Olé!

2016 Feria de Abril Plaza de Toros Poster; Official Program and Feria Daily Insert

2016 Feria de Abril Plaza de Toros Poster; Official Program and Feria Daily Insert

 

One of the highest accolades a bull fighter can receive for a valiant well fought fight is una oreja, an ear of the bull he killed. Sometimes, for a particularly well fought battle, dos orejas or two ears of the bull he killed are given. More rarely than that two ears and the tail is granted to the bull fighter. It is quite rare and a real honor to witness a bull fight in which the latter two awards are bestowed. However, the most rare and amazing event to witness at a bull fight is when both the bull and the matador have fought exceptionally bravely and the crowd petitions for an Indulto or pardon. When a bull is pardoned, he is lead from the bull ring and lives out the rest of his life on the farm of its owner as a stud.

Family Photo from our Seats

Family Photo from our Seats

I was excited to have the opportunity to see a bull fight with my family during the Feria de Abril in Seville, Spain. It is, to me, a must see. My son had been to his first bull fight the week before and was enthralled by it. But, April 13th in La Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla was special. We arrived early to take in the atmosphere. Everyone dresses very nicely for this event, and we did too. So, we took a lot of photographs before it had even begun. There are so many things to notice. Seat cushions are for sale or rent (which benefited the Spanish Red Cross), as the seating is on brick and cement. Many folks purchase snacks and drinks before they enter the Maestranza.

We also immediately noticed that there was no jumbotron. No announcers. Not much room to move once seated. But, there were two vendors walking through the seats yelling what they were selling, one had roasted almonds and one had drinks. There was a decent size band on the upper level across from the box where the dignitaries sit. We were seated in the Sombra section, which is the shade side. We were happily on the side where most of the action took place. The opposite side of the ring was in full sun and was the Sol or sunny section.

Bullfight Bullcropped

The music began and the action followed almost immediately.  The first bull was not a very good fighter and the matador did not appear as polished as I’ve seen. My husband and kids were glued to the action. The third bull was better and so was the matador. He received dos orejas. I kept saying, “This is a great honor. I’m so glad we got to see this. This is relatively rare to see.” And etc. The next bull came out and he was fierce from the start. He and his torero performed very well, each one matching the other with moves and counter-moves. Pretty soon, it became obvious (to those who have seen bull fights before) that this was a special bull. The crowd began to wave white handkerchiefs. Those of us without them used the programs we had about the night’s bull fight. The whole place was waving and the matador walked over to the judge and he granted the indulto or pardon. Immediately, eight large light brown and white bulls were ushered into the ring. They patiently corralled the bull and then all walked back out of the ring. The crowd was cheering wildly. THIS was the pinnacle of bull fighting. We witnessed history. It was so thrilling. The matador received dos orejas (from a previously killed that night bull) and he walked around the ring, proudly holding up the ears and waving at the exuberant crowd. The owner of the bull also joined him in taking the lap around the ring. It was so awesome.

Helping the Pardoned One Out of the Ring

Helping the Pardoned One Out of the Ring

There were two more bulls, but the evening belonged to the Matador Manuel Escribano and the indultado (the pardoned bull), “Cobradiezmos.”

Glossy Photo of the Matador Manuel Escribano

Glossy Photo of the Matador Manuel Escribano

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was so much history, culture, passion and art that we all came away exhilarated by the experience. John was taken by the music which served to connect the three stages of the bull fights. It was so old fashioned. I felt like we were non-speaking extras in a movie, sitting quietly expectant until we were cheering and yelling, “Olé” on cue. There was no evidence that it was 2016, except for the cell phones we held up to take pictures of the spectacle. We thought we might have feelings of, “Oh, my gosh! I feel sorry for the bull!” but did not.  It was too ceremonial to feel that way. The prevailing thought was, “This was so cool!” And, of course, it was nice to focus on knowing that one of the bulls would be spending his remaining years out to stud on a farm.

Bullfight ring

 

Swienconka for Two?

The Real Butter Lamb

The Real Butter Lamb

My husband and I awoke to an empty house today. We think it might be the first time in over 20 years we haven’t had at least one of the kids here with us on Easter morning. We are fine with it. My husband is in his Polish food glory. I’m happy that I’m not staring down two candy-filled Easter baskets knowing that I’m going to end up losing the battle of willpower and diving in to them. It’s a happy empty nest.

