A few days in Madrid

What are the best three reasons for being a teacher? June, July and August. Well that is the joke anyway. The last few years I have spent June in Madrid, doing research, hanging out with friends, walking about, and spending time with my family. This year besides my holidays in Greece, I spent most of my time at home with my dad. I did manage to go out for a quick coffee, to buy bread and the newspaper in the morning, and in the afternoon to the gym – with someone always staying to hang out with my dad.

One evening one of my old students from Buckingham Browne and Nichols was in town, I could not resist sharing my beloved city with him, showing him around, eating tapas at El Espejo and finishing a long evening walk at my favorite bar, Del Diego.

So I did not have a very social month, basically just working on my dissertation and hanging out and doing home stuff. Still, it was very enriching for lack of a better word. Once my father passed we came to La Navata, to the country house.

Hallowed Boards

Wollen GymOnly a bit intimidatingThe RockHallowed boardsIt only took me a year to build up the courage to go down to shoot some baskets at the old Woollen Gym. I go there often but I head straight for the swimming pool. This time, at the cage, instead of asking for a towel, I borrowed a basketball. First surprise: every ball has a name, it is written with a Sharpie marker. The one I got, “The Rock” just also happens to be the nickname I have for my little sister Rocio, Rocky, coincidence? I think not. Then into the huge gym. There are about 20 courts and most of them were full. I knew enough not to try to play with anyone, as I suck, and I have not played with any consistency since I left Spain in 2004. So I kept going until I got to the very far end where the last six courts were empty, enough for me to make a fool of myself without embarrassing myself – or the school, too much.

I played around for an hour, breaking into a sweat, thinking of and missing all the great people that have helped me and inspired me in this game, visualizing the UNC greats that might have played on that same court: Michael Jordan, Rasheed Wallace, et al. A great physical and emotional workout, or anabolic cardio as Stjepan would call it.

The countdown hits single digits (almost)

Slowly things fall into place. Finishing up at BB&N was bittersweet. The kids where amazing, we had farewell parties in all my classes and a great end of season dinner for the boys Varsity Tennis team. The nuts and bolts of closing up my life in Boston went smoothly enough. I know I am going to miss old Boston, but after a total of thirteen years there, I needed to move on.

Driving a 17 ft. truck with a two axle trailer with the car on it was a different story. Nobody had given me specific instructions on how to maneuver such a beast. So off I drove confidently in the rain through Connecticut. At a gas station somewhere in Upstate New York I got my trailer driving lesson: I thought I had cleared the pump when I felt a slight nudge on the rig. Surely enough I had cut the corner a bit close and the trailer had gotten caught on the pump. Nothing broken, no problem. I proceeded to maneuver myself into quite a tangle, the trailer facing Canada and the truck facing Mexico (you get the picture). Somewhere in that mess I snapped the pump handle off of the pump! I finally spotted the huge gas tank delivery truck parked on the far edge of the station and I walked in the rain to beg the driver for help. After analyzing the situation, he gave me the lesson I had wanted all along! It took a while to extricate myself from the mess but eventually got out with only the car slightly less scratched than my ego. The station manager was fine with the broken handle. I slept in New Jersey and safely made it to North Carolina the next day.

After unpacking at Friendly lane on a Friday I flew to Spain for the summer holidays with my family. I hung out in Madrid, went to my nieces baptism, went to the beautiful Mediterranean island of Mallorca and at my family’s house in the village of La Navata outside Madrid.

So this is what I have worked three years for, this is when the proverbial manure hits the fan, this is when the action starts. I can’t wait for orientation on the 13th and for classes to start on the 21st.  I’m taking Medieval literature, old Spanish grammar, film in culture and Italian for beginners – like in the movie. On the flip side, I still don’t know what I will be teaching.

This is what I’ve waited for, this is it.ImageImageImage

Day 16 Off. Nashville

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We had thunderstorms all night. I got up early and went down the street to have a coffee with my friend Karen who was dropping off her daughter at Vanderbilt. After (a free) breakfast back at the hotel I went to a fantastic mass at the Nashville cathedral of the Incarnation. It is a great and beautiful church, there was great music from the organ and trumpet and a singer with an angelical voice. Of course the theme today was: “The ways of the Lord are inexcrutable”. The cathedral sits back to back with Vanderbilt so I went for a nice walk around the beautiful campus full of grand old trees while I had a long conversation with my brother Theo in London.

Nashville has a full scale reproduction of the Parthenon, making the city “the Athens of the South”. I went to check it out. Still, I prefer the original.

Making the most of my hotel deal I had a great workout in the gym and a dip in the pool, before doing my homework for my new school BB&N, about “digital natives”. Then it was time for laundry and ironing while watching old movies on TV.

I walked to downtown Nashville: 95% tourist trap, 5% kitschy cool. I did have a decent burger at Mojo’s and an ice cream (chocolate if you don’t know me that well) at Mike’s.  Two miles walk back later I was at the hotel. I’m happy Rocinante got a rest today, I love that bike.