13. Sevilla, Puerto Rico Epilogue– July 15-18, 2010

13. Sevilla, Puerto Rico Epilogue– July 15-18, 2010

July 2010
Our leaving Sevilla was fairly smooth. First we had to get to Sevilla. Our bus from Palmar pulled into Sevilla at midnight on the 11th of July, moments after Spain won their first World Soccer Cup. The joyous celebrations lasted far into the night.

The next morning, Monday, the first of our two days allotted to packing to leave Spain, we began to fit things into the beautiful plastic boxes with built-in little wheels that I had been collecting while Freddie was at the beach. I already had many things sorted by function and room, piled on the couch near the boxes they would go in. These household things get stored in Spain. 

Before breakfast, I had to go to the market to buy food. I ran to the telephone store too, to see if I could exchange the cute little modem/phone I bought for Freddie, but it was too late. Too much time had passed. The little phone is almost impossible to read outside in the daylight. Sometimes it is hard to hear as well. When its speakerphone is on, the other party can’t hear me. But it is a Yoigo phone and was basically free and it was a good idea. The Yoigo phone company is the cheapest in Spain that I know of.

Nancy came with me because we were trying to change her phone too, but the week had passed and she had missed her opportunity to exchange it as well. Nancy loved her phone but the Movistar plan was way too expensive and she used her “saldo” (prepaid money) up very quickly. You cannot put a Yoigo (or any other) card in another company’s phone unless it is unlocked, like my iphone.

We solved the problem by my lending Nancy Freddie’s phone since we would be leaving so soon. Instead of buying a new phone, she would only have to put saldo on the phone. Our Yoigo plan would save her lots of money. 

On my way home from the phone store, I took some money out of my American bank and deposited some of it into my new Spanish bank, using the easy automatic cajero. The exchange rate had already started moving up again (not good for us) and I wanted to have a reserve for when we return. 

After that excursion, I had time to make myself some breakfast and then start to pack. After her dance class with Torombo, Nancy returned and helped us pack. She has a good sense of organization and it was nice to have her company. Carlos came over to say goodbye. Lakshmi stopped by later that night, after work. Of course, we were still up packing. 

Angel’s land phone wasn’t working so we made our calls on our cell phone, which is always more expensive, as calling land phone to land phone within Spain is free. We had to call the airlines and the taxi and some of our friends. Luckily, we had already switched to Yoigo or we would have spent a lot more money than we did.

That evening we went out to dinner with Juan and Lucy, who had recently returned from teaching a two-week workshop in New York. Lucy had to go out of town the next day, so this was our only opportunity to say goodbye. It was nice to spend time with them. We are happy that we will see them in November, when they come to California to perform and teach. 

Tuesday we packed some more. In the afternoon, our friends Susana and Paco came over and wanted us to take a ride in their beautiful new car, but we felt that we needed a little more time to pack and we were expecting Teresa, who was on her way, walking with her dog, to say goodbye and to pick up the guitar that Freddie was leaving in her care. So, we just waited by the new car that didn’t have a place to park and said our goodbyes. Teresa arrived and Susana and Paco were able to drive her, the guitar, and her little dog Ninya back to Triana. 

Freddie and I had ice cream one last time at our favorite heladería. Later in the evening, Juan came by and then Lakshmi came again after work. We had the most relaxing packing experience we have ever had. And we got it all done. Our plastic boxes are neatly stacked under Angel’s stairs. Angel has already hung Freddie’s tricycle up on the wall. Lakshmi has our Brita water filter and one of Freddie’s guitars; Teresa has the other guitar. 

At ten minutes to eight the next morning, Angel came downstairs to say goodbye. At eight o’clock, the taxi arrived to take us to the airport. Fortunately, taxis going to the airport in Spain always seem to arrive on time. 

We had a long layover in Madrid and we had planned to meet our friend Miguel, but I had his old cell number and did not find his work cell number he now uses until I had time to set up the computer. There was no answer on his old phone, which I called as soon as we got off the plane. I left a message for him and later when I found his other phone number, I left messages on both phones. 

Next, we arrived at the airport lounge, thanks to our business class air mile flight. There they had a sleeping room, so we both took naps while we waited. What luxury. 

Miguel had left me a message, which I received when I woke up. I finally connected with him, but we had to say our goodbyes by phone instead of with lunch in person. 

Then it was time to leave for Puerto Rico. Everything went smoothly, and we said goodbye to Spain and the plane took off. 

July 15, 2010
San Juan, Puerto Rico

San Juan is hot and sticky. We arrived at our hotel last night at three AM Spain time. Puerto Rico is six hours earlier than Spain is. Freddie paid the taxi driver the eighteen dollars for the five-minute ride but he didn’t tell me. So when I came out to get the rest of our bags I paid him again! He took it. The porter at the airport also charged us sixteen dollars. At least he did more work for us. But he counted all the bags, including the one that Freddie and I carried. He did send all of them through the agricultural scanner but I could have done that as well. The four suitcases were the ones that we needed the help with because the cart rental at the airport was broken so there were no luggage carts available. Freddie always travels in the wheel chair in the airport so he couldn’t wheel any more luggage than what we could carry on his lap. That included his carryon with his computer, his cane, and his new guitar. 

