Err on the Side of Compassion

I have a blessed life.  Although I live in a place that can go from sun tanning weather on Saturday to snow on Monday, I’m not going to complain.  I have a beautiful fire with plenty of wood to burn.  I have the drapes open just enough to watch for more flurries but not enough to let the neighbors see me sitting here with my coffee, Kindle and laptop.  I think I can still dive on the floor and hide if someone comes around and rings the bell.  I  still have on my pajamas and my hair is a tangled mess.  It reminds me of the tumbleweeds I watched blow across the highway yesterday as I travelled to Amarillo.

But I am blessed in that I’m sitting here enjoying my coffee, my fire and my quiet music.  I’ve felt  contented lately and maybe that makes me a little more pensive than usual.  Or maybe I’ve thought about compassion more frequently because we did a Celtic service of compassion at my little church.  That’s another thing I’m thankful for in my life.  I go to a pretty cool little church.

As a matter of fact, the lady who told me to ‘err on the side of compassion’ was a member of my church and further along on her spiritual journey than I am.  I can barely remember what we were discussing but she said these words and what an impact they had on me.  When I’m not in a sugar-crazed state of mind, unable to reach a state of common sense, I try to remember these words.

Note off the subject – the snow has started again and it’s lovely.

It’s a lot like the Golden Rule, you know, doing unto others.  If I try to consider how I would want to be treated, I can usually make the right decision as how to react in regards to compassion.  It can be as simple as giving a little change to a homeless person.  I can justify not doing it because he might spend it on something less healthy than food, like booze or cigarettes, or I can give the change with the best of intention and not worry what he might do with it. I gave it with the intention of helping someone less fortunate than me, and let’s face it,  I can live without the mint chocolate chip/chocolate chip cookie dough cup of ice cream I might have purchased with the change.  This also helps me avoid those sugar-crazed states of mind.
Acts of compassion can also be as difficult as trying to make the right decisions about future generations and what we’re doing to help save the planet. Usually there are at least two sides to each argument. Think compassion. We aren’t the last generation to need this big ball of dirt and water.

As I try to do what my gut tells me is the right thing to do, I think about being held accountable for my actions of this lifetime. I hope I can honestly say that what I did, I did because I thought it was the compassionate thing to do and if I erred, I erred on the side of compassion. Isn’t that really how we’re supposed to live?

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The Year of Second Tries

This year I decided to give a little extra thought to my resolutions.  I had help with this by way of a book I read.  The book, by Karen Armstrong, is called, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life.  (I warned you, this year my blog is going to spotlight compassion.)

I liked this book so much, I tried to identify with the author-

She was a Catholic and even a nun for part of her life.  I was a Catholic and knew a few nuns.

She is from England.  I love England and sometimes wish that I were British.

She is a gifted writer.  I am a….okay…I like to express myself with the written word.  Fair?

She believes that through compassion we can save the world, and she has written wonderful books to support this ideology.  I agree with her thoughts on compassion and I have read some of her books.

So maybe we’re not exactly alike but I hope through reading her book, I will become more thoughtful about my actions.  I’m going to make this my first resolution of the new year.   And my first step will be to start taking second tries.  I’m a girl of good intentions but no follow-through.

I’ll give you a couple of examples that obviously still bother me, because I’m still dwelling on them.  The first happened this year during the holidays.   I called the Salvation Army and requested the name of a family that needed help with Christmas.  I was going to step it up from taking the usual name off the Angel Tree.  Well the lady told me she would get back to me with a name.  And did she get back with me?  No.  And did I get back with her?  No.  Did I take into account that this is probably the busiest time of year for the Salvation Army and their employees?  No.  Did I think, well maybe they didn’t need help since they didn’t call?  Maybe, even though I knew I was kidding myself.

Are you still there?

This is also going to be the year of honesty.  We’re all busy and we all mess up in our lives.  I did a few measly things during the holidays to try to make up for this oversight but, as I said before, it still bothers me.

Alrighty.  Here we go with another example of my not taking a second try at something.  A couple of years ago, a group from a church of my denomination were planning a trip to the Dominican Republic to do mission work.  This church was larger than mine and had more of a chance of getting a group together.  I visited the man who was planning the trip and sat by my computer waiting to hear more information from him.  The trip never happened.  And, as you and I both know, there could be hundreds of reasons why it didn’t happen.   Did I try to find another trip I could help with? No.  I’m pretty sure there are other organizations that need volunteers  – even an over fifty, overweight woman with a hammer and some mediocre painting skills.

