Archive for the ‘Spanishoeprints’ Category

My father sent me these lovely neules from Mallorca for Christmas!

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20141216_164038They are paper cuts made by nuns there during holiday season, and they are not only decorative but practical. They are hung in the cathedrals in Spain to help illiterate people keep track of the seasons and festivals during the year. They look like snowflakes hanging from the chandeliers and the slightest breeze makes them float and twirl.

20141217_113806I will always treasure them.

Peace be with you,

Sister Olive

~♥~

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I learned so much among the Spanish people, not only about civility which seems to be disappearing in my own nation, but about things that make life simpler and more pleasant.  I would never intentionally shed negative light on my own country, but we could learn so much if we would be more humble and listen to our friends from other places.  My father was a wonderful guide and explained many things to me as we wandered around different villages and cities.

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For example, I love the beautiful lace curtains that hang over the doorways in Spain, and it didn’t occur to me right away that I didn’t see any screened doors or windows.  My father explained that the lace is a more fashionable way of fulfilling the same purpose. When the doors are open, the lace keeps insects out of homes. Many of the people have beaded curtains, like the ones that were so popular in the hippie days in America. Flies and other insects can sense the motion of the beads in the breeze and it frightens them away.  And the homes are more aesthetically pleasing to look at without all of the screens.

One of the most pleasant features of Spain is the remarkable cleanliness of the place. The streets in even the larger cities like Barcelona were incredibly clean.  I never saw trash cans or litter drifting around while I was in there, because the business of trash disposal and collection occurs at night.  Metal hooks are set into the stone walls beside the doors, and the people place trash bags on the hooks at dusk for the trash collectors.

In the entire time that I was in Spain, I never sat at a table in a restaurant that had spills or crumbs on it.  Even in the airport McDonald’s, the tables were kept spotlessly clean and shiny. People seem to genuinely take pride in their villages and cities.

One taxi driver in Barcelona was beaming with pride as he explained to us about the best sites to see during our visit, and he pointed out his apartment as we drove by, remarking several times as he drove that he loved living in this beautiful city.  I don’t know that I have ever seen people take such pride in their places of habitation.  In America, we are proud of our own property, but Spaniards take pride in their whole community.

After a couple of weeks in Spain, it occurred to me that I had not seen any semi-trucks on the highways even in the cities.  My father explained that they transport merchandise at night, not in the daytime.

I saw a sign in the village square which showed a picture of a hand covered in chain mail, and I asked my father about it.  He told me that is was for the butcher shop. He explained that in Spain, a butcher is required by law to wear chain mail over the hand which is holding the meat when he cuts it.  It is not only a tradition but a matter of insurance liability. More importantly, it’s good sense.

My father asked me one night if we wanted to go to a tapas bar, and I glared at him and said “What?”  Then he repeated himself, and explained that tapas are appetizers or hors d’oeuvres.  In Spain you go out for tapas when you are not ready for a full meal but you need a little something to hold you over.  I love this concept because it saves the embarrassment of going in a restaurant when you only want soup or a salad and the waiter looks at you with annoyance as if to say “cheapskate” or “there goes my tip for this table.”

I noticed that many waiters wear arm bands above the elbow that resemble garter belts made of black satin.  So one day I inquired of a dashing young waiter, “Do your arm bands represent something, or do you wear them just to look nice?”  He answered, “We adjust the length of our sleeves with them, so that our cuffs don’t come in contact with the food we serve.” What a great idea! And they look much classier than rolled-up sleeves.

I saw mostly small cars in Spain, because they are economical and more suitable for the narrow roadways and easy parking.  I did not see the gigantic gas hogs driving around there like I am accustomed to seeing here.  The people are also smaller, and I rarely saw an obese person.  The competitive over-consumptive capitalistic spirit seems to be absent from the atmosphere.

Weapons don’t mean a thing to most Spaniards.  My father says that aggression takes place everywhere, but the Spanish people don’t like fighting.  In fact, he says they don’t like to place their hands on each other at all during an argument.  When they get angry with one another, they shout mostly, but seldom push or strike one another.

My father says that there is a strong sense of community in Spain, that
there is not an attitude of every man for himself, striving against the whole world.  Spaniards think in terms of every man for himself and his neighbor.  He said that Americans think this is communist, but it isn’t. Communism is every man for the government.  What could possibly be wrong with “love thy neighbor as thyself”?

