Writings from Sevilla, 2007 Part 3

More photos (of events described here) have been uploaded HERE (or will be soon).   We have also revised some of the other albums, so take a look.

We had a wonderful class with Juan today. I studied both the Soleá that I have been working on and I started a new Alegrías. I am starting to understand new levels of the cante, the Flamenco singing/song; how Juan has me link the words and where he has me stop, not only go with the compás but also with the meaning of the phrase and what I want to emphasize. It sounds easy as I describe it, but I just became aware of it with Juan’s help. My voice is slowly improving and I am having a ball singing. I realized today that when I sing or dance Flamenco or listen to good Flamenco, I am happy. There is a joy that comes from deep inside, a fountain giving me sustenance and extreme happiness. I just love it. When I am not doing Flamenco, I don’t feel as good. What a drug! Juan is teaching Freddie to accompany me so we can again do our Flamenco together – a gift of the utmost profundity. There was a tremendous thunder and lightening and hail and rainstorm during class. The lights flickered but did not go out. The three of us sang, talked, played guitar (not me) and ate olives and cheese. Juan drank beer and Freddie coffee and I tea and water. Almost four hours passed like one. Then Juan looked at the clock and had to leave for another appointment. By then the storm had stopped.
Within five minutes Lakshmi returned. She had been looking at an apartment and visiting friends. Now she is giving Freddie another Spanish lesson. What phenomenal teachers both she and Juan are and how lucky Freddie and I are. Freddie is doing very well with both the guitar and speech, including his Spanish. He sang a little with me too. We are taking classes from Juan three days a week.
This trip so far has been very good for us both. 

I can’t believe how good Lakshmi is at teaching speech. She has such natural and perfect instincts as she helps Freddie. She has so much wisdom for her 25 years! –wisdom, talent, beauty, compassion and a great personality. And Freddie is learning well.

You know you are learning more when you realize how much less you knew before, when you thought you knew more. The more you realize what you don’t already know, the more you are learning. Flamenco has layers and layers and layers that never seem to end. It is truly a journey of discovery and expression. I have discovered one more layer of the cante, which seems obvious now that I know it but which I had never even thought about before. How many more there are to discover I can only guess. I only know that the discovery will be ongoing as I continue on this path. I love it.

Thursday May 24, 2007
I forgot to mention yesterday, that Juan has been saying that Freddie, from the eyes up, looks like Perrate padre (the father, the old man), a famous Flamenco singer. When I talked about how happy Flamenco always makes me, Juan said that Freddie and I are very Gypsy. Then we were talking about Freddie’s heritage. Freddie’s mother’s mother is from Barcelona and her name was Garcia. Juan says, “Oh that was Carmen Amaya’s name too”. So now Freddie may be a distant relative of Carmen, or of the Barcelona Garcia Gitanos! Juan says that Garcia is a Gypsy name. On Freddie’s father’s side he is Filipino. His name, Mejia, comes from Spain and probably at least one Filipino ancestor also came from Spain. I still wish we could trace the Barcelona side of Freddie’s family, or both sides, for that matter.
Freddie and I love to hang out with Juan. We are all so comfortable together and we just talk about all sorts of things. And time passes. And luckily he is a phenomenal teacher as well.

I am thinking about starting dance classes with Concha Vargas next Monday if the time is right and possibly with Pilar of the Farruco women, also on Monday. Pilar will be working on arms and it is an evening class. I don’t want to change the noon hour time of our classes with Juan, because I love that time. We have our classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, usually, unless something comes up, and then we just change one day. Tomorrow Freddie and I both get massages with Alicia, the masseuse that Cihtli, Ethan and Lakshmi rave about.
Cihtli just called and she will get us all tickets to a show tonight at Lope de Vega, a major theater in Sevilla.
Freddie is practicing guitar. Lakshmi went out. And I will practice some cante soon. We have eaten breakfast and done the dishes. The sky is still cloudy outside. Freddie and I also want to take a walk without the wheelchair today.
We forgot to take a nap yesterday. And we still got to bed late and slept late as well.

