Thursday, December 07, 2006

Spain – Journeying Back in Time to our Roots- November 2-December 6, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,

We are absolutely on our last leg of our journey. Today, we fly from Madrid to England on and then we fly to New York on the 10th to visit family and friends on the east coast, then on to Dallas to visit family December 24th, and finally we fly into San Francisco on the first of January.

To get to our most up to date info go to our blog site at:
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Visiting Spain was a journeying back in time to our roots for all of us, just in different ways. For Matt and Kate, they were born in Spain and were able to return to the places of their birth, for me (Gabriel), it was a chance to visit the places that ancient Jews played out the historical drama of their times and this gave me the opportunity to reflect about those events and my Jewish roots.

Barcelona, the City of Antonio Gaudi
I was very impressed with Barcelona. Ironically, as we drove toward Barcelona, we first came upon the industrial areas surrounding the city, and it was ugly and depressing, a huge difference from the beautiful landscape of southern France. Huge structures belching smoke and debris scattered all over, Icasiana and I looked at each other, asking with our expressions, “What is this?” But once we went into the city of Barcelona, it was like a jewel. The subway left us off at an avenue that was very wide, with the sidewalks also very wide, the width of a city street. There was a very spacious feeling on the sidewalks and as we walked it felt so comfortable. There was no frenetic energy that I always notice in New York City, rather a relaxed and uplifting feeling. The streets in many of the areas of the city are laid out in a hexagonal arrangement that allows for much more room at the intersection, and makes the streets feel much safer and easier to maneuver. There are also bike lanes throughout the city. They planned this city with a lot of intention and intelligence.

This city is very proud of Antonio Gaudi and it is a showcase of his work. He is recognized all over, designs of his buildings are on postcards, paintings and books throughout the city. All kinds of souvenirs are available of his creations as well.

Artful Marriage of Form and Function
My friends who knew me as a furniture maker would be surprised to hear me say how much I loved Gaudi’s work. This day in Barcelona was an awakening to the genius of this amazing man. His work is based upon natural principles of nature, and the forms in the natural world, especially sea life. He married form and function in a brilliant way. His buildings are like symphonic songs, many elements playing their own part, all part of the larger cohesive whole. They are a celebration of what is possible for humans to be able to build and live in. It felt so good to be inside these buildings. I could only imagine how the people who commissioned Gaudi, or were privileged enough to live in one of his creations felt about their home. How did Gaudi’s creation affect them? It would seem to be very powerful all these years later, even after his works were turned into museums.

Ingenuity Sans Plans
Gaudi made very few drawings for planning. He was on site every day and made the creations as he went along, sometimes to the chagrin of the laborers and artisans working for him. There is not a single straight line in most of them. He also introduced new concepts into building as no one else had done before him. One of his innovations was inventing ingenious ventilation systems. Each and every room had ventilation. The outside rooms had ventilation from outdoors, the inner areas had ventilation from room to room, or ventilation from his inner courtyards which he was famous for. These inner courtyards were superb in allowing light and air flow into these rooms. They were all masked in clever wood carvings which added to the depth of the woodworking.

Gaudi's Batllo residence

We visited 4 of his creations. The Batllo house, the Mila House (La Pedrera), the Sacred Family Temple, and Guell Park. We’ll put some pictures on the web for eye candy, give yourself a treat and do a search on the web and look at some of these incredible buildings. They may shock and inspire you.

Going to be with my dying Uncle
As we were heading to Madrid we made plans for me (Gabriel) to fly back to New York for a few days. I had been talking with my mother, and my uncle was in trouble. His health had been compromised since July when he had quadruple bypass surgery. He and his wife, my aunt Phyllis, had been afraid because his father, my grandfather had died at the exact same age of a heart attack. She had even refused to have a 50th anniversary party because that’s what the grandparents had done and soon after he had died. My uncle Elliot survived the quadruple bypass surgery and was recovering when it was discovered that he had cancer. As the months went by he got weaker and weaker. When my mother told me that he seemed to be slipping away I felt compelled to see him while I could still talk to him. Icasiana encouraged me to make the trip because it was hard for me to leave my family in a foreign country.

