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Mint tea, snakes and monkeys

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Mint tea, snakes and monkeys

Marrakech, Morocco: Team Kezmoh goes to Morocco Part 1

Morocco, so close to the Iberian peninsula…  Team Kezmoh knew we couldn’t spend a year in Spain without visiting Africa. We could have traveled across the Strait of Gibraltar by ferry but we wanted to visit deeper into the country. We choose Marrakech, Morocco’s jewel of the south.  Al Magrib, the Arabic name for Morocco, means “far west” or “where the sun sets”. When Arabs first arrived in Morocco it is said that they believed that they had reached the westernmost point in the world.  And so, we travelled south to the land where the sun sets…

Marrakech was founded over 1000 years ago in 1062.  In the 12th century red walls were constructed to fortify and protect the city.

Marrakech from google images

Marrakech from google images

Team Kezmoh started the day at 3:30 am to make our flight from Sevilla to Marrakech.  Sky and Savannah jumped out of bed, excited to begin the next chapter of our adventure. We travelled during their spring break from school. We knew that we would miss Semana Santa, (Holy Week or Easter Week) so we planned a couple of extra days in Sevilla on the way home from Africa.

First steps in Africa!

First steps in Africa!

We easily found a taxi outside of the airport and we arrived after a quick 10 minute drive. Luckily we had the phone number for our hotel and our driver called ahead for directions. When we arrived he pointed down a narrow alleyway and said in French, “I think your hotel is that way…” A moment before we set off in the wrong direction, Youseff, our host at Riad Jardin Secret appeared. He had thankfully come out to meet us. He greeted us warmly and unlocked a small unmarked door in the rampart (wall around the city).  He led us down a tiny passageway to the entrance of our riad. I was very relieved to see the sign outside the unassuming door. The door gave no hint of what we would find inside.IMG_9554

 

Just arrived!

Just arrived!

Youseff led us into the cool tranquility past an indoor garden and sat us down in a beautiful parlor. He hurried back with sweet, hot mint tea and gorgeous pastries.

Youseff, taking good care of us

Youseff, taking good care of us

Sky and Savannah enjoying some mint tea.

Sky and Savannah enjoying some mint tea.

Delicious Moroccan Pastries at Riad Jardin Secret

Delicious Moroccan Pastries at Riad Jardin Secret

We learned that a riad is a traditional Moroccan house or palace with an interior courtyard or garden. There is generally a water feature in the central courtyard that acts a natural air conditioner.

Sky and Savvy in the courtyard

Sky and Savvy in the courtyard

Warm air entering the riad is cooled by channeling it over the water. The heat rises and leaves via the open air courtyard.  We noticed a significant temperature drop as soon as we entered the riad.   Ryad is the Arabic word for garden so technically our riad was called “Garden Secret Garden”.  Riad Jardin Secret is a very typical, traditional Moroccan palace.  It was built in the 19th century and has been beautifully restored.   It was designed to protect the privacy of the family who would have lived there. There are no exterior windows to the city. All of the windows face to inner gardens and courtyards.  This design principle also supports the Islamic tradition of privacy for women.  The inner walls are constructed of a shiny tadelakt plaster. Most of the courtyard walls are adorned with colorful zellige tiles.

After a rest in our room we checked out one of the lovely lounge areas around the courtyard. Notice the traditional z tiles

One of the lovely lounge areas around the courtyard. Notice the traditional zellige tiles and intricate carvings.

There are 8 rooms, each opulently decorated. We were told that Jardin Secret was once the home to an aristocratic family who also owned the home next door.  One wife would have lived here with her children while the other wife would have lived next door.  (Polygamy is now illegal in Morocco).

We relaxed and sipped our tea until Youseff led us to our room.  We felt like royalty when we entered.   Our quarters were spacious with plenty of room to relax.  The windows had colored glass and views of the courtyard and when opened allowed the peaceful sounds of the fountain to relax us.  SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESOur bathroom was large with a tub that was definitely not for those lacking in agility. There was a thigh high mosaic wall to climb over to enjoy an open air shower.

Beautiful tile tub/shower

 

Youseff left us to rest.

So tired!  Notice the shiny plaster on the walls. This is called Tedelakt plaster which is created using lime plaster that is treated with a natural soap.

So tired!
Notice the shiny plaster on the walls. This is called Tadelakt plaster which is created using lime plaster that is treated with a natural soap.

