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



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

Catalonia, Spain







A Few Things I Picked Up in Spain

Ensalada Mixta - typical Spanish salad

Ensalada Mixta – typical Spanish salad









This post is a #MyGlobalLife Link up post.

I read the latest post by Cate (of SmallPlanetStudio.com) and once again I was transported back to my experiences of living or traveling abroad. She posed a question that acted as a nice prompt for me. Her question:

What have you incorporated into your life after living abroad?

I love this prompt. I had not thought about it too much lately, but I used to be very mindful that I was doing things I picked up from having lived in Spain. I spent my Junior year of college in Pamplona, Spain.  It was a fabulous experience.  I did indeed pick up some Spanish habits, if you will, which I brought home.  I was doing those Spain things because they not only became ingrained in me while I was there, but to remember the experience and probably as a way to hold on to it and make it last.

I think that the most significant changes to my pre-living abroad self were in my writing.

  • I can’t write sevens any more without putting a cross through them the Spanish way.
  • I abbreviate words using Spanish abbreviations.
  • I write notes (personal and when I went back to school, and later work) in Spanish and English

However, one of the best habits I picked up was a the result of a big revelation: I had never felt so good physically and emotionally as I did when I was living in Spain. Why was this? I realized this improvement must be because of a dietary change I had made. Figuring out this riddle was the key to carrying on my feelings of physical and emotional well being when I returned home. While in Spain, I got into a habit a of eating an “ensalada mixta” every Friday night at a great pizzeria in Pamplona (that appears to no longer be there, according to a quick Google search). This salad consisted of lots of lettuce, tuna fish and hardboiled egg with an oil and vinegar dressing. It was so delicious! The restaurant (and maybe all Spanish restaurants) would put a ton of salt and olives on the salad if you didn’t request not to have it, which I did faithfully. I don’t care for olives or lots of salt in my salad. I discovered that the tuna fish I had on my salad (and probably the fact that I was eating a healthy salad,) and a healthier diet than I ate while in the U.S., lead to my feeling so good. I was able to increase the amounts of the Omega 3s in my diet by eating more tuna fish and salmon when I got home to the U.S. What a great thing to continue when I got home, no?

“Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.com”


Red Sauce and Memories of Italy

The Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy
Summer 2010


I'm going to completely ignore the fact that it is snowing outside. On the 30th of March. And, I'm not going to go on about how March came in like a lion, so many of us (who know the old saying) are expecting it to go out like a lamb. Nope. I'm ignoring it. However, IF, the temperatures reach 60 degrees tomorrow, as forecasted, and it is sunny (also forecasted), I might be mollified. But, seriously? Waiting until the absolute last day of a month with the highest possible number of days, at the end of the longest, coldest and snowiest winter in memory, is just too much.

Fortunately, we had a very lovely diversion this evening.

The Kids Making the Perfect Wish, Trevi Fountain, Rome 2010

It is one that I am going to go on about (and possibly on and on about): the absolutely delicious dinner we made tonight. It literally took me back to Sorrento, Italy with a single bite. We started out thinking of having fresh fettuccine and a red sauce. I then suggested we add shrimp for a really nice and simple dinner. John was doing the shopping (at Wegman's) and remembered a former co-worker had mentioned a sauce that she loved that Wegman's sells. He was able to find it and decided we should try it. He also picked up some fresh broccoli to steam with it. We heated up the sauce, cooked the pasta, and sautéed the shrimp separately. The broccoli steamed in just about 10 minutes; the fettuccine and shrimp in about four to five minutes each. So, the entire fabulous dinner cooked in under 15 minutes and was outstanding. The sauce was exactly what I remembered sauce in Italy tasting like. It was so light and fresh.


The Italian sauce memories lead me to go through our photos from our Italy trip. It was a fantastic trip. When we were in Rome, we all made a wish at the Trevi Fountain. If you've ever been to the Trevi Fountain and made a wish, you know what they say. I am hoping this imagined culinary jaunt to Sorrento does not mess up my luck and good karma for getting back to Rome some day. And, I'd like to go sooner rather than later. In fact, looking at our photos from that trip (and looking out the window at the snowy-rainy mix) makes me want to hop a plane tomorrow.

Alyssa and Me in Sorrento, Italy, 2010


Seeking A Global Life & A Look Back at My Junior Year Abroad


Today's post is a #MyGlobalLife Link up post.

This month I'm thinking that my life is seriously lacking the “global.” Even though I don't have a job that allows for overseas travel (yet…although I remain hopeful that I will be discovered as exactly who “they” are looking for to “live tweet” or blog about the World Cup Soccer games in Brazil)*, and I don't have a trip planned at this time…at all. I do enjoy reflecting back on my overseas adventures. The longest of which was my Junior year of college spent in Pamplona, Spain. Speaking of which, I do have one last possibility…and I am not above “coat-tailing” on my children's global experiences. Case in point, I accompanied my daughter and her college soccer team on their London & Barcelona training trip her Freshman year. It was awesome! My son is finishing up his Freshman year in college and is looking forward to doing an overseas Junior Year Abroad program somewhere. I am sure my husband and I are willing to go “somewhere,” too. To visit or to hang out for a while. I'm not picky.

