Sevilla 2008 Part II- Writings

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Sevilla 2008   Part II

Our Flamenco Journey Continues

Sunday May 11, 2008
    I woke up this morning and Freddie was practicing guitar again. I haven’t heard him practice so much in years. My prayer is that this trip continues to be about Freddie’s healing.
    It was Freddie, both this year and last year, who said, “I want to go to Spain, now”. And it was Freddie who said this year, “I want to go for six months.” All I did was say yes. And now, since we have been here, Freddie has begun to walk and to practice guitar more than he has in years. I work with him to bend his knee so his foot doesn’t drag. And I can hear it drag along the ground when he forgets to bend his knee.
    I have also tried to encourage him to practice guitar, but in the past he got so discouraged that he would stop. The overnight change in his life when his stroke struck has been the greatest challenge I believe he has ever faced. One minute his lifetime identity was that of accomplished Flamenco guitarist. The next minute that was gone, and he could neither talk, understand nor move his body. His guitar playing ability had stopped.
    Freddie had played guitar since he was nine years old and that had defined his life. Even his smashed pelvis at the end of 2003 and his broken foot from our auto accident in 2001 did not steal his guitar like the stroke did. Both the foot, which never healed correctly, and the fractured pelvis interfered with his walking and gave him constant pain, but he could still play his beloved guitar.
    These two and a half years since his massive stroke have been about the struggle to regain many things we take for granted, such as human speech and understanding as well as walking. Luckily Freddie’ brain still works and he has lucid thoughts as well as all of his guitar falsetas (intricate tunes set in a specific rhythmic structure) stored in his head. He just could not transfer this from his head to his body. He has been learning to speak English again and it is getting better. He will be working on his Spanish again this trip as well. He has been learning to walk again too. His hip replacement on November 8 of last year took away the intense, debilitating pain that distracted him from all else. Just before we left for Spain we discovered that he had a neuroma on the bottom of his right foot (the side most affected by his stroke) and that was luckily cured with more physical therapy in the weeks before our departure. Now that the horrible pain under his right foot is gone, he can practice his walking with what we call his “stroke leg”. His withered muscles are sore, but that can be dealt with. As he continues to walk, his strength will grow.
    But the last frontier is really the guitar and overcoming the depression that welled up when his trained hands and fingers couldn’t move the way his memory directed. I use the past tense on purpose, hoping that a new stage of hope and achievement is taking over.
    I woke up this morning with these thoughts flowing out of me, inspired by hearing Freddie’s practicing continue. For sure since Freddie broke his pelvis so badly, our lives have been about his recovery. Of course that just intensified after the stroke. And even before the pelvis, Freddie had been recovering from an addiction to Oxycontin prescribed by several doctors for his back and foot pain. I thought that was bad, but that was just the beginning. And now since Freddie has had his hip operation, he has even quit the Subutex, the drug they finally gave him in the recovery center to get off the Oxycontin.
So now there is hope. And this trip to Spain may mark the beginning of a new era for both of us. I long to have Freddie as a full partner again and to give up this caretaking role that circumstances have forced on me. Here in Sevilla we are experiencing both hope and change.
    Our landlord Angel has returned and came over today. He fixed a few things for us already and will fix up more for us and put in our house phone tomorrow. I can use his rooftop to hang our laundry although the dryer is now working. Angel is such a lovely man. He told us that Juan and Lucy were having breakfast at Bar Hercules, so Freddie almost ran over there without his cane and I met them a few minutes later. Amazing.
    Cristina just sent me an interesting link to the history of Sevilla
She also included this historical update on the Alameda de Herceules:
    “Seville's history is intimately linked to that of the river Guadalquivir because from its most remote past the city has been both a river port and bridge between the Atlantic Ocean and the hinterland of Andalusia. ...Archaeological excavations undertaken in La Cuesta del Rosario confirm that the first permanent settlements date back to the 9th century.
    “For centuries analysts and chroniclers gave the honor of tracing
Seville's limits to that most popular of mythical heroes, Hercules. He
marked with 6 columns the spot where Julius Caesar would later found the city of Seville. The illustrious Roman general called the new city Iulia Romula Hispalis: Iulia after himself, Romula in honour of Rome and Hispalis. Subsequent historical researches into the founding of Seville have to this day been unable to correct this popular belief in Seville´s mythical origins. So great was the admiration felt by Renaissance Seville towards her mythical founders that their statues, specially sculpted by Diego Pasquera, were placed on two granite pillars with Corinthian capitals in the newly created promenade, Alameda de Hércules, where they can still be admired. Incidentally, the two columns were removed from the ruins of a Roman temple in calle Mármoles where two sister columns remain.”