The view from my bed

The view from my bed

Sky and Savannah played on their new rubberband looms creating bracelets and little animals (thanks Dave!). We enjoyed the cool peaceful tranquility until our stomachs reminded us that we needed to go out. Youseff walked through a short maze of passageways to a busier road deeper in the medina. The medina is the area within the rampart walls, it is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets with thick walled interlocked homes. This labyrinth was supposedly designed to confuse invaders.  We learned that it also functions to confuse modern day tourists.  The narrow passages were quite obviously created for pedestrian and animal traffic but today they are a dangerous mess of foot, donkey and scooter mayhem. We had to be constantly alert as scooters flew by the winding, tight roads.

In the Medina

In the Medina

Youseff pointed out small landmarks so that we could find our way home.  He launched us in the direction of good eats and disappeared.  We wandered down the road, conscious that we looked conspicuously foreign.  Although we were careful to dress respectfully the first day (the picture above is from later in the trip), we realized that short of wearing headscarves there wasn’t much that would help us blend in.

We stumbled upon a lovely restaurant called Kremm Café.

The Kremm Café

The Kremm Café

After months in Spain we were excited to try some Moroccan food.  The typical Moroccan dish is a tagine, an earthenware pot which is traditionally heated over hot coals.  All of the ingredients are placed in the dish and are cooked slowly over many hours.  Mike and Savannah discovered what would be their favorite food right away, lemon chicken tagine.  The chicken, lemons, olives, onions, oil and spices are placed in the middle of the pot and vegetables are arranged in a pyramid over the meat.  Sky and I enjoyed many vegetable tagines which are the same design minus the meat.  Cous cous is offered as a side dish with the juices from the tagine poured over it for flavor.

We were not brave enough to eat from one of the street vendors but it did smell good.

We were not brave enough to eat from one of the street vendors but it did smell good. This picture is from Wikipedia.

Marrakech is teaming with tourists. We felt foreign but we had plenty of company. We felt a bit more comfortable amongst the European tourists who were dressed for the weather in sundresses and tank tops. We soon gave up on wearing long pants and long sleeves.

After lunch we set out to discover the famous Djemaa el-Fna square. This is a huge open air market. Djemaa el-Fna is both a functional marketplace where the locals come to shop and a major tourist trap. The main entrance is lined with horse drawn carriages and men with crazy hats trying to lure visitors on a tour around the medina.  The idea of the big square was more exotic than the reality.  “Henna” artists swarmed us as we approached . One young man grabbed Sky’s arm and started painting a “free sample” he said.

Beware of black Henna, Sky still has a rash!

Beware of black Henna, Sky still has a rash!

When he was done with a quick doodle he demanded 100 dirhams, (which he did not get).  It turned out that her henna tattoo was not henna at all but an irritating black ink. Weeks later, Sky still has a rash. Next up were the snake charmers who were friendly and welcoming at first.  One man draped a harmless, lethargic, green snake around our necks, “for luck”.  IMG_9248 IMG_9246

 

He led Mike over to his tent where he pulled a viper out of a basket. He held it over Mike’s shoulder for a picture. When I looked at the picture later I noticed that it was flat and quite possibly dead. IMG_9253We took pictures knowing that we would be expected to pay him.  I offered him 20 dirhams (about 3$) which I thought was fair for a couple of photos. His demeanor changed quickly and suddenly he was angry demanding 200 dirhams (23$). In the end I gave him a little more and we walked away. Whew, not the magical experience I had hoped we would find.  There were dried-out lizards and turtles in cages baking in the sun. Unhappy monkeys in chains were led around by evil looking handlers.

As soon as we got close to the monkeys I felt bad that we were encouraging this practice. The monkeys looked at us with sad, intelligent eyes.

As soon as we got close to the monkeys I felt bad that we were encouraging this practice by being there at all. The monkeys looked at us with sad, intelligent eyes.

It was a circus of unkind, seedy performers exploiting the animals and tourists alike.  They began with toothy smiles but were quick to change from friendly to demanding in a blink of an eye.

We did enjoy the fresh squeezed orange juice from one of the many juice vendors.

Don't forget to come back to stand 27!

Don’t forget to come back to stand 27!

Eventually we retreated to a rooftop cafe to observe the chaos below. Djemaa el-Fna is today at best a flee market or carnival, at worst a lure to see how much money they can bleed from the tourists for a few pictures and trinkets.

Long ago it was a very different place. Djemaa means “meeting place” or “congregational mosque”. Fna or Fina can mean either “death”, “end” or “courtyard”. So Djemaa el-Fna either means Mosque with a courtyard or Meeting place of death. There is a famous Mosque in front of the square called the Koutoubia Mosque but I also found references to the ancient practice where severed heads of criminals and sinners were displayed in the big square so either definition may be correct.  No pictures of that!

