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Wednesday, May 15: On this Wednesday afternoon, after listening to and double-marking eighteen tedious presentations by John G’s students about the cities in the world they dream of visiting, about how “the life is beautiful” and “Paris/Tokyo/Sydney are so beautiful and nice and I advice {sic} you to go there,” I escape the university early.  The temperature on this day is 106 degrees Fahrenheit and even after I drive my tiny turquoise Suzuki Celerio home with the air conditioner cranked up full blast, I feel like burnt toast when I pull into my driveway 30 minutes later.  I immediately do as I do every day when I get home: put on my pajamas, turn on all three air-conditioners and all five fans, gobble down two dolmas and a plateful of sliced cheddar cheese with tomato wedges on crackers, and plop down on my couch to read about Barcelona in my bulky Lonely Planet Spain.

Always the queen of wasting time, I eventually force myself to get up and at least make one small step toward packing for my not-imminent-enough departure soon after June 26.  I open my red suitcase and start trying on clothes that I think I’d like to wear on my vacation to Spain and Portugal.

Yikes!  I know I have gained weight but I didn’t realize how much the bulge around my middle is now emphasized in every tank top and cute knit sleeveless top I own.  Since in Oman I always wear baggy long-sleeved shirts, I have been in great denial (though admittedly secretly aware) of how unsightly my body has become. I try on a number of plain tank tops and cute flowing ruffled tops and red tops with colorful embroidery, tops that remind me of flamenco dancing and sangria and azulejos (blue & white painted tiles found everywhere in Portugal) and the striped arches of Cordoba’s Mezquita.  The ones that best camouflage the bulges go in the suitcase and the others go in a pile to be shipped back to the USA for hopefully better days.

first steps in my packing process

first steps in my packing process

I have been dreaming of wandering through the Glory Facade of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and eating paella by the sea in Valencia, wandering through and marveling at the Alhambra & the Cordoba Mezquita, eating tapas in Seville and drinking wine while under the influence of Spanish guitarists. In these dreams, I look as cute and Spanish as a person of my age and German heritage can look.  But. Unless my right knee stops giving me problems and I can go on a full-out exercise regime in the next month, I will sadly need to change my vision.

Oh well.  In the meantime, after finishing off marathon sessions of the 3rd season of Downton Abbey and the Christmas special where Matthew Crawley gets killed in a car accident right after his baby boy is born, I distract myself from my sorrows by diving in to Lonely Planet Spain, making asterisks next to places I want to visit in Barcelona and Valencia.  Alternately, I lie on my couch in my air-conditioned flat and read Duende: a journey into the heart of Flamenco, by Jason Webster, about the author’s search for “the intense and mysterious emotional state – part ecstasy, part melancholy – that is the essence of Spain’s signature art form: flamenco.”  I search on Youtube for Spanish flamenco music and classical Spanish guitar music to add to my iPod Nano.  I download Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, to my Kindle and search in vain for a Kindle version of The Seamstress by Maria Duennas (highly recommended by mrs. carmichael of being mrs. carmichael).  I do a Google search for novels set in Spain or in Portugal and add 22 titles to my Goodreads “to-read” list.  I look for a small-group local tour in Andalucia, which I find, and I look on booking.com for low-priced but decent hotels in Barcelona, which don’t seem to exist.  I pencil in an itinerary on a calendar and on maps of Spain and Portugal.

And of course, I manage to waste time preparing a new blog where I will eventually post about all my European journeys.  So far, I’ve only written one post from a 2003 trip to France, but once I return home to the USA, I plan to post about both of my trips to France, a 1999 trip to England, and my upcoming trip to Spain and Portugal (and hopefully many future trips including a walk on the Camino de Santiago and trips to Italy, Croatia, Ireland, Switzerland, and anywhere else I can afford to go).  If you feel like taking a look, hop on over to in search of a thousand cafés.

Finally, I dream.  It’s not much longer now.