Sunday, June 21, 2009


When I think about my travels, the places I went, the faces I met, the experiences I had, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the events, and the universe, shaping my journey into what it was. To put it simply, I had the TIME OF MY LIFE. It was absolutely the best, and so much more I could have ever hoped for. Without reservations was definitely the way to go.

Everyday, even when things did not go so well (ahem, Italy), I knew events and situations were happening just as they should, everything was coming together to shape my path, my travels and my journey.

For what is a journey really, but a path way to another place in life...a new city, a new home, a new plan, a new all leads to something new. It leads us to finding more of ourselves, and in that way keeps life interesting. For when we are learning - about others and about ourselves -life has a little more passion to it, life becomes more exciting...and as quoted in the Alchemist "its the hope of a dream come true that makes life interesting". I think Senor Coehlo is right.

Back in New York City, several weeks after returning, I feel that I am on another journey, finding that path that leads back to where I want to be. I don't have to say it. It starts with an "S". And I can't wait to to be there. But, I do know its more important to be "here" because if I am not, I will miss out on all the fantastical journeys, conversations and moments between "here" and "there".

I realize now that it doesn't take a plane ticket, or a three month sabbatical to have a journey. Each day, each minute, each second can be a journey if you give into exploration, choose to look at something new, try something you have never done before, and simply 'be' a little different than you've known. A journey starts in the soul, and if you're like me, you believe that it has no end. For when you follow a path to its end, it leads you to another path, and another, and another... Find that path, my friends, and keep walking, keep going, and don't ever, ever stop.

The life you want is always out there. I believe the universe doesn't allow us to believe in things that don't exist. If you can dream it, it will be. You just have to believe, and never settle for less than you want. Life will test you, it will throw you crooks and difficulties and trials, but hold onto what you want, don't for a second think you can't have it. The only things we can't have in this life are the things we deny ourselves, and life is simply too short to live that way.

My journey wouldn't have been what it was without those who loved and supported me, and for that, I want to say thank you.

To my family, thank you for allowing me this time I needed for me. And to Ramsey specifically - I promise to be a bit more of an aunt than I have recently --but I do have good stories to tell you when your mom isn't around!

To my friends, thank you for your undying support and love as I did what I needed to do. Thank you for being there for me, for forgiving the 'early morning wake-up calls' when I would forget about the time difference, and for the advice you offered when I hit a moment of indecision... to my girlfriends, the advice to buy the flamenco dress and stay for Feria was YOUR BEST ADVICE EVER!

To my new friends, especially Javi, Jose, Miguel, Nacho and Saber, your kindness and friendship touched my life in more ways that you will know. The moments I shared with you were the happiest I knew in my travels and I thank you for allowing me in your life, your homes, and for sharing my adventure with me.

To Eline, how can I thank you for being all that you are? Your story shaped my story, your journey shaped my journey, and your friendship has without a doubt shaped my life. Who knew that our chance meeting in 2006 would lead to so many 4AM conversations in Spain? To the best Fiestas de Primavera? You are the best girlfriend a girl could ever hope for, and I feel so blessed to have a friend like you. Thank you for being you.

To Italy, thank you for the trials that toughened me up. Thank you for sharing your beautiful country with me. Thank you for the alone time that allowed me to focus on me, and make me a stronger version of myself.

And to Spain, thank you for your sunshine that warmed my life and melted the ice off the version of myself I initially presented you with. Thank you for the beautiful people you presented me with that made my travels the sweetest they possibly could have been. Thank you for allowing me to comb your streets and beaches in search of myself, in search of life, and in search of love. You didn't disappoint.

Until the curtain opens on the next scene in 'My Citrus-Scented Life', I am out. Thank you to all who read along and shared my journey with me.

Lots of love to all, wherever you or I maybe,
Paige (del Mundo)

Final Scene from My Citrus-Scented Life

The next morning things are different than they have been every other morning. I get up at 10AM, and Saber has already left to pick up items for his shop. I don't go for a run. I pack and clean up. Then shower, and then go looking for a final cup of cafe con leche at Jonata's.

Its almost 11:15AM, and Jonata's is not open. Strange. I go to Saber's shop, and its not open as well. Antonio's shop across the street is closed as is Jesus's when I wander down the street. Where is everybody?

I needed to leave at 2PM for my flight, so I had time.

I return to the house to make sure all I have to do is grab my bag and jet when the taxi arrives.