Friday May 25, 2007
Today Juan is cooking espinacas (spinach and garbanzos). We now have six recipes recorded.
Last night Freddie and I went with Lakshmi , Cihtli  and some other people to see a Flamenco show at Lope de Vega theater, a beautiful old  and ornate theater in Sevilla. The show featured a Japanese woman pianist. The first two numbers were beautiful. Two traditional looking Flamenco dancers, a man and a woman, were silhouetted, dancing to her piano. In the second number they danced in full light to her piano. It made me think of my mother, who loved to dance and would have liked it. Then the show went downhill from there. There were two singers and guitarists. One singer is supposed to be good, but he didn’t do well and I wasn’t moved by him. The other singer, the sister of the male dancer, was worse. The show alternated between the not great Flamenco music and the beautiful piano music. The dancer whom Cihtli had thought would be in it wasn’t, although her name was on the poster. Cihtli was very disappointed that she had recommended it. Freddie liked it. The pianist turned out to be a friend of Juan and Lucy’s.
Ethan was sick so Cihtli went home right after the show. So did the friends she brought, Sara who is here from North Carolina for 8 months to study Flamenco and Spanish, and Alicia and Perla two massage therapists from Argentina. We have appointments later today with Alicia who is the massage therapist that everyone raves about here. It will be our first since leaving California, as I don’t count the mini 15-minute massages we had at the baths.
Lakshmi, Freddie and I went out to eat after the show. We ended up walking both there and back, because we couldn’t find taxis. It is a good thing Freddie had the wheelchair. He pushed it part of the time! He is getting tired of being in the wheelchair. The theater had special ramps for the wheelchair. Again we had to go around to the side to get in. Not many people go out in wheelchairs here I am finding. We see some on the streets, but haven’t seen other wheelchairs in any of the theaters. We are learning what it is like to be in Sevilla from a “handicapped” perspective. Interesting. We don’t really feel “handicapped” because Freddie can walk, although slowly, but I guess needing the wheelchair makes us officially “handicapped”, or at least it does Freddie.
Freddie has started his class with Juan and I will have mine next. Lakshmi will come back later to take us to Alicia’s. No nap again today. We are already tired, as we got to bed late again last night.
Juan came at 11:30 this morning and we went to the MAS (grocery store) to get the food for today. Somehow, luckily, we missed the long lines that we usually find there. I am learning where things are. Lakshmi left to look at two possible rooms to rent.
Carlos Heredia (Freddie’s former guitar teacher here) visited yesterday and gave Freddie a mini lesson with exercises and a mini arm massage. Freddie wants to take a real lesson with him tomorrow. Carlos had some good ideas for exercises. He has always been a “stickler” for proper technique. He says that without proper technique, having the curve of the hand just right, the fingers barely having to move, etc., you can’t manage the falsetas he plays. Carlos gave Freddie some exercises to practice to gain back the functioning in his fingers. He said that Freddie had to retrain the mind to work the fingers again. He was very caring and compassionate. His mother had a stroke four years ago and still can’t speak or move. She is in a bed in his house and he and his family care for her.
 Juan worked a little with Freddie on his Spanish words today. It was good. Freddie will have another Spanish class with Lakshmi tonight after the massage.

Saturday May 26, 2007
It’s just getting dark at 10 PM. The sky is overcast but not yet black. It rained lightly today. I had my class with Juan today because we ran out of time yesterday. We also put a little bit of Bulerías baile (dance) and cante (song) in at the end. Yesterday our camera broke. We will borrow Lakshmi’s for awhile. I went to Corte Ingles this morning to get our camera fixed, but they don’t fix them. They told me of another place near the train station, but there wasn’t time to get there before one o’clock, when things start to close for the weekend on Saturdays, so I bought some shoes and came home. It had started to rain.
As I left Corte Ingles I ran into Roberto Zamora and Mercedes, who had arrived a few days before and were staying at Tania’s. At home, Carlos was giving Freddie a guitar lesson/physical therapy and an arm massage. Freddie loved it. Then Laskhmi returned from house hunting, Carlos left, and the three of us went out to eat. Rubina met us there, with some friends. We all sat outside by the side of Santa Catalina church by our favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant, La Giganta, and talked and watched the people pass through. Then we returned to our house.
When Rubina left, Lakshmi started another Spanish lesson with Freddie and a little later Juan came for my class. No wonder I’m tired. We are just now getting ready to go out to eat dinner and then Lakshmi has a work related appointment to go to. Freddie and I are thinking of going to a show, but I think we both feel tired and might just retire to the house.
Yesterday we both had wonderful massages. Lucy met us part way home and helped me push the wheelchair. I especially appreciated it after my massage. I didn’t want to stress my body right away. Freddie had started off pushing his wheel chair, but he got tired so I pushed him in it. Then Lucy called and said she was able to help. I love her. Lucy, Freddie and I ate at La Giganta before going to our house.

