Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New York, New York







My brother and I sit in the center of Union Square in the heart of Manhattan, taking a breather from the madness of the holiday weekend crowds stuffing the sidewalks throughout the city.  This plaza, packed with eccentric characters, colorful diversity, and bustling energy, is his comfort zone to relax and unwind as he has made living in this center of the world his paramount
dream.  For me, my senses are overloaded and I have a sensation of no escape.  Even in the “quiet” streets of Park Slope in Brooklyn where he resides, there is an energetic vibe I’m no longer used to.  This city is like an unexpected gust of wind, stirring up my plans and my perceptions.





It’s dumfounding that one month ago I was staring into the horizon, following the simple lines of the volcanoes and the sea with my eyes, not a soul to interrupt the peaceful scene.  That existence is impossible here in the utter chaos of the busiest cities in the world.   What a vastly different island than little Lanzarote… [The island of Manhattan is approximately 13 miles long and 2 miles wide, with somewhere around 13 million people situated on the island on any given work day.  Lanzarote is just shy of 40 miles long and 13 miles wide with only 125,000 people.  That means Lanzarote is 4-5 times larger with 1% occupancy. Quite the contrast and my explain why I'm just a little overwhelmed]




While there’s a stark difference between our ideas of comfort, I can relate to where he derives this absolute love for the city that never sleeps.  He can feel the undeniable energy that never fades.  It’s as though the mind and body of a person residing here begins to mimic the pulse of its environment.  How could it not?  Even I have an extra pep in my step when I hit the streets on a mission and bounce from one subway car to another.  It’s like being infused with an extra dose of adrenaline, zapping away any lethargy as the rhythm pumps new life into the people running on overdrive. Even living in Madrid can’t compare to a city like this one.  This tiny island never stops moving for a second and if you take a quiet pause for too long, it’s easy to get sucked up into an abyss.

Busy streets of Time Square

There is a tempting quality to being in a place with such a powerful presence, where the center of everything resides and where absolutely anything is possible.  It truly is where people with a dream of success come to try their hand at their ambitious goals.  But is this the feverish atmosphere that will fuel my dreams and be my own hub of triumph? Does this nonstop lifestyle inevitably lead to burn out or somehow mottle out a simple joy essential to really appreciate life? For me, the energy, while motivating and captivating, is dizzying and exhausting.  It seems to seep into people’s blood, altering their chemistry to become a part of this breathing giant.  I know I could take on this place, guns a blazing, ready to join the rat race and take on my own massive endeavors.  But I could also be sitting on the edge of a beach, watching the gently rolling tide, and fueling myself with the unmatchable power of what exists simply in nature.  This is the big question now burn a whole in my scull as I sit in the middle of the madness.

Quiet Famara Beach

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Back to Spain? Again?


Spain, Spain, Spain, you’ve done it again.  I’ve barely unpacked my bags and gotten temporarily situated here in the US and I’m already dreaming of cobblestone roads in the old towns, Spanish small talk with locals, lounges on patios for a cafĂ© con hielo (coffee with ice), and long talks with my amigas (girl friends) over canas (small beers) and tapas (small snack you get with beer)...  But the thing is, I also miss the crappy stuff that we all complain about, like how Spanish people are notoriously late, or how the men stare relentlessly, or how they seem to be completely oblivious of other people walking at a different pace along the same side walk.  They may have had me grumbling from time to time, but it’s a part of the great Spanish culture I adore.

What I’m discovering through these moments of return and reflection is that sometimes plans don’t work out being clean and pretty and nicely packaged, but they always follow some kind of more destined path.  Just days ago I was organizing a plan to move to Denver and force upon myself a new life that would surely be fun and pleasant.  But I couldn’t ignore an off feeling about the plan and even my close friends could see it.  Now, as if a greater force is trying to drill a message into my brain, my closest contact in Denver, once encouraging me to move west, has revealed that she will now be departing soon after my arrival.  Beyond this discovery, other facets of the plan have been falling like a house of cards and I can do nothing more than believe that this is not meant to be.  I have learned the hard way many times that when you go against your instincts and these types of glaring signs, the results are can be disastrous.   Case in point: my hilariously bad trip to Amsterdam last June, but that’s a whole different story…

So here’s the thing that I am openly pondering here in this entry:  When do you ever hear advice like: Ignore your instincts; Take the road more traveled; Lead with your doubts and fears?  I wager to say not often and that if someone is giving you this advice, run.  My instincts are screaming to me that I need to go back to Spain, and this time for a while. For the first time, maybe ever, I am longing for some stability, but I want it in Spain.  I want to unpack my bags and stay for a while.  This visa situation is something I’ve conceded to without further consideration.  But then, when I think that other Americans have found a way to make a life work in Europe, and not just by teaching English or getting married to a European (not completely out of the question, but I mean, come on), I have to believe that if I fight for it, if I turn every stone and kick open every door that’s cracked open, I will somehow make this dream come true. 

