December Update

Saturday, December 28, 2013

            This has been a week of starts and stops.  Not much happened on Monday and Tuesday as Christmas day approached.  We spent Wednesday in Pedreguer with Pepe and his family.  Thursday was marked by a performance at Valencia’s Ronald McDonald House and yesterday I had an unwelcome visit from a 24-hour bug.

            Pepe was already in Pedreguer so on Wednesday we made our way to the train station and caught the 11:41 train to Gandía.  It is a quick 58 minutes from station to station and when we arrived Pepe was waiting for us.  We all piled into a rather small Ford Smart and we were at Pepe’s mother’s house by 1:30.  We gathered around the dining room table as the first wave of relatives came by for a visit. At one point, when I looked up, there were fourteen of us assembled around the table.  In preparation for what was to be a rather substantial meal – a puchero – we warmed up our appetites with a variety of cold cuts, sardines, white asparagus and a never empty bowl of chips. At 2:30 the first wave returned to their nearby home for their meal and we made our way upstairs to María’s apartment.  María is Pepe’s sister. There were twelve of us gathered around the table when lunch was served.

            We managed to make a dent in the puchero, but, as usual, did not eat enough to satisfy Pepe’s mother.  It seems that Spanish mothers are like Italian mothers who, in turn, are like Jewish mothers. A parade of desserts followed and to top everything off we opened a bottle of champagne and toasted each other.  We then got up form the table and went to the home of Pepe’s aunt where we had our coffee.  As I looked around the table I could see people starting to nod off.  That being the case we went back to María’s apartment and quickly fell asleep in front of the TV.

            Thirty minutes later we made our way downstairs only to discover that another branch of the family had gathered around the table and was enjoying coffee and dessert.  In the midst of all this celebration our friend, Jordi Morera, made an appearance.  He had spent the day in Denia with his sister and her family and since he was heading back to Valencia he had kindly offered to take us along.  The ride home was rather interesting because Jordi’s car was being buffeted by strong winds – winds that were strong enough to move the car from the left hand lane to the right hand lane all by itself.  When we returned home I spent some time getting my things ready for Thursday’s magic show.

            Gurrea had received a letter from a friend of his in Barcelona telling him that the Ronal McDonald House in Valencia was looking for performers to come and entertain the children and their families who were living at the facility while they were undergoing treatment at the Hospital de La Fe, which is close by.  I made an appointment with Cristina who is the director of events at the house and Gurrea and I met with her the evening of December 18.  She gave us a tour of the facility and afterwards we chatted about when she would like us to perform.  We decided on the day after Christmas.

            Gurrea came by the house a little after 3:00 and we headed out.  Our start time was 5:00 and by 4:00 we had everything set up and ready to go.  Cristina came by and said that before we went on a few people were coming by to sing some Christmas carols after which we would go on.  The few people happened to be an entire chorus and the few songs turned out to be many and their performance lasted a good thirty minutes.

            We were concerned on many levels.  Having already sat for a half an hour, how much stamina would the children and their parents have now that it was our turn to perform?  The other problem was having done the necessary psychological preparation to go out and perform, that energy had dissipated while we listened to song after song. 

            We began our show at 5:30 and the room was full.  There were about thirty people all together.  The delay turned out to be advantageous on one level.  Two of the kids who were receiving treatment were able to make their way to our performance space in time to see the entire show.  I led things off and did about thirty minutes and Gurrea followed and did an additional thirty minutes.  The energy in the room was high.  There was a lot of laughter and a lot of oohs and ahs.  Afterwards the adults stopped by and thanked us for taking the time to bring some amazement and laughter into the lives of their kids.  Needless to say, it was a very satisfying experience.

            To celebrate the performance Susan and I decided to have dinner at Appetite, one of the highest rates restaurants on Trip Advisor.  We enjoyed a six course meal that featured a fish taco, beef won ton soup, sticky shrimp, Thai mussels, roast duck and, for dessert, Pannetone with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. In the course of the meal we also had a beer and three glasses of wine. This outstanding meal cost 67 Euros and we knew that back in LA this would have cost us triple that amount.

            And so another Christmas has come and gone and we were fortunate enough to spend quality time with our friends here in Valencia and do the things that are most meaningful to us.

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