Preparations for Easter or, in our case, a Polish Easter can take days. Hard boiling eggs, buying and cooking up the Polish sausage (the holiday variety, if we can get it around here. Side Note: Yes, we know about Ostrowski’s, but they do not use the same recipe as Redlinksi’s (in Buffalo, NY), which is my husband’s favorite, so we usually just get a decent stand in from Wegman’s.), getting the butter lamb (Side Note: We got a “REAL Butter Lamb this year!), getting the ham, getting the seedless rye bread, and that is the bare minimum for the Polish traditional meal of the day on Easter Sunday: Swienconka.*

The food for this meal is usually blessed. In the Buffalo area, churches are overflowing with folks bringing huge baskets, stuffed with everything for the swienconka to be blessed the Saturday before Easter. I’ve heard that at some churches, the priest has had to come out and do a mass blessing in the parking lots to all the folks trapped in the gridlock in their cars. Around here, our church has done the Blessing of the Food Mass but attendance is considerably lighter. In fact, the few times we’ve gone, there have been probably fewer than 30 baskets. This year, with just the two of us, we did not make it to have our food blessed. I often wonder how many years of blessing we can get out of, say, our salt and pepper shaker’s contents…I guess I would need to pay attention to how often I refill them during the year. Anyway, the lack of actual, current blessing, however, did not stop us from having the traditional meal. 

The Basic Traditional Polish Meal

The Basic Traditional Polish Meal

I was happy to not have to dye the eggs, buy candy, or decorate the house. Our daughter made it over to our house in time for church, which was nice. We got a nice Easter note from our son. My parents are having us over for Easter dinner. It’s a very happy empty nest, indeed.

 

*Swienconka – I do not know how to speak or write in Polish, so I’m using the word tweeted out by my sister-in-law, who will know better than I the ins and outs of Polish Easter words.

 

The Beautiful Game Back in The Day

Love Soccer

Love Soccer

I grew up in a time and place that was quite unique. I played soccer and swam on the neighborhood summer swim team. Forty years ago. It was very normal. I had no idea that literally the year my family moved to this unique place, Title IX was passed. It didn’t seem to matter. Boys and girls, black or white or other races were all just kids. We were on teams and in school and we were not told we couldn’t do any of it for any reason. I had no idea how rare it all was. I had no idea that there were huge areas of the country that did not offer soccer as a sport option, or if they did, did not offer soccer as a sport for girls back at that time.

In high school, I played on the Girls Varsity Soccer team, which I believe had only started up the year or two before I got there. I would later learn that one of my former neighborhood team teammates had lobbied hard to make high school soccer for girls a reality at my school. (Thank you, Jessie!) Our coach was a Cuban American woman, who was also my Spanish teacher.  There was no Girls Junior Varsity team back then. I don’t even know when that started in our county. I was in college by then or older perhaps.

So, I was a soccer player and soccer fan in the U.S. a long time ago. We had a very successful Boys Varsity Soccer Team at the time. One young man was drafted to play in the North American Soccer League (NASL), the U.S. professional league, right out of high school. He played for the New York Cosmos, which was a very good team.  It was very exciting to think that someone we knew from our school was playing professionally with some of the top names in the sport.

Today I learned that one of THE legends of the game back then died. Johan Cruyff. He was Dutch, but he played in the U.S. for another NASL team, the Washington Diplomats, for a time. I can’t believe how hearing of his passing has brought to mind this flood of my personal soccer memories and with them, gratitude. I got to see that guy play. And, while the details are fuzzy and honestly irrelevant, I’m happy to have had the honor. But, I’m even more grateful that I was able to play.

Soccer Patches

Soccer Patches

#HoCoBlogs

 

 

In The Bubble

Owen Brown Tennis Club

Owen Brown Tennis Club

One of the advantages of being a blogger in Howard County (HoCo), Maryland is the wonderful network of bloggers you can get to know. Many of HoCo’s bloggers know and blog about local events and happenings, and etc. I was happy to catch up with one such knowledgeable blogger at the Nalley Fresh Blog party a couple weeks ago. Duane, of HoCoConnect blog fame, has shared lots of newsy tidbits on things to do around the county. Today, I had a chance to check one out. I went to Drop-in Pickleball at the Owen Brown Tennis Club bubble. Since I’m not a tennis player, it was my first time at this Columbia Association facility, which currently offers drop-in pickleball twice a week. Wednesdays from 1-3 PM and Thursdays from 12-2 PM. There is a nominal fee of $3.00, and they have paddles to use if you don’t have your own.

