Sunday, December 30, 2012

Spain, Day 4

It's 4:30 am here.

I have a post I started earlier but instead of writing on my blog I decided to sit down and actually plan out the logistics of the rest of my trip. I've just been hanging out, eating, walking, and going with the flow, which has been fun and awesome. Pero para aprovechar the time I have left, I needed to make some decisions. Thanks Sara y Ana for pushing me to sit down and take care of business!

Today I:

Went to Miguel Cervantes' house. Very cool.

Toured Parque Europa. It was freezing, but fun.

Confirmed that I love tinto de verano.

Played guitar in the hostal lobby for about 2 hours entertaining my friends and guests. Some surprise requests were Cranberries' Zombie and More Than Words. Not so surprising: Wonderwall! But still I really enjoyed hearing them shout out whatever they think the English words are and singing along.

Now maybe some sleep. Last day of the year! The next post probably won't come in until 2013. See you next year!

(Photo 1) Las profesoras
(Photo 2) Ice skating. They have a lot of outdoor rinks here.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Spain Day 3

This morning my catch-up post took quite a bit of time to write. My friends had to wait for me to eat. By the time I got to where I was supposed to go, they were gone. (I don't blame them. They waited long enough and needed to meet up with a friend.) I felt like a total butthead for making them wait. I asked like 4 people if they had a cell phone I could use, to no avail. I asked for a phone bank or Internet cafe. I found one 2 blocks down. When I got on the Internet, I realized I had no way to contact them via a computer. The app was on my phone and they didn't have wifi (pronounced wee-fee). So I decided to call them instead. The connection was bad so I couldn't hear her well, so I called the lady at the front desk over to speak to my friend. I said - I need to know how to get to my friend. The lady kept shouting into the phone the address where we were. I said no, I am going to her! I need directions to her. She wasn't listening. So apparently I speak Spanish fine but other people don't hear me fine. I asked another lady later where the bathroom was, and she told me, "oh different parts but mostly I'm from Turkey." Um, what?

Later I met up with Sara and Ana and we had a nice dinner. They spent most of the night correcting my Spanish and tomorrow I'll get to help them practice English. At this point I'm more comfortable speaking Spanish in some ways. I find myself saying or typing things in Spanish even when I can use English.

Ok, and here's another scary thing: My phone is starting to autocorrect in Spanish! 'Ta loco.

Tomorrow we go to Alcalá de Henares. That will be fun.

My wise thought of the day:

This whole traveling thing seems too easy. The ticket was expensive, sure. But there's way too much of an upside. I literally knew no one in Spain a month ago. 5 weeks ago I didn't even have a serious thought of going to Spain. And now I couldn't imagine it any other way. These friends I've made feel like we've known each other for years. It makes me wonder what other adventures are knocking on my door down the road. What other people are waiting for me to introduce myself to them, if only I'd step outside my door and move.

On loss, faking confidence, and self-defense

Hi everyone,

I guess it should happen that as I put more effort into this whole blog business, I would have to work out some kinks.

Yesterday all day as things occurred I was mentally deciding how I was going to write about it that night. So when we got home late last night (late is an understatement: it was like 5 in the am) I was still determined to post something. From 530-630 I wrote a beautiful entry on my iPhone in the notepad. Here i was, in, bed, all lights off excepr for the glow of my screen, with my 2 roommates sleeping and probably hating me. I haven't even met them, they only know me as te guy who rustles things and shifts and zips/unzips bags constantly. Anyway my arms kept falling asleep because of the position I was in but I was determined to finish what I needed to say. I poured my heart out into this thing.

Maybe you know where this is going.

By the way, something I learned that you should know: the iPhone has an undo feature. You just shake the iPhone and it lets you untype or undo the last action. wish I knew that last night. Try it out and practice. If you have another phone name sure you know how to undo, save, etc.

The end of it is that close to 7 in the morning I was frantically trying to undo typing over what I had just crafted so meticulously. It was just moments after I said, "I'm done, it's good, I'm finished," that it vanished.

