Archive for July, 2009

More on happiness

In keeping with the theme of “choosing happiness” that I ended the Terezin post with, I thought I’d post this passage from another Paulo Coelho book. I lifted it from my friend’s Facebook page and have not read the book, but it has a powerful message as a stand alone passage.

Every day, God gives us, as well as the sun, a moment when it is possible to change anything that is causing us unhappiness. The magic moment when a “yes” or a “no” can change our whole existence. Every day, we try to pretend that we do not see that moment, that it does not exist, that today is the same as yesterday and that tomorrow will be the same too. However, anyone who pays close attention to his day will discover the magic moment. It might be hidden in an instant that we put the key in the door in the morning, in the moment of silence after supper, in the thousand and one things that appear to us to be the same. This moment exists, a moment in which all the strength of the stars flows through us and allows us to perform miracles.” ~ BY THE RIVER PIEDRA I SAT DOWN AND WEPT by Paulo Coelho

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There’s no one like family

“Family is the community of people whose love does not know the difference between you at your best and you at your worst.”

Right now, I’m sitting in Madrid-Barajas airport getting ready to head home on a long flight with two layovers. My European trip has come to an end. After six weeks of traveling around Spain (and a visit to Prague), it’s time for me to return to the US for a month before my next big summer adventure. I chose to come home today specifically to attend my family reunion in Louisville, KY. While I could have stayed and continued the trip with my travel buddies, it was important to me that I made it back for this. Louisville, KY is a tough match for Madrid, but the difference is that my family will be there. I don’t know about you, but I have the most amazing immediate and extended family. We have fun and know how to party! For those of you who don’t know, the Drummers are a big crew. My father has ten brothers and sisters so every holiday was a big party for me and my 30+ cousins. Our family continues to grow as people get married and the next generation of cousins are growing in numbers. I write all this to say that I am just excited about my trip to Louisville as I was about my trip to Spain because I get to be with my family. I love to travel and plan to continue to do even more of it, but one thing will always remain the same. No matter how far away I am or what I’m doing, I will always make time for my family.

The people we love the most are always the easiest to neglect because we know they will be there for us.  Take a minute to think about how you neglect or disregard your loved ones for “more important” things such as work, relationships, school, etc.  These things will not always be there for you, but your family will. So here’s to the Drummer’s! Safe travels as we decent upon Louisville, KY. I hope the city is ready.

Terezin Concentration Camp

“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”

It’s our second day in Prague and today we decided to venture off the beat and path to visit Terezin, a concentration camp during the Holocaust. Up until now, this trip has been very relaxing and easy going. This day trip was a sobering reflection of how quickly lives can be taken at the hands of one person. We rented a car and drove 45 minutes to Terezin. Upon arriving, I felt a dark energy from this town. Maybe I made it up in my head, but there was something different. First, we toured the concentration camp where 100,000+ Jews where housed. Terezin was an internment camp where most Jews were held before being sent to extermination camps to die. Despite this, many people died at Terezin from disease. The camp and its conditions were surreal and it pretty much what’d you expect if you could imagine what a concentration camp would look like. The crazy thing about Terezin is that the Red Cross visited the camp and were convinced that this was “spa” with a barbershop and other “amenities”. Don’t ask… The experience was heavy for me and it’s difficult to express everything in words. After the tour of the concentration camp, we went to the crematorium, where the bodies were cremated, saw the graves of many who died, and then went to the Terezin ghetto museum.

This trip definitely put things in perspective and led me to think about a theme that me and my travel buddy, J had a debate about when she first arrived. The debate was about happiness being a choice. I was reading a magazine with a quote about happiness being a choice, to which J responded, “I don’t agree with that!”. By day three, J changed her initial opinion and agreed with me, and started using small situations as examples of how to “choose” happiness. So I thought about this in the context of the concentration camp. It’s easy for me to say happiness is a choice because my life is pretty good in the grand scheme of things, but if I were in the shoes of the victims of the Holocaust, would it be as easy for me to choose happiness? Does “choosing happiness” mean adopting a sense of complacency? If you’re fighting for your life, does happiness even fit into the equation. So after giving J a hard time for her response, I think I have changed my point of view. Happiness is a choice, but only when basic freedoms are in place.

Ode to street meat!