 

In the Bubble

In the Bubble


It was not my first time attempting to play Pickleball. But, it was my first time playing with folks who know the rules. I have a lot to learn, which is really easy to do with practice. And, while I can say I played real Pickleball, I cannot say it went real(ly) well. In fact, suffice it to say I will not be representing the USA in any World Pickleball Championships any time soon. Or ever. Just judging by my games today.

The good news is, I am back into the whole idea of playing and can now set about to get some drop in sessions on my calendar. Many thanks to Duane, his wife and her teammate for today for teaching me the ropes (and for having lots of patience!). With spring right around the corner, look for more opportunities to learn to play this fun game that has elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong at different locations around the county.

 

#HoCoBlogs

Bonus Day Fun

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. So long, in fact, that one of my fellow HoCo bloggers introduced me tonight as a retired blogger. Very funny, HoCoConnect! Because I have had such a good “Leap Day” and not because I was guilted into it, I am inspired to get back to my blog. (Smile)

Tonight, the HoCo Bloggers were invited to enjoy a meal at the new Nalley Fresh Restaurant, which is in the Dobbin Center plaza near Performance Bikes. Nalley Fresh offers a “Chipotle-style” make your own salad, wrap, or bowl. I think one of the more unique offerings, and there are several here, is the sweet potato base for your bowl. I did not try it, because I was drawn to the salad. There is a wall of lettuce options, and I asked to have a romaine and spring mix combination. From there I had to choose a protein, which wasn’t easy. The beef looked fabulous. There was shrimp and salmon, and three styles of chicken, and I was stuck in the land of too many choices. It was temporary. One of the very friendly staff members had told me to ask for a small taste of the protein to make sure I’d like it. So, I asked to try the plain, grilled chicken. It was OK, but I wasn’t sold on it. So, I took a chance on the whisky chicken. I proceeded to the next friendly server and picked a bunch of my favorite salad veggies, then skipped the cheese (as I do) and asked for ranch dressing on the side. I was offered a piece of nutty bread, which I accepted. It was a delicious salad if I do say so myself. It was very obvious why fresh is in the name. It was super fresh. On top of a great meal, John really liked the wrap he chose, too, it was fun to meet new bloggers and chat with the regulars. (I’m going to have a lot connecting to do on social media after I get this post up.)

I was happy to get to tell JessieX in person that I love her new blog series, The Uber Chronicles. It is so perfectly her. I was so energized by her excitement and our conversation that I’m sure that is also propelling me to write this post.

Earlier today I was able to get in one more Masters swim practice for February, and it ended up being about 500 more yards than the coach actually wrote for us. Note to self: It’s time to grab your prescription goggles so you can read what is actually written on the white board. It was a happy problem on a bonus day!

Go check out Nalley Fresh for yourself. You may even run into this guy:

Chef Nalley at the New Columbia, MD Nalley Fresh Location

And, if you’re lucky, there will be live music and you’ll catch him playing a mean harmonica.

#hocoblogs

 

New Bike! New Trail!

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

Fall Day on the NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My husband and daughter surprised me with an early birthday present–a new hybrid bike. It hasn’t been very long that we started our biking adventures, and the need to have more trail options than a road bike can handle had become apparent. There are just too many trails that are calling our names, but that would be too dicey to ride on my road bike. So, fatter tires it is.

I wanted to give the bike a test spin, so we took a little 5.5 mile ride in a local office park area. My initial reaction was 5.5 miles on a hybrid made me about as tired as 20+miles on my road bike. John decided my degree of exhaustion was due more to the fact I had had an early morning and eight hour work day, than the fatter tire size. Maybe, but I did notice a difference.

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

The Restored 1898 Monkton Train Station

 

Our first trail with my new bike was the Torrey C. Brown (TCB)/Northern Central Railroad Trail (NCR Trail) from Ashland, Maryland to York, Pennsylvania.  We jumped on the trail at the Ashland Trailhead, which was about a 35 minute drive from our house. It was a chilly – low 50’s, but a sunny and bright fall day. There were lots of walkers, joggers, and bike riders coming and going. We set off and were immediately impressed with the scenic and serene trail vibe. The trail was alternately narrow and wider. The surface alternated between packed gravel (almost paved) to loose gravel; with lots of leaves. I was very glad to not be trying this trail on my road bike. There were several muddy areas that my new bike handled like a charm. As we traveled north, there were fewer people, but it was still a well-used trail. I was freezing. I decided I need earmuffs that fit under my helmet. And gloves that fit over my riding gloves. And, I could have used warmer socks. But, we were delighted by the trail, so we kept pedaling, hoping to warm up.
The trees were not in full autumn glory, but there was some nice tree color. The part of the trail we rode was probably 90% shaded. We entered Gunpowder Falls State Park and spent a good deal of time with the Big Gunpowder Falls in view. It was so nice. Talk about a great way to disconnect from reality. Just nice scenery and no sounds, but those in nature.