I was disappointed, but I was exhausted and needing to sleep, and within a couple of minutes realized that it wasn't coming back. I went to bed not wanting to believe that it was gone.

What has surprised me is that I wasn't devastated. I was strangely OK with not be able to post it. Most of the satisfaction I got was in writing it, in staying up late almost obsessivelu determined to finish, and putting down in words what I needed to say. It was this morning that I was clear headed enough to look up the undo feature, and by then it was too late. But that didn't bother me. Lesson learned, now I know for next time.

So that's what I wrote about today to make up for yesterday. I thought you should know why I didn't post, and also hear that life will always include loss and it sucks and that's OK.

It reminds me of one of my favorite poems- "If" by Rudyard Kipling.

"If you can (...) watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss"

Well, I definitely "breathed" a word about the loss of my blog post, but I'm not going to lose sleep over it. I slept pretty astoundingly come to think of it.

Ok I still need to tell you highlights from yesterday. This is the abbreviated version:

At breakfast in the hostel I sat myself down at a table with 2 girls from Barcelona, pretending to be confident and at ease. We hit it off and had an amazing day enjoying the city. I'm going to pretend to be confident more often.

I got my luggage back (more about his in the draft below)

My friend Ana I got to meet for the first time yesterday. I said a lot of things about her in the lost post, but all you need to know is she's even cooler in person. So she's awesome, and so is Sara.

Lastly, and this is a serious one I spent the most time on, boils down to this plea from me: please go to a self- defense class in 2013. It's not about learning karate moves, it's about being confident, thinking clearly, and using mostly your voice to set boundaries for yourself. Everyone needs to. If you're in Tucson I recommend Combat Fit. Some classes are free.

I went to the clubs with a group from my hostel. It was awesome and fun, until I noticed some creeper approaching women and getting way too friendly with them. It was none of my business until I saw the girls saying no and trying to pull away. He was very aggressive, but just charming enough that it kept going on. I almost lost it. I started intervening. My friends thought I was crazy and getting worked up over nothing, but I was basically witnessing assault before my eyes. My blood was boiling and I couldn't stand that.

I could type up the whole exciting endeavor but in the end I feel like I did the right thing and kept my cool enough not to do anything stupid. A little less self control and I would have. The girl from my group thanked me later and confirmed the guy was as much of a creep as I thought.

So please, take self-defense. It will help protect yourself or someone you love or even a stranger in another country.

I have to stop somewhere. So I'll leave you with the only thing that saved from yesterday, which was the following items. This whole blog post isn't polished, and neither is what I wrote below. I'm not even going to do a final read through. Que será será.

¡Nos vemos!
(Original post. First draft)

I don't want to do a play by play of my trip. That never works out. I get caught up in the details, and then it turns into a story that's too long. Some of you might call it an "Anthony story". I guess there's a reason it got that name.

First of all, thanks for reading. What's a blog without readers? I guess that would be a journal, and I already have one of those. And thanks for commenting, mom and Ana! Thats pretty cool to see comments. You still can if you want to

When I was rereading my post from yesterday (I tend to read whatever I write over and over again) I found some egregious errors. I won't tell you what they are. I also wanted to add more in. I saw a perfectly great opportunity for amazing alliteration and I blew it. But you know what? I'm not going to fix them. Like I said, mistakes are OK and I could go on correcting forever. It's time to move on.

Even with the jet lag and lack of sleep and what not, I've felt great. I went to bed at the equivalent of 7 pm and woke up at 2 am. Right now it's 6 pm in Madrid, but that still only 10 am in Tucson. My point is, I have no idea what time my body thinks it is, but with my schedule this last month I think it gave up a long time ago. I think I've been on Spain time for awhile now.

My luggage got to my hotel this morning. I was planning to go retrieve it at the airport, but when I went to the front desk to rent a towel and gave her my name, she got up and left. After a minute she came back and yells "una sorpresa!" (surprise). It was like Christmas in Spain. No, but really I was pretty happy.