It’s a remarkable sensation when you decide unequivocally that you believe something is right and when you want something with every bit of certainty you can muster.  And the final piece that has quieted the last of my doubts is the blessings and encouragement of every member of my family and my loving friends that reside all over the world.  It’s time to make this dream become reality, changing plan A from a fair compromise to a reach for my brass ring.  This may all be a pipe dream and I could be living in la-la land, but after almost three years with the same voice getting louder and louder, telling me to keep traveling and get my ass back to Europe, I gotta believe this is real and this is what needs to be done.  My daily quote today says it the best and we can all learn from it: 

“Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.” –Karen Raven.  

Wanna Be Part of the 1% Club?

The next Scoop is up!  Take a walk on the moon with David:  Thespainscoop.com

Monday, May 21, 2012

A North Carolina Buddhist Experience


Raleigh can easily be classified as a conservative, old fashioned capital city, tucked away in the depths of the “Bible Belt”.  I tend to agree from time to time based on my many experiences.  However, this weekend I was exposed to a new side of Raleigh that left me wondering, "what other hidden nooks am I yet to discover here and have I been too quick to judge?"

Churches are very much a part of the culture in Raleigh

Sunday morning anywhere in North Carolina, you will find packed churches on virtually every street corner.  But this Sunday morning, I attended a different brand of worship at a Buddhist center downtown.  My friend here was assigned to perform a cultural study and part of that assignment was to join this congregation, recording her impressions and experience.  I went with her out of pure curiosity and as a final effort to uncover just the smallest inkling of diversity in this conventional, seemingly uniform community. 

Outside of Buddhist Temple, The Kadampa Center

What I expected: a very traditional and serious vibe with many people of Indian and Asian decent joining in silence and following strict protocol.  But just entering the parking lot, I saw scores of people dressed in jeans and flip flops, of all different demographics and backgrounds, casually strolling into the modern building in downtown Raleigh.   Upon entering, there were snacks and coffee, kids playing, adults chatting; all very typical “Raleigh” people. 

In the lobby for snacks

We removed our shoes and found a seat in one of the rapidly filling pews.  For the next hour, a monk with a tickle in his throat and an infectious laugh lead us through a very basic, happy sermon, peppered with breathing activities and quiet meditation.  Parts were very reminiscent of my Ashtanga yoga experience in Lanzarote.  There was no preaching or moments where I felt out of place or uncomfortable; just a simple reminder to keep your thoughts positive and be more present in our lives. 

Happy Monk who leads Sunday morning session

A part of me felt twinges of guilt for prejudging the people of Raleigh, southerners, even Americans, for being painfully out of touch and close-minded.  This experience for me served as a pleasant reminder that even here, in a state that recently was caught with egg on its face on a world scale due to passing terribly narrow minded legislation, there are plenty of people who don’t fit that mold.  (Side note for those of you from around the world that caught the headlines about North Carolina’s gay marriage ban:  Many of the people who voted for this were not residents of the bigger cities like Raleigh and Charlotte.  From all the individuals I spoke to since returning back to the state, they find it to be just as perplexing as I do and I’ve been hard pressed to find someone who voted for it to go through.  I also have no intention to offend anyone by making this opinionated observation.) 

A State Divided
 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sneak Peak Scoop: Untapped Secrets of Lanzarote


The geographic secrets of this fascinating island were revealed to me by chance as a wacky Scott and I crossed paths and he agreed to take me on adventures I will not soon forget.  Here's an account of one excursion that truly transported me to another planet within the island. 


With sweaty palms and fingernails digging into the roll bar of Anibal, I keep my eyes sharply fixed ahead at the rocky off-road path.  As we drive through the middle of the desert I am shouting “hole!” to diligently fulfill my arbitrary task of warning our driver of giant gaps in the “road” as I hang over the top of his beloved four wheel beast.  We fly through the open expanse of sand and rocks, over small lava fields, and down steep overhangs.






We are on a quest to find what David, our bold adventure tour guide, has in store for us in what he calls the peculiar “one percent club”.   Originally from the Highlands of Scotland, this adventure junkie discovered the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands five years ago.  Since then, he has made the mysterious natural oasis of volcanoes, beaches, deserts, and caves his personal playground to be shared with those who trust him enough to hit the trails in his rugged open top Jeep he calls “Anibal”. .