I’m sure all of you know that I love food. Part of what makes a city great to me is the quality of the food. I could be in the most amazing place, but if the food is bad it’s a thumbs down for me. So in the past six weeks, I’ve indulged in local cuisine and sought out small restaurants and bars and have found some great food in Spain. The food in Madrid, Granada, Sevilla was really good, but only average in Tenerife so I was hoping for good food in Prague. I was skeptical given that I wasn’t sure what Prague was known for. All I could think of was the one type of food that I hate…German.  While walking the streets of Prague on my first day, I saw a stand on the street with sausages on a grill. The sausages looked and smelled so good that I stopped in my tracks. I whispered to Ana that I secretly wanted one and she said she did too. So we snuck away from our health conscious companions to buy some “street meat”. We emerged from the stand with a huge sausage that was so good, we ravished it in minutes. At that moment, I was hooked. The sausage cost 50 Kc with is about $3.00. This was great given that we had lunch at a place that was charging 500-600 Kc ($30-40) for a salad or sandwich. The sausage became my “Zahir” (see previous post) for the moment and I became obsessed with street meat. I obsessed over it so, that I turned it into a form of currency. I had a hard time making sense of the value of a Czech Koruna ($1=0.055Kc) was so I just started quoting things in street meat. “For that bottle of water, I could get 60 street meats….for that salad, I could feed 100 kids with 25 street meats…” I had to have street meat daily and probably drove my travel buddies crazy one day when were walking around a less touristy area that had no street meat vendors. I told them that I thought we should go look for street meat. I ignored the blank stares and continued on my pursuit. Luckily, I turned the corner and happen upon this guy with a grill selling street meat. Ahhh…divine intervention. I even got Janel to get one who kept telling herself that she shouldn’t. You probably think I’m crazy right now, but to drive the point home even more I’ve included a few photos to show the deliciousness that is Prague street meat!

Prague

“The more special something is, the more people start to take it for granted. It’s like they think it will never change.” – The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

Today I am leaving Tenerife en route to Prague, Czech Republic. This is the final city on my tour of Spain this summer.  Prague is a city that everyone says I will love, so I am looking forward to seeing it. I’ll be in Prague for four days. The good thing about this flight is that we have an 8-hour layover in Madrid! Normally that would suck, but I’m so happy to get a chance to return to Madrid one last time. My love for the city has grown since leaving. I appreciate it so much more now that I’ve been to other cities. Madrid will always be special to me because of the combination of the city itself and the experience I had here.

Lessons Learned at 30 1/2

“The suffering will continue until the lesson is learned.”

Today is the half birthday of my 30th year. This year, I’m more reflective than in previous years and am being intentional about the awareness of things that are going on in my life. I turned 30 in January and brought the year in with a bang. I also created a list of “30 Things I Want To Do While I’m 30”. I would encourage everyone to do this as well. I’m halfway through year and have completed almost two-thirds of things I listed. I still have seven open spaces that I need to complete. Although maybe I will leave them blank and use them for things I did that was unexpected. That definitely fits with the theme for this year.  For this post I want to take a minute to reflect, not on the things I have accomplished, but on the lessons I have learned.  Here is what I’ve learned in the past six months. More to come in the next six months…

  1. Life comes around once; love comes around often. Stop chasing love and let life follow. Start chasing life and let love follow.
  2. The accumulation of goods gets you nowhere. At the end of the day you just end up with a bunch of stuff. Use it!
  3. I can be happy without a ridiculous amount of money. All I need is enough money to do the things I want to do.
  4. Careers come and go. Never rely on an employer to take care of you.
  5. It’s impossible to plan life.

Tenerife, Canary Islands

This week I am in the Canary Islands on the island of Tenerife in the city of Puerto de la Cruz. I was a little reluctant to put this on the itinerary because I hadn’t heard much about it. I was thinking, the Canary Islands sounds like a nice place, but how come I haven’t heard about it? I got here on Saturday and it has been nice so far. I rejoined my travel buddies Ana and Kate after a week alone, and was joined by another friend, J.Forde.  It took a little getting used to, but I am glad we came after all. I had to go through Madrid withdrawal, but I enjoyed myself after that. Its very different than the other cities I’ve been to in Spain and does not feel like Spain.  It’s quite tropical and touristy because it’s the vacation spot for many Europeans. Most restaurants have multi-lingual menu, which to me, takes away the adventure of being in a foreign country. There are also the street vendors and restaurant “sales people” who try to hustle you to buy their stuff or eat their restaurant. Fortunately, I think being Black gives me an advantage in this situation because I get approached way less than Ana who is White and blonde, and everyone thinks is Finnish. The weather is perfect with hot, sunny days and cool nights. The sun is ridiculously strong, as I believe we’re pretty close to the equator.

So what have I been doing with my time? I’ve resumed Spanish classes for the last week on the trip. I have morning classes this time, from 9:00AM to 1:00PM. It has been a struggle waking up early for class, but it’s the best thing for my time in Tenerife. Unlike Madrid, everything closes around 9 or 10pm. In the afternoons, I’ve done a variety of things like go hiking, go to the pool, visit the various black sand beaches, and take road trips to other cities on the island. It’s been very relaxing.

I will say that I could have done without classes this week. The classes are good, but I have reached a point where my learning curve is sloping downward. I’ve gotten to the various past tenses and frankly I have no idea when to use to use them. This is the time when I just need to do a complete review of everything I’ve learned at my own pace. The classes move so fast and my class in Tenerife has 8 people (vs. 3 in Madrid). Anyway, the trip is going well and I’m happy to have my travel buddies again. I’ve introduced them to the game Phase 10 and they are now hooked. Another group falls prey to the grip of Phase 10! Off to bed so I can try to wake up on time for class tomorrow. I only have two more days left so I guess I should take advantage of it.

Location: Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Canary Islands