Sky and Mike in front of the m

Sky and Mike in front of the Koutoubia Mosque

The Koutoubia Mosque is the largest mosque in Marrakech and the towering minaret (picture above) built around 1150 is the oldest of the 3 great Almohad minarets around the world.   The others being the Hassan Tower in Rabat and the Giralda in Sevilla.

Here is my dad, on our trip to Sevilla with the famous, Christian-ified minaret behind him

Here is my dad, on our trip to Sevilla with the famous, Giralda, the Christian-ified minaret, behind him

And another, sorry I couldn't resist I have so many pictures of Sevilla. Note my Dad in the lower right hand corner!

And another, sorry I couldn’t resist because I have so many pictures of Sevilla. Note my Dad in the lower right hand corner!

Interestingly the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque is topped by 3 golden orbs.

3 golden orbs. No, I didn't get that close. Credit goes to Wikipedia

3 golden orbs. No, I didn’t get that close. Credit goes to Wikipedia

There are many legends regarding the orbs.  One of which is that they were made from the melted jewelry of Yaqoub al Mansour’s wife in penance for eating either 3 grapes or for eating during 3 days or 3 hours (depends on what you read) of the Ramadan fast. We couldn’t actually enter the mosque as we were quite obviously not muslim.

After enjoying our break from the chaos in the square on the terrace with a light dinner (well, quite light, as it was very bad). We ventured into the souks, the markets of the medina.  Part of the experience in the medina, it is said, is to get lost in the souks. Breathe in the smells, taste the food, buy some stuff that you never knew you needed. We dove in, visiting various shops. I bought some shoes and souvenirs.

Sky bought some sandals from this nice man who was happy to pose for me.

Sky bought some sandals from this nice man who showed us how he made them.

Who knew I needed blue slippers!

Who knew I needed blue slippers!

We could see the minaret and initially using that as a reference we thought that we could just walk in one direction and end up at the rampart wall and then walk until we came to our riad.  Silly plan.  The sun soon set and any chance of navigating using the minaret dissolved as everything above the walls of the labyrinth faded with the last light of the day.  Nevertheless, I was enjoying the exotic sights and smells. There were tables piled high with dates, apricots, mint and herbs. Colorful stores lined the streets filled with leather shoes, scarves and pottery. IMG_9312There were carts with baskets of aromatic spices (would have been more appealing without the many flies). Vendors called to us as we walked inviting us to sample their foods or try on traditional flowing robes.  The colors were intoxicating. I was fully enjoying the experience but as it grew darker and we tried to orient ourselves I became a bit nervous.  Walking in one direction was actually impossible as every road twisted and turned almost imperceptibly until we were not sure which direction we were going. Deeper into the medina the shops became less touristy and the people more local. I had read that a compass would have been useful, I later remembered that my iPhone had a compass but I didn’t think of it at the time. The girls began to worry that their parents were lost and Savvy started to cry. Despite the dark alleyways, I never really felt unsafe. There were children playing around every corner and friendly locals stopped to offer directions.  Just take the second left and then you will be on the correct street… Finally we stopped at a newsstand and the man directed us to a teenaged boy who offered to lead us home. I read that this is what everyone ends up doing when lost in the medina and since a taxi is not possible we followed the boy deeper into the tangle of passages. Soon we recognized a shop where we had bought ice cream earlier in the day and I paid the boy 100 dirhams (12$) which is what my tour book recommended.  We were so relieved to be welcomed home by Youseff. He made us tea and by midnight we were asleep only 18 hours after we had left Spain! As I was tucking the girls into bed they asked how many days we had been in Morocco. I answered just one day but it already felt like 2 or 3.

Stay tuned for Morocco part 2… Please send comments! I love to know who is reading this!

 

 

A Different Kind of Adventure…

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I was all ready to hit publish on this post and Mike, who thankfully is my editor said that it was boring and it needed more if I wanted to expand my audience.  “More what?” I asked. “Well you could start with some gross pictures!”  Read on…

I was a little scared

I was a little scared…

For the past 3 months I have been watching a ganglion cyst on my left wrist grow. As a gynecologist the wrist is pretty far from my specialty but I recognized the cyst and knew it was nothing dangerous. Nevertheless, a growth on the body is a bit disconcerting. It started the size of a small pea on my inner wrist and grew into a large lump that got in the way of my watch. It also hurt.

A Ganglion Cyst that looks just like mine (from google images) Stupidly I didn't think of taking a picture of mine until it was gone!

A Ganglion Cyst that looks just like mine (from google images) I didn’t think of taking a picture of mine until it was gone!

I had initially intended to just leave it alone until we got back to California but in the end it became too bothersome to ignore. As I moaned and groaned more and more Mike finally said, “Do you want me to be your doctor or do you want me to just continue to be an empathetic husband?” I finally agreed that if he could come up with a solution I would agree to be a compliant patient.

