I have been asked on several occassions, by several people for a blog on my experiences in Spain. I have attemtpted this blog several times but every time I sit down to write something, it falls flat. I have decided to just do a series of unconnected memories of my experience and hopefully, as they are peiced together, you will get a fuller picture of what a wonderful and powerful time it was. My deepest appreciation to those who have inspired this series. I am enjoying the opportunity to revisit what was for me, a most magical time.
The Spain Chronicles: Chapter 1
Sailors and Sunflowers
I arrived in Rota in June 1979, just 15 days after graduating high school. My parents were already there and met me at the air terminal. The weather was perfect. Sun shining, warm breeze, excitement making the air crackle. Because I flew into a military facility, my baggage was easy to spot. It was one of the few that wasn’t military issue duffle. We ate dinner at the Chief’s club and I met several of my parent’s friends who had the same idea. It was a Friday. My parent’s couldn’t wait to tell me about the Community Theatre group on the base and the following Monday just happened to be try outs for the summer children’s theatre production of The Wizard of Oz They thought it would be a great way for me to meet some friends. I had studied french for 4 years in high school but I didn’t know a word of Spanish. They didn’t doubt my ability to adjust to my surroundings but I was a big theatre geek and the timing was perfect. My excitement about my new adventure doubled. (I got the part of Dorothy and was known by my theatre group friends as “Dot” for the duration of my stay in Spain.)
We ate dinner and then headed for Chipiona which was, at the time, a small village about 30 minutes from the base. I asked if we were going to site see a bit before we went home. The daylight suggested that it was about 6:30 and I didn’t want to waste a minute. Even if I had just flown for 2 days and slept very little. It was actually about 10:45 p.m. and they assured me that I would have plenty of time to site see.
Chipiona which, during the winter was a ghost town of a few thousand I think, swelled to a couple hundred thousand in the summer. We drove down the middle of the only road that led to Chipiona. It didn’t look quite wide enough for 2 cars but it was. There was no shoulder and it wasn’t graded. It was higher in the middle so you just drove down the middle until another car came along. Then, you both moved to your side to pass and got back in the middle. The road ran along side the coast. On one side, there was a patch of trees unlike any I have never seen any where else. They were tall and the foliage stayed up around the top so we had a clear view of the Mediterranean sea behind it. They almost looked like mushrooms. As we looked through the trees we could see the sun setting on the water. Often, I would take this drive at sunset just to experience the magnificence and sense of peace I felt at the site. We passed an occassional house, ranch or small bar and grill. Sunflowers are prolific there and we passed the largest crop of sunflowers I have ever seen. I was amazed they grew so well in what I suspected to be sandy soil. They went as far as the eye could see. They made a striking contrast against the bright orange Datsun truck we were in. Saffron is a big thing in Southern Spain. You need lots of sunflowers.
As we got into town, people were every where. They were sitting in large groups at sidewalk café’s. They were walking in large groups, arm in arm. Often, they were singing and clapping as they walked slowly down the street. There were people of all ages from small children to grandparents meandering down the cobblestone streets. I could hear music. I could hear the ocean. I could hear the clinking of glasses. I could hear the sounds of life being lived. And I felt right at home.