A Fantastic Friday

Friday, April 27, 2012

We were up a little before 8:00 to get ready for today’s trip for Madrid.  We had done most of the packing last night, so all we needed to pack were those cosmetics and things that we usually use in the morning.  A quick shower followed a quick breakfast and we were out the door by 9:15.  As luck would have it a cab was passing by our front door as we exited the building.  It was a quick ten-minute trip to the AVE station on Joaquín Sorolla and no sooner had we sat down on one of the benches than they opened the gates for boarding.  It was a good half hour before the train was scheduled to depart so we took our seats took out our books and read for a while.

The train departed on time and the route the train took was not the one we were accustomed to.  I think it took a more southerly route because we made stops in Utiel-Requena and Cuenca.  Both stops could not have lasted for more than three minutes and soon after each stop we were speeding along at 200 miles per hour.  Utiel-Requena is a wine producing area and we had the chance to see a goodly amount of recently planted vines.  At one point the sun came out and dispersed the overcast skies.  We arrived in Madrid five minutes ahead of schedule and the entire journey took one hour and forty-five minutes.

The cab ride from Atocha was ten minutes and checking into the hotel went smoothly.  The desk attendant was very charming.  It turns out that she is from Galicia and since we have spent a goodly amount of time there we were able to talk briefly about our experiences there.  She is from a small town called Cambadós, which is famous for its white wines.  We know that from experience.  It is well possible that one of the results of our conversation was the fact that she upgraded us to an Executive Room with a king size bed and more floor space than the normal room.  We unpacked, put things away and made ready to head off to the Estudio Internacional Sampere to catch up with Virginia and have lunch.

We decided to hop a cab to get to the school and that proved to be a mistake. What should have been a five-minute cab ride took close to twenty minutes.  Traffic was unbelievable and the competition between cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians was fierce.  The good news is that we got there.  We walked in and were quite pleasantly surprised.

Bright colors greet the eye and things look very spacious.  The entire office area has been redesigned and is now bright and airy.  David who is in charge of the every day operation of the school has his own office that is glass enclosed.  Everyone else shares a common space where they have ample personal space and lots of room on their desks.  We said hello to old friends Margarita and Asunción.  Margarita is in charge of housing visiting students and also helping them solve problems with their señoras.  Asunción is the coordinator of classes for visiting students.  We also greeted Jaime’s son who now works at the school and Virginia’s son who is also employed there.

After chatting briefly with the assembled group Virginia, Jaime, Susan and I headed out for lunch.  We stopped in at a restaurant that features the cuisine of Andalusia.  It is a small space with a bar that accommodates perhaps eighteen patrons sitting and standing and in the back there is a dining area with six tables.  We made ourselves comfortable and studied the menu.  We ended up ordering a freidura, a plate of fried seafood that includes shrimp, sardines and squid, ­calamares en su tinta, albóndigas and carilladas de ibérico also know as pork cheeks.  We had a beer or two to wash things down and finished the meal with coffee.

Our conversation was wide ranging.  Our first contact with the Sampere family was in the summer of 1974 when we made arrangements for the first ever Foxcroft Mini-Term in Spain.  Alberto Sampere was running the school then, along with his wife who was one of the teachers. Juan Manuel, who would run the school after Alberto’s passing, was just getting out of the army and Jaime, Virginia and Cristina were the same age – more or less – as our high school students and would accompany us on our excursions.  When we left Foxcroft for Westridge I once again made a connection with the school and they helped us set up out first Interim in Spain program.  That program morphed into our intensive summer program where students would spend four weeks in Spain living with families, taking classes at the school and participating in a goodly number of cultural excursions.  Juan Manuel is no longer with us and Jaime, Virginia and Cristina have families of their own.  Rather than go into minute detail suffice to say that we talked about our common past, the present and the future.

When the meal was over we went back to the school and chatted a bit more.  We headed back to the hotel a little after 4:00 and this time we decided to walk.  I struggled a bit, but I made it.  The weather did not help.  It has been a strange day alternating between cloudy, sunny, overcast, threatening and very humid.  Those changes play havoc with my body thermometer.  We stopped at a nearby store and picked up several bottles of water and then headed up to our room to rest, relax and read a bit.  I was able to get in touch with Rebeca Valls who is one of the stars of the play we will be seeing this evening.  More about that later.

We left the hotel a little before 9:00 and ended up with a cab driver who had no idea where the theater was.  Nor did he have a GPS, which most cabs have these days.  The good news is that he eventually got us there.  Rebeca had left us two tickets at the box office so we picked them up and waited outside until the first show got out.  Believe it or not there is only a ten-minute break between the first show and the second show, but you could not tell that from the energy the actors evidenced during their performance.

The play is called BURUNDANGA and that is the name given to a truth serum that is also used as a date rape drug because the one who takes it has no memory of what transpired during the previous hours.  Its use in the play is to get someone to tell the truth.  It is a five-character play and it is a comedy that has its moments of slapstick.  Rebeca plays the pregnant Berta who is trying to discover the truth about her boyfriend who is the father of her baby.  What she does not know is that he is a member of the terrorist group ETA and he and a friend end up kidnapping someone for ransom.  That someone happens to be the uncle of Berta’s roommate.  The play runs an hour and forty-five minutes without an intermission and it is quite funny even though the premise of the play is ridiculous.  It has been running for quite a while and Rebeca recently rejoined the cast.  In her first experience with this play she played the roommate.

After the play was over we met Rebeca at the front door to the theater.  Since she had not eaten because of the two performances we suggested getting a bite to eat nearby.  She suggested a restaurant called Este y Oeste, which features Middle-Eastern food and is owned by a Kurdish family.  A friend of hers, Sergio, joined us also.  Sergio is working on a degree in both directing and script writing.  He is originally from Valencia, but will most likely stay in Madrid once he gets his degree.

It seemed like everyone in the restaurant knew Rebeca and that is not very surprising.  In addition to being a very charming young woman, she is very natural and there is no pretense about her.  Although her first love is theater she has worked quite a bit on TV and in a number of films.  We first saw her in a production of La Casa de Bernarda Alba, at the Matadero de Madrid, but it was not until later that we discovered that she was Nacho’s novia.

We shared a number of dishes that last night. We enjoyed some croquetas de jamón, a plate of jamón serrano, some kefte and a beef brochette.  We washed it all down with some beer and wine and for dessert I did some magic.  I only did two effects, but they both played well.  It was a little after 1:00 when we left the restaurant.  We all walked to the corner and said our goodbyes.  Susan and I found a cab and as a fitting closure to our evening he drove us to the Hotel Ritz and then suddenly realized that we had said The Palace.  We crawled into bed a little after 1:30 with the hope that we would sleep well and be sufficiently energized for Saturday’s wedding.

The renovated offices at the Estudio Internacional Sampere

Margarita y Asun