My desire in seeing my uncle was to express my appreciation to him for the times he had taken me places when I was a child. They were things I still remembered and meant a lot to me. They were places related to sporting events; that was a love of his and of mine. He’s the one that gave me a baseball mitt that I cherished when I was about eight years old. I wanted to thank him and tell him that I loved him. I also had a desire to help him in his transition if that’s what was happening. I had to see him and feel for myself what was going on.

As I flew on the plane I remembered my childhood with him and the last 25 years that I helped him lead our family Seder at Passover each year. That was something special we had shared, I remembered my grandfather, his father, each time because the melodies of the songs and prayers we chanted are what we had both learned from him. Now I was very glad that he had been able to make it to our wedding because that had been so special to my family.

Being back in New York was surreal. I thought I might have some difficulty in customs as I had been away from the country for almost 11 months, but no, it was very smooth. Riding through familiar surroundings and being able to speak my native tongue while using American dollars was eerie, it was as if I had never been away. It was also strange not being with my family who were in Spain.

When I went to see my uncle it was a shock because the last time I had seen him, about a year ago, he had looked as I always knew him. Now he had significantly changed and he looked feeble. I could see the cancer had been sucking the life force out of him. It reminded me of how my father looked as he lay dying. He was very joyful to see me though, so I sat with him and expressed my appreciation for him being in my life and for the gifts he had given me. That part was sweet. It was also very difficult because he was not ready to face his dying. Speaking about death was off limits because it was too terrifying to confront. I told him that we all die, we just don’t know when; and when death comes close the expanse of our life opens up to us, and that’s a good time to express our love and appreciation to our loved ones. I asked him if he was afraid and he at first he denied it, but then admitted he was afraid. I had told my family in New York as I was coming in that I wanted to face the truth, to allow truth be our companion in the room.

When death comes close, a sacred doorway opens where we can commune in a very profound way; we have the privilege to touch hearts and souls. Making small talk in the midst of this profound time seems such a lost chance. When truth is not spoken I find the atmosphere suffocating. This robs not only the one dying of this opportunity, but of the loved ones close by.

On the second day that I visited my uncle I did some healing work on him and I saw he was going into a trance state. He was crossing over into the spirit world. This I knew is not a part of his usual experience in this life. When he opened his eyes he asked me if I had received a cookie. I didn’t hear him clearly and didn’t understand and asked him to say it again, and he thought about it a moment and then looked embarrassed and started stammering. Then I realized what was happening. He had been with a group of people and some were giving out cookies to those gathered and he had gotten one and had asked if I had received one. It was a dream, or a vision, or an event on the other side. At this point I talked to him about crossing over to the other side and that it was okay. It was not something to fear, this was part of his preparation and he could go to the other side and receive help for healing and for assistance. He could expect to see people who loved him, his father and mother on the other side, and possibly my father. They would all be ready to help him and he could let go of the fear and trust that he would be assisted and protected. And then I told him, “Just look for the light and go to the light.” When I finished he told me, “Okay, that’s enough philosophy for today.” I was relieved to have been able to speak this way because I felt it was so important to speak this way in the midst of an environment of denial, and I had been very careful to be gentle and respectful of his beliefs and his space.

I went to see him the following two days but he was asleep the next time, and soon to be asleep the last time. It was time to return to my family in Spain, they had been staying in Madrid during this time and I had missed being with them. I hadn’t called anyone else except family while in New York, there would be time for that; as we would be back at the completion of our year’s journey in a short 4 weeks.

