Sunday, April 26, 2009

Practice Looking Up

Things are winding down here in Sevilla. Classes have ended at the TTU Center. Many of the people in the program have already gone a journeying, or gone home. I’ve made plans for both as well: three nights in Venice, then back to Sevilla, a train to Madrid, and finally my flight to Texas. Sad thing is that my mind and heart have already returned to the American west. I left Spain days ago.

Walking through the Jardin de Murillo the other day, this thought went over in my mind: how do I refocus on the here and now? How do I keep from longing too much for where I’m headed and miss where I am?

I thought: practice looking up!

When I was a wee lad, my mother thought there was something desperately wrong with me. Apparently I sometimes walked into walls. I’d be going about the house and suddenly a wall would appear in my path before I could get out of its way. Wham! I would redirect my course (water around rock), and go on, a little bruise marking the point of impact. Is he an idiot, my mother wondered? Partially blind? Deep in thought? Is he mad?

I think, for whatever reason, I tend to walk along looking at the ground. I find a lot of arrow points this way and other cool stuff too, but sometimes I get lost. Hmm, I don't remember passing this building, or was this river here yesterday? You get my point. It takes some effort to remind myself to look up. When I do, I find new cool stuff. Birds overhead. People approaching me (Hello!). A whole world, for god’s sake, unfolding in front of me.

So in the Jardin de Murillo I thought: practice looking up! I looked up into the towering gardens, and there, a bat house made from the bark of a cork tree. That doesn’t sound like something to jump up and down about, but it reminded me that just when I think I’ve seen everything, something surprising is about to happen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chicken with Salsa

Here’s a little ditty, hardly worth your time.

I don't mind fried chicken, but hot wings are mostly bones—and I don't eat fried bones. In some places, in some restaurants, wings are trotted out like some special food. They’re really the worst part of the chicken. The sheep herders I traveled with in Idaho always threw them to the dogs. A good rotisserie chicken, however—that’s something else.

There's a chicken rotisserie on the corner near my flat here in Sevilla. I pass by it every day on my way to school. Whole chickens roasting on a spit cover two walls, slowly turning. It always smells great, and a line of people extends outside the door. So one day, I stopped to get one. At about ten bucks a chicken, it’s fairly cheap and will last me a couple days.

I order one. The woman behind the counter nods, and dismantles a freshly roasted tasty chicken into pieces just for me. The nice thing about a grill like this is that all the nasty fat drops off the chicken while it is roasting—which is one of the points of grilling, no?

Then she asks, "salsa?"

I don’t really know what she means, but if there’s a little extra sauce of some kind for dipping, I might as well try it. I nod my head, "yes."

So she ladles onto my chicken three cups of the pale gray grease that’s been collecting at the bottom of the rotisserie all day, probably all week.

I've been back one other time, but I knew what I was getting into. "Pero no salsa, por favor!" I said.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Brothers Ivanics

Quickly now, let me tell you about my new friends Ferenc and Istvan Ivanics.

You see, I took a weekend away from the safety of my friends to visit the port town of Malaga. The city is not much to look at, and all I had to do that day was look at it. The famed Picasso museum had closed most of its best galleries to some kind of renovation. (What could they be renovating? The 16th century building has already been renovated to the tune of 66 million euros.) I paid the fee and saw the work of Max Ernst, a few Picasso drawings, and one Picasso painting the museum assured me was “the most important one.” I can’t even remember it. After that, I wandered the back streets and city center alone, the feral cats scattering into the derelict and crumbling buildings. I wasn’t having a very good time. I thought I’d bug out on the next train, and return to my little flat in Sevilla.

I didn’t. I don’t know why.

It was Carnival, and people were everywhere dressed in costumes of varying interest. There were a few amateurish street performers collecting coins from the tourists, and two guys with backpacks seated against a corrugated steel wall. They had a sign that boasted they were two years and 5,200 miles into a six-year and 25,000-mile walk around the world. What? I passed by thinking them just another street performance. I passed again. I passed once more, and this time I stopped.

“So, you guys are walking around the world?”

“Yah. Yah. We are walking,” Ferenc said, without ceremony.

It was true. They left their home in Hungary two years ago, walked across Europe, south through Spain, crossed into Morocco, and then walked down the coast to Dakar, passing through the Sahara. From there, they tried to ship passage on a boat to Miami, to continue their route across the USA. No luck. So they hitched rides back to Spain to try and earn enough money to catch a flight from Madrid.

I considered that if I had gone home when I thought I might, I would not have met these guys. Many times just when I think I'm all washed up, the most beautiful thing happens.

I invited them up to Sevilla to talk to my classes. They agreed, and are here now. In fact, their laundry is drying in my open window.

No, no. Of course I don’t mean to ask you for money, but of course the brothers Ivanics need just that to continue their journey. They have a blog, which may interest you: world walk--peace tour.

The other day I asked them what keeps them going? “Why don’t you quit and just go home?”

“Ah. We are going home,” Ferenc said. “Just we are choosing the long way.”