Okay, I can’t beat myself up anymore unless I go get a stiff drink and it’s about nine in the morning as I type, so, instead, let me make my point.

My point is I need to follow through a little more when things don’t happen on the first try.  I had the best of intentions.  I had no idea that either of these things (and many others) wouldn’t come to fruition.  This year I will be a little more proactive and a little less whiny.

Karen Armstrong makes a good point about thinking about others and their lives.  In being more thoughtful about my actions, I hope to be less judgmental and more compassionate to others.

So, there will be second tries and maybe thirds or fourths or even fifths.  Sixths, I don’t know.

Just kidding.

This year I will do the work it takes to be a more thoughtful person and, consequently, a more compassionate person.

Oh and another resolution –  again, I will try to lose weight.  It just wouldn’t be a new year without those words. 

Happy New Year, a little late.

Are We There Yet?

No.  The answer is no, we are not in Austin, Texas yet.  After nine hours of slow going on icy roads we finally gave up in Brownwood.

This was my view as we headed out this morning.

My view as we headed out this morning.

The temperature this morning  was a startling 7 degrees as we reloaded my daughter’s electronics in our cars.  We were afraid to leave them in the cars last night with temperatures predicted to linger in the single digits.

But hey, who doesn’t like to start their morning with an invigorating workout of moving boxes-heavy boxes?

If this post is making no sense to you, then you might read yesterday’s post because I’m just too beat to go over the whole story again.

Texas is a big state, I know that, but it should only take about seven hours to get from my home to Austin.

Nine hours later and I’m still not there.

If I head North I expect to occasionally battle icy roads.  When I head South, I expect the ice to slowly lessen and then disappear, not to get worse.

This was what the icy road looked like for most of the nine hours of the trip

This was what the icy road looked like for most of my trip

As I spent the last hour of the journey trying to reflect on the positive that I could find from this mind-numbing adventure, here is what I came up with -

**I did get much further in my Ken Follett audiobook than I ever thought I would on this trip.  That was nice.

**I saw lots of good citizens helping one another.  That was nice.

**I didn’t see many accidents.  And that was nice.

Um…..  That’s about it.  The rest of the trip was pretty miserable, long, messy and cold.

I really hope tomorrow I’m not posting from another town that’s not Austin!!

Adapted from Wikipedia's TX county maps by Set...

I think the red dot is where I am. The red dot is not Austin.

Post Toasties

This is not a fire in my hotel in Austin

This is not a fire in my hotel in Austin

Today’s post is suppose to be coming to you from a hotel room in Austin, Texas, but Mother Nature changed my plans. Instead, I’m in front of a warm fire in my very own den.  This is usually one of my favorite places to be, but, tonight, outside, a large orange and white truck looms.  It’s silently reminding me that there are places I need to be.  It’s also reminding me how cold my fingers and toes were yesterday when we loaded furniture in the freezing temperatures. 
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We were suppose to move my daughter to Austin today, but with poor road conditions to the east and south of us, we decided to wait until tomorrow.  All day the big truck sat and waited, reminding me we were still here and all my plans had to be, well, re-planned.  Today,  I angrily glared at the truck each time I ran another errand in the bitter cold. These were things I planned to put off until Monday in hopes of warmer weather.   But now I won’t be back Monday and these errands couldn’t be put off any longer.  So back out in the extreme cold I went, time after time.

 
Procrastinator, remember?  Hater of cold weather, remember? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have survived as a pioneer woman.

 
Of course,  I loved having my daughter here an extra day, (I’m still working on my diabolical plan to keep all my children locked in the basement) but she’s ready to get back to Austin.  I know it’s hard to believe she doesn’t want to live with me the rest of her life–and harder to believe that I know her going back to Austin is for the best.  Sniffle, sniffle.

Anyhow, that all explained and whined about, I’ll now try to make some sense of this post.   It’s just my attempt at letting everyone know that I’m not, once again, going to wait months to post. I’m not going to quit every time things are a little crazy. That’s the key to this I guess.  I also know many of you are dealing with a lot more crazy than I am.

There will never be a perfect time everyday to blog. Schedules change, weather changes, but you just have to find a minute to do what you enjoy. So here it is. My minute or fifteen minutes of sanity in a rough (did I mention cold?) day.

 
I hope all of your days were cozy, stress-free and toasty.