Ironically I did see Eric Offner, who lives just a few minutes from my mother’s home. He is a friend who has inspired me so much over the years. He is about the age of my father, he is accomplished in the world, he was known as the foremost patent lawyer in the world, but his life has always been about pursuing the deeper qualities and meaning of living. He is such an honoring person and is one of the sincerely nicest people I have ever known. When we left on this journey I had not been sure if I would see him again. He had been diagnosed with Mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs from asbestos poisoning. He had been encouraged to take chemotherapy and refused. He had been encouraged to take a series of other drugs and he threw them away. He had pursued a series of treatments that included ozone therapy sessions, and a supplement developed by Tom, his housemate. When I went to see him I was stunned to see that he had fully recovered and had regained his strength. It was such a polarity, to confront the possibility of my uncle dying and at the same time to see that my dear friend had recovered from an imminently fatal situation.

Returning to Madrid and meeting up with my family at the airport was very emotional. We were very happy to be reunited. After a day of downtime from jet lag and resetting, we all drove out of Madrid to the south of Spain (Andalusia) to visit the cities of Toledo, Granada, Cordoba, and Seville, first stop Toledo.

Sadly, one week after I returned from New York] my uncle died. While I did not return for the funeral I was grateful that I had been with him while he was still alive.

Going Back in History through the Cities of Andalusia, Spain
In many of the cities of Andalusia, the southwestern region of Spain, we visited the old cities and saw the parts of the cities where the Jews had been segregated and locked in that section by gates. This has been a prominent theme through many cities and countries we visited throughout Europe. I had heard about this type of persecution and segregation, but seeing it for myself it sunk in much deeper. In all the cities we saw, we would see the historical evidence of Jews living in segregation, within walls, and later exiled and murdered. Oh, what they had to endure.

Toldot (Toledo) – Generations of Jews
We met a man named Samuel at the Jewish Information center in Toledo, and he told me some very interesting historical bits about the city. First of all, it was first inhabited by the Jews and then came Christians and then Arabs and then Christians again. Part of how you know that the Jews came first is that the word Toledo comes from the word Toldot in Hebrew which means generations. When it was first inhabited by the Jews, underneath each home is a Mikva at the top of the town is a natural spring and there was a very large synagogue at the top and from the spring the water went to every house through a series of channels. The Mikva is a ceremonial, ritualistic bathing, not with soap, so the water went from house to house to house. And most of the Mikvot (plural of Mikva) are still underneath the homes.

Samuel told me that the information center is there for the purpose of assisting Jewish people who come back to the city seeking to find where their ancestors lived. He said there are people who have come who still have the deed for their ancestor’s property, and the keys that still work for the old gates from the time dating back to before 1492. This was the time when the Jews were expelled from Spain during the Spanish Inquisition by order of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.

Traveling through so many countries this past year we have gotten quite a history lesson. Throughout the world are the stories of brutal murders, conquests, and people living in repressive conditions throughout history. Sadly, if we think about it, not much has changed throughout the ages. Now, let me share some history of Spain prior to the Inquisition.

The Moors came into power in Europe in 711 AD. They built elegant infrastructures with respect to water management and agriculture, as well as masterful buildings. The palace at Alhambra in Granada is one of the most stunning architectural works of art we have ever seen. It is the jewel of the city (pictures will be posted on the web, please check them out).

Alhambra palace, a ceiling detail

We saw the Mezquita Mosque in Cordoba, also a very beautiful work of architecture. The Moor’s power waned in the 1200’s or so and the Christians returned to power and expelled the Moors as well as the Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. Amongst centuries of fighting there was a period of relative peace and harmony amongst the 3 major religions of Christian, Muslim, and Jews in the 1200’s in Cordoba. Cordoba is a city that was the largest and most influential city in all of Europe in Medieval times. We went to a museum there, called the Colharra; it is dedicated to documenting this special period of history. Alfonso X was a Catholic King who dedicated his time of leadership to promoting peace and tolerance among all peoples and allowed the different religions to coexist in peace. He instituted universities where all three religions could study together. He made both Latin and Arabic part of the studies. Unfortunately he was removed from office by the Pope in 1282. But it clearly shows what one man can do to affect peace.

