with photographs, notes and pedigree charts he'd gathered from his mother and father's memory and memorabilia.  He began in Fuentesauco, the village of his mother's family:  the SILVAN lineage.  At that time, he wrote a letter to his sister, Rose, outlining the wonder of being there, finding a very poor family who opened their arms and hearts to him and later a very wealthy Silvan relative who pushed him away.  He could only surmise that they were ashamed they would allow the poor relatives to live in such disarray. 

He became entrenched in his Spanish heritage and would travel to Spain many times afterward.  During the course of meeting more Ruiz cousins, he started thinking about Winters, California (where he grew up) and Almogia (where his Spanish relatives hailed from).  By the early 1990s, his dream became reality.   Winters and Almogia became SISTER CITIES and it was with great pride that he raised the Almogia flag in Winters to commemorate the dream.

Then, my father purchased land in Spain among the cousins and proceeded to build a round house.  My brother (Steven) spent several summer vacations during the building process and in exchange, he became part of the Ruiz cousin realm and learned the language and loved the family there.  My brother, Rick, went one year also and meeting Ruiz relatives and being part of the building process was very special to him. 

My father asked me several times to travel to Spain and be part of the house, the family and his life.  By then, my family kept me home and so did the budget.  I ached to go.....but the time still wasn't right.
In the late 1990s, my dream of going to Spain moved closer to reality but there seemed always something to block my trip.  My father asked a couple more times and by the early 2000s, he was forced to sell the round house, leaving his dream of living in Spain behind --- his wife was ill and so was he. 

His briefcase still bulged with photos, documents and pedigree charts.  He knew he had to pass on the torch for a younger generation to pick up and run with it.  Now, I have the torch and the time but unfortunately time ran out for my father.  He died in September of 2006.  Now, six years later, I am finally holding an airline ticket and notes I have researched on my own.  Nobody knows where his briefcase full of genealogy landed and it breaks my heart to think of the loss but I will soon SEE Almogia for myself -- along with my brother, Steven.  I share his love of Spain and nobody can imagine the depth and breadth of emotion one feels touching one's ancestors homeland until they do it for the first time.  Steven speaks of his first time with deep emotion.  Now it is my turn and my only regret is not sharing it with my father, who wanted so much to be part of that dream.
Countdown for lift off: 30 days