Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Little did we realize it then, but the wheels that would propel us to a decision to live on a permanent basis in Spain were set in motion in the summer of 1974. We had just finished our first year of teaching at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia and I had been charged with setting up a Mini-Term in Spain program that would parallel the Mini-Term in France program that had been initiated during our first year at the school. The school gave us sufficient funds that allowed us to fly to Spain and visit several possible locations for the program and so in July of 1974 we flew out of Boston for what was our first trip to Spain and, for me, my first trip to Europe.
A slight mix-up at Logan Airport worked to our benefit. When we approached the ticket desk we were asked to leave our luggage and come back in thirty minutes. We did just that and when we returned to the desk there was a big hullabaloo going on generated by a rather large group that was to travel on our flight. When it was our turn, we explained that we had been instructed to leave or luggage and return in thirty minutes and those thirty minutes were up and we would like our boarding passes. The agent patiently explained to us that there had been a slight overbooking problem and that all economy seats were filled. They then told us that they were going to upgrade us to First Class and would that be all right with us. So, my first ever trans-Atlantic flight had Susan and me sitting in First Class and it was an amazing experience.
That summer we visited Madrid, Zaragoza, Barcelona, Seville and Granada and we decided that we would establish the Foxcroft program in Madrid and that the Estudio Internacional Sampere would be our host institution. In March of 1975 the first ever Mini-Term in Spain group headed out from Dulles Airport. It turned out to be a learning experience for all of us. We would repeat the program a number of times and Susan, Rachel and I would always stay with the same woman who was our hostess in 1975, María Teresa del Toro. We established a very close relationship with her and the members of her extended family.
When we moved to California and I started teaching at Westridge, I set up an Interim program in Madrid and that particular program ran several years. It was not offered in the 1989-1990 academic year with the intention of allowing other overseas trips to get their oar in the water. I recall that there was one student, Ritu Kumar, who had been looking forward to going that year and because Iberia was offering flights to Spain at a ridiculous price. I decided that I would spend my Spring Break in Madrid and I told Ritu’s family that I would keep an eye on her and be available if any problem were to arise while she was studying with Sampere. While I was there in April, I walked into what was then Madrid’s only magic store and I met two Spanish magicians who are still two of my best friends in Spain, Ramón Ríos and Antonio Hernández García. Antonio accompanied me to a meeting of the local magicians that Monday night and that was when I got to meet Spain’s father of close-up magic, Arturo de Ascanio.
That summer Westridge gave me a very generous grant that allowed me to spend a great deal of time in various parts of Spain. I landed in Madrid and from there I went to Toledo to attend my first Spanish National Magic Convention. Both Ramón and Antonio were there and it was in Toledo that I first got to see Juan Tamariz and Tommy Wonder perform. From Toledo I made my way to Vigo in Galicia. My next stop was Celorio, which is located in Asturias and my final stop was in Burgos where I spent a very interesting week. Susan joined me at the end of my stay and we got to explore the northern coast of Spain together.
The early 2000’s saw me set up a one-month summer immersion program in Spain with Madrid as our base. I would stay on when the students went home with the two other chaperones and that was when Susan would come and join me. I had met Pepe and a number of other Valencian magicians in the summer of 1998 and with our program now running full-blast in Madrid, I was able to slip away for a weekend to visit with my Valencian friends while leaving the students in the charge of the two other chaperones.
We always knew that when we retired we would be spending a goodly amount of time in Spain. Our original idea was to spend six months a year in Spain and six months a year in LA. We always thought that we would be spending our time in Madrid, but as the years passed and we grew older we concluded that Madrid with its traffic, noise and fast pace was not what we were seeking. A summer visit to Valencia in 2007 and a visit in the fall of 2008 impressed us greatly. The city had undergone a rather dramatic transformation in the intervening years and had built the City of Arts and Sciences complex, had totally reformed the port area that was hosting The America’s Cup and had turned the beach area into an attraction all its own with its abundance of restaurants, sandy beach and crystal clear water.
In September of 2009, with both of us now retired, we spent six weeks in Valencia in late September and early October. That was followed by a three-month visit the following year and then another three-month visit in April, May and June of 2011. We had hoped to have out residence visa by then, but it turned into a rather long and drawn out process that final resolved itself in October of 2011. We then returned to Valencia in November of 2011 and retuned to LA at the end of July 2012 with the intent of packing up our personal belongings, selling out townhome in Alhambra, as well as our two cars. We had decided that it really was not economically feasible for us to being paying a mortgage with all its associated expenses on a house in LA while renting a place year-round in Valencia. Since our hearts at this juncture of our lives were really in Spain, we decided that it would be best for our bodies to be here, also. Our decision feels like a natural process that evolved over a thirty-eight year period and, in spite of how it may appear to some, it was not a precipitous decision.
Yesterday was a low energy day. We were still recovering from the effects of the time change, as well as the level of our activity in Madrid. I slipped out to the bakery to get some sweet rolls for breakfast and I slipped out in the early afternoon to get some empanadas, which we enjoyed with the last remaining slice of queso manchego and jamón serrano. At 8:00 PM we hopped a cab to Brian and Ofelia’s and had a drink and some appetizers while we caught up with each other and a little after 9:00 we sat down at a small neighborhood restaurant around the corner form their place and continued our eating and our conversations. It was a little before midnight when Brian dropped us off at our front door and twenty minutes later Susan and I had turned in for the night.