The Jewish quarter has a museum dedicated to teaching about the history of the Jews in the area, acknowledging the persecution and atrocities. What is unique about Cordoba is that in the Jewish area they have a small square with a statue of a very well known and accomplished Jewish man, Maimonides. It is the only city or town I remember seeing that honored a Jewish man in this way. (Maimonides (March 30, 1135 –December 13, 1204) was a Jewish rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain and Egypt during the Middle Ages. He was one of the few medieval Jewish philosophers who also influenced the non-Jewish world. His works on Jewish law and ethics were opposed during his lifetime, posthumously he was acknowledged to be one of the foremost rabbinical philosophers in Jewish history. Today, his works and his views are considered a cornerstone of Orthodox Jewish thought and study.)

Belmonte, Portugal – An Amazing Story about the Jewish People
We visited the town of Belmonte, Portugal after we withstood a huge storm on our way to and back from Fatima, Portugal (known as the Lourdes of Portugal). The story of Belmonte is quite remarkable.

After the Spanish Inquisition of 1492 when the Jews were all expelled from killed Spain or killed, many took refuge in neighboring countries. Jews came to Portugal and lived in safety for a number of years after making an agreement with the King of Portugal. They were given sanctuary after paying a lot of money for the privilege. Within a few years, the son of the king took the throne and married the daughter of the king of Spain. Soon after the agreement with the Jews was overturned, and they were no longer safe nor able to practice their traditions. They were ordered to leave or convert to Christianity. Many of them chose to convert, except not really. They pretended to convert to Christianity while in secret they continued to practice Judaism, at the risk of being killed if they were caught. Amazingly, this practice began at the end of the 15th century and continues to this day. This community of secret Jews was not even discovered until the 20th century, in the 1920’s, over 400 years later.

This community of Jews in Belmonte continued in secret until they were discovered by the outside world in the 20th century. During this time they had no contact with Jews from the rest of the world, but they maintained their practice. Certain things were lost or changed because of this. For instance, the holidays of Christmas and Chanukah occur at very similar times of the year. The Jewish holiday of Chanukah celebrates their fight to maintain their way of life against the oppression and persecution of the Romans. Candles are lit to commemorate the nearly empty oil lamp that miraculously stayed lit for 8 days. For the Jews of Belmonte, the actual story of this holiday was forgotten and instead became known as a celebration for the birth of the baby Moses, similar to the celebration of the birth of baby Jesus for Christians.

The synogogue in Belmonte, Portugal, the community of Jews who practiced in secret for over 400 years

On the day we came to Belmonte, it was Shabbat, the holy day when Jews let go of worldly affairs, go to temple and pray. So we were able to go to the temple and pray with this community. It was surreal to be at the temple this day and hear the prayers that sounded like Portuguese, and to know what had happened during these centuries, their determination that enabled them to be able to pray here today.

Learning about my Jewish roots has been a prominent theme of our trip. To see and feel the shadows of the persecution of the Jews over the centuries in the places we’ve seen (from Roman times to medieval Europe through to the horrors of the Nazi holocaust), sensing the memories in the land and feeling the vibrations in the stones has been horrifying. For me it is juxtaposed with the horror of the present day situation in Israel that I continually reflect about. Thank Goodness the Jews have a homeland today in lieu of what they have endured. I understand more about the fear that they have lived with, but not really, I have not been through it. I continue the journey and search to understand as I can. As my understanding of my roots deepens, let me pass the baton to Icasiana to tell the story of Matt and Kate reconnecting with their roots, and Icasiana’s reconnecting with her past here in Spain.

Planting the Placenta Brings Grounding
While we were in England with our new friends Sally and Sergio, we had written how we assisted them in planting the placenta of their daughter Ariana, nearly 8 years after her birth. Several days later, we spoke to Sally and she had said what a change she and Sergio had observed in their daughter. They felt that now she was much more grounded and stable in her life. After hearing this, Kate said to me, “Mom, maybe I’m not as grounded as I could be since you never planted my placenta after I was born.” Kate had noticed how quickly the change came over Ariana, being more grounded in her body and in the earth after the short ceremony. Kate then asked me if we could possibly do a ceremony for her while in Spain. Knowing that the hospital disposed of Kate’s placenta as “biohazardous” waste, we would have to be creative in a symbolic ceremony for Kate.