Who Needs a Helicopter for the Holidays?

Dang it.
I can’t believe I did what I did, but I did.

Gyro Helicopter 4

The Perfect Gift, Again

It started early one morning with Good Morning America and Deals & Steals.    The television exuded an unnatural radiant light  as I saw the perfect Christmas gift for my multitude of ‘great’ nephews.  I ran for my sunglasses and my laptop.

You have to understand that this brood of boys can be difficult to shop for because I no longer know what the ‘hot’ toy choices are for little boys.  My own little boys are in their twenties.

But, now, now not to worry.  Tory Johnson was my savior.  She guided me with her strange light to a great deal on guaranteed indestructible toy helicopters at half price.  This had to be the gift that could please any little boy aged six to sixteen.  Six gifts, six difficult gifts, off my long Christmas list and I was still in my pajamas.  Bless you, Tory.

I quickly ordered six of the amazing helicopters in three different colors. And as I typed,  I visualized myself as the favorite aunt when they opened their brightly colored packages and found their flying wonder-birds.  (Don’t ruin my fantasy with your thoughts of Play Station games and other new-fangled technology.  The use of ‘new-fangled’ alone says a lot, right?)

Ms. Johnson saved me from searching hundreds of catalogues that fill my mailbox each year.  Page after page turned, yet I can never find that special something for the boys.  She  saved me trips to massive retail stores where I  wander aimlessly with other baffled great aunts.  We search down aisle after aisle of toys, unable to commit to any of the multitude of choices.  I’ve done this year after year and finally I settle for an educational toy that rarely brings a twinkle to the eyes of my nephews.

But this year, I thought,  I got this.  Those other stressed-out great aunts will do that dance without me.   This year, I thought, I have the perfect gift – the shiny not-to-be-destroyed whirly bird.

But then–I cringe as I recall–my son informed me that, yes, the helicopters were a great gift.  He knew because I gave helicopters to the great nephews last year.

This can’t be.  Could it?   Could I have forgotten?

Yes, I always forget my Google password  and I forget to purchase the one thing I came to the store for as I push out a loaded basket.  And who doesn’t forget where their keys are or their sunglasses?

But, a Christmas gift? Surely not.

Surely yes, and maybe I wasn’t that surprised.  Mostly I was just disappointed.

Dang it again.

What now?

There will be great joy in taking the six shiny, multi-colored, indestructible helicopters to a needy charity.

There will not be great joy in adding six gifts back to my ‘almost’ unmanageable shopping list as we zoom into December.

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Oh Betty, I could use your help.  You were always my favorite ‘Golden Girl’

Turkey Bird Connections

Thanksgiving turkey in the oven

Turkey-time

Short post today because  I got up this morning and thought, ‘Hey, maybe I’ll cook today.  Turkey sounds good.’

* * * * *

Today millions of Americans will have, basically, the same menu for lunch.  We’ve shopped together and searched the internet together for those perfect ‘turkey’ tips.

This time of year brings a connection that we don’t experience on other grocery shopping days as we trudge through the fruits and vegetables.  As we searched for that perfect yam,  maybe we actually used our words and talked to one another.  Hopefully there was a feeble smile and not a harsh word when that….. that lucky person got the last Butterball.

We have a shared connection in November in America.

We gather or try to gather our family and friends together and share this day.  It’s nice.  We even make a little effort to be  extra kind to each other.  We stay pleasant, at least until football comes on, and then, well, sometimes our ugly words come out.  Maybe, instead,  we should all watch old episodes of ‘Little House on the Prairie’.

But even as we watch our favorite teams, we feel a special connection on this day.

We are thankful because many of us realize how lucky we are.  Not everyone has it as good as we do. Not everyone has a turkey that might be undercooked the first time we check it and overcooked the next time.  Or is that just me?  (Note to self- check cooking tips on the web–again).

But raw turkey or dry turkey, we understand that Thanksgiving is about something bigger.  We eat, usually way too much, but this day is about connections-familiar, cozy, heart-warming connections with those we love.

My goal tomorrow, after the big ‘do I or don’t I get on the scales’ debate –  maybe not because there are leftovers and I can start back on that diet Monday.

I digress.  My goal for tomorrow is to continue to be kind.   And, let’s face it, that’ll be a lot easier if I don’t get on the scales.  Maybe tomorrow, I’ll think before I speak.  Maybe I’ll remember that I’m connected to others even when a big fat bird full of cornbread is not involved.