And as I exit the apartment again, Jonata is right behind me going to open the shop. He tells me "10 minutes" and I go around to see Saber just as he is pulling up on his bike, loaded down with goods for the shop.

I help him unload and then head to Jonata's for a coffee and a bite to eat before my flight. I write a little, but more or less go through a mental checklist to make sure I have not forgotten anything.

Saber apprears around the corner, and reminds me to make a copy of my photos and to burn him my music mixes. I tell him it won't take long and to wait, and 5 minutes laters he heads back to the shop with two pendrives. One with music. One with photos.

I just sit, taking it all in, and I am glad to have this hour to myself to mentally prepare for my journey back. I feel strong, yet exhausted from living life so intensely. I feel honest, and I feel good. The mental chaos I once knew has gone away, leaving me clear headed, calm and happy.

The time is now 1:30PM and I need to head to Saber's shop to make sure he has arranged a taxi, and to tell him goodbye. I head up the street and around the corner and at the entrance to his shop I couldn't help but getting a little choked up. Seeing his crazy hair in the mirror at the store's entrance desperately trying to figure out something on his computer. When he sees me, he's like "hey, this music won't play!"

I round the desk, as the lump builds in my throat, and become very intent on getting the music to play on his machine. It doesn't take long, and a minute later Madeline Peyroux's "You're Gonna Make me Miss You When You Go" is blaring in the shop. Its a random selection, but it could not have been more perfect.

Saber sees the tears in my eyes and I think of all the things I have done that have shocked him, this shocked him the most.

"Hey, you don't cry! You're a tough girl remember?"

He gives me the biggest hug, kisses my forehead and tells me to go wash my face and he will call a cab.

When I return freshfaced, but wearing sunglasses, just in case. He tells me to go tell Jonata goodbye, and I tell him I can't. I can only do one goodbye, and I saved it for him. He shakes his head again, just as the cab pulls up out front.

My bags go in the back, the door opens and I start to get in, and Saber grabs my arm and say in his crazy accent. "When you get to New York, you call me whenever you need anything. Your computer breaks, you call me. Your phone is stolen, you call me (I wasn't sure how that was going to work, but okay). You are sad, you call me. I am good at dealing with your problems, and it was a pleasure dealing with your problems here. You'll come back, okay?"

Yes, Saber, I will be back. Most definitely, I will be back.

And with that, the cab pulled away, rambling down the cobbled streets, past the store fronts and cafes that had come to feel like my home. Into the grand avenue and heading to the airport.

Time is a Tickin'

When Nacho pulled up on his motorbike around 8PM he finds me with my head in my hands thinking about tomorrow's flight. Do I have everything I need? Did I leave anything at Miguel's? Saber's? Where is my passport? Etc. Etc.

I leave in less than 24 hours. Its nuts.

Saber and Salima come around the corner, and join us at the same table I have set at everyday for the past two weeks. We order drinks, and Salima starts talkng about modeling in New York. Salima is the the girl from a few days ago with the crazy marriage situation, so while I support anyone following their dreams wherever they take them, I did not really understand how Salima thought she was coming to New York. But given I was leaving tomorrow, I was happy to have someone else's problems to discuss.

Nacho left on the bike, and then Saber needed to run Salima to the bus station so she could get home, leaving me to sit for a few minutes at the cafe to admire this view of Sevilla one more time.

When Saber returns we are taking the night by foot vs. bike. Walking around the neighborhood and then landing at Cafe Giralda, again. This was definitely our spot, and I found it appropriate given that the first night I was in Sevilla, I dined here as well and sat in the exact same chair at the very same table. Things do always seem to come full-circle.

The cathedral is fully lit and provides the perfect back-drop to our dinner.

We order little, as neither of us are that hungry. We are tired, and not really wanting to talk about flights and post-Spain plans.

From dinner we go to the bar around the corner from Saber's and have a few "copas" before calling it a night. Its 2:45AM. One of the earliest times we have ever gone home.


Before taking a final siesta in this sun-drenched country, I ran a few errands picking up a few "must-haves" before my flight tomorrow afternoon. I wander back over the Triana bridge, watching the shadows of people passing on the river below. And I wonder what exactly it is about Sevilla that has a hold on me. Its absolutely stunning, that is for sure. But so is Paris. So is Madrid. So is Buenas Aires. And beauty is only skin deep -- my time in Italy more than proved that.