The small, oceanfront hotel had given away the specifically reserved room we had carefully booked way in advance, so they put us in the room we had been advised against by our friend Karen, who lives here. It has an ocean view and a small, ugly, concrete patio. It is not as noisy as Karen had thought it would be, being above the bar, but it was only Wednesday night. We slept well on the big comfortable bed and woke up early, still on Spanish time.

Freddie noticed that a window by the concrete porch had been patched with wood where we assumed that somebody had recently broken in! We decided that we needed to move, as we didn’t feel safe there. 

July 17, 2010 Saturday on the plane home
We changed rooms the following morning, but we found out that the wood over the window in our first room was for the air conditioner and not the result of a break in. Our new room was on the street side but we loved it. We could see the beach and the ocean from the windows. The staff was extremely nice and helpful and immediately put us at ease that next morning. They even moved the tiny refrigerator from our old room to our new room at our friend Karen’s request.

Karen used to have a booth at the Renaissance Faire where she sold her hand painted delicate designs on ostrich eggs when she lived in California. She also was a Flamenco aficionada (lover) and loved Latin and African music as well. We have both known her for a long time and it was nice to see her in Puerto Rico. Karen, has lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico for 22 years

That first morning, after awaking early on Spanish time (six hours later than Puerto Rico), Freddie and I had coffee and orange juice at the hotel’s outdoor restaurant and watched the rain and the ocean from our covered table. A short while later, Karen came over to take us sightseeing. First, of course, we changed rooms and Karen helped us move our suitcases. Then we unloaded the beach chairs and the box of granola candy bars she had brought for us in the trunk of her bright red car.

Karen took us to another restaurant for breakfast. It rained several times while we were eating but then the weather cleared and became very hot and humid for our sightseeing trip.

First we drove to see old San Juan, which is very picturesque. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find parking so we just drove around in the humid heat. Next we drove up the coast to Loiza, a very poor, mainly black barrio, where Karen has many friends. Karen has been helping the children in that neighborhood for years. She collects toys, arranges for them to go to camp, and is generally concerned about their welfare. Karen’s Spanish is perfect and she speaks Spanish to everyone, although most of the people here seem to be bilingual. 
Front door of the Ayala home.

Many of Karen’s friends are dancers and musicians.
We stopped at the tiny shop and home of the Ayalas, a traditional Puerto Rican dance and music family.
The Ayala's little store.
Raquel Ayala used to be an incredible dancer, Karen told us, until she hurt her knee and had to retire from their dance troupe. Raquel, honey-colored, round and beautiful, is a warm and caring person.
Raquel with domino.
There is a big painting of her in the house, and we saw the same painting on the wall of a cultural museum earlier in the day.
Painting of Raquel in the Ayala home.
Her late father founded the family troupe and it is still one of the major performing troupes on the island. 
Paintings the Ayala home.

Wanting to support these people’s art, which filled the tiny shop next to their house, I bought a CD of their music, and a beautiful seed necklace and some maracas made by Raquel’s sister. Raquel helped me to decide which of the two necklaces I had chosen looked better on me. We felt an immediate connection. On Karen’s recommendation, I also bought some coconut hair oil made by the sister.
Karen, Raquel's sister & Marianna wearing the seed necklace made by Raquel's sister.
The family also specializes in making masks, but they were too big to even think of carrying home.
The Ayala store
Freddie looking out from the store. Note the mask on the right.

Karen mentioned that I was hungry and before I knew it a bowl of delicious hot soup appeared before me. Later we had to try Raquel’s rice dish that had just finished cooking. 

The family sat in the shade of their yard playing dominos, a favorite game here on the island. Raquel is a champ and usually wins the games.
Outside the Ayala home.
Karen also bought some homemade sugarcane rum that is abundant on the island. People seem to drink a lot here.
Freddie & Marianna by the cutout statues.

On the way back to San Juan, still dripping in sweat from the unaccustomed humidity, we stopped at a roadside stand and bought deep fried plantains with river crab inside of them. They are cooked right there on a wood fire. They weren’t as good as they looked, but they were traditional and local, which is what we wanted. We also drank coconut milk from freshly opened coconuts. The day was very hot and muggy and we felt as if we were in a sauna. 

Many of the stores and restaurants along the road were closed. Now they only open up on the weekends, because with the current economic crisis there isn’t enough traffic to warrant staying open all week. We passed many businesses that had folded for good because of the crisis. Puerto Rico had been hit hard and there is major unemployment here. 

That afternoon Karen had to work and Freddie and I had planned to go to the crowded beach right outside our window. But, still on Spanish time, we took a nap instead and missed the beach that day. I guess we were spoiled by the Palmar beach in Spain. This one couldn’t hold a candle to it.

