Spain Day 20 - Mas Amigos

Trip Start Jun 25, 2008
Trip End Sep 01, 2008

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Flag of Spain and Canary Islands  , Cantabria,
Friday, July 18, 2008

Today, I get up super early by our Spanish trip's standards ... 7am. A quick thirty minute drive to the Reinosa train station to drop off Bob and Rachel. They've been with us two and a half days, and today they leave to head back towards Madrid where they will catch their flight home. Back to Pie de Concha for some early morning work while the fam is still asleep at the house.

Once everybody wakes up, we decide to head back in to Santander for another beach day. Its looking like its going to be a beautiful day. We have also coordinated with Elena (another niece of our host family) and Fernando (her boyfriend) to meet for lunch. To be honest, after meeting Inigo&Jaione and Marta & Alfredo and all the great people at Pie de Concha, I'm skeptical that our good luck with Spanish friend making will continue. Plus, I'm feeling a bit tired from the early wake up, and some part of me wishes we weren't going to meet ANOTHER couple. Will I have to struggle through Spanish speaking? Will we rehearse similar questions and stories? ...

By the time we get to Santander, its too late to go to the beach before our meeting time with Elena and Fernando, so we stop off at a large park to let the kids burn some energy. Samuel is super sad we aren't going to Miengo again (where the hotel & internet connection is with the large playground and beach, but we convince him to give this one a try ... and he loves it!) The park also provides a great chance for Janice and I to catch up now that we are back to just our family since the Burts have left. ... The park is great. Several large play areas, with a big pond/wildlife refuge sort of thing in the middle. After playing and talking for a good hour, we take some time to walk around the park enjoying the bird sanctuary type thing in the middle. Near 1:30pm now, we head out to meet Elena and Fernando.

What a great couple they are! Just like so many of the other people we've meet out this way, we strike up great conversations right off the bat. They both speak English very well, which makes it very easy to communicate (for me at least). Both Elena and Fernando are teachers. Fernando is an expert in Economic History. "Interesting ...", I say. ... "You are very kind!", he replies chuckling. But the more that he and I talk about the economic crisis that is hitting the USA and the world, it DOES turn out to be very interesting. We talk for at least an hour or two about political issues, world economics, the US stock market and how we both believe the oil crisis around the globe is the largest issue 'fueling' our current crisis. With China and India's exponential increase in usage of fuel, the dwindling oil supplies, and the religious and political struggles that are so closely intertwined with these things ... its easy to be nervous about the future. We share a concern about the increase of violence we are seeing around the world and Fernando tells me that historically, any time a shortage of a critical resource (wether it be grain, water, or in this case oil) occurs ... a surge of violence follows in the ensuing power struggle. We talk about the wonderfully good things that have come about by recent advances in technology, but also how the potential for horrible and evil things has increased as well. Our fear for a major violent confrontation is well founded, ... but yet ... we both have hope. We both hope that our world is not doomed to repeat the same mistakes of the past. We both hope that technology and human innovation bring us a solution to the oil crisis. We are fearful, and yet hopeful. Its an awesome experience to share our unique, but similar perspectives with one another so far away from home.

Both Fernando and Elena are great fun. We share laughs, and a great lunch overlooking a beach near El Sardinero (the most popular beach in Santander). Great food. Great new friends. ... And what makes lunch even better ... Fernando and Elena insist on paying! Woo hoo! THANK YOU!!

And the day is really just getting started. We continue to walk and talk and Fernando and Elena act as our hosts for Santander, showing us the way to "Peninsula de La Magdalena", a fabulous and free public park. The complex includes a beautiful palace atop a hill (that was once used by royalty as a vacation home), a small zoo, a large playground, and a great family friendly beach complete with a slide from the park down to the sandy beaches. Just our lucky day, there is also a free Horse Riding competition going on. ALSO FREE! After being given a brief tour of the park, Fernando and Elena head off to handle some errands and we say goodbye for now, with a promise from them to come visit us in California in two or three years.

Our fam stays in the park for several hour, enjoying the beach, playing on the playground (by the way, Ella has really taken off as a professional swing rider! All by herself, such a big girl). Sam enjoys the large teeter-totter type thing for a bit. Its cute ... at first, he waits patiently in line for his turn, but the local kids ignore him because he is so quiet. I find Sam a bit sad, and he tells me the story, at which point I rectify the problem by introducing him to the kids and explaining that he doesn't speak Spanish and is from the States. Before long, he gets his turn and is laughing and playing, happy as can be. After about twenty minutes though, some older pre-teen kids come by and want their turn. They don't demand the kids away, the just 'volunteer' to spin them. They start whirling the thing around so fast, it prompts me to get up and get Samuel off before injury occurs. I'm pissed at the rascally tactics of the kids, and as the little kids scatter and the older kids take over ... I dream about giving them a taste of their own medicine. I picture myself stepping up and insisting on spinning them around ... and then spinning them so fast that they piss themselves, fall off, and bloody their knees. But, ... I control myself.

After cleaning up from the beach, we walk up the hill to the palace and then on to the small zoo before we head home.

Today goes down as one of my favorite days with the kids. As we drove home in the car, we were all laughing and joking and talking. Great fun.

A couple of notes that I never want to forget:
The way both our kids say "DUNK!" instead of "Duck!" when warning to duck below something (like a low hanging tree branch or toy structure for instance).
The way they both say, "Ay ay ay!" now as an exclamation instead of "Wow!".
The way Ella always says "geel" instead of "girl".
The way Ella talks ... with her teenage mannerisms at the age of 4. "And then... smack ... ummm.... smack... dramatic pause and flutter of the eyes as she revels in the attention ... do you know what? ... pause .... smack ..."
Samuel's constant rule following. He LOVES rules.
... And today, Samuel in the car busts out ... "The whole club was lookin' at her, her. ... with the jeans, with the fur, with the fur, she hit the floor, she hit the floor ..." ... The little dude had been listening to my i-pod where I have the kids stories that the Burts gave us, but he had fast forwarded to my music collection and played this song over and over to the point that he knows the words better than I do! It hilarious. Just like how the kids used to sing "Hot in here". His innocence and the flash of guilt I feel combine to create a perfectly comic moment.
... Another moment talking with my son, we continue our ongoing discussion about God and all the things that people believe across the globe about how the world came to be. At some point, the discussion turns to aliens and UFO's. Samuel's brain twists and turns as he describes to me why he believes in Aliens and how God made them ... and he works through the logic as to why I'm not too confident that Aliens exist at all. He is so serious and logical about the whole thing and its all so precious! I love it.

These perfect and wonderful moments in time with the kids and our family are priceless. I hate the fact that I can't document every one of them for my future memory's sake, but the reality is that life speeds at such a pace that its impossible to capture it all. The best I can manage is to smile, soak it up, and bask in the mysterious glory of life.

Last item for this entry is about the gas prices here. I fueled up the tank with 33.5 liters, at a cost of 43 Euros. Some quick math makes that 8.85 gallons, at a cost of $67.94. Some more math tells me that is $7.67 per gallon of gas. Ouch. Even if you back out the horrible exchange rate of 1.58 Dollars to the Euro, gas is still a bit higher than what we pay in the States.
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