UnknownA ganglion cyst is a cyst of the tendon of the hand or foot. They are relatively common and when I showed it to 2 running friends in Spain they both told me that they each had also had one but in both cases the cysts had eventually gone away spontaneously. Doctors refer to ganglion cysts jokingly as “Bible cysts”. Years ago people would just smack them with the biggest book that they had around. Presumably they also said a little prayer and wham, the cyst was history. Mike had been offering to whack my cyst for months. We do have private medical insurance here so I could go to a Spanish doctor but I was willing to let Dr. Mike come up with a plan first. Like most patients of the 21st century we looked to Google for our ideas. First we found a hysterical website called “imperfectlyhealthy.com” that recommends that one eat red clay to dissolve the cysts.  No joke, I cut and pasted this from their website!

Is there a refund / guarantee if my cyst does not dissolve?
The clay is beautiful for all that it does for the body – and we are always hopeful that you will have the same results as many others – and be able to avoid surgery.  We are unable to refund open containers and there is no guarantee your ganglion cyst will dissolve. 

Red clay

Red clay. Encyclopedias are beautiful too!

We then found one guy who cured himself with an Ace Bandage and an eraser (or a “rubber” as our English friends say).

Bandage and an eraser

Bandage and an eraser

He placed an eraser (roughly the size of the cyst) over the cyst and then wrapped an Ace Bandage around his wrist. He was able to sleep with this contraption on his wrist and voila, in the morning his cyst was gone.  I wasn’t interested in eating any beautiful red clay so I borrowed an eraser from the girls and bought a wrist wrap from the local farmacia. Last night I placed the eraser over my growth and wrapped it as tightly as I could. I am not sure what the guy on the internet drugged himself with, but an eraser pressing on a tender cyst is hard to ignore.  I probably tolerated it for an hour before I took it off. In the morning Mike said he was disappointed that I couldn’t be more compliant and I agreed to move to plan B.  

We also read that we could aspirate my cyst…

ouch!

ouch!

Surgery, of course was also an option.

YIkes!

Yikes! Mike said gross pictures are popular…

...

eww! Are surgeons allowed to say that?  Yes, if they are on a year long vacation!

eww! Are surgeons allowed to say that? Yes, if they are on a year long vacation!

So what if Mike had never operated on the wrist before and we didn’t have a scalpel? We did have some non-sterile stuff and we could  buy some betadine and steri strips!

The Bible is looking better and better!

How hard could it be?                                       The Bible was looking better and better!

 I pressed on my bump all day hoping that I could just make it disappear with some gentle pressure but I only managed to make it more sore. By evening I was ready to be done.  Strangely, our apartment came with a set of Spanish Encyclopedias but no Bible. Mike selected “N” which was good sized.

Bye-bye cyst!

Bye-bye cyst!

We bent my wrist over the edge of an armchair. Savvy held my fingers down and I looked away. One quick smack and wow! It deflated. I wrapped it back in the Ace Bandage and as I type this blog it seems to be gone.  Thanks to my dear husband, the gynecologist with an encyclopedia, I am now cyst free.

And now since I paid to upgrade my blog to include videos here is a random Savvy video for your entertainment!

Team Kezmoh meets Los Tres Reyes Magos

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Los tres Reyes Magos on top of Alhama's castle wall

Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Wise Men) on top of Alhama’s castle wall

IMG_7128

Christmas lights in Alhama. See the Christmas tree in the background?

We returned from our holiday travels to Paris and London just in time to join in the Spanish Christmas fun.  Lucky for us Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are celebrated with family and are special, but the difference in Spanish Christmas is that the bigger celebration occurs on El Día de Los Tres Reyes. The festivities begin on the evening of January 5th with the Cabalgata de Reyes. The cabalgata in Alhama de Granada is a parade that consists of 3 floats, one for each rey (king).  In Alhama the Jameños (slang for locals in Alhama) have the tradition that each year the Reyes are chosen from a specific profession.  This year they were all local carpinteros (carpenters) while last year they were peluqueros (hair stylists).

Getting ready to leave from city hall.

Getting ready to leave from city hall. Note the John Deere tractor pulling the float.

