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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Off to Spain

Here we are, Adele, me, Claire, Iris and Alexia (Matt's brother's daughter who is returning to London after visiting us) at International Departures at Logan. Matt is off with an airport official fixing the latest in an endless series of minor obstacles to near catastrophes that have characterized our preparations for extricating ourselves from Concord and country. This is our good bye to Claire who will stay in Concord until her departure to Italy on September 8th.

Adele and Iris have been remarkably good natured about our first 24 hours in Madrid given that it has decidedly not been well planned for giving a good first impression of their new (temporary) country. Even a small, hibernating bear would not have slept in the space allotted to a single human on the Swiss Air night flight to Zurich.

My fellow passengers, busy with their thumbs.

The flight from Zurich to Madrid then takes us, not to the new, futuristic building, but to the old part of the airport which is run down and saturated with decades of cigarette smoke. From the airport you can make out the dry, flat desert landscape. Not a fancy desert such as you might see in Arizona, or around Santa Fe. This one is unadorned by palm trees, sequoia cactus, or intriguing rock formations, just shades of brown with scatterings of hearty green desert plants.

All the luggage that 4 people are allowed to take on Swiss Air

Matt won this bet. He got everything into our Euro-style mini-van.
 We then spent several hours retrieving our vast quantities of luggage, acquiring a rental car and driving around the less interesting parts of the city looking for the hotel apartment that turned out not to be ready for us. Eventually we ended up for the night in a decent hotel in another uninteresting part of the city.

Prologue: What is this about Spain? And what about Claire?

For those who have heard little or nothing about all this: Last winter we arranged for Claire to spend next school year, her sophomore year, on the American Field Service, AFS, program, in Italy with a family just outside of Rome.

Quite unexpectedly, in May, a colleague at Oracle asked Matt if he might like to move to Europe for two years for a project that he was hoping to have approved. If so, Matt should choose the city he would want to move to so that the company could research the cost.

Why Madrid:

This all seemed like somewhere between a hoax and a long shot, but a fun exercise in picking out a city. My first thought was Paris, as I speak French (or did) and we love the art, and the food and the wine. But, with apologies to the many individuals in France who I adore (especially our cousins!), I could not face the contempt of the French when confronted with someone who is decimating their language.

Our next thought was Barcelona. I would love to gaze upon buildings designed by Gaudi each day. But the airport is not sufficient for the travel Matt will be doing. Our next choice was London where Matt’s brother and his family live. Plenty of art from all over the world there to keep me happy for 2 years, but Matt and I both wanted the girls to have the opportunity of learning a new language. We considered as well Holland. Matt’s family lived there quite happily while his sister and brother spent part of their high school years there, but what were the chances really that the girls would learn or ever use Dutch? There was a brief consideration of Belgium and Geneva, but they are far too neat and tidy for our family.

Of course we also considered Italy. Matt lived there for 2 years and still speaks Italian passably. The possibility of living with daily contact with Italian art, especially of the 14th to 16th centuries, well it is actually, I am not even kidding here, enough to make me cry. But no, Claire was all set to go to Italy, far from her family. It really seemed unjust to follow her over there.

And so we came to Madrid, a city which we have found is highly spoken of by all we have met who have spent time here. Ironically, Claire is the only one among us who speaks any Spanish, and no, she does not speak Italian, yet.

My knowledge of Spain is embarrassingly sketchy. I think of flamenco dancers and bulls, especially Ferdinand, from a favorite children’s story. What has Spain been up to between the time Isabelle and that other Ferdinand sent Columbus off to “discover” the “New World” and team Spain won the World Cup? I do know they had a terrible civil war early in the 20th century and then there was that dictator Franco who just would not die or go away. Off hand, without consulting Google,I can only think of 6 Spanish artists, but of them 3 are some of my favorites, Goya,

Colossus de Goya

Gaudi in Barcelona
and El Greco.

Evangelist, by El Greco
 Well, El Greco is not Spanish, he is “The Greek” and he studied in Italy but he did fall in love with Toledo and stayed there. Perhaps I will find out why.

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  1. I love reading your blog and seeing through your eyes - the sketches, photos, and Spanish art. Please keep it up! I, myself, am surrounded by boxes and bags that need to be unpacked once the contractor truly finishes the work in our house. So we live with dust, hammering, and listening to a lot of Portuguese - feeling very rooted here in Cambridge and wondering where you all are at any point in the day! Sending love and hugs, Ellen

  2. Margot, You've caught the spirit of the send-off: house prep, paper problems, bags, hugs, plane, cars: such a swirl!
    It should inspire lots of drawings and a poem or two.
    Love, Mom