a wandering woman writes

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Rocket Man

OOPS! No time AGAIN, sorry to let so much time pass between entries. My first visitor from the States arrives Saturday - the first person to visit me in my Spanish apartment instead of my 26th floor condo in Chicago!! Old life meets new life, here we go!

And she's my mother, so I'm ever so slightly PANICKED fixing all the things that don't work so well, cleaning, buying bus tickets (I'm 2 1/2 hours from Madrid)....

So today - a quick photo. This is our local astronaut. He's part of the stonework of Salamanca's 'New' Cathedral. Workman added him - and a beautifully carved ice cream cone - to the stonework during a restoration.

You've got to like a town that would add a space walking astronaut (see how he is floating?) to a 16th century cathedral.


Sunday, April 24, 2005

It might as well be spring

One of my stork neighbors, still perfecting the nest....

I say it's Spring, although Salmantinos keep arguing with me. They insist there's more winter to come, and as a transplanted Chicagoan I understand, I really do. I know to never completely trust April, but still..... my terazza garden is in, fat, green and happy, the storks have been back for weeks, and I took a undeniably Spring Sunday walk this morning.

The storks were out in full force - at least 5 or 6 adults, soaring over the river (on a very windy day, when gliding and soaring just must be more fun), gathering more sticks and weeds for their nests. I suspect they come down to the river to eat as well: tadpoles, frogs, worms, lizards. For weeks, I've been watching them glide by, carrying construction materials up to their nests in the cathedrals and the church steeples, looking much more like hang-gliders than birds. Or airborne sailboats - I suspect part of my fascination with them comes from how much they remind me of sailing. Storks swoop, soar and glide through the air without pumping their wings, most of the time. After a quick start they just ride whatever wind wave they find. If it's not the straightest line to their destination, it is the most efficient - no energy wasted fighting the wind, better to just go with it. Sailing! Then, as they prepare to land, they sit, like a hang-glider, lowering their legs gradually to a seated position, creating the drag that brings them sputtering down to firm ground.

You'd be hard pressed to find a church steeple in western Spain that is not inhabited by at least one family of storks; our cathedrals are each home to 3 or 4 couples. The baby-carrying legend doesn't hold, however; I've confused everyone I've mentioned it to. Seems the Spanish tell their children babies come "from Paris"!

Anyway, when I headed from the river to the Rua to buy bread, I ran into a tiny, seemingly spontaneous procession. A tamborilero (a man playing a drum and a recorder-like wind instrument at the same time- a traditional one-man band) was playing his was up the Rua to the Plaza Mayor, followed by a small group of older Salmantinos elegantly outfitted in long black capes. We are celebrating a fiesta this weekend, although not an interesting one. Seems each autonomous region can celebrate a maximum of 14 holidays, and this day is our 14th. A day to celebrate the province's heritage, claim the 14th holiday, and gather in the Plaza in long black capes.

The accordionist who provided the soundtrack for my walks home from work all summer was back in the little plaza by the Casa de las Conchas this morning, as well. Spring!

More proof of Spring's arrival below........

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This old stone wall: on the bike trail along the river, out of town, yet still in the shadow of the cathedrals.

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Monday, April 18, 2005


And this is Franco in the Plaza Mayor. I don't think red's his color, do you?

It's also one of my favorite things about Salamanca. A small statement, perhaps, but it's a statement! No matter how many times they clean the poor guy up, somebody paints him again. That's his name, below the medallion (click to enlarge the photo and you might be be able to make it out) scratched out - of stone!! - beyond recognition.

A couple of weeks ago they took away the last statue of Franco left in Madrid, an enormous sculpture of the Generalíssimo on horseback. They told no one, worked for hours under cover of night and finally carried Franco and horse away in a truck, covered by a shroud. The next morning a group of ultra conservatives showed up to protest.

I have to admit one of the things I find hardest to relate to in Spain is this history -the recent memory of having lived in a dictatorship. But I like to think I'd paint the guy's medallion red. As often as I had to!


Sunday, April 17, 2005

Here's Home

Take heed, daughter, that you are in Salamanca, which is known all over the world as mother of science and of ordinary things. There, eleven or twelve thousand students live and study, among whom you'll find those who are young, enthusiastic, capricious, enterprising, wasteful, discreet, fiendish and good-natured people. Miguel de Cervantes

The classic Salamanca photo: a view back to the old city from the Roman Bridge. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

I haven't met everybody on Cervantes' list yet but I'll agree they're likely all here!

Salamanca is a small provincial capital - about 160,00 residents with another 30,000 students at the University - but she's got all the bustle, most of the tourists (largely Spanish) and a lot of the attitude of a much larger city. The town's always been well-known for its prestigious University -the second oldest in Europe, after Bologna - although these days Salamanca attracts equal attention as the home of the "purest" Castellano.

The streets are filled with language students - old and young, traveling alone or as roving hoards of college-age Americans and gap-year holandeses. All of this makes Salamanca an easy place to be an expat - since Salmantinos are used to foreigners -and a difficult place as well. Some locals are openly hesitant to befriend guiris (foreigners, particularly English-speaking foreigners), worried we'll just move away again. Like it's not worth the investment if there's no guarantee of longevity!

Anyway, I live just to the right in this photo: Cross the bridge in the direction we are headed, then take a quick right along the river bank before before climbing into the city. Duck behind a pretty little Romanesque church - iglesia Santiago, now garishly covered in bricks, (BAD restoration decision a hundred years ago) - and there I am.

Through this week I'll post more photos of my "mother of science and ordinary things".

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Getting Started

Today marks the beginning of my blog!

Just about a year ago, I left a high rise tucked behind the Wrigley Building in downtown Chicago and moved myself and a couple of suitcases to Spain. I wanted adventure, I wanted to live in another culture and another language, and, well, something just told me this was next.

So here I am. I’m 42, American, I work in marketing and I live in Salamanca, a very beautiful, very old university town I’ll tell you more about later.

There’s a little bit of paying it forward in this blog, too. More than four years ago, when I announced I was quitting a nice fat VP job to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, someone did me a favor. A very wise woman who I really didn’t know very well advised me to stop being me - driven overachieving 90 mile-an-hour me- for just a while, before choosing a new path. I took her advice and booked a 2 month Spanish course in Spain. (I couldn’t very well take a 2 month vacation without a measurable result, now could I??)

Those 2 months started me on a journey I’d never expected to make. I fell head over heels in love with the Spanish language. I fell in love with life at a slower pace. I fell in love with the adventure of discovering something new every day. Last May, I took the leap and moved to Salamanca, Spain, where I now live and work.

By blogging I plan to catch my travels and adventures in words for myself and for faraway friends, but hey, maybe I’ll pay it forward. Maybe I’ll make just one person question if it’s worth taking a crazy dream off the back burner, just to see what happens.

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