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The cabalgata begins in the Plaza de Cisne about a 1/2 block from our apartment.  The entire town comes out for the festivities.  We gathered with friends and neighbors to await the parade.  A large John Deere tractor pulled each of the gaudily decorated floats that were carrying Baltazar, Gaspar and Melchor.  I have read that in other parts of Spain the parade might have 30 floats.  In tiny Alhama 3 were enough. The Jameños follow the kings for the length of the parade route.  The floats were well patrolled by locals in orange vests who were careful to keep stray children away from the giant tractor wheels. Tragically, last year, in the larger neighboring city of Malaga a child was killed by one of the tractors.  With that memory fresh, everyone was very careful. IMG_7051 IMG_7038

The floats stopped at designated parks and plazas throughout our village. The kings throw loads of candy at the crowds. One mother joked that she was going to carry an inverted umbrella.  It would serve 2 purposes one to protect her from the barrage of candies and also to collect the candy.  Their majesties and their many assistants on board their carriages had strong arms and we were pelted with sweets.  Despite the bruises we enjoyed the candy! The parade symbolizes the coming of the 3 Wise Men to Bethlehem.  It is a special night analogous to our Christmas Eve as the 3 Reyes Magos will deliver gifts in the night.  However, in Spain they leave the gifts in shoes that are left by the window. On January 6, Epiphany the gifts are opened.IMG_7322

The cabalgata in Alhama wove through town finishing at the Pabillion, the local sports pavilion.  Nearly the entire population of Alhama’s families with children followed the Reyes to the pavilion for the gran finale, the “Espectáculo”. The espectáculo is a show that is put on by none other than Sky and Savannah’s rhythmic gymnastics team.  Their coach Patrice selects the theme and choreographs the show.  This year they performed Peter Pan. Sky and Savvy were cast as indians.

Savannah and Sky as Indians in the Peter Pan show.

Savannah and Sky as Indians in the Peter Pan show.

Extra bleachers were set up in the gym so that it would accommodate the crowd.  Every spot on the bleachers, seats and steps were filled and the rest of the audience stood in the back.  There were easily over 1000 people there! (Town of 6000- not much nightlife!)

Sky and Savvy performed with the other little Indians. Here is a short clip. See if you can find them!

The show was a delight with Patrice and the older gymnasts performing as fairies suspended from a giant ring in the middle of the gym.

Not the best picture. This is the older gymnasts doing ariel tricks suspended from a ring in the middle of the gym

Not the best picture. These are the older gymnasts doing aerial tricks suspended from a ring in the middle of the gym

After the “espectáculo” (I just love calling it that!) the mayor spoke and the 3 Reyes Magos reappeared to throw gifts to/at the crowd.

The kings throwing gifts into the crowd

The kings throwing gifts into the crowd

We caught some plastic scissors, a ball and 2 books.  We added this to our already huge stash of candy from the parade (which as I write, in March, still sits in a bag in the kitchen cabinet) .

Rey, Patrice (gymnastics coach, rey, rey, mayor, tinker bell.

Rey, Patrice (gymnastics coach), rey, rey, mayor, tinker bell.

While the crowd filed out we climbed down to the floor to congratulate the girls and take some photos.  I asked one of the kings to pose with the girls. His face was painted and he was in full king-garb so he surprised me when he said “No me conoces? (Don’t you recognize me?)”.  I looked closer and recognized his voice and realized that he was the same carpenter who had repaired our window and hung up Mike’s pull-up bar! “Ah, Miguel, eres tú!” He smiled, gave me the normal two beso greeting and gladly posed with the girls.

Sky, Miguel the carpenter, Savannah

Sky, Miguel the carpenter, Savannah

After the show we walked our little indians home to put their shoes under the Christmas tree.  In the morning we celebrated and opened the gifts that Los Tres Reyes Magos left for us.

January 6 is a Spanish holiday so all of the schools and shops are closed and families spend the day together much like Christmas day back home in the USA. Our adopted grandfather, Juan invited us to spend the afternoon with him to share the tradition of the Roscón de Reyes.  Juan lives next door with Elva who is his caretaker and companion.  He is the father of Manolo who owns our apartment. Elva is just lovely, she is from Paraguay and has been very dear to us this year. Juan and Elva greeted us like family with big hugs and kisses.

The tradition of the roscón was something completely new to us.  The roscón is a large 2 layer bunt cake filled with whipped cream. Most people order their roscón from the local bakery.  Hidden inside the cream layer are little wrapped treasures. There is always a king and an haba (bean). If you find the king in your piece then you get to wear the paper crown that comes with the cake and be king for the evening. If you find the bean then you will have to pay for the cake the next year.  Mike got the bean and jokingly pulled out some money but, of course they wouldn’t accept it.

Mike and the Haba (bean)

Mike and the Haba (bean)

Juan found the king and was delighted to wear the crown for the girls.

Juan gets the king and the crown!

Juan gets the king and the crown!

Sky and Savannah were thrilled to each find a little ceramic hippopotamus in their pieces.  I don’t think there is any significance to the hippos.

