The alarm rang at 11:00am this morning. I'm trying adjust our bodies to the time change, but we are still a bit off. Both Janice and I slept solidly last night for the first time this trip which is a good sign I think, and we enjoyed a very leisurely morning. A typical Spanish breakfast of tea, a piece of fruit, and a slice of breakfast bread/cake. The kids had cereal. They love the milk here. Its not like the milk in the States ... this is something different. Its not kept cold in the stores. Janice hates it.
We spent our morning relaxing, jogging, and more relaxing. As I took my turn jogging around our little village, chills ran up my spine. We had only seen one part of the village ..
. but jogging through the streets gave me an entirely new perspective. Jogging up the street, it dawns on me that this village is one of many along an ancient road that the Romans used to travel from modern day Santander down towards central Madrid. Sooo ... every little village like ours has these super old churches and buildings along the narrow roads. Old relics dot the path ... an old cross ... an old church building .. so much history ... and hear I am jogging along. Me ... by myself ... the sound of birds and cowbells and the Spanish language all around. That runners high keeps hitting my body, not from the running so much, but the exhilaration of my surroundings. I pass a small pasture with a lonely horse. A cowbell tied to its neck. Its a strong horse, ... I'll snap a photo of the guy at some point for memory's sake. It just LOOKS Spanish. ... On I jog, next to a stream to a fork in the road. Three choices. I choose the steep hill to the left and am rewarded with magnificent views of my valley. Its gorgeous. Green in every direction. Awe inspiring. ... I'm tired. I head back home where Janice awaits with a packed picnic and the kids. We take the car out for a spin. Just a short five minute drive to where we jogged earlier. I had spied out an area that looked perfect. Private land guarded by a barbed wire fence. No lock on the hand made gate. I open it up and we walk along a huge hill of fern type things and commanding views. But too many bugs, not a good picnic spot. We pack back up and head closer to home and settle down to eat near the stream I had passed while jogging
. Couldn't ask for a better start to the day.
Back home, we head across the street to see Mariangeles (Mary Angel)... not sure if I got the spelling right. Mariangeles is a friend and across the street neighbor of ours. She is also the owner of the bar directly across from our home, also attached to her own. She agreed to let me use their internet in the evenings and weekend when the local city hall is closed down. I am anxious to confirm that everything is working so I can be sure to get my work done each day. We go over and treat the kids to some ice cream treats and she welcomes me in to her home, allowing me to techno-geek for a bit. And the we discover our first problemo. I can't connect my laptop to her internet connection. Too complicated to explain here, but this means I'm going to have to drive about 30 minutes away each night to connect and call my clients. Not the worst thing in the world. Heck, most people commute that long everyday! Still, techno problems in Espanol = no fun. Meanwhile, Janice finds comfort in her vice ... good coffee! The bar sells a perfect cup for .90 Euros, or a $1.50 USD. Not bad. Janice takes two. YUM!
Back to the house for some resting ... I work on some marinades for the fish and steak we bought at the store yesterday
. And bake up some cheese and ham frozen pizza. In the meantime, Ella finds time to track down a toy in the house and break it. Its a cushy cow keychain, and Ella walked up the steps saying, "Daddy, the legs fell off!"... uh, yeah. Right. I ask her what happened and she swears that she was just playing with the cow and the legs fell right off. I don't think so. A swat for lying. And timeout time. With a punishment to write an apology and buy a replacement toy instead of a treat tomorrow. ... and then, dinnertime. Just as we finish eating, its time for the Euro2008 Finals! Over to Mariangeles' place!
Its packed in the bar. Room filled with smoke. We make our way to the back. People jokingly offer the kids cigarettes. Laughs all around in between the screaming at the game. FUNNY MOMENT: We enjoy the game for a bit and hand Ella the camera with instructions to go across the bar and take a photo of Janice and I (we've discovered that Ella really loves not only posing for photos, but taking them too! And she is good at it!). All eyes in the bar are on this cute little girl with a camera. Everybody is cooing and gushing ... except one guy who is oblivious and walks right in the line of fire as Ella is snapping the camera. Screams erupt from everybody ... as if Germany had just scored a goal. I mean loud! Of course, they all had smiles on their faces and we all were laughing so hard I was nearly crying
. Ella ran over and we looked at the photo and it captured the moment BEAUTIFULLY! Look at the photo below .. "Where's Waldo?". Thats the picture she took! Anyhow, shortly after that ... we ejoyed another new vino experience. In my talk with Mariangeles earlier in the day, I discovered that the locals have an evening favorite drink. Vino con Cola. There is a specific name for the concoction that I can't remember right now ... but essentially its just that ... wine plus Coca Cola. Just like you'd mix Rum and Coke. Same thing. We tried it. Loved it. Another favorite. Twenty minutes later, Janice took the kids home for bed and I watched and cheered the Spaniards on to victory with the locals. Every German that was passed on the field triggered a cheer of "OLE!" from the bar's patrons, me included. During one unsuccessful run towards the goal, one Spanish player must have passed six players. Each "OLE!" got louder and louder and then corporate disappointment. A great bonding experience that surpassed language barriers for sure. And it was just awesome. So different than bars in the USA where there is nearly always such undertones of sexuality or absurd drunkedness. The bar had grandparents, children, singles, and couples ... everybody having a great time. And none of the other junk. ... And not just because of the game ... just a different culture all around.