In the evening, we spent time with some other old friends, Marcellus and Laura Sutton-Barnes and their oldest daughter Leia.
Laura, Freddie, Marcellus & Leia
Marcellus and Laura were also old Renaissance faire people but Freddie had first met Marcellus in Greenwich Village, in New York and they have now been friends for over fifty years.
Marcellus at the Renaissance Faire.
Freddie & Marcellus July 2010. Marcellus is 70. Freddie is 71.
Marcellus had just turned seventy and they were celebrating his birthday by visiting their daughter Leia, who has lived in Puerto Rico for about eight years. Marcellus and Laura had rescheduled their visit to coincide with ours. 
All of us

Leia and her sister Mara had visited us in Sevilla several years ago and of course, we had all had a wonderful time. But we had not seen her parents for years. Freddie and Marcellus feel like very close brothers. After all these years their friendship is still strong and current. I had not actually met Laura before, but I felt as though I already knew her. We had a lot of fun together.
All of us

That evening, along with Leia’s partner Jose Alfredo, we went to a fantastic sevichi restaurant. The rain started again and would fall heavily for a while and then stop. This is typical for this time of year, we found out. The weather stays hot even when it rains.
After dinner, we drove to see Leia’s and Jose Alfredo’s new apartment, which was wonderful. We didn’t get to sleep until two AM Puerto Rican time that night. So we tried to sleep late. The gigantic bed in our new room was also extremely comfortable. 

In the morning the rain continued to fall heavily and then stop and then start again. But we were determined to go to the beach in Puerto Rico.
Freddie and Laura (photo by Leia)
Marcellus and family joined us and we all went down to the beach next door, which was not very crowded because of the overcast weather.
Freddie and Marcellus (photo by Leia)
After we set up our beach chairs and towels, it started to rain heavily again and the warmest place we found was in the water!
Freddie and Marcellus (photo by Leia)
Freddie and Marcellus (photo by Leia)
So we waited out the rain swimming in the ocean!
Freddie and Marcellus (photo by Leia)
That was a first for all of us, except for Leia
Swimming in the rain (photo by Leia)

After the rain stopped, Karen joined us at the beach.
Laura, Marcells, Marianna, Freddie & Karen
Freddie & Marcellus & Karen
Freddie & Marcellus & Karen
Then we all went out
Marcellus, Freddie, Laura, Leia, & Karen
to dinner and ended up at our hotel again.
Laura, Marianna & Leia (Laura's daughter)
Karen, who bakes professionally, had made a birthday cake for herself. Her sixty-seventh birthday is next week but she wanted to celebrate it with old friends and we were all there. So, we went to our hotel’s outdoor restaurant and ate cake and the band played Happy Birthday. We celebrated Freddie’s June birthday and Marcellus’ and Karen’s July birthdays!
Laura, Marianna & Leia

Marcellus and Laura left for Arizona at 10:30 the next morning on the same airline and to the same hub that we left for at 1:50 PM that afternoon. Their connection actually was scheduled to leave Dallas later than ours so they planned to meet us in Dallas when we landed. 

Our jet lag has not been bad. This is a great way to break up the trip home. I have never before felt so good and refreshed after leaving Spain. We didn’t get to see everything that we “should” have in Puerto Rico, but we did enjoy our trip and seeing our old friends. The weather of course was way too wet for us but did not stop our enjoyment.

What a wonderful trip we have had this year. Every trip is so different and unfolds as the time passes. We are both so grateful for these experiences. 

Our layover was in Dallas (American does not have direct flights from San Juan to San Francisco). There, as prearranged, we met Marcellus and Laura, who were waiting for us at our gate. We all had time to take the tram to the gate where Freddie and I would fly to San Francisco. From there, we wheeled Freddie, who always takes the wheelchair on long distance flights, to a restaurant where we had ten minutes to have drinks. Then we wheeled Freddie back to our gate where we had just missed our pre-boarding option. But they let us board right then and everything worked out easily. Marcellus and Laura had to get back to the first terminal to catch their next flight to Arizona. It was nice to have an extra mini-visit with them on the way home. Hopefully it won’t be so long until we see them next. 

Sitting on the plane on the way to San Francisco, I think about whether I am excited about going home or not. And I find that I am not excited. I feel as if I have no feelings about it; I am suspended in time. I am truly in the moment. 

This trip is ending and our lives at home in Santa Cruz will begin again soon. While neither of us felt ready to leave Spain this time, we are now here in the air and we know that we will be home soon. 

Our trip has been filled with friendship, and healing and a lot of beach. I have felt fulfilled with my Flamenco studies and my improvement in both my dance and my singing. I feel inspired. 

Freddie has been regaining physical movement and coordination and his language has been steadily returning. He has re-experienced his autonomy for the first time since his stroke, more than four and a half years ago. And I too have experienced my independence, being able to leave Freddie on his own and know that he would be OK! Our relationship has grown and adjusted accordingly. 

This trip has been an important milestone for both of us and we are both extremely grateful for all that has happened.


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