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

Position Light Signals, NCR Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Benches and picnic tables dot the trail. There were also some cute scenic points of interest. We stopped a couple times in sunny spots to warm up and enjoy the views. We went about 8.5 miles, just past Monkton, before turning around and heading back. This is another one of those long, beautiful trails that had us planning our next ride before our first one was finished. John was so taken with this ride, it was one of the big reasons he bought me the new bike. I agree with him. It is a great trail. And, it’s close to home. We will be back to try to get to Pennsylvania next.

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

Sunny Spot along the NCR Trail

  For our review and more photos of this trail, see my post on my bike trail blog here.

 

Thirty Years Later

La Sagrada Familia Barcelona, Spain

La Sagrada Familia
Barcelona, Spain

Rocky, exasperating, frustrating, overwhelming, and hard are a few of the words I would use to describe my first few weeks in Spain, where I was transplanted for my Junior year of college. However, those aren’t any of the words I actually use to describe my study abroad experience, mind you. I look back on my study abroad experience with happiness, excitement, pride, and a deep yearning to go back. In fact, I have a number of stories about things that I experienced when I first arrived that I laugh about now, but that I did not find funny at all at the time. So, having a child go overseas for his semester abroad program, has reminded me of the not often talked about parts of study abroad: the culture shock. We used the terms “culture shock” and “reverse culture shock” before and after my study abroad experience, back in the day. But, talking about it and learning what types of feelings are bundled under the umbrella of the term “culture shock,” does not prepare you for it happening to you. Funny thing about feelings. And, while I believe that everyone experiences some sort of culture shock, not everyone’s culture shock manifests in the same way. But, I guess, it was helpful to have the idea that what one is experiencing is normal. Although, I don’t once recall thinking, “Oh, yes. This is my culture shock talking,” when I was having a frustrated moment.And, communication has changed so much since I lived in Spain, it is mind-boggling to me. While I had pushed all of my entry into Spain and Spanish culture issues (READ: my culture shock) well to the back of my mind, I was brought back face to face with them through my son.

And, while it was a bit uncomfortable to hear he was experiencing his culture shock, it was nice to be able to say, “Yeah, I remember that. I felt that way, too.” So, while the sum total of our parenting advice has been something along the lines of, “Hang in there!” and “You can do it!” I had more peace about the place my son found himself in those early weeks of his Junior year. I knew that he was so close to getting over the biggest hump and would be fine. It just takes time.

While I mentally wrestled with ways I could “help” him, I began thinking about thirty years ago. One thing that came to me was an analogy. Undertaking a study abroad program is like panning for gold in the late 1800s. The conditions are physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing. You’re standing in unfamiliar waters, performing unfamiliar tasks, like bending down and scooping up rocks and dirt and water and shaking out the unwanted parts. It’s demanding all of your attention to find the gold nuggets. But, you find them. Some are small, some a little bigger, and every now and then, you find a sizeable chunk of gold. You put all the nuggets that you find in a pouch or off to the side and continue panning. When you stop at the end of the day, you may not find that you have many nuggets. But, at the end of the week or month or semester, you will have lots of gold nuggets. Those gold nuggets are what you will be proud of, thankful for, and will be what you remember about your study abroad experience. The lack of reliable 24/7 WiFi will fade into the deep recesses of your mind, crowded out by the awesome, shiny gold nuggets you are holding.

Another thing that came to me was a word of advice: Don’t compare your insides (READ: what you are feeling) to somebody else’s SnapChat stories, Instagram pictures, Facebook posts, or tweets on Twitter. Seeing people who are also studying abroad appearing to be having an amazing time without any of the culture shock piece does not mean they are not also struggling to come to terms with their new environment. They are. And, just a P.S. Everyone is thinking the same thing about your cool photos and posts on social media.

And finally, I thought, it’s important to find your inner warrior. Be fearless. Face the day resolving to do your best, make the best of every situation, and have fun. I used to picture a map of the world and then picture where I was compared to my family and friends. I used that image to propel me through days I didn’t want to get out bed, as well as days I was having so much fun, I didn’t want to go to sleep.

Monserrat Catalonia, Spain

Monserrat
Catalonia, Spain

 

 

 

 

#MyGlobalLife