The weather in Sevilal is terrific, if you like hot. In the three weeks I spent here, there had been 2 cloudy days and 5 raindrops. The rest was bright blue and super sunny. The cost of living was definitely a plus. But the one word that kept resonating with me as I wandered back to Barrio de Santa Cruz is "authentic". Sevilla is authentically beautiful. You see this in the architecture, the way of life, and the people.

People in this lovely part of the world live through their hearts, not their heads. This is seen in the close family ties. The way men treat women with honesty and sweetness. The way people make their money. The way the whole neighborhood turns out for a funeral. The way Feria lasts til 6AM every night because spending time with close friends is important and enduring. The way the people laugh. The way the people smile. The way people are.

People here know how to just "be". They are not always worrying about making a ton of money through stressful jobs and high-power careers. They work so they can live. They do their jobs well, and then they play. They take siestas because they are tired. They eat because they are hungry. Here, there is not an obsession with food and dieting like in America. Everyone here is not trying to be a size 2. Their excercise comes in the form of walking or biking. Few people here have actually been on a treadmill, as when they run or walk they prefer to be going somewhere.

Here is an authentic existence. And my days here taught me that the authentic part of me is the best part of me. That the authentic life is the best life. And finding authenticity is others is the true treat of knowing people.

Sevilla, thank you. Thank you for giving me back 'me". Thank you for making me more than what I was when I first exited the train, oh so long ago. Thank you for teaching me more about how I want to be, and how I want to live. Thank you, sweet city, thank you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

You're Going to Make Me Lonesome When You Go

Waking up on Monday morning, my mind is in overdrive. I find myself wanting to take a mental snapshot of everything. From the views on my morning run, to the entrance to Saber's shop, to walking into Jonata's and seeing Jesus and Antonio in el Barrio. Its crazy. How did so much time pass? How did the end of May arrive so soon?

I know I am acting a little off. And I am. Tomorrow is happening too soon.

Despite the mental retardedness of his house guest, Saber is cool as a cucumber. He goes to work like normal, gives me the keys when I finish running, and asks that we have lunch together. As if this wasn't a given!

I can't be bothered with writing on this super-hot day. I sit and watch the people pass by. People I have seen countless times by now. Some I say hello to. Some I just smile. Some I watch with wonder.

How precious my days have been here. Its like always being lost in the happiest of daydreams.

Joseph is now speaking to me without fear of Saber's wrath, so we chat about my return to the US. We share a beverage while I wait on Saber to appear around the corner, and when he does, Saber orders a cerveza and joins us.

Around 3:30PM we set off for lunch. There is a heaviness in the air that is not caused by the 35 degree celcius temps.

We go in Las Teresas and order tapas. While we wait, Saber is asking me about New York, my apartment, what I will do when I get there, etc. etc. He can tell I am trying to fill the conversation with meaningless chatter as I don't want to talk about leaving. So he does the next best thing, and says, "You'll be back. I know it."

I will always remember that brief conversation with fondness, as I realized that short statement was what made Saber different than other relationships I had known. We never talked about whether or not we missed each other when I would go to Italy or Rota. Our conversations were always about moving forward. They were about focusing on the positive. They were not about dwelling in the past. About sadness, or missing someone. He could have simply asked if I would miss him, and that would have been about his ego. But no, he chose to focus on where I wanted to be. He is such a selfless person.

I am not as much. As when I had the chance I thanked him for putting up with me and sharing his home and his life with me. He just looked at me with those wise eyes and said, "Well, you know, you can always change your ticket... I could put up with you for a few more days."

Don't tempt me, Senor Fakih. This is one flight I know I must be on.

Time is short, and the road is long.

Returning to Sevilla brought with it a feeling of sadness. This was my last time on the Andalucia Express for now. This was my last time rambling through the Spanish countryside. This was my last time watching Saber think he could get my bag on his motorbike.

I felt a sense of impending doom when I left the bus. When I saw Saber sitting with the two helmets at the station, lost in thought, I wanted to hide behind one of the pilars and just watch him. Unfortunately, he spotted me just as this idea struck. As our eyes met, there was an edge to the way we looked at each other. Time apart had only brought a sense of reality, I was leaving in two days. 48 hours. While neither of us could tell you what was going on between us, the reality was it would soon be over. Spain is 6 hours away -- timewise and plane time -- its amazing how far that can be.

Saber handed me a helmet, and took my bag. We mounted the bike, and we were off and bound for el barrio. We have said little. Its crazy how two months ago we were strangers, and now I could read him like a book.