Sunday May 27, 2007
    We all (Lakshmi is still staying at our house) slept from 2:30 AM until 12:30 PM when the telephone woke us up. Is something in the air or do we all just need the rest? We might have slept even longer. I guess it is a real Sunday.
Lakshmi found an apartment to rent and will move in tomorrow. We’ll miss her. She picked up the key this morning and now is off visiting girlfriends today. It is good that she is reestablishing her female support system here. She is already gaining some healthy weight and looks happier.
Today the sky is blue but there is a slight breeze. The summer heat has not yet set in. Freddie and I are still taking it easy. Last night Freddie walked, pushing his wheelchair, almost all the way to Plaza Pelicano where we had dinner. We walked the long way, along the big boulevard that has the new smooth bicycle/wheelchair lane off the sidewalk. Yes, we finally did see a wheelchair symbol too. Everyone here thinks it is just for bikes, but we saw both symbols as we were walking home. I pushed Freddie home because by then he was tired. Lakshmi went on to her appointment and came back later at night.
It has seemed to me that I wasn’t taking classes yet, but Lakshmi pointed out that I am taking three classes per week from Juan, who luckily comes to the house to do it, and that the singing and dancing that I am learning from Juan is probably the most important thing I can do for my dance right now! It definitely increases my understanding. We have started to work on an Alegrías and I know that I will be taking all the Alegrías dance parts I have learned and will create something to go with the letras I am now learning. I have studied Alegrías cante before, but now it is all finally making a better kind of sense. And again, it is so much fun.
I might try Pilar’s (of the Farrucos) dance class this Monday night. Concha has a class starting Monday, but I have to find out what time it is, because I am busy at 11:30 until about 2 or 3 with Juan and Freddie. If I get up early enough, which I will try to do, I have to walk to the camera repair store and take the camera in. Lakshmi is using her camera today and I don’t like it anyway as much as ours.
Taxis seem hard to find these days in Sevilla. We chose not to go to the show after dinner last night because of this. Everything is harder with a wheelchair, but even more difficult if we don’t take it. There have been many times when we have walked because we haven’t been able to find a taxi. Without the wheelchair it would have been a disaster. Lakshmi called a taxi last night and they told her there were none in the area, so she too changed plans. She stayed home with us instead of going out again. Things happen late here. Most shows start around 10 PM but others start later. A few, like those in theaters, start at nine, and that is early.
We missed siesta again today. But we did laundry and dishes and cleaned up a little.

We went to see Lakshmi’s new apartment this afternoon after she returned. It is farther than the walk we take to San Marcos Plaza and Freddie walked all the way to Lakshmi’s apartment and back, pushing his wheelchair instead of riding in it. He also climbed the stairs. It is amazing. He is doing much better. Now he says he doesn’t like the wheelchair anymore, which I think is great. Walking while pushing the chair stabilizes him a lot more than walking with the crutch. He is able to walk with his body upright with both shoulders level while pushing the chair and he gets less tired than walking without it.
We ate out because we hadn’t shopped for food on Saturday. The tapas were delicious and didn’t have too much salt. Now it is almost eleven PM and Lakshmi is giving Freddie another Spanish lesson. His verbal skills are definitely increasing too, in both Spanish and English. He even pronounced Lakshmi’s name perfectly today and it is a difficult name for many people to pronounce. The Andalucians (Spaniards from this area, southern Spain) have a terrible time pronouncing her name. We counterculture parents certainly didn’t think of this aspect when we gave our children beautiful and unique names. Elun has the same problem.

