Monthly Archives: March 2012

Where do we go from here?


The past two weeks…The Tree of Life…the visit of three Americans…Father’s Day (in Spain), St. Patrick’s Day…my re-watching of Motorcycle Diaries…and the incessant early coming of Spring to this country. Outside of that I’ve been reading in my free time and beginning to think about next year. The reading has been great and I’ve got two books backlogged to be read next! Not much to say about my future plans yet hehe.

Truthfully finding it hard to get my thoughts pinned down currently. Paris feels like a lifetime ago, but it’s actually just that the past three weeks have been crazy. I had a couple of days of downtime after Paris, but actually spent that time in bed! I got landed with a mild chest infection after Paris. That trip was one of the best of my lifetime, but  it was wet, cold, and rainy. Not the best conditions when are you walking around for 4 or 5 days straight. It hit me the day after I got back. Fortunately, I am a member of the healthcare system here so I was put on an antibiotic which helped me a lot. That experience deserves its own blog post…if I have the time I promise to reflect on that experience, because it was certainly distinctive to the US.

Well, Sinead and Becca arrived on that Sunday which was as I was just about recovering. I met them in Alcorcon as the public transportation to the airport ended up confusing me a lot…not typical of me. Funny though. Well the girls arrived like American princesses! Becca had a very well-packed suitcase and their fashion was just right for the occasion. The whole event had an emotional impact, at least for me. Here were two countries…two generations of Byrne’s…family who had never met…coming together after 19 years. The story, the human drama there…I found that touching. The Byrne’s of Spain were so kind…the food (paella and a really nice yogurt/cream dessert) was fantastic and the conversation, the jokes, the moments to me were just so precious. I have a hard time explaining it much better than that, but it was special. A movie-like life moment.

The next day I was able to take off work to show them around Madrid…their own personal guiri guide…free! jeje.It was a pleasure. We arrived at Principe Pio and so the first obvious place to take them to was…a Starbucks. And I’m actually dead serious. Becca was wiped from all  her travels and the obvious solution was a ice cold coffee beverage. Anyway, it put us in a fine position strategically because I could show them the beginnings of Gran Via and Plaza de Espana before taking them to my favorite part of the whole city…

Palacio Real, la Catedral de la Almudena, and the Plaza de Oriente. These places need no description, they speak for themselves. We took them in and I think the girls were impressed. The Cathedral is breathtaking and there were Gregorian hymns playing at a low volume over the loudspeakers…it could almost send chills down your spine…that sense of an otherworldly presence, no? That feeling is always an overbearing reality, certainly humbling. We walked through Plaza de Oriente to arrive at Puerta del Sol. Along the way they took in a playful touristy sidestreet with lots of live music and characters. Can’t remember the name of the street, but it was nice and quaint. Puerta del Sol. the center of the country (kilometro cero), the Casa de Correos, the Oso…it’s such a fun spot to bring just about anybody.

Next stop: Plaza Mayor, but not before seeing the Market of San Miguel, which the girls absolutely fell in love with. Had a glass of wine while taking in the scene. They came back here a few more times on their own. Plaza Mayor was supported with a guest appearance by a lovely bocadilla de calamares and a nice drink. It’s a check off the tourist must-do list. From there they walked past the Palacio de Comunicaciones and the Fuente de Cibeles and this was another nice spot for the them. We continued straight up to Puerta de Alcala and Parque del Retiro. They saw the Crystal Palace, the statue of the Fallen Angel, etc…we walked to the exit toward Atocha, and I walked them past El Prado Museum which I highly encouraged they check out in their future days. From there we took the metro to Principe Pio and relaxed in the apartment!

Sinead’s FB photos, now uploaded, actually tell the rest of the story better than I could. There are about 5 hours of writing, minimum, to describe their adventures. They saw Toledo, El Escorial, we took them into my school, we had a ridiculously fancy meal one night…I will convert that event into a short story for a separate blog (more on that later). We were with the Byrnes a good few more times…etc etc etc…

What made it all so special for me was to just share a completely new aspect of my life with people from my old one. That was incredible. Connecting the girls to my friends and colleagues here…unreal. Hard to believe it happened. It bridges the at times unbearable physical distance from everyone at home. And to see the girl’s excitement as they learned about everything…it just lifted my heart. Their spirit and joy and optimism was contagious and I think it brought a smile to just about everybody here. I also ended up doing much more touristy things than I ever have and they really got me moving. I took on the tourist mentality and it was a lot of fun. Besides that…

Just the conversations. You can know somebody for 20 years of your life, but it seems to take the rare occasions for you to truly get to know somebody. Sinead has a lot of great qualities to her, she’s a fantastic person, and this trip helped me to really learn to appreciate that about her. A real kindness and a subtle sense of humor which is usually pretty hilarious when you catch it between her straight delivery.

Aisling’s time here was similarly as special. She is my older sibling, so the way we relate to one another is very different. She reminded me of how fortunate I am to have at least one older sibling to look up to, while she is alone at the top! Sinead and her went to Barcelona for two days alone and I am still waiting to hear more about that trip believe it or not. I know they had a blast and met some fun people at the hostel. The three Byrne siblings had an excellent night together for her last one and we really got to know each other. Went to the local Pub and then talked in the apartment. Sinead left us that next day, which was not easy. Very sad. Note: her flight took off at 20 past 10 and we got her at check-in at quarter to 10 after an hour + of public transportation. Were we stressed? Not particularly, we were sprawled in sleep for most of the metro rides haha. This is the Byrne demeanor.

Aisling and I then had 4 days straight together…what would come to pass? Could the impossible occur? Would the two past rivals/enemies get along?? Well considering how much closer we have become in the past 5 years, it seemed that it might be…and it was. We got along very well. We tend to tease each other a lot, but it’s healthy and it’s more funny now than anything. I learned how strong and unique a character she possesses and I saw her show it in such a great way during her time here. She’s hilarious and cracked me up a lot. We went to El Escorial and Toledo together and also celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on the night of the 16th with Miguel and Sandra in Arroyo. We had the Pub to ourself! Lots of room on the floor for dancing at least.

She went home yesterday and so I’m now…after 2 weeks of straight adventures every day…alone and in quiet in the apartment. I would say that it’s a slightly eerie feeling, and a little lonely. Ironically (I suppose?) today is Father’s Day in Spain and that kind of hits as a further reminder of my distance from home. The positive is that it means a day off of work so I can use today to rest, clean up, and get back to daily living. The past two weeks served to remind me of just how important family is and how we have to work to seal our physical distances as much as we can…

Thank you Aisling, Sinead, and Becca for your kindness, your love, and your reminders of home for me. Until the next time.

PS: The other thing my time with them taught me is that I turn a lot of things into stories in my head…I think I add details to reality to make it more exciting. I’m going to use that inclination of mine and direct it toward starting a creative writing blog…I’d love to set a goal of a couple hundred words a day and see if I could stick to that. I have a lot of material floating in my head. Maybe alternate between English and Spanish? We’ll keep ya updated. 😉

PPS: Seeing as today celebrates St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus and the saint which my baptism name takes after, I pose a spiritual question for personal reflection. Who in your own life currently serves as a spiritual foster father, or as some form of temporary/transient assistance of some type? They are most likely to be a bit older with life experiences they can relate to your own and can give you perspective on. As I reflect on my past I see many of these figures in my life, but today I ask myself who that is for me today. Who is yours?