We parked the bike on the cobbled streets, and toss my bag in the apartment. Nacho is waiting on Saber at Las Columnas. When Nacho sees me, he can only shake his head. This crazy American, she is never going to leave!

We have a drink at the tables outside, and then move to another bar around the corner where we meet Carlos and Assun. We go to Cafe Giralda for dinner, and eat while standing at the bar.

We move to another place, all the while I feel the sands drip from the hourglass...slowly, steadily, painfully.

I feel my mind taking over my body as my heart goes in search of solace. I don't want to go. Not now. Not ever. I fought so hard to be here, and yet I know I must return to New York, even if its just to tidy up so I can come back.

But when I come back, it will be different. And everyone involved knows that. What those differences will be, are not yet known. And its that unknown that makes us cling to the present, for this might be all we have left...or it might be the beginning. But the truth is, no one knows. And its the not-knowing that makes these moments the hardest.

A Slice of Life

Eline and I always have the best time together. Much of that time revolves around eating and drinking, and for my last weekend in Rota we were all about doing both.

After our seafood feast we had gelato, and then went home, put Miguel to bed, and got down to some serious gab. There is just so much you can tell a girlfriend's boyfriend about his friend that you are seeing, you know?

With a full bottle of rioja, we began an afternoon of storytime, which really did last all afternoon and into the early evening. I told her about my attempt to Feng Shui Saber's apartment. I told her about the adorable conversations he and I had shared. I told her about him ordering my flamenco jacket and how he always was taking care of me. I told her all the things that had been left out earlier, and I told her that while I did not know exactly how I felt about Saber, I did feel good, and feeling good in a relationship is a feeling that had eluded me way too often.

As the sun began to set we gathered up our gear to head to the beach. How we talk for hours on end, I just don't know...

When we got back, Miguel was awake, and we made our regular movie-watching cheese and apple tray, and enjoyed more wine.

We set in for a night of Gossip Girl and more easy conversation. And then the next day we did the EXACT same thing, except we ate Mexican for lunch instead of seafood.

It cracks me up how predictable life is here, but oh, how delicious!

Me & My Microwave are Moving to Spain!

The roadtrip from Sevilla to Rota was fairly uneventful. Although, I was quite proud of myself for figuring out which bus I was to take with no help from anyone. Saber had wanted to come with me to the station, but I politely declined, telling him I was a 'big girl' and could figure it out myself.

I think he is amused by me. He is not really sure what to make of this American that has more or less moved into his apartment, taught him about Feng Shui, and likes to do everything on her own. I catch him shaking his head at me with a smile more often these days, and when Nacho asks him in Spanish (as he doesn't think I understand) about me, Saber has this look that is half-adoring, half-bewildered that comes over his face and responds, "no lo so". He doesn't know.

As the bus made its way through the Spanish countryside, I fall into a deeper state of love with this country. From the aqua skies, the golden fields, the medieval towns perched high on the hills, the bulls grazing in the afternoon sun... I am in love more than any girl can possibly be. I savor these moments, as I know that in a week these views will be few and far between.

When we arrive in Rota, I disembark and look for Eline & Miguel. They are not to be found. I don't have their phone numbers. But I know they are coming. I wait without worry at the gate to the station, and two minutes later I see their SUV pulling up.

There was something odd about seeing them again, and I think for them too. For almost two months we had known each other, and were now woven into the fabric of each others' lives. I wasn't a temporary passenger in their vehicle anymore. I wasn't a hitch-hiker in need of a place to stay. I was a friend who had come to see them -- leaving the place I loved so that I could be with them, because they are my friends, and that is what friends do.

It was 3PM and I was starving, as were they. We went to a seafood place that we had visited on the first night I was with them. As we parked and got out of the car, Miguel gave me a hug as did Eline. I could tell they were waiting on something as we went into the restaurant. Everyone wanted to know what was going on with Saber.

So I told them the stories of the past several I had not planned to stay all week, and yet I I loved Sevilla more than I did when I left for Italy a week Saber calls me his "hunny" and his "queens" and "mi nina gordita" and the last I was not so fond Saber checks on me at the cafe when he think I am not paying attention, but I see him out of the corner of eye and I don't look up so he doesn't know I see him and so he will keep doing this as I secretly adore it...about the way I spend every day the same way and I LOVE it...about the drama with Joseph...about meeting the neighbors and Saber's Moroccan friends...about staying out until 4AM every night... about waking up and running, and then doing practically nothing all day. And more than anything, loving life. Loving my life.

