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