December 18

Walking and Thinking

After the street market mentioned in my last posting, I took off on my own to see the city. It was a beautiful day, and I had time on my own to think and consider some of the internal changes that are occurring in my mind, and then in my behaviors. Probably the most pronounced change is my gradual drift from “today” to “this week.” Let’s face it, I will still get things done, but I am relaxing into a mental environment where urgency is not as important as quality of time spent doing things. This is a balancing act, because there are things that are urgent in my life, and they are the things I do first thing in the morning until about 3:00 PM: writing on my dissertation, writing on my final research paper, and reading social science texts and journals. After that, though, my mind drifts into the “this week” mode, and I have several things I can choose to do.

Walking has become a balm for my soul. Gentle reader, there are so many great places to walk in this city, and so many things to see in person, that using the train or riding in a car just doesn’t appeal to me much. Take, for example, the cathedral relief (with descriptions in Braille) that is provided in front of the cathedral.

When I first arrived, I relied on other people to help me accomplish the essential activities in my life. Things like finding a grocery store, building a new social group, and using public services are all such new experiences. Now, however, I am much more capable and self-reliant, and have been inviting my friends to join ME when I want to do something new. Now, gentle reader, should you assume that I am fully self-sufficient and have become an expert in this city, let me reiterate: I am not. I am just more comfortable with the fear of the unknown.

My Spanish is improving. I am lucky to have built a base of Spanish grammar and vocabulary prior to arriving in Valencia, but the essential connections between nouns and verbs is complicated by the fact that I can’t conjugate most verbs fluently yet like my Spanish-speaking friends. That means that I hear a noun I recognize, have to conjugate the verb to make sure I am understanding the person correctly, and then move on to the rest of the sentence… which is now on another paragraph. Oh, and let’s not forget reflexives, a little treat that romance languages offer that are not available in English. That is where the object of the verb is put before the verb (“I like it” –> “I it like”), which I am getting better at understanding, mostly due to my experience speaking French. Still a long way to go, though. I already have a bit of an examination in mind: when I can understand this guy’s videos completely, I will know that I have arrived.

Finally, let’s talk briefly about homesickness. I knew that was going to be part of the experience when I chose this path, but it doesn’t make the feelings of loneliness and separation any easier, but being aware allows me to recognize when I am feeling homesick. It usually happens in the afternoon or evenings, and I am lucky that I can call home fairly easily and talk to someone so I don’t feel so hollow. I also will often head out on a walk, or in some cases, take a nap, because my emotional state is often ruled by my rest levels. It’s actually kind of good that the Christmas season here is not as grandiose and in-your-face as it is in the states, because Christmas music is about 50% upbeat and 50% heartbreak. Listen to it, gentle reader. You may see what I mean.

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homesick, Torres Serrano, Turia

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    1. Hi, Robin, thanks for the comment! That is one of two towers in the city, and it’s called the Torres Serrano. It actually has a moat and everything. The other one is Torres de Cuart, and it’s the “other” side of the original city of Valencia. Glad you liked the pictures!

    1. Yes, Sandy, it is, and the Jewish communities played a very important role in the Spanish world until the Inquisition. There was a bit of a diaspora, and now many of the ancestrally-Spanish Jews have returned and are forming an important part of the music world here, called the “Ladino” culture. There are several prominent Ladino singers in the flamenco resurgence here, and the history of their displaced families is a powerful story of love and longing. Here’s something to learn more:

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