Mike with his bean, Sky and Savannah with their Christmas Hippos, Juan with his King and Elva

Mike with his bean, Sky and Savannah with their Christmas Hippos, Juan with his King and Elva

I am not a lover of cake but I found the roscón delicious. The filling was sweet and light while the cake was more of a sweet bread with dried fruits hidden inside.  I had 2 servings.IMG_7167

We thanked Juan and Elva for sharing their family tradition with us. They hugged and kissed us warmly and we went home to bed, our hearts and bellies warm with Spanish hospitality.

Team Kezmoh’s first injuries

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Adventure noun: 1. an exciting or unusual experience.  2. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.  

In the past couple of weeks for better or worse we are having an adventure.  A hazardous action of uncertain outcome. I should have looked up the definition of adventure before we left home!

The day the gymnastics gym in Granada opened, September 2, we eagerly set off to explore the possibility of joining their team.  Sky and Savvy packed their favorite leotards, excited to meet the new coaches and gymnasts.  We found the gym in Granada hours before they opened but we were anxious to just see where it was so we parked and walked in. It was in a sports center that is part of the Universidad de Granada.  We took note of the location so we would arrive back before the first practice was to begin.  We thought we would explore the area to see if we might find a location to live closer to the gym.  The road to Granada was mostly freeway but there is a treacherous section of winding road that we didn’t think we wanted to navigate at night several times a week.  Mike had studied google maps and knew that there was an area to the north of Granada that looked promising.  We drove into a little town called Alcafar that sits on the edge of a mountain.  It happens to be the presumed burial place of Frederico Garcia Lorca, the famous writer.  We ate at a hotel on the outskirts of town. It was Savvy’s best meal in Spain. She ordered “pechuga de ave” ,chicken breast with rice, and was very happy.  Sky on the other hand was upset by all of the hanging legs of jamon behind the bar.  Bad enough that the feet are still attached but they are partially carved showing the insides of the muscles.  After lunch we drove up toward the hills.  Alfacar is a more upscale town than Alhama and Mike pointed out that we might find a place with a dishwasher and a clothes dryer if we were to move here! Savannah spotted one of the many parks that are painted the colors of the Spanish flag.  Red and yellow exercise equipment spread out under pine trees inviting us to play.  The Spanish government, in an effort to interest the citizens in exercise, has placed one of these parks in every town that we have visited.  We haven’t seen anyone using any of the parks, however. Savvy had been wanting to try it out and in her excitement to get out of the car she somehow shut her finger in the door.  She shrieked, “I think I cut my finger off”. My stomach sank, I ran to the other side of the car. She was screaming and blood was pouring from her finger.  I was relieved to see that she still had 10 fingers.  The pointer finger on her right hand was badly smashed from the base of the nail.

Mike absolutely insisted that I post this picture.  My apologies if it bothers anyone!

Mike absolutely insisted that I post this picture. My apologies if it bothers anyone!

Sky spotted a water fountain and we rinsed it off. For lack of anything else to wrap it in I wrapped my sock around it and held pressure.  Savannah sobbed and I struggled to hold myself together.  It is such a different thing when the injured is your own child.  I can calmly do surgery on patients but there is so much more emotion attached when one of the people you love most in the world is hurt.  We got back in the car and drove to the main part of Alfacar. It was siesta time (2-5pm) so everything including the medical clinic was closed.  We found a pharmacy, again closed.  There was a note on the door of the pharmacy that said en caso de emergencia toque el timbre.  We rang the bell and Mike calmly explained into the intercom in Spanish what had happened.  The pharmacist was very kind and came right down to let us in.  She pulled together all of the supplies that we needed.  Savvy was still crying loudly.  The woman looked relieved when we told her that we were doctors and would try to take care of it ourselves.  She lead us to her restroom.  We would have used some lidocaine but that was not available so dear Savvy bit a balled up shirt and screamed into Mike’s chest while I cleaned and dressed her wound.  She kept saying, “why can’t we just go back in time?” I knew the feeling.  Once bandaged the pharmacist gave both girls cherry suckers and everyone felt a bit better.

Feel better Savvy!

Feel better Savvy!

We thought about just heading back to Alhama de Granada but Savvy agreed to check out the gymnastics gym after all.  We were all disappointed to find that the team wasn’t really gymnastics as we think of it. Our gymnastics that includes bars, beam, vault and floor is called gimnastica artistica.  This team is gimnastica acrobatica.  It is really just tumbling and tricks with parters on the floor, think Circ de Soleil. This was a disappointment for all of us.  Savvy’s hand was too painful to think of doing anything and Sky was feeling shy. The girls on the team were obviously very strong. They all wore little shorts over their leotards (not allowed back home at Technique). It was just too embarrassing for Sky to change into a leotard alone so we left.  On the positive side the coaches were very nice but also very serious about their sport. We told them we would come back when Savannah had recovered.  We drove home, all of us upset and stressed from the trip.

