El Primera Dia

I woke this morning and walked down the Ramblas, stopped for a coffee, snapped a photo of George Orwell’s plaza, and ended at Port Vell. The port is filled with boats, dog walkers, and joggers, mostly sleepy around 8 a.m. There is a large, colorful sculpture of a head-shaped thing, and a long promenade with bike lanes. I snapped my first photos of the city around here. From Port Vell you can see the cable cars which run up to Montjuic, the hill top on the west side of the city. I walked along the beach at Barceloneta and along to Port Olimpic, which at that hour of morning were filled with older folks doing stretches and yawning. The sun is hot in the morning. I walked up through La Ribera afterwards in the direction of Torre Agbar, which I could see, but never reached. My new sandals started rubbing …

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In Transit

At Heathrow now, absolutely crowded and bursting with people. With 6 hours before my next flight I probably could have made it into the city for lunch, but somehow got turned around and ended up in a terminal where I can’t seem to find the exit. At any rate, I’ll save my trip to the city for my next layover. I imagine my lack of navigational aptitude is due to the way cars drive on the wrong side of the road here. At least the toilets are clean. I just bought a newspaper (The Times, after picking up the Guardian and putting it back down.) I haven’t read it yet but seeing as it is now 11 a.m. and my flight doesn’t leave until 4:30 I have plenty of time. My plans for Barcelona, I suppose, are to arrive this evening, find a snack, and settle into the hotel. There …

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Endless Life

A few months ago before the semester ended, while turning in one of my last assignments, I saw sitting on a shelf of free books a collection of “Taoist Drinking Songs from the Yuan Dynasty,” a collection of Chinese poetry. I picked up the free copy and didn’t think much of it. Since deciding to travel to China, I’ve looked at the book and found a few nice poems. Here is one: done with the world and pure as darkness nothing to hold me nothing restrain the old guy here within the grove before blue cliffs the moon’s companion mad and singing drunk and dancing smashed, polluted with the wine of endless life I’m getting ready to start my trip this evening. This will be my last post from America, and I hope I can update frequently while on the road. Adios!

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Cultural Recon

The pleasure of visiting a foreign country increases a great deal with some knowledge of the local culture. I’ve been sifting through books and movies to learn more about Chinese and Spanish customs, and here is some of what I’ve been checking out: Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is a classic tale of Spain during the civil war.  Also, his journals from the 1930s-1950s, collected in “By-Line: Ernest Hemingway” portray his own experiences during the fighting.  For language reference, “501 Spanish Verbs” and “Dimelo Tu!” have both proved useful. Linguists claim it’s nearly impossible to attain natural fluency in any language after the magical age of about four, but it doesn’t hurt to try.  “Waiting” by Ha Jin is a story of China after the cultural revolution. The novel chronicles the life of a military doctor, who is prohibited for decades from getting a divorce. Rob Gifford is an …

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Travel Tunes

In preparation for spending much time waiting in airports, bus terminals, etc. I’m carefully selecting appropriate music for my destinations.  For Spain, I’m into Natalia Clavier lately. She sings in Spanish over mellowed out jazz breaks.  I heard her first when she opened for Los Amigos Invisibles at the 9:30 club a few weeks ago. Despite only seeing her last two songs, I was impressed.  Los Amigos put on a fun show too, and I’ll be jamming to them in Spain also. Bajofondo, the tango-dance project of Gustavo Santaolalla, is going to be in heavy rotation. Santaolalla, who I heard from his work in movie soundtracks like “Babel” plays a spooky Mexican guitar on his solo album.  South American rockers Juanes and Carlos Vives are energetic and probably a good jolt for waking up in the morning.  Both fuse Latin rhythm and instrumentation with pop and rock song structures. I …

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19,800 Miles of A-moving

“When [God] aims for something to be always a-moving, He makes it longways, like a road or a horse or a wagon, but when He aims for something to stay put, He makes it up-and-down ways, like a tree or a man. . . . [I]f He’d a aimed for man to be always a-moving and going somewheres else, wouldn’t He a put him longways on his belly, like a snake? It stands to reason He would.” -Anse, in “As I Lay Dying” by W. Faulkner I’m leaving for my trip in less than two weeks, a-moving to Spain and China, longways. After sitting around without any obligations for two months, up-and-down ways, the upcoming travel will include more movement than I’ve participated in for some time. Anse Bundren would have been disgusted with my adventure, but he was an idiot, and had no teeth. I’ll be moving across 19,800 …

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Spokane

Very intrigued by Spokane thus far. The weather is gorgeous, and the scenery matches. It’s got enough of a downtown not to be sleepy, but it doesn’t bustle in a stress-inducing manner. The surrounding area is very natural, untouched preserved parks and land. There are a lot of industrial businesses on the east side of town, which seems about as blue-collar as it gets. Gonzaga has a pretty campus, much of the architecture seems new (not any older than George Mason – the buildings are actually similar looking) but part of the riverwalk goes through the campus, and there is a large, old-looking church. There are also the Eastern Washington University and Washington State Universities in town. The river going through town is serene, clear blue water. Willow trees over hang the banks, and wildlife interacts with people. There are many bridges, I think over ten, that cross the river. …

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Waking Up in a Specific Setting

Still partially sleeping, I stumble through the unfamiliar room until I find the bathroom, where I slap my hands flat on the counter and evaluate myself in the mirror. I’m trying to grow a beard. My eyes are rose red and my hair smells like smoke. There is a bidet to my left, which I contemptuously ignore. My travel pouch is stuffed with miniature versions of the shampoo, soap and razor I use every day. I step into a shower separated from the rest of the bathroom only by a curtain. The water is warm enough. My watch is beeping at me, 7:00 A.M. My body doesn’t agree, because it feels so much more like midnight. The events of the past few days flicker through my mind; fragmented images of European cities wrapped in neon blur, acts that I won’t be ashamed of until later. I have only slept a …

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