In the meantime, here is a little trip down memory lane from my Junior Year Abroad…

My opportunity to spend my Junior Year Abroad happened 30 years ago, long before computers with Internet and E-mail. Long before social media allowing for face to face conversations, texting, tweeting, and Etc. And, long before telephones that you not only carry with you, but are capable of performing all of the above, plus take amazing photos and have “Apps” that contain maps, on the spot travel information, and more. Talk about a different world!

No, I left home with Traveler's Cheques and a small amount of the local currency (at the time it was the Spanish Peseta). I had a supply of special paper, thinner and “crispier” than normal paper and envelopes pre-printed with Par Avion (Air Mail) on them. And, a cute, colorful address book that contained everyone's home and school address that I planned to write to while I was gone. I also carried a Sprint Calling Card with many long streams of numbers to be dialed when making the international call home to my parents. It was highly unlikely that I would call any of my friends while they were at school–it was too expensive. And, what would I have said? I was in a foreign country. A country that none of my (American) friends had been to before, having experiences that were different from what I knew my friends were doing. So, I don't remember having that on my mind. I did write letters and mail them “via Air Mail” to my friends and family telling them about the people I was meeting and the classes I was taking. And I loved getting mail from home. It was a strange feeling to be living so far away from everyone. I remember someone telling me, “Picture a map. Now picture where you are on it and where home is.” It was a powerful visual for me back then. There was a degree of disconnectedness that later “Juniors” (especially those traveling these days) would not have to experience. In fact, there were far fewer American students studying abroad back in those days, probably because it was such a disconnecting and different experience. And, the world was not as inter-connected as it is today.

*A girl can dream, right?


“Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.com” – See more at: http://www.smallplanetstudio.com/2014/02/28/february-mygloallife-link-up/#sthash.LHzXs3QW.dpuf


Is there an App for that?


I seem to have an endless supply of ideas for smartphone apps. They are all apps that would make my life easier. My latest idea came to me today. I think someone needs to create an app that will do whatever action you think of but don't do right away, and then forget it before doing it. Yes. I need a mind reading app. How many times do I think, “Oh! I can't forget to _____! ” Last night, I was filing in the blank with “… Call Supreme (the gym) and sign up for 10:45 Body Pump (weight lifting class), in case there is a 2 hour school delay (which cancels all fitness classes before 10:30)! I thought about it at least four times throughout the day and evening. When did I finally actually call the gym? I called at 9:45 PM. I ended up 9th on the wait list. Ugh! Fast forward to this morning and sure enough there was a 2 hour delay. I considered not going to the gym because I was so deep on the wait list. But, I was desperate to do something. So, I went. And waited. And got into class with two other wait listers. Whew! It was a good workout, that I still don't really enjoy doing. But, as I've said before I am too old not to lift weights. It is a necessary evil. And, as I was informed earlier today by a reader of yesterday's Empty Nest post, I may one day get to do fun things like take grand kids sledding. So, I need to stay in shape! And, in the mean time, I eat dessert, so I need to work out.

Here is a photo from the BuzzFeed website.

I had seen a couple of references to quizzes on a website called BuzzFeed. Today, I saw a quiz I couldn't resist. It was called, “What Career Should You Actually Have?” Well, as someone who is still (or again) trying to figure out the “color of my parachute,” I was curious. So I took the quiz. I ended up with “Humanitarian”! This made me laugh. I wonder if I can get paid to be a humanitarian, and, if so, by whom? How did I not get “App Idea Person”? Anyway, this naturally lead me to another quiz, “Which City do you Belong in” or something along those lines. And, I got Paris. What? How did I not get Barcelona or London? Anyway, that was my little fun for today. If anyone knows of a great job in Paris for humanitarians, please let me know.


On Travel: Real and Vicarious

Stonehenge March 2013 – It was very cold!


Well, I've done it. In Britney Spears, “Oops!…I did it again” fashion. I've started to get really excited to travel, but sadly have no trips planned for the near or distant future. It has happened before. It usually starts with me reminiscing about my previous trips, usually to Spain, but lately it's been the ones to England. I'll have a memory float into my mind or I'll see pictures, and it all comes flooding back to me. The desire to be “there.” Lately, the culprit that began igniting my little travel bug fire has been my twitter feed and my relatively new presence in the blogging world that has done it. I follow a lot of folks who travel and tweet (and blog) about it. I have been reading more and more blogs. I find myself getting lost in the wonderful and exotic-sounding adventures of “The Real People of The Blogosphere.” And, all the reading I'm doing about the amazing experiences these folks are having in these lovely places is making me want to do two things as soon as possible. The first thing I want to do is to start planning and/or taking some trips immediately. The second is to consider taking some photography classes or, at the very least, try a little harder with the photos on my own blog. Now, I realize I am coming dangerously close to comparing my blog to other blogs, which is a big no-no for me. But, I want to get out and see some of these beautiful places. I want to be able to document and share that beauty in my blog posts with photos, like many of the bloggers I am reading lately. So, do I continue to hang out in the Blogosphere? There is a lot of temptation there. And, I am very easily tempted when it comes to world travel. Do I dare go cold turkey and stay off the great blogs I've been enjoying? Can I find some wonderful things to focus on around here? Well, with the winter weather being so dreary, and the fact that there isn't much going on around here at the moment, I think I need these little escapes in my day. Visiting Italy, Ireland, and Taiwan, all in a single sitting, is not a bad deal. Not a bad deal at all.

The London Eye, March 2013 – It was cold when we were here, too!