Monday May 28, 2007
What a full day - the most frustrating of Spain and also lots of good. It felt like the “day from hell” but in reality only part of it was and actually we’ve had way worse in Spain in other years, so in reality, I am grateful.
We all went to bed early last night and we all woke up early this morning. Lakshmi wanted to clean her new apartment before going to Concha’s class. I walked to near the train station to take the camera in to be fixed. They will let me know the charge in a week, and then they will still have to fix it!  Meanwhile, I just bought a memory card for the camcorder so now we can take some photos with that. It is only a 512 card, because that was all they had, but it is something. That went OK. I even bought a pair of shoes on the way home. I had to get there before 11:30 when Juan was due. But Juan was late. When he arrived we went to the MAS and luckily there were no big lines today. Then he started his meat dish, which he is calling Carne a la Marianna. I wrote the recipe down, of course. Freddie had his class while Juan was cooking. I talked to Diana who informed me that Pilar’s class would not start until next Monday, so I decided that Freddie should get his anticoagulation blood test today since we wouldn’t have time next week. Diana gave me the number of Delia’s family doctor, Dr. Bolaños, and told me to get us there by 3 or 3:30 so we wouldn’t have to wait. There are no appointments. We just use Delia’s name as a referral. Delia has known him for over 40 years, and they are also good friends. Dr. Bolaños is supposedly retired, but he still sees old patients and new ones like us in the afternoons. His office is in his large house near Plaza San Marcos.
Juan’s stew took over three hours to cook and was delicious. I had to postpone my cante class with him until later and we left for the doctor’s as soon as we ate. It was twenty minutes to four already.
Freddie pushed his wheelchair all the way and we found it easily. There was no line and the doctor took us in. Freddie’s blood pressure is very low and he wants him to stop the hydrochlorothiazide. He wrote a prescription to a blood lab and gave us directions. Freddie needs his monthly anticoagulation test to continue to monitor his Coumadin intake.
As we walked to the blood-testing lab (I was now pushing Freddie in the chair) and were crossing the street in front of the wheelchair store, Freddie’s wheelchair broke; a part of the footrest fell off. A screw had come lose and had fallen out. We continued on to the clinic and after several different waits, were told that they couldn’t help us; they were out of our district and to try another one, which was further away. We struggled again with the elevator doors. It’s impossible for one person to push a wheelchair through, while opening and holding open the elevator doors and then lifting the wheelchair over a bump. People did help me, but not before we struggled on our own. And that was in a big clinic. The sun was hot, especially on the concrete sidewalks of that wide, commercial street. We went back to the wheelchair place first, to see if they would fix Freddie’s wheelchair, but they said they couldn’t until after six and that we need to look for loose screws because wheelchairs lose screws. That’s a short version. I complained. The wheel chair is only two weeks old. So the man at the store stuck in a paperclip and wrapped it with scotch tape and that held until we returned later. We continued on in the heat.
The next clinic also had difficult doors to get through in a wheelchair. On the way there we had to traverse some big curbs and I somewhat strained my back. As I tried to push Freddie up, I fell into my glasses that hang around my neck, pushing against the chair with the glasses smashed between my chest and the chair, and one lens popped out. The plastic frame had broken. Freddie had to get out and help me pull up the chair. Of course, the next clinic couldn’t take us either.