Hospital of the Air – Madrid Spain
Kate was born in downtown Madrid at the Hospital Del Aire (“of the air”) which was a Spanish Air Force hospital. I remember vividly the many trips to this hospital in the center of town on Calle Arturio Soria. The night I went into labor, I was a bit apprehensive as she was my first born and I was pretty unfamiliar with the Spanish language. All the doctors and nurses spoke Spanish only, and I just had a few words memorized that was in the genre of medical terms – this turned out to be a bit “dangerous.” As the nurses were in my face yelling “empujar” (to push), I was trying to be brave and practice my La Maze breathing which seemed so inadequate for the pain I was experiencing. As Kate’s head dropped into the birthing canal, her head or some part of her body was banging against my spine. I was having the most severe back labor. During each push, the nurse would squeeze my hand and say “si, empujar”. Finally, I told them in the best Spanish I could remember, “I have pain in my back, please give me a shot.” What I expected was a small injection in the lower back, an epidural. What I received was a gas mask being forced onto my face, which knocked me out immediately. I didn’t have time, or clarity of mind to resist this act. I was cut, Kate was pulled out with metal forceps (this hospital still practiced some very old and harsh techniques for birthing) and then whisked her off to be cleaned, weighed and whatever “tests” are performed on newborns.

Lack of Connection in Those Precious First Moments
I didn’t get to hold Kate or feed her for at least a couple of hours as I was still totally knocked out from the medication. I remember the Spanish nurse bringing her into the room and changing her diaper and then she finally placed Kate on my chest for her first feeding. To me it seemed like an eternity to wait to see my new baby. I believe part of Kate’s feeling of being a bit “flighty” or “ungrounded” is that she didn’t have the immediate feeling of connection with me and nor being cuddled and nurtured immediately after her traumatic birth. This insight was just revealed as I type her birth story. There is such a contrast in unconscious birthing and conscious birthing. I feel sad that I didn’t insist on a more conscious birth. But as we all know, we can’t change the past, we go forward and assist others by sharing what we’ve learned along the way.

Kate, Matt, Elijah and I came off the metro at the Arturio Soria stop. We asked people as we got to street level if they knew where Hospital Del Aire was. Two different people pointed to different locations, north and south, on the street. Finally a little old lady said it was to our south, so we headed down the street. As we were walking I felt sad that Gabriel would not be able to join us but I knew he was where he needed to be in New York with his uncle. I was sad he wasn’t able to be with us. Kate had asked for a very simple ceremony before we left the hotel. She wanted to burn some sage and incense and to say a prayer, no more. After about 30 minutes of brisk walking I was beginning to wonder if the little old lady knew what she was talking about. Just as I was thinking about turning around we saw the hospital. The gates were closed and it was all locked up. It appeared to be in disrepair, it looked abandoned. Kate and I were shocked and disappointed. I knocked on the gate and a military guard appeared. I asked him if the hospital was closed and he said yes, it had been closed for 2 years. I told him that my daughter Kate had been born there 13 years ago and we wanted to see the hospital again. (Well, I believe that is what I spoke to him in Spanish). He said for security reasons we couldn’t come in through the gate.

Ceremony on the Street
Kate found a nice area just outside the hospital on the street that had a grassy area with a big evergreen tree on it. We all sat down and formed a circle. Kate was acutely aware there were people walking by and wanted to keep the ceremony quick and quiet. I totally respected this desire of hers and granted her wish. We lit the sage and brushed it over each other, clearing the space for our ceremony. Matt lit the incense and we sank deeply in the ground. It was quite powerful. I then thanked God for Kate’s birth and the return to her birthplace as a sign of rebirthing in a more grounded manner. Short, simple and sweet.