Little House on the Prairie (TV series)

Little House on the Prairie (TV series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Yes, yes, I know, I should be cooking!!

Connection Not Detected

As I prepare to get back into my fun-filled blogging life,  I’ve thought a lot about the direction I want my blog to go.  I want my little space to be a place where I can use my silly voice to help me grow as a human being.  When you get to be my age,somewhere between changing dirty diapers and mastering a walking cane, you begin to realize that your days might really be numbered and you want to spend the next fifty odd years (I’m always optimistic) making a difference.  I would love to save the environment for future generations or bring about world peace, but I can’t.  What I can do is be kind and work a little harder at connecting with other people.

The Connect to the Internet Wizard.

Like my computer, I have many options to connect.

Now don’t get me wrong,  I’m not out there beating up kids for their lunch money or terrorizing the minimum wage employee because my hamburger has mayonnaise instead of mustard on it.  I try to be fair with all the people I meet.   What I don’t do is always take the time to really connect with people.  Much of my time is spent half-listening and half- thinking about the next thing I can tick off my to-do list.

I’ve recently read a lot about the Dalai Lama because, hey, if you’re going to aspire to be kind, go big.  He talks about how he values the opinions of all those around him, even the man sweeping the floors.  He sees the interconnectedness in all of us.  Instead of just putting on his maroon robe each day, he thinks about the people involved in the creation of his robe.  He thinks about all the connections involved.  After I finished thinking about how great it would be to not worry about what to wear each day or what haircut to get, I realized, when we do think of our interconnectedness, it becomes easier to be kind to all those around us.

Yes, I hear the snickers of those who know me.  She yelled at the FedEx man because her son’s shoes didn’t get delivered when they were suppose to be delivered.  (I still can’t look that poor guiltless man in the face)  She’s giving advice on connecting to others.  Then I remember, this blog is to help me.  It’s far from a self-help guide.  It’s my effort to connect with others.  As I said in my caption above, there are lots of ways to connect.  So my simple plan is to try to relate my posts to connecting with others.  Some days, like today, it will be blatantly obvious.  Others days it will be hilariously (she said with fingers crossed) enjoyable.

I know I’ll never be the Dalai Lama. I’m not even a Buddhist.  But I will open myself up more freely to people.  I’ll quit trying to find perfectly matched people to be in my life.  If I only look for befuddled and somewhat prudish middle-aged women to come over to my house so we can braid each others hair as we discuss who really was the greatest Impressionist artist, I may be spending a lot of time alone.  I need to accept people for whom they are and embrace our differences.  I need to step outside my sanctimonious box and detect the connection.

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dala...

Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth and current Dalai Lama

Ticking the Boxes

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It’s Monday morning.  The week and my new to-do list has begun.

Check – I’m blogging.  Check – I’m blogging and not still in my pajamas.

I love to make list. I love to mark things off and smile at my hard work — or sometimes not so hard work. I tend to put things on my list that don’t take a lot of effort so I can easily mark them off.   Examples are watch Jeopardy, walk up or down the stairs ten times (with a brain like mine that one’s a given), get dressed, or my personal favorite – eat chocolate. The sweet taste is still on my tongue as I proudly check this off my list.

 This morning, as I was running upstairs for the third time because I still didn’t have my sweater, I realized that we don’t live in a world made for ticking off boxes.  Rarely do I have a day when everything goes as planned.  People get in my way, work gets in my way and, frequently, my procrastinating self gets in my way.

 It was on about my fifth trip up the stairs when I realized that my time was going to become my time when I was ready for it to be my time.  Making a list doesn’t assure that I’ll carry out my tasks each day.  I have to take action.

Let’s see, I can cut down on allowing people to get in my way.  The truth is that most of the nonessential things I’m doing for others are things I choose to do for others.  It was after one of my ‘rare’ whiny moments when my, so-much-smarter-than-her-mother, daughter brought this to my attention.  She reminded me that she’s done her own laundry for a couple of years and she doesn’t ask me to do it while she’s home.  Every time I do her laundry, it’s because I’ve volunteered to do it.  Oh dear.  That, of course, is an example of me getting in my way.  Maybe I need to rethink the idea of other people getting in my way.  This may happen less often than I imagine.  And I could do a whole series of blogs with a psychiatrist on why I feel obliged to coddle my grown children.  I, of course, blame my mom and, as a mom, that’s a scary thought.