The next day we visited the school where by now the teachers were busily preparing for the new year to start. The school is modern and clean.  Painted flowers smiled from the walls at us.  We found the doors open and we were warmly greeted by Javier, the principal.  He was expecting us as I have been sending him e-mails all year.  Javier has a broad welcoming smile and a gentle demeanor.  He was dressed in his soccer outfit. He assured us that he is called Javier, just Javier.  We met Savannah’s teacher Conchi and Sky’s teacher Paco.  We also met the PE teacher, Rodrigo and the music teacher, Juan who both gave us each a kiss on each cheek.  Everyone goes by first names.  They laughed when I mentioned it.  “Los Americanos son tan formales!” 

Savannah will have 20 children in her class and Sky will have 10.  Neither teacher speaks any English although the school has a sign posted at the entry that says Centro Bilingue.  

We smiled after hearing that Sky’s teacher is called Paco. Her favorite doll when she was a toddler was called Paco, likely Adelina’s influence :). She loved Paco and carried him everywhere.  Must be a good omen!

Baby Sky and Paco

Baby Sky and Paco

After a tour from Javier we sat in his office and filled out all of the registration forms.   They were happy that we had brought all of the vaccination records and didn’t seem to mind that it was all in English.  The school feels very laid back and not stressful which was a big relief. After our visit the girls felt much more comfortable about the prospect of starting school the following week.

La Feria

First ones at the Fair

First ones at the Fair

Before the school year starts each year Alhama has a 4 day feria to mark the end of summer.  During this time many stores and businesses are closed with signs on the doors that say, “Regressamos Lunes, estamos en la Feria” .  There are futbol and volleyball games and celebrations of all sorts.  There is a carnival each night. The first day we walked down to the fair grounds. Like carnivals everywhere it had a very seedy feel.  There were dirty men setting up dangerous looking rides.  I asked one what time the fair would start.  He said “when the people come”.  I asked when that might be. He grunted at me and replied around 11pm.  The girls were excited to return.  Our schedule here is so odd.  It is unheard of to eat dinner before 9 and most of the fair activities occur after midnight. Surely the businesses are closed during the day so that people can sleep!  Since school hasn’t started we have let Sky and Savvy have a very relaxed Spanish schedule.   We have been sleeping until 9 or 10 AM on the days that we can manage to get back to sleep after the convent bells ring at 8:30, 8:45 and 9:00 AM.  Bedtime is usually around midnight but we all planned to stay up later for the fair.   The girls dressed in jeans from Abercrombie and Justice, cool tops and jaunty hats.

Beautiful girls, off to the fair!

Beautiful girls, off to the fair!

We walked down the hill to the fair at 10 PM and were nearly the first people there.

Not many people here yet

Not many people here yet

We walked down from our house and were followed by a trickle of other carnival goers to the fairground.  The little girls were dressed in traditional frilly dresses and I noticed Sky and Savvy glanced down at their carefully selected outfits.  I assured them that the older kids would be wearing jeans, luckily I was right.

The first ride was a loud bumper car ride.  There were bright lights and loud music.  The man in the booth was hunched over the money, a dirty troll. He collected our 2.5 Euros each and gave us dirty plastic tokens.  The troll’s partner was a thin, jittery, filthy man. He leaped from car to car with a cigarette hanging from his mouth.  He arranged the children in the cars.  Mike watched us climb into the bumper cars.  There were no seat belts and I felt vulnerable as the other children pushed the gas pedal to the floor and plowed into us.  These were the fastest, least cushioned bumper cars I have ever been on and the ride went on and on.   After several jolting collisions, I pulled over to the side and hopped out. The girls finished the ride and were energized to check out the rest of the fair.

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There were several bounce houses, shrines to Sponge Bob and Bart Simpson.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI knew Savvy and Sky would have loved to practice their back handsprings, handstands and flips. Sky is a sweet sister and didn’t even mention going in the bounce houses because she knew her little sister’s finger was still really sore. We surveyed the rest of the rides. We decided that the rides were either for smaller children or looked too dangerous to consider.

Mike spotted a Churro and Chocolate stand.  We couldn’t pass that up .  The man at the stand was busily finishing off a plate of churros.  With a smile he explained that he had to make sure that they were good.  We ordered 3 churros and some chocolate (thick hot chocolate). He invited us to sit under his tent. We were the only ones there so we sat and waited while he prepared the fresh churros.  In a few minutes he walked over with an enormous spiral of fried dough. It was bigger than a pizza!  We thought it was a mistake. I said, no, no, just 3 churros.  He laughed and said, “Si, Churros para 3″! 