Revisit to Matt’s Birthplace
After the experience I had had with Kate’s birth in that hospital I did not want to give birth there again. When I was pregnant with Matt the following year I demanded that the US Military send me down to the US Naval Base in Rota, Spain for his birth. I did not want to relive the archaic medical practices, nor be misunderstood because of my inability to speak the language. My request was granted and 3 weeks before Matt was born I was flown to the south of Spain, on the coast near Puerto Santa Maria and Cadiz, a beautiful and inviting place. Matt’s birth was a totally different experience, but a lot of fear was to come after his birth. It was a Sunday afternoon and I walked across one street to the hospital from the family housing. The doctor was an amiable Naval Officer, all dressed in white, and working in a very clean and bright room. This was a huge departure from Kate’s birth as I recall being hooked up to a fetal monitor and nearly gagging smelling the cigarette smoke as the doctors and nurses puffed on their cigarettes just outside of my room! Matt was born, with little difficulty just 3 hours after I walked into the hospital. I remember pushing just two or three times and it was announced that Matt’s head was crowning. I was overjoyed. It was so wonderful to be present and aware during his birth. Of course, though, the Apgar testing that is performed in hospitals took precedence over my feeding or nurturing my little newborn. Fortunately, within minutes Matt was in my arms trying to breastfeed.

A Case of Severe Jaundice
A couple of days later, during a routine doctor’s appointment, they informed me that Matt had a severe case of jaundice and that he must be placed under bilirubin lights that would assist in his healing. I felt devastated as they told me I could not breast feed him for the days he was under the lights. They even said I couldn’t touch him. I held my ground and absolutely demanded that I get to hold him outside of the lights and to place my hands through the incubator while he slept to give him c. A few days later, I felt further traumatized as the doctors said that if comfort. Matt’s condition didn’t improve overnight, they would need to medivac (helicopter transport) him to Germany for a blood transfusion. I was filled with fear as I remembered hearing of several incidences of people receiving blood transfusions and then acquiring the AIDS virus. As soon as I heard this I started praying and was guided to call my mother in the States and ask her to start a prayer vigil. She immediately started to pray and had requested that her church pray for Matt. The following morning, the doctors were surprised but delighted that Matt’s bilirubin count had dramatically decreased and there was no need for blood transfusions. This was when I really started trusting the power of prayer. It was a blessing that Matt and I were released from the hospital the next day!

Denied Access, Again!
Returning to the hospital on the Naval Base, 12 years later proved to be impossible. Matt and I walked to the military check-in gate while Gabriel parked the van. I took our American passports and was determined to get on to the base. Well, as fate would have it, the base had been turned back over to the Spaniards and only a few Americans remained. The entry guards were Spanish, and they said for security reasons, we would not be allowed on the base. I explained to them that I had lived on base and that my son was born at the hospital, but my request was not be granted. As Matt and I walked back to the van, he remarked that he felt bad that he had been born at a US military base. I asked why and he said because of the ongoing war we have been conducting in the middle-east. I understood his sentiment. I believe by just going there and being in the area that Matt was born assisted him in his rebirthing. We spent some time in the south of Spain and Matt has vowed to return there when he is an adult.

Access Granted for Spanish Lessons
My very favorite Spanish teacher, Rafael de los Rios, taught at the University of Maryland when I took classes at Torrejon Air Base in Spain many years ago, still lives in Madrid. While Gabriel went to New York, I was fortunate enough to reach him and we set up a dinner with him and his wife. It was as if the 12 years of not speaking had vanished and we had just finished class and we had met for dinner afterward. It was wonderful. He is nearly 80 years old, but is as spry and sharp as he ever was, or so it seemed. Rafael had a huge crush on baby-Katie when she was born and for the 18 months we lived in Spain afterward. He was so charmed to see her again, now almost a young lady. He also recalled the time he spent on the floor playing with her and her toys, and how he had remembered Matt as such a tiny little baby as well. It seemed Elijah picked up on the family connection and in no time was sitting on Rafael’s lap and playing too. Rafael took time to hold Spanish classes for us in our hotel room. It was fantastic. Kate and Matt said they learned more Spanish from him then they did their whole year at school. He truly makes learning fun and has so many funny stories to share to assist us in our learning. Fortunately, our final Spanish lesson was the day that Gabriel returned so he had the pleasure of meeting Rafael and participating for a few minutes in our class before he crashed from jet-lag and fell fast asleep in our classroom. It was a great privilege to see Rafael again and we promised it wouldn’t be another 12 years before we saw him again.