 Back to my list.  Every list I’ve ever made has some listing about writing.  Some days I accomplish this and some days I don’t.  I want and need to write and writing a to-do list doesn’t count.   Somehow the things I need the most in my life don’t always get checked off my list. I say things like, “I’ll write first thing tomorrow” or “I can do that while I’m doing laundry”.   It never works that way.

 Today’s revelation or ‘aha moment’, as Oprah says, is that I can’t do it all. I’m not one of those ‘super women’ whom we always suspect has a nanny or two in the closet at home or maybe a drinking problem in the closet. Surely no one can have a perfect house, a perfect job, perfect children, and still bake sixteen dozen cookies for the bake sale that she organized.

 And with my ‘aha moment’ I realized I didn’t want to be that perfect person. I want to be me. I want to write and paint and take an occasional class.   I want to enjoy a good book and a cup of tea everyday without feeling guilty.

 I’ll still make list because, let’s face it, that’s just fun, but I’ll make sure the list isn’t completely cluttered with things I don’t enjoy. I’ll do what is required to maintain a clean environment but I’ll also maintain a closet to throw things in when company is coming.  I’ll carve out time each week for work because that’s just not optional.   But I’ll also spend time writing or painting or studying without distraction.  This crucial tick box will move to the top of the to-do list, right above the chocolate box!

Getting My Groove Back

Hello to anyone?  I haven’t blogged in so long that I doubt anyone remembers except the Lisa’s (yes, they are relatives).  At Christmas they asked me if I was ever going to blog again.  I, of course, assured them I would but never did — until today!

Oh my, WordPress has changed in the last year.  I’m sure it’s all for the best but being a complete computer imbecile, it may take me a while to get back into the swing of things.

Things popping in my head right now-

How was it I used to load pictures?

I probably should have looked at my page to remember what my background looks like.

Have they gotten any new really cool backgrounds with maybe Doctor Who on them?

What is the word for backgrounds on blogs because background sounds wrong?

Will this be the year I figure out when to use who vs. whom?  I hate to admit the many times I’ve restructured a sentence to avoid this dilemma.

I miss having the children home to answer my computer and grammar questions.

Oh yes,about the groove thing- I really hope I’m back in the ‘groove’ for a while.  I’ve started working on a play and since I will definitely need to use my astute procrastination skills to avoid that at difficult times, maybe I’ll find my way back over here.  I hope so.  I’ve missed this part of my life.

I pledge to myself to get with it.  I’ll not fret for days when I discover grammar errors because I don’t have time to check for them ad nauseam. Some of the best writers have trouble with grammar and everyone makes mistakes, yada,yada,yada.

I have better things to do with my time, such as discover what LinkedIn is and how I got on it and is it beneficial in any way?

 

 

Spain in my Heart

I love Spain. Well actually, I can only say I love the parts of Spain I visited.  I love Madrid, Sevilla and Granada.  Okay, I suppose, the truth is I only visited a small part of each town so I can’t say I love all of Madrid, Sevilla and Granada.  That would be like saying you love New York City after only having been to Manhattan.  Wait, I’ve done that, so -

I love Spain.

And more appropriately for this post, I love the people of Spain.

Before I start telling of my Spanish journey, let me talk a minute about communicating in Spain.   I had a few years of Spanish in high school and college, in Texas, in the late 70’s and early 80’s, so the language barrier was no concern.  And it wouldn’t have been a problem if they would have slowed down a bit.  Again – from Texas.  I have trouble understanding people from the Northeast.  But seriously, we had few problems communicating.  At least one in our party of four would have the sense to understand instructions being conveyed in Spanish.  Patience and hand gestures go a long way.

The only time I felt completely clueless was in a bar watching football (okay, soccer).  The game was tied when the bar owner turned down the set.  People begin to leave and I was positive they went out for a smoke.  Surely a game in the Euro 2012 tournament would not end in a tie.  In America we would play on until a winner was declared.  Only when the local tv coverage ended did I realize it really was over.  Thank God I didn’t ask a local.  I do believe this might have caused some eyes to roll and the phrase, ‘Stupid American’ to be uttered somewhere in the bar.  Europeans take their football seriously.

Madrid

English: Coat of arms of Madrid (Spain). Españ...

English: Coat of arms of Madrid.Never really figured out the bear but this was definitely my favorite Coat of Arms.