We headed for home, hot and frustrated, calling Diana and Delia on the mobile phone to tell them what happened. Everyone uses cell phones, called “mobi’s” here. It is almost like a comedy to see everyone walking and talking on their phones. Diana looked up the lab in the phone book and thought that maybe we hadn’t gone far enough and had gone into the wrong place. We couldn’t see the street numbers but had assumed that the big clinic was it. We were looking for 14 and 25 was already across the street.  So Diana thought we might not have found it. She also gave us the name of the lab, which we hadn’t had before. So when we passed the big boulevard on the way home, we decided to try to find it once more. This time we found it, a small door with a small bronze plaque with its name on it, much father down than the big clinic, the number 14 clearly marked on it. From there things went smoothly. Freddie got his test. No one questioned the doctor’s prescription we had, as they had in the other two clinics, which must have been the social security clinics, like the awful hospital that Freddie was in in 2002. It only cost us 30 Euros. And Dr. Bolaños was only 20 Euros. We need to return tomorrow for Freddie’s results and then take them back to Dr. Bolaños for his recommendations.
After that success we returned to the wheelchair store and they had the parts and fixed it and tightened the screw on the other side too, at Freddie’s request. Then we went to look for a pencil (not a pen) for Freddie to do his Sudoku puzzles. Lakshmi and Freddie have both been into them. Now Freddie is addicted and pours over them. It is so good for his mind. It took us a few stores before the Moroccan store man suggested that the Chinese store back on the Avenue would have them. He was right. So we bought pencils and a sharpener and headed home. Then Freddie reminded me that I had wanted to buy a memory card for the camcorder and that the camera store was now open, so he waited in his wheelchair on the corner while I went to the store and got my memory stick. We stopped by the Jamon (pronounced hah-moan) store on the way home and got some Jamon (Spanish ham). Then Freddie realized he wanted to buy some cheese at the MAS and that I should get more money from the ATM. So I went to the ATM on the other side of our plaza and Freddie went to the MAS next door to our house. We stuck the wheelchair inside our gates to wait for us.
We got home and I lay down with my feet up. About 15 minutes later Juan called and came over a little while later and gave me a cante class. It was great and gave me energy and lightened my spirits. Toward the end of class Lakshmi arrived to give Freddie his Spanish lesson. We ate black olives, toasted sunflower seeds, dates, dried plums, and some kind of nut. I worked on Alegrías again and I love it. It just so happens that Concha is teaching an Alegrías in her class which I plan to start tomorrow. Lakshmi took it today and loved it. We have to catch a bus at 1:30. Lakshmi will meet us. This will be her first night in her new apartment. She had started to clean it this morning. It was hard to see her go. We love her so much and she is such a pleasure to be around. She and Freddie are doing so well in their speech classes. Freddie is improving rapidly. Spain has been very good for us so far this year.
This evening I had to figure out which of Freddie’s morning pills was the hydrochlorothiazide. I knew that it was one of two. So I looked on-line tonight at photos of pills and hopefully I have the correct one. I think I do. He takes Flecainide in both the morning and evening, so I found the two of those and know that I am not taking that one out. So with the computer photos helping me, I know I’ve removed the hydrochlorothiazide. But que trabajo, what work. I need to get to bed, but I wanted to chronicle this crazy day first. Later I wrote to Ramá, my assistant in California, and she confirmed that I had removed the correct pill.

