Mediterranean, Africa and Europe
Cadiz, the Coastal Town
Carmen, My Flamenco Teacher
Cadiz, Gibraltar and Sevilla – In Awe of Andalucia
“There is much time for study and for meditation at sea…A person capable of useful application may employ their time to as great advantage as on shore. The objects which excite attention are concentrated without the bounds of the vessel; the rest of mankind for the time seems to be inhabitants of another planet. The prosperity of the voyage consists in the paucity of incident, and the less there is to be told the more there is to be enjoyed. This life is not tedious to those who can make for themselves occupation. But its uncertainties, its perpetual changes, its anxieties, and its concentration of interest upon the fluctuations of wind and wave constitute its principal hardships." - John Quincy Adams
Right now, I am staring out at the Rock of Gibraltar – we are berthed (docked in “Seaese”) while we re-fuel and set sail for Casablanca. I can also see the tip of Africa from my bedroom window. Amazing! This is the only place in the world – the Straits of Gibraltar - where you can see two continents and two bodies of water at the same time – Africa and Europe, the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
This is the note that we received from the Dean’s office in our interoffice e-mail today:
“We are currently berthed 0.7 nautical miles from Gibraltar, and expect rough seas off Morocco tonight. Please secure your belongings.”
Well, for those of you who know how I handle motion sickness, I am a little concerned. Batten down the hatches, we’re in for a rough ride tonight! Oh, well. It builds character to become accustomed to hardships (from wherever they come), to echo the words of my mother.
Spain evoked a panoply of emotions for me, especially with my Latina ancestry, which inevitably traces back to Spain. I really wanted to go visit the town of “Muros” in the North – one day. I must admit, I fell in love with this multi-cultural mix of Christian, Jewish and Moorish architecture, food, sights and sounds in Cadiz and Sevilla. Gibraltar is another story altogether – more on that in a moment. Everyone I met thought I was Spanish, and I am happy that I did pretty well getting around in Spanish, although my vocabulary is not what it once was when I lived in Costa Rica many years ago. I often wonder who the first Muros were in Andalucia, and why they headed to Mexico. Were they artisans? Adventurers? I also get a twinge of sadness, thinking about the part of me that has indigenous ancestry from Mexico, since Latinos are all truly “mestizos” (Spanish/Indigenous Mix). Were those ancient ancestors conquered? How? My great-grandmother was mostly Indian – Mayan, we think. My uncle Steve lived with her when he was young. I remember hearing that she was a very sweet woman who made a mean tortilla – just like my grandmother. Nothing like piping hot, fresh flour tortillas with a little butter and salt. Speaking of food, I ate well in Spain! Jamon serrano (cured ham) and cheese on fresh bread with olive oil – que rico (how yummy)! I also had fresh fish, and a local Cadiz specialty called tortillera de camarones (shrimp tortilla). It was tasty, but the little shrimps’ black eyes kept staring at me through the fried concoction.
The city of Cadiz is a delightful Southwestern, European coastal town with a rich history. The town planner also planned out Havana, Cuba, so the seawall is similar in both countries. Since we were unable to meet with Spanish high schools (due to the Spanish holiday period), we filmed one of our educational webmentaries about the beautiful Spanish folkloric dance called Flamenco. In fact, GNG filmed me taking my first dance lesson from a great teacher named Carmen. She taught me entirely in Spanish! Later that evening we saw the real thing with a local dance troupe at an old, 17th century theatre. The dancers were accompanied by a live singer and Flamenco guitarist. It was a pleasure for the senses. The male dancer practically brought me to tears with his intensity and passion for Flamenco.
The next stop in my Spanish travels was a day trip to Gibraltar. What can one say about this fascinating, unique place – not quite British, not quite Spanish – not quite sure what to make of it! The rock juts out of the ocean like a science fiction film with hoards of apes roaming freely (one almost made off with our tripod bag). Spain and the U.K. are still in talks about who should ultimately own this 3K stretch of land – the British first took hold of it in the 1700s. The 30,000 Gibraltarians (a mixture of British, Moroccan, Portuguese and Spanish) are very proud of their blended heritage and want the right to self-determination. I took the cable car to the top of the rock, and I stood there, staring out into the ocean for a while. The Straits of Gibraltar have seen countless souls wend their way between continents, in search of economic opportunities. I met one such young man in Cadiz, who was originally from Senegal. He told me that he was “trying to make his life” in broken Spanish.
I rounded out my time in Spain with a visit to the beautiful city of Seville (Sevilla). It is one of the oldest Western cities, dating back to over 2,500 years. Some friends from SAS gave me a free double-decker bus tour, so I really enjoyed hearing about the history of the city. It was a good break from the 107 degree heat. We passed by an art museum where Christopher Columbus stayed – it always makes me realize what a young country the U.S. is when I am traveling outside of North America.
Tomorrow we will arrive in Casablanca, and hit the ground running. We will travel to Rabat to coordinate our first videoconference at the American Embassy with Moroccan high school students and two U.S. high schools to discuss issues of cultural exchange and globalization. We will also be speaking with a young, female Moroccan Hip Hop artist named Fati Show on Monday. I have to go and prepare – and make certain that no items will fall in my room this evening – including myself!