On this installment of Adventure Holidays Lanzarote, we are making our way through this Canary Island’s uninhabited desert valley to crawl beneath the craggy, crusty land and into one of the massive lava tubes that was carved out by hot magma during the explosive creation of this volcanic island.   We’ve just spent the past hour discovering fascinating wonders of the volcanic landscape above ground, hiking inside the massive crater of a hollowed mountain, then scaling the side of it in order to peer over its crumbling ledge into the vacant center.  We craned our heads around, 360 degrees, gripping the sturdy rocks around us to take in the breathtaking panoramic view that resembles what you would envision of life on the moon.  Now, after a bumpy off-road expedition to a seemingly desolate spot, we arrive at a small, peculiar scar sliced out of the ground, inviting us to crawl below the superficial layer of earth to see what secrets the island holds underneath the surface. 


We switch on our headlamps and begin to crawl down into the dark unknown.  As we cautiously shuffle through the dark, rocky twists and turns of this massive lava tunnel, climbing over the pieces of the fallen rubble and ducking under the dangling mineral deposits, I feel like a kid again, exploring wondrous untapped hideaways.  We finally emerge into the sunlight after a long voyage through one of Lanzarote’s underground secrets with an enlightened perspective on how these spectacularly mystifying islands came to be.





What is truly fantastic about Lanzarote and David’s mission for his guests is that there are countless surprises yet to be experienced by the vast majority of inhabitants and visitors all over this tiny, beautiful landmass.  Beyond lava tubes and volcano hikes, tiny unmarked seaside villages, caves tucked away into cliff sides, beautiful hidden beaches, and the most spectacular outlook spots are all waiting to be revealed to those fortunate few that dare to discover them. 

You can find David’s tours at http://www.facebook.com/adventureholidays.lanzarote, or shoot him an email at lanza888@yahoo.com.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Final Days of Spain


After several weeks of blog neglect, I feel utterly compelled to share the frenzy of the past month now that I’ve at last been afforded a moment for reflection and recollection.

My departure from Lanzarote was tearful and weighed heavily on my heart as I peeled myself away from the xenful island life that I grew to adore and that has effectively become a part of me.  My final day, I knew no better place to say goodbye than by taking Smurf for a drive down my favorite open road to those precious cliffs, and strolling along Famara Beach to a hidden spot between the dunes.  The beach was quiet, with clouds rolling in overhead and gusts of wind twirling around my hair and skirt.  I took this personal moment to say farewell and vow to return sooner than later.  Somehow in just a short span of time, this mysterious place managed to shake me to my core and re-center me in mind, body, and soul.


 When I at last departed, the skies had cleared and I gazed out of the airplane window at the entire island, now appearing curiously tiny.  I said goodbye to each village, watching my favorite spots pass below me, keeping my eyes locked on the land until it was at last out of site.  And as the sun sat brilliantly into the horizon over the sea, I took a deep breath and choked back my tears, repeatedly thanking this place for all it has given me. 

When I landed back in Madrid, hysteria of the big city metro on a Saturday night smacked me in the face.  I reemerged into the noise and hustle, trying hard to hold on to my inner calmness as people dashed past me and the loud noises filled my ears.  For the two days I spent here in limbo, I managed to keep out the madness, becoming starkly aware that life in a big city is definitely not conducive of relaxation or inner peace.  I quickly headed north for another breed of adventure in the Basque Country of Spain.  My adventures through San Sebastian, the tiny neighboring coastal towns, and a happy return to Pamplona are best if recounted independently in another post. 

Again refreshed from a week of more Spanish discoveries, I returned to Madrid for one more week in this incredible country I proclaim as my second home.  I filled my days reconnecting with those individuals that I hold near and dear, returning to those spots I regulared once upon a time around the capital’s center, and maintaining sanity as I dealt with life back in a metropolitan environment.  When Monday arrived, as much as I wanted to make a last minute attempt to abandon my flight and latch on to my life as a Spaniard, I reluctantly departed and made the lengthy voyage back to my inevitable base of Raleigh, North Carolina. 

This return is different, being much more brief and sandwiching a state side adventure to NYC, visitting my bro who is experiencing a whole different type of adventure. Then, in less than a month, I’ll be hitting the road, literally, and trying my hand at life back in the states, making Denver, CO “home”.  But I can’t help this overwhelming feeling from rising up inside of me and feeding a burning desire to be back in Spain sooner than later.  I found a home for myself in there it leaves me feeling lost and unfulfilled to be separate from this place.  It’s more than just a location; it’s a lifestyle, a feeling, an energy, that draws me in unyieldingly.  Still, I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and that if Spain truly is my destined home, I will figure out a way to settle my roots abroad, happily and legally.  Life has a funny way of working things out, so I’m going to roll with the punches, give Colorado a chance to shine, but keep Spain close to my heart, always.