Madrid is my kind of town.  I could spend hours writing about the museums and churches but others already have done this with more eloquence than I possess. In this little post, I’m writing  about the people.  We got in town on a Sunday and we were leaving Madrid on a Tuesday.  The Prado Museum is not open on Monday so we hurried over to see what we could before it closed.  We arrived at the time when the museum is open to the public for free.  When we got there hundreds of locals were waiting in a line halfway around the enormous building.  Did I mention it was 90+ degrees?  No one cared. We immediately noticed that the people were talking to each other.  There were probably cell phones around but I didn’t see any texting or playing games.  No one had ear buds in to drown out their neighbors.  Children were talking to parents.  Grandparents were talking to friends.  I’m a little sketchy on what was being said, but, by golly, it was friendly talk.  No one tried to cut in line.  No one kept checking their watch to make sure they weren’t being cheated out of five minutes.  The incredibly patient people were enjoying each other as they waited for the privilege of viewing art of the ages representing their past.

The next morning, we visited the Royal Palace and again we were faced with a line and 90+ degrees.  Spain in June can be warm.  To the side of the line was a man playing accordion with an open case for donations.  Instead of people scurrying by and avoiding eye contact, the crowd circled around him.  Two older couples started to dance.  We were entertained as we waited.  I didn’t see a lot of donations go into his case but I saw a lot of love flowing through the crowd.

Coat of arms of Seville

Coat of arms of Seville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sevilla

Our Spain trip wasn’t long enough (what vacation is) and we left on Tuesday for Sevilla.  My son and his girlfriend are Studying Abroad in Sevilla so, as sad as I was to leave Madrid, I was excited to board the train.  Sevilla, like Madrid and Granada, has incredible architecture.  You walk around  constantly looking left, right, up and down. Our feet (sometimes blistered feet) trudged many miles everyday.

We ate most of our meals with my son, his girlfriend and my daughter’s friend, also Studying Abroad in Sevilla.  I was fascinated at the rapport between the waiters and my son.  He  had a few favorite restaurants and, in less than a month of living in Spain and less than a month of learning Spanish, he was communicating beautifully with the servers.  The communication may not have been as extensive as if he were a local, but each understood the other.  And trust me, he’s a student, they weren’t being overly kind to him because of the tips.  They were being kind because they genuinely liked him and his girlfriend and vice versa.  At that point, I was most pleased he had chosen Sevilla for his overseas studies.

My favorite part of Sevilla was getting a gelato in the evening and sitting in the square.  Local families sat in the finally cool air and shared their days (okay I’m guessing).  The children played football (okay, soccer) in the square with their friends and were having the time of their lives.  Abuelos watched the young ones on the playground equipment as they conversed with other men.  All this was happening at ten or eleven at night, a school night, and no one was bothered by the time.   Again, not a cell phone or laptop to be seen.

English: View of the Alhambra, Granada, Spain

English: View of the Alhambra, Granada, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Granada

Granada was a day trip to visit the Alhambra.  It is a must see in Southern Spain, thank you very much Mr. Steves.  Yes, it’s easy to spot Americans because we all have the same ‘Rick Steves’ Spain 2012′ book in our hands.  (I wonder if he needs a people watching companion?)  We met still another Study Abroad student from my hometown studying in Granada.  Crazy, huh?  I loved all the familiar faces and Spanish comprehending ears.  We stopped to talk and have a quick drink on the main square before we had to run catch our train back to Sevilla.  Here we learned that the people don’t disappoint, even if they aren’t originally from Spain.  George, our host, was from Colombia, working in Spain, and learning English.  He humored us by telling us he was learning phrases like -

“My name is George.  What is your name?”

“The girl is pretty.”

“Where is your mother?”

Sound familiar to anyone who has taken first year Spanish in the states?  Not only did he make the hot afternoon bearable by sitting us under a handy water mister, he also entertained us with his minimal English and his huge heart.  We hated to leave for the train but we were ready for our much-needed siesta.  This is one of my favorite Spanish customs.

If you  want to know about traveling in Spain, I strongly suggest a book by Rick Steves but as you follow his traveling guidelines, take time to enjoy the people.  Be pleasantly startled, as we were, when a ‘gang’ of roller-bladers filled out favorite square in Sevilla one evening.  And then, as quickly as they appeared, they skated off to their next square.  Be patient as you wait for the Flamenco dancers to appear because I guarantee you’ll never again see more passion displayed by a few dancers and musicians. Spain is about Art and History, eating and dancing, and so many other things, but most importantly, Spain is about the people.

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