Miguel tells me I look different. That I look like a different person, and Eline agrees. Finally on this journey of a thousand steps, I had learned to relax, I had learned to rest, I had learned to be happy and worry about little else.

We order wine and large plates, and get ready for a feast.

The conversation turns to next steps when I go back on Tuesday. And I don't really know what they are, and I am not really worried. With five days left, the last thing I want to think about is going back to America.

We talk about the reality of my move to Spain. Where I hoped to live, how I planned to live, would Saber be involved and if so, how much... Eline wanted to know what would happen if I just stayed, what I really needed to do in New York.

And I guess I hadn't really thought about it before. There was my job, that I had committed to returning too. There was my family that I really wanted to see. There were a few people in New York that I still cared about and was looking forward to seeing as well. There was the apartment I had committed to. There was my PO Box that I needed to check. And there was my storage unit that held all my clothes, and a microwave.

Miguel, who has one of those subtle hilarious personalities, looked at me seriously, and said, "Yes Paige, I agree. You must go back for the microwave."

It made me laugh, but there was an element of truth that he had hit on. There was very little I was looking forward to in returning to New York. It was more about shoulds, than wants. It was about cleaning up the remaining bits of the mess I had made when I left. Sorting what was left of my Manhattan life. Figuring the keepers from the tossers, and packing up what was left and getting back to where I wanted to be... for me.

The afternoon slipped away like they all do in Spain. Lots of wine, lots of laughter, lots of genuine happy smiles. Lots of honest, if somewhat silly, conversation. Lots of truth and ultimately, lots of GOOD times.

As we wandered to the beach and then wandered home again, I was once again foot-loose and fancy-free, and truly the happiest girl on the block. I just love Spain, and the way I feel here, lets me know that she loves me back.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Paige del Mundo

On Friday morning, I was up with the alarm and I am running through the streets of Sevilla a bit earlier than usual. I was heading to the beach for a final weekend with Eline, and the goal was to be on a 1PM bus, freshly showered and caffeinated and having said goodbye to Saber...for the weekend.

When my morning routine was over I met Saber at the shop to get directions to the bus station. I think he did not really think I was going, as when I walked into his shop with my weekender tote, he looked a bit puzzled and he said, "You're leaving me? Will you miss me a little?" He wanted to have coffee at Jonata's before I made my way to the station, so he had Antonio (neighboring shop owner) watch his store while he joined me at the cafe.

I sat down at our usual table and Saber went in to get our twin cafe con leche. While I was waiting a tourist stopped and asked for directions and when I spoke with an American accent he asked where I was from. "New York" I told him. He was from Oklahoma.

As they walked away, Saber was standing there with our coffees and was shaking his head at me.
"YOU are NOT from New York," he said. "Why do you tell people that?"

"Well, where do you think I am from?", I ask. "I grew up in Georgia, I spent time in Florida, I lived in Atlanta and have been in NYC for the past 7 years."

He got that "Saber look" and he said, "When people ask you where you are from, you tell them you are from the world. People like you are not from New York. You are Paige, Paige of the world. Its much better, don't you think?"

Why yes, Saber. I absolutely do.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lost in Translation

When I get up from my siesta, Saber had already returned to work so I showerd and head to the cafe. The street is busier than usual, and Jonata's is hopping! Typically at this hour, I am the only one seated at the four tables lining the street, but not tonight. Three of four tables are full, and extra chairs have been pulled outside to accomodate the crowd. My table is open and I sit down and begin downloading my thoughts.

As I write, one of the guys at the table in front of me comes over 'to chat', which was annoying. I wanted to be alone. I made it obvious I wasn't interested in chatting and went back to what I was doing. Just then I got a message from Saber, "Como estas my nina?" I tell him I am fine but these guys are hitting on me.

In 5 seconds from the moment I pressed send, I see Saber rounding the corner, with a no nonsense strut. I look up and ask him what's wrong, and he is all flustered "Are you okay?" "Que pasa?!"

I didn't understand what he was referring to, and told him I am fine. He looked at me with a puzzled look, and asked where I had been hit.

Ah. 'Hitting on'. Not hit.

A little language lesson for Saber, and he shakes his head. Tells me I am nothing but trouble (with a grin) and heads back to the shop to close up.