It might have gone something like this:

Me: (hand on hip, glaring)
"Where have you been? I've been up all night worrying about you."

*slouching, stares down at the floor*

It could have happened that way. But it didn't. That would be ridiculous.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why vs. Why not

I'm going to Spain and I don't know why.

Seriously. I'm on a plane pretty much smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic, directly above where the massive tectonic plates diverge, forming a new spreading sea floor (see, I was paying attention in geology 101), and I don't have a particularly solid reason.

Oh sure, there are plenty of good reasons. (because it'd be fun, to practice Spanish, etc) But none of them seemed especially compelling at first. Or at least I'm adept enough at talking myself out of things that these reasons could easily be dismantled and locked back up in the "someday" box where we keep all our crazy dreams. Usually when a good reason started sparking that hope to life, one good spray of "maybe later" would put it out.

But there was one nagging thought I couldn't push out of the way.

It was the question: "Why not?"

I halfheartedly tried to extinguish the question with the usual weapons: too much money, but that seemed like not much of an obstacle in the long term; I didn't have time and I had too much to do: even I laughed at those. I knew I didn't stand a chance. I was defenseless. It wasn't even a fair match.

(I think one of the reasons I couldn't even consider that rationalization is that I listen to people older (and wiser) than me. If they have traveled, they recommend it strongly because it was the best decision they could have made. If they didn't travel, there's almost always a tinge of regret and the words: I should have, you should while you're young and you have the chance. Just do it because it never gets any easier...So for anyone who's actually said those things to me: I actually take it to heart!)

So I'm not sure why I'm going to Spain; I just know that sometimes the question isn't why, it's why not. And somehow lots of things seem to fall into place when you think from that perspective.

I'm a teacher, which means I spend most of my time dishing out advice that later comes back to haunt me (or help me). Aside from being a teacher, I'm also an advisor to a hodgepodge bunch of students in what we call advisory groups (mine calls itself Avila's Awesome Advisory, because, well, we're awesome. :)

We have a poster in our advisory room we've been using all year. No matter what subject we're on, we always find ourselves pointing to it and reading it. It says, more or less,

Watch your thoughts
They become your words
Watch your words
They become your actions
Watch your actions
They become your habits
Watch your habits
They become your character
Watch your character
It becomes your destiny

Our talking point is that problems usually arise at the action stage, and it's important to catch them before they turn into habits. But by then there's already a lot of momentum. At that point the idea is out there manifested fully, causing conflict and tension in the open. What would make the real difference is if you can guide/alter/ train your thoughts before they go anywhere else. They are small then, but they are dangerous for what they can become.

Where I come in as their teacher is usually to say "words do matter"...."watch your words." Because if you think something, and then say it, you're speaking some idea into existence. When I hear the students utter phrases like, "shut up or I'll beat you." or "gosh this sucks I'm going to kill myself," they don't think it's a big deal. No harm done.
And yet I point out to them that they very quickly and comfortably are doing the first 2 things, and the very next step is action. There's very little safety net between words and actions, even if it seems like a big leap.

So as I sit here squished in this middle seat during my half-baked plan to traverse across the world, I'm thinking about that poster. And I believe the "thought sequence" can work in the positive too.

You just have to be so careful. Because it started a month ago with a fleeting, cavelier whim to go to Spain. It wouldn't go away. And then I mentioned the idea to someone, putting it into words, and then to a few more people. And by then it was too late. "Why not" was already on its way with reinforcements, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Quick- what's the first crazy dream of yours that comes to mind? Maybe start on the medium scale. Not a life dream perhaps, but an out-there hope for 2013. Something you have serious doubts that you could actually accomplish it. You don't think you would actually do it.

Got one?

Now go ahead and ask yourself:

Why not???

(For the truly daring, put the idea into words and leave in a comment below!)