Reconnecting with Gayle
The most incredible teacher I have ever had in my life (besides my children), also taught me at the University of Maryland, her name is Gayle Allard. When we met, we had an immediate connection as I was pregnant at the time with Kate while taking her history and economics’ classes and she was a devoted mother to five children. One single birth and two sets of twins! I marveled at her ability to teach class in such a fun and energetic manner, to take care of her kids and to run her household while writing for Reuters, The Economist and other prestigious publications! Fortunately, we have seen each other over the past twelve years, but much too infrequently. The last time we saw each other was seven years ago when she was working on her PhD at the University of California at Davis, while commuting back to her home in Madrid!

Google Assists Reunion
It’s a funny story of how we reunited. As soon as we arrived in Madrid we drove to our old home in a suburb of Madrid called Los Berrocales Del Jarama. Amazingly through the myriad of new freeways and by-ways, we arrived at our old home without a problem. I had been calling Gayle and even her father, John Allard, who lives in California to track down Gayle. I was beginning to wonder if Gayle had to go to the States or something was amiss. Gayle’s house was just two blocks from my old home, so I left a note for her. As it turns out, thanks to the power of Google, I tracked down her e-mail address and phone number from the Institute she teaches at in Madrid. When I called her office, they informed me that she wouldn’t be back to work until December! I was devastated. A big part of going back to Spain was to visit with Gayle and her family. As I surrendered to this new news we received an e-mail back from Gayle. As it turns out, she is traveling around the world as well! She took all five of her children (now ages 16 to 20) and her father on a 3-month cruise around the world. It’s an amazing program called “Semester at Sea” ( She teaches while at the same time her kids go to school on the ship, when they debark in a country, they explore the culture and then spend time in class discussing what they’ve learned about the cultures they visit. I told Gabriel, maybe we should check it out and he could be the Doc on board, surely from the 600+ people that travel including 400 students, they must need chiropractic adjustments! We thought about it for a few minutes and then realized we both get seasick, even on the smoothest of waterways. I would, however, recommend this program to those interested in seeing the world in a different manner.

A Thanksgiving Blessing

here we are with the Allard family

As fate would have it, we were in the south of Spain when their ship came into Cadiz (a southern Spain port). We actually extended our time in the south, and delayed our trip to Portugal so we could meet them for a couple of hours. It was Thanksgiving day and I felt so grateful for this time with Gayle, her father John, and her children Elisabeth who is attending UC Berkeley, her sons Pepe and John who will both be going to California colleges this coming year, and her twin 16 year olds, Christian and Victoria. All of her kids are amazing, so unique in their own right, but also very connected as a family – it was wonderful being with them and having Kate and Matt spend time with their kids. Not only did we have a sweet reunion, they assisted us in selling our VW van to a neighbor friend, Gaston Guille who is an incredible man. He’s outfitting the van to be a “Public Relations” van for his 10-year old son Martin who is a wake boarder, number 5 in the world! He showed us a picture of what they are planning to paint on the outside of the van and it’s fantastic. We were blessed to meet Gaston and his wonderful family on our very last days in Spain.

After a quick trip to Portugal we decided to meet up with Gayle at their home in Madrid before they flew back to port to sail from Cadiz to Ft. Lauderdale Florida. We spent a couple of days with them in their home and it was a lovely reunion. I also have a warm sense that with three of her five children at California universities, we’ll be able to see them more often!

The Final Segment to our Journey Around the World
We are very clear this is the end of our journey, we are ready to come home. We are all very excited about returning to the United States and spending time with our families in New York and Texas.

We hope to be in touch with you soon, or see you soon, thanks for being with us,
with love, from Icasiana, Gabriel, Kate, Matt, and Elijah,
your traveling and now returning adventurers.