    Our wonderful landlord, Angel, put in a house phone for us today, Sunday, instead of waiting until tomorrow. We are sharing a line with him and can’t call cell phones or out of the country, but it is free to call a fijo (fixed-land/house phone) anywhere in Spain and will save us a lot of money. You can call us on it: (34) 954 91 59 89. Please remember that Spain is 9 hours ahead of California. Angel also tried to make the internet stronger for us today but it didn’t work. We’re going to have to put a cable in. But at least the internet is working now.

Monday May 12, 2008
    Last night we walked past the other end of Calle Feria to a little Plaza near where we lived last year. There we met Cristina, Pola, Cristina’s German friend Claudia and her French friend Vince. We ate dinner outside at a very popular restaurant after waiting almost for an hour. And then in the middle of dinner the rain started. Although they had canvas overhead awnings, the rain leaked all over us. Today I woke up sick. I even slept nine and a half hours. So I didn’t start Ines Bacan’s cante class or Concha’s group dance class like I had planned. Instead I stayed home and took it easy. My throat hurts, my neck is stiff and I feel awful, but I don’t have worse symptoms.
The weather is cold and damp and I know I’m going to remember that when the summer heat hits.
    The new house phone has a lot of static and that won’t get fixed until next Monday. But Angel was here today replacing lights and light bulbs and trying to fix the phone. He said that I will get my dance mirrors next month because they are expensive. Right now it’s hard to think about dancing. I wish I had some chicken soup. It is eight at night and the church bell is ringing.

Wednesday May 14, 2008
    Freddie and I were sick all day yesterday. Ethan stopped over and he and Cihtli are sick too. We did see Lucy for coffee in the morning and last night I went over to help her set up her new laptop computer. Other than that, we slept and took it very easy. Today Freddie is much better and I am somewhat better but coughing.
Angel’s housecleaner came at nine AM as planned which still seemed very early for me. Freddie was up already. Nina, the housecleaner, is from Bosnia and has two teenaged boys. She is very nice and cleans well. She is a friend of Angel’s and also cleans his house. We feel very lucky to have housecleaning already set up. And she even knows the house.
    The rain seems to have stopped for today and the sun is slowly coming out. It is hard to believe that it was so hot when we arrived and then it got so cold and rainy. A lot of people here are sick and we are exposed to a lot of coughing in the street.
    Another observation–the older women here aren’t dying their hair even as much as last year. I have seen many more older women this year with grey hair. Since our travels here from 1999 on, we have noticed that almost all the women dye their hair and we rarely saw any gray-haired women. Now this year, we are seeing many gray-haired women. Again, I am not sure how much the change of barrio (neighborhood) contributes to this. When I mentioned this to someone, they said it was an effort to be “modern”.
Another observation is that here at least, the fresh squeezed orange juice has only been served once to us with sugar. In the past they always served it with sugar, which it never needs. Is this a change in pattern or only a change in neighborhood?
    We have been eating espinacas (spinach with garbanzos) for breakfast at Bar Algabeño. This is in addition fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee and Freddie’s tostada with jamon, tomato, oil and garlic. Yesterday while having coffee with Lucy there, she said that the last time she had been there had been with Pepe Rios. Pepe Rios, Agustin Rio’s older brother and a phenomenal Gypsy Flamenco dancer and teacher, died years ago. Concha Vargas was a student of his. Freddie knew him well in 1985 and I met him once in 1980.
    Shortly after Lucy mentioned that, in walked Pepe Rio’s grown son. He lives in the Canary Islands and teaches dance there. Lucy says he has all of Pepe’s steps. He was here in Sevilla because his mother had just died. Ah coincidence.
Tonight, if we are up to it, we will go to Triana again. Freddie will visit Paco Fernández’ guitar class and I will take Ines Bacan’s cante class which I have been meaning to take since Monday. I just don’t want to get anyone sick and I have felt too wiped out to go anyway.
    The printer I ordered from Carrefour is still not in so I ordered a different model for ten euros more from HP on the internet. There is no shipping fee and it should arrive within 48 hours. We will see how this type of shopping works in Sevilla.

end of part II

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