Tuesday May 29, 2007
What I love about Spain is this. I went by myself to the lab this morning to pick up Freddie’s test results, which we will bring to the Dr. this afternoon after Concha’s class. It was a sunny day and it didn’t take me very long to walk there this time. I walked in and the girl at the computer in the little lab room said, just a minute. Then she printed something from her computer and handed it to me and said “thirty euros”. She didn’t ask for ID; I didn’t have to wait; she didn’t even have to ask for Freddie’s name. She remembered me from the day before.
Then I walked back and tried a new shortcut that worked. I took money from the ATM across our plaza and came home to eat some breakfast. It couldn’t have been easier.
On the other hand, this morning before I left I called the Maestranza Theater, the biggest in Sevilla, to get tickets for the Christina Hoyes/Junco show that was supposed to be tonight and tomorrow and they told me it had already happened on the 23rd. Their advertising was way off. Oh well. Spain certainly has its own character. But we love it here, and Freddie seems to get better every day.
We leave for Concha’s class when Lakshmi gets here, about 1 or 1:30. She’ll help us drag the wheelchair onto the bus. Freddie didn’t want to take it, but I worry that he won’t be able to do the walking part without it, and sometimes we have to walk farther or faster than we have imagined.

Wednesday May 30, 2007
Lakshmi and I went to Concha’s class in Triana again today. Freddie stayed home and practiced. Freddie and I slept 10 hours again yesterday. It is hard to navigate Seville in a wheelchair. We had to lift the chair onto the bus and off the bus yesterday. Lakshmi helped us going there but she had to run to a rehearsal after class so Freddie and I were on our own. We had to go back to Dr. Bolaña’s directly from class to have him look at Freddie’s blood results. I had already compared them to the record we brought from the Santa Cruz anticoagulation clinic, so I assumed that he was within range, but I wanted the doctor’s opinion too. And luckily I was right. He is within range and doesn’t have to change that medication. But we got a little lost finding the doctor’s from the bus stop. The heat was up in the Sevilla afternoon and I was sweating, pushing the wheelchair along the cobblestones in the little streets in the hot sun. Freddie even got out and started to walk a little. Then I found it. The office was cool and relaxing and the doctor didn’t charge us again. And, we didn’t have to wait. That is all we have to do medically until we leave, barring any unforeseen emergency. After we rested and ate some left over Juan stew, we got up and went to an art exhibit of paintings by Susana’s husband Paco Vanesco. We bought one of his paintings, which we will get when the exhibit finishes. It turns out that he is a well-known and respected painter and there were lots of people at his exhibit. We also ran into people we knew there. We took a taxi there, after I had wheeled Freddie to the main street near our house. Of course, finding a taxi late at night on the way back was harder. I had to push Freddie to a main street again through rough streets with no sidewalks in an area I didn’t know, near the Alameda. Then we crossed a huge street and stood in the dark for some time until a taxi passed by. I had passed that area on the bus, coming from Triana. There is not much there at night. The taxi driver was very nice, though, and helped us fold up the wheelchair. We were totally exhausted when we returned home.
While I was getting ready to meet Lakshmi today to go to class, Paco and Pilar called. They were in Sevilla so they came over until they had to leave to get Soleá from school. It was a fiesta day, but it must have been unimportant, because Concha taught and Soleá went to school. Concha’s husband Rafael came to class to see Freddie, but Freddie wasn’t there. We will eat dinner with them on Saturday night, at the restaurant where Rafael works. He looks good. He had been very ill and almost died but he had a stomach operation and has now recovered. So Concha has been though similar traumas to those I experienced. Concha’s niece Conchita is taking Concha’s dance classes. She has grown up so much since we were last here. And she dances beautifully. She is the daughter of Concha’s brother who died when we were here in 2001. Carmen, Concha’s daughter, is now studying cante (singing) with Ines Bacan, a fantastic singer from Lebrija, the sister of the guitarist Pedro Bacan (who died in a car accident a number of years ago).
Concha, Carmen and Curro (Concha’s son) will be performing with Ines Bacan, Pepa de Benito and Antonio Moya on June 27 in Mairena. We plan to go. Already it seems like our time here is too short. With air conditioning, the Sevilla heat doesn’t seem as bad as it did when we lived upstairs at la Carboneria. But it’s not June or July yet either.

I have finished my Alegrías class with Juan today and Freddie is out with Paco Fernandez. We will get together with Paco, Pilar and Soleá tomorrow night. Tonight I just feel like sleeping. Freddie had another Spanish class with Lakshmi today just before he went out with Paco. He is doing well.
Pilar just called. She doesn’t know where Freddie and Paco are so she is coming over here to wait. She had been at her parents. Paco’s phone doesn’t work and Freddie forgot his. Hombres! (Men).
Paco and Freddie returned after a great day of sight seeing in Triana and then spending time with Peregil, in his bar. Peregil remembered that I had come in and danced, as I wrote about, with my arms while sitting on a stool at the bar.
Freddie spent all afternoon with Paco and didn’t take his wheelchair or his crutch. He says he did very well. They enjoyed themselves a lot

Thursday May 31, 2007
Freddie’s birthday and our anniversary are on June 10. We are planning some kind of event here, but we don’t know what yet. Freddie will be 68. We will have been actually married for 7 years! Ole.

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