Back home after the game Janice tells me she could tell when the game was over because she could hear the cheers from the surrounding towns echoing through the valley
. An exaggeration I thought. But soon I learned she was speaking accurately. Genious Asher decides it would be a good idea to head in to town (thirty minutes away) to test out the internet situation. By now, its eleven thirty or so ... I've had a glass of wine ... never driven in Europe ... stick shift ... don't speak the language ... .... but of course none of this dawns on me as a big deal at the time. I assure Janice I'll be ok and hit the road. And sure enough as I walk towards the car, I hear the singing echoing around me. Sounds of celebration. More fireworks. Its awesome.
About fourty five minutes later, I arrive at my destination. The Tom-Tom that I've been lent by my friend Bruce works well, but not perfectly. It took me a back way ... and several wrong turns along the way. Also, I kept hitting the dang high-beams on the car so half the time people passed and honked and were celebrating the soccer game, and the other half were probably telling me about the lights. BAH. But finally, I arrive in Torrelavega and am ready to find the hotel that is supposed to have wi-fi that supports my laptop. .... Lets just say Torrelavega is a much bigger town than I had imagined. And the fans there are REALLY REALLY excited about tonight's victory.Every person in the street is decked out in all red or all yellow and/or waiving the Spanish flag all around... from small little flags to flags that have to be held by 4 people..
. I got a couple of videos but mind you, I'm trying to fit in and drive a stick shift in a foreign country ... so this doesn't quite capture the chaos that was going on around me. Notice the guy at the end of the second video. He was waiving the Spain flag over every passing car ... except mine. Weird. ... Didn't think much of it at the time... more on that later.
Finally, I reach the hotel. But only taxi parking in sight or a public parking structure that I'm not sure I'll be able to navigate without Janice ... so I look for street parking. A dark street, an open spot. I'm good. I park and start walking. Six blocks later, I have no idea where the hotel is. And it dawns on me that all the cars and waving and merry-making isn't being extended to me for some reason. Hm. Maybe its because I'm tall, white, skinny. Not exactly the Spanish type, I figure. I walk a little longer and think again ... or ...wait a minute, tonight Spain wore RED, Germany wore WHITE. Lo' and behold, I'm wearing white head to toe. To make matters worse, I hadn't changed since jogging in the morning wearing my TechnoViking tshirt (youtube: technoviking if you don't know the reference). The dude just looks like an angry German if I've ever seen one. ... So here I am, lost in Torrelavega, at nearly 1am, surrounded by a bunch of drunken chaos, looking like a fan of the enemy team, carrying a backpack with roughly $2k worth of stuff
. Perfect. Now listen. I'm not one who gets freaked out often. I'm tall (particularly in Spain), a pretty big guy, and tend to feel comfortable just about anywhere. I did grow up in the 'hood ... .... but this was different. I was TOTALLY 100% out of my element. Didn't speak the language. Nobody to call if something happened. I don't even know the emergency 911 number! ... I start sweating. Tried to look calm. I'm sure I didn't. More stares from locals. Now I know why they were giving me the silent treatment. ... I could just picture it in my head. Those classic clips from Neverending Story or Karate Kid where the bullys surround the kid and start pushing and yelling. And I don't speak the language, and my bag breaks open and the lead says, "Well, what do we have here?" ... ARRRGGH! .... And then, I see my car and hightail it out of there as fast as I can!
No internet, but I have my life. And my bag. So all is well. A crazy, fun experience.
I try a second internet thing on my map, doesn't work ... I head home tired, exhilerated, frustrated ... happy to see Janice and share my story. We laugh ... then try to sleep.