June 2013 (iPad)
My friend from a small village outside of Barcelona had been going on and on about how beautiful the beaches were near her home for about 9 years before I finally visited her. She was disappointed that instead of my Nikon D50, I had only brought my iPad. I had no idea what the beaches in Catalonia were like and when she saw my shoes, she realized I had no clue. Luckily, we were about the same size. The best beaches were reached by hiking through rugged, rocky terrain.
During our hike, I told my friend how I thought it was weird Spain wasn’t mentioned more in Anglo/American literature, like Italy was. The characters in Henry James and E. M. Foster were always going to Italy, not to mention Thomas Mann and Goethe. She hadn’t noticed.
We came to her favorite beach and I took out my beach book for the trip, a German children’s version of The Count of Monte Cristo. The first line I read mentions Mercedes being from the region of Catalan. There was a Catalonian character in one of my most favorite French novels! I had been carrying evidence against my thesis all along.
My Catalonian Friend got so offended when I said these beaches reminded me of English beaches.
January 2013 (iPad)
Last January a friend was attending a conference for Lawyers without Borders in Segovia and I went to see her. One of the biggest challenges came in the form of a receptionist who didn’t believe in hotel guests bringing additional guests. Sneaking me in and out was a major concern for my friend. I arrived in Segovia and my first stop was to this infamous receptionist who handed me a letter in a envelope my friend had left for me. My friend had printed out a Google map of the city and drawn a route to how I could reach the IE University from the hotel and a note warning me about the receptionist. This was before either of us owned an iPhone or smartphone. My Sony Ericsson could barely receive signals outside of Germany.
From the map, it looked close enough but it turned out to be one of the most counter-inuititive walks I’d ever taken. I asked Spaniards, how do I get to the city wall, they were tourists from Madrid. All streets would turn parallel to the wall throwing me off several times. I asked older residents, how do I get to this university, it was established after their time. I asked younger people, how do I get to this university? They accessed where we were and thought hard, okay, you need to walk behind those buildings, down two sets of stairs, walk along the main road until you come to a junction and the university is there.
Three hours later and after circling back to a church several times, I finally found a way to get down along the city wall onto the main road. I walked on a tiny sidewalk, my shoulders brushing against the wall until I reached a small triangular intersection, where the road divided. No university in sight. For some reason, I decided to cross the street, to the triangular island. From there I saw the roof of a building down below the recesses of a ditch. An entire university in a ditch off the side of a road. I walked down and saw the old wooden medieval doors my friend told me not to go into and headed toward another set of doors. A bright-eyed, enthusiastic student in a suit greeted me and asked if I was a lawyer attending the conference. I said no, I was meeting a lawyer attending the conference. His smile faded and he left me to fend for myself as he pointed lazily down the hall.