There is no charge for medical care in Spain, and if you need antibiotics, you don’t need a prescription. You walk to the pharmacy and buy it complete with instructions on dosage, warnings, etc.  You are assigned a doctor based on where you live and from there to specialists if you need them.  Spain is fourth in quality of medical care in the world, and America is around thirty-two while the care is more costly than anywhere else. My father had a quadruple bypass surgery about two years ago, and paid nothing for his care. There goes that community spirit again.

People really enjoy being together is Spain. When you meet a friend at a restaurant, you don’t sit for an hour and get your ticket from a hurried waiter. You commune with your friends for hours over food and wine presented with style and kindness. No rude service there! My father says once you sit down at a table, it is yours as long as you like and no one will take it from you.

The cathedral bells there ring out the hours of the day, the church services, special holidays, and the deaths of villagers. I loved seeing the birds flying from the bell towers when they chimed. There are unique rings for each kind of event, and the bells toll differently to signify the passing of men or women or children.

I have been dreaming of Spain ever since our departure.  My son and I wandered around the beautiful Barcelona airport for an hour or so before our departure, shopping for last minute souvenirs and gifts.  The floors were so polished that I felt as if I was walking across a pond.

When we flew into the Atlanta airport, we looked out the windows and saw trash everywhere in and around dumpsters.  As we walked inside, we smelled the dismal smell of sweat and dirt.  We were so sad that this is what foreigners experience when they arrive in America.

When will we ever learn?

~♥~

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The village of Valldemossa affects my mind like a dream because it is so quiet and charming, and the people seem to be the same.  Those whom I met had soft voices and a gentle demeanor.  In the first shop I walked into, a white-haired man smiled at me and lowered his head as if to say “Welcome.”  I don’t know how he could tell I didn’t speak Spanish. When I had found the scarf with oceanic colors that I wanted to buy, I approached the man and he took out a calculator, pressed some keys, and showed me the display.  “Gracias” I said and counted my confusing little coins.  The paper money started with fives and that always mixed me up, but I placed one- and two-euro coins on the glass counter until I had the right amount.  The man wrapped my scarf with decorated tissue that said “Valldemossa” in provincial blue, and placed it into a pretty paper bag.  We nodded nervously at each other and I stepped away.  As I reached the threshold, the man got brave and said “hello.”  I wanted to chuckle, but I didn’t.

In Spain, banks are required to dedicate their profits to social and artistic projects in the villages. One afternoon, Sa Nostra bank brought in a choral group to sing and I walked in with my father and son to listen.  Three rows of ladies and men sang in Spanish with pleasant melodies and harmony, and their faces seemed to be glowing with peace.  After listening for about half an hour, suddenly I was pleasantly surprised to hear a line in English: We are marching in the light of God; we are marching in the light of God.”  I noticed the singers began to switch languages so that everyone could hear these words in their own language.

After the concert, I talked with my son and said, “These people seem so sweet and humble and happy.  They remind me of the Who’s in Who-Ville (from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas).  “I could see that,” he replied with a smile. (The thought occurred to me that my father could very well be the Grinch.)

As I walked through the monastery where Chopin wrote some of his most famous music, a lady named Francisca approached me and offered to take my picture in the gardens.  I remarked, “Oh, the new Pope is named after you, I see” and she smiled broadly.

My father introduced me to some of his close friends during our visit:  Suzanne the quiet concert pianist who forgets her shyness altogether when she plays on stage, Barry the violinist who came with a kiss upon my hand and a deep kind voice, Michael the opera composer who met his wife Philippa when she was singing soprano in a concert, Nils the artist who sketched the musicians at the International Music Festival in Deia, Owen the cowboyish fellow from Peculiar, Missouri with floppy hat and a scar over one eye and fowl language after a few drinks, Arturo the English gypsy artist with a black and white pinstripe shirt, a large black handbag over one shoulder and a hot pink scarf.  “I love your shirt,” I remarked.  He answered with a sweet and high voice, “I am not ashamed. I got it from someone’s trash.” He stole my gypsy heart instantly.

My father leaned towards me and said, “You have asked me why I stay here and don’t return to the states.  These people are the reason, as you can see.”  Yes, I do see.

On our final day in the village, my son and I wandered for one last time down the stone streets. We stopped into the gallery of Coll Bardolet which also features a charming little cafe with various kinds of espresso. Just before we returned to my father’s wooden door, I saw Francisca sitting upon a bench.  “We are leaving tomorrow morning,” I said. “It was delightful meeting you.  This is such a lovely place.”

“You will be back” she said.

~♥~

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