a wandering woman writes

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Dear God, I live in Spain

I loved this, from Kevin Sites, the journalist who's spending a year visiting every country currently in armed conflict:

Like a slow-dissolve connecting the disparate sequences of a continuous story that spans too much geographic territory, I see the roads before me blend from one to the other — riding the river beds of eastern Afghanistan in a humvee, through the lowlands of northern Colombia packed in a local taxi, winding through the hillsides of Haiti in my fixer's beat up Datsun and now to this moment in Nepal.

There is a duality at work here that is hard for me to comprehend. I'm amazed by the these geographic disjunctions in my journey, the shock of sensory overload, the new smells, terrain, and lives that wash over me on these drives.

Simultaneously, I'm lulled by the comfort of it all, the fact that there is too much to understand. Instead of an observer, for this moment, I am a dog with my head out the window, the rush of air creating a comforting buzz that silences the need to know more — at least for now.


A funny thing happened on the way back from Ireland.

It somehow hit me, as I arrived in Madrid's Barajas Airport, that I was "home". But not really. Like when I arrive "home" to Chicago, but not really. Or Rhode Island, or Southern California. But not really. Speaking Spanish again felt warmly, wonderfully familiar.

I got this odd feeling I can't quite capture in words as I started the long journey back from Madrid's new air terminal (which I suspect is actually in Salamanca, judging by the length of the walk and tram ride to get there.) I had only taken a week's wander through Ireland. But Ireland changes so rapidly as you travel - rocky burren, rolling green hills, flat topped green mountains with rocky faces, long sandy strands with the tide far out, lake-filled valleys, pine forests, bogs. I always feel as if I've visited a dozen countries. Add that I stayed in people's homes, and that I was travelling with the American brother I hadn't spent time with in over a year....and my trip felt like that slow dissolve Kevin describes, like a wave of languages and cultures and weather and smells and faces.

Then I landed back in Spain, home but not home, a familiar language but not my first. I don't know if I can describe it well, but for the first time and maybe because I was excited to come back to my new self-propelled life here, I felt like a part of all of it. As though I didn't have a distinct "home", it was all home, all recognizable and just moving like a wave, a slow dissolve from one place to another.

I remember using that same image, a dog with her head out the window, to describe myself in the first draft of a poem a few months ago. It fits. I came back from Ireland on sensory overdrive, but with that same wind-in-both-ears feeling, like there was no need to know more. No need to sort out what sound was what or what it all meant, or, in my case, where the heck I am going. There were just people to meet, and places and smells and the call of my first cuckoo (outside of a clock) to let wash over me. And my head, out the window.

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  • thanks wandering woman, for the link to Kevin Sites' journal. i will be off on a jaunt to Eastern Europe this summer and I found myself getting so nervous about the trip that I couldn't sleep. all of the what-ifs in my mind... the language "barriers" the economic and cultural difference, and all kinds of stories I read on the internet and in the news which encourage a general fear of travel and a fear of what is different were getting to me. But I really have loved the travel I've done so far, and will go and will enjoy myself this summer. Reading your blog is wonderful, and finding courageous people like Sites is too. Thanks..!

    By Blogger kaleidoscope, at 6:43 PM  

  • Beautifully written, beautifully described ...

    By Blogger woman wandering, at 10:59 PM  

  • Talking about Madrid's new terminal... here you have an excerpt of the e-mail i wrote to my friends right after getting back to spain from hong kong... :P

    "When I got to immigration, I put my passport in the desk and I said "hola". The policeman in front of me was quite young and was eating a hot dog. He smiled and me and (with a really strong Galician accent) asked me how old I was and whether I had a boyfriend. When I answered "18" and "no" he told me to pass without even looking at the passport. Then, I knew I was in Spain"

    By Anonymous Cristina, at 11:53 PM  

  • oooh...love this. Beautifully written. Love you, love the places you take us...

    By Blogger Laura Young, at 12:11 AM  

  • Thank you, Laura. I'm liking the places I go. :)

    Cristina, full belly laugh, yeh that would be a sure sign. Still, I enjoy that attention in Spain, and sometimes in Chicago or New York or other cities, it feels lewd, derogatory, somehow.

    Spanish men have a way of making me feel like I still have it at 43, lol. (Not that I am sure I do, by the way...)
    Thanks for the wide smile this morning, Cristina...Have you blogged Hong Kong? Got to go see...

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 10:55 AM  

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/oceanodecanela/73611949/

    By Blogger Nomadita, at 12:57 PM  

  • Hey kaleidoscope, how did I not respond? I will be eager to read about your jaunt through Eastern Europe. I have been dying to go, even just to start with quick trips to cities like Prague and Sofia and Bucharest and Budapest..and just all the capitals, which is pretty cheap from Spain. Kevin Sites is a wonderful inspiration and a refreshing break from the "news" you usually read isn't he? Thanks for the kind comments, and I tell you it's the scary stuff and the most different that make the wandering.....So excited for you!!
    (By the way, all the Eastern Europeans I've met here in Spain, travelling, working, whatever, speak English beautifully. Learn hello and goodbye and thank you and a few more phrases in language or 2 and you'll be great...)

    NOMADITA!! It's perfect!!! Look at that intense concentration, LOL. What a time he's having...

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 11:43 AM  

  • hey wandering woman, you made me realize that surprisingly enough i haven't writen much about hong kong... i guess everything i was doing was so exciting that i didn't quite realise the place itself was worth a post or two... i do mention stuff but it's quite scattered all over my posts.
    anyway... here you have a link to the photo report of one of my china trips (in spanish)


    and another one to the post i wrote during the first official cyclon i lived:


    right now there are many things and many people from my hk life i'm missing, but as soon as i pick myself up i'll write a summary (!) of my hk life focused on hk itself.

    By Anonymous Cristina, at 4:42 PM  

  • ooh, thanks cristina..on my way

    By Blogger wandering-woman, at 12:03 PM  

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