Savannah points with a bandaged finger, Donut/Churro heaven!

Savannah points with a bandaged finger, Donut/Churro heaven!

Mike and the girls were in donut heaven!  We poured sugar over the hot churro and submerged chunks in cups of thick molten chocolate.   Although it looked like “churros for 10” the 4 of us finished it off and licked our fingers.

Mike and the girls found a candy stand next. They each picked out a treat.  Mike choose a box of throwable “snap-caps”.  The box was full of tiny pieces of paper wrapped around gun powder and salt crystals.  He opened the box and delighted the girls by tossing a couple at their feet which made a loud snapping sound.  The 3 delinquents thought they had a trick from Fred and George Wesley’s joke shop.  Sky and Savannah each took a handful and ran around tossing them into little groups, startling people. Great family fun!

Before we headed back up the hill the girls wanted to hit the bumper cars one more time.  It was more crowded the second time and nearly every car was full.  Sky and Savannah looked a little scared in their separate cars.   The kids whizzed around banging into one another in their seat-belt-less cars.  I spotted Sky crying in her car, Team Kezmoh’s second (and hopefully last) injury. She had been hit very hard from behind and the back of her head hit the hard metal headrest.  I tried to yell at her to stay in her car.  I was too late. She looked both ways, jumped out of her car, and ran to the edge of the ride out of the traffic. Thankfully she wasn’t hit by one of the cars!  The skinny guy with the cigarette didn’t even look twice.  Disney would be horrified! Sky ran around the outside of the ride to us.  Savvy carefully steered her car to the edge and hopped out too.  They are very sweet when the other is hurt.  Sky felt well enough to walk/run home so I knew she was probably OK. I felt her head half way home and it had a golf ball sized goose egg.  She complained that her entire head hurt which worried me.  I started to feel really scared since we are an hour from Granada and there is really no medical care here in Alhama.  Mike and I did several neuro exams on her, iced her bump, gave her tylenol and put her to bed.  I checked on her several times in the night.  By morning she still had a headache but after some tylenol she didn’t mention it again.

At this point it’s been 3 weeks since the finger injury and we are still changing the dressing every 1-2 days.  Savannah just brought herself to look at it yesterday.  She is able to do handstands and play at the park but every once in awhile the tape comes loose and we have to hurry home to reapply a new dressing. We are curious to see when the nail will fall off.

Stay tuned for more Team Kezmoh adventures.  I’ll try to get another post out soon.  We are moving this week so we have been very busy.  More about that later!

Please feel free to comment or to e-mail me at Lkezmoh@gmail.com Miss you all!

The first 2 days of school by Sky

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The first day of school was amazing, completely spectacular! I had so much fun and made so many friends.  At first I was very nervous and didn’t want to get into the group of 6th graders.  When the bell rang and the principal came out to give a speech I was forced into the group as the crowd behind me moved forward to hear the speech.  After the speech all of the children ran to the second floor to see their new classrooms and meet their new teachers.  As the 6th graders filtered into the classroom and took their seats I nervously sat next to kind-looking girl in the back of the class.  Her name is Eva, pronounced like Ava.

Here I am feeling a bit nervous while Paco is talking.

Here I am feeling a bit nervous while Paco is talking.

Then the teacher, Paco, told us about what he would teach and how he would teach it.  After a long talk the bell rang again and all of the children ran outside to recreo (recess).  They served churros and chocolate milk to the children and the parents.  They were hot and fresh.

The Churro chef!

The Churro chef!

The 6th graders all knew each other and wanted to meet the new girl (me).  I met all of the 6th graders, there are 4 boys and 6 girls including me.  All of the girls were super sweet and incredibly welcoming.  The boys were crazy, just like every other school.  Not only did I meet the 6th graders, but I also met and made friends with some 5th graders.  At least there are more girls than boys in my class, otherwise it would have been even more crazy than it was!  They really tried hard to be friends with me and I appreciated it. It was so much fun.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring?  I just can’t wait to find out!

Savvy finds a friend who can do the splits! She is a rhythmic gymnast and is excited that Sky and Savannah want to join her team!

Savvy finds a friend who can do the splits! She is a rhythmic gymnast and is excited that Sky and Savannah want to join her team!

Savannah with Ava and Ester on the first day of school. Sweet kids.

Savannah with Eva and Ester on the first day of school. Sweet kids.

Today was the first day of actual school, Eva picked us up at 8:30 to walk to school.

Savannah, Sky and Eva

Savannah, Sky and Eva

Off to school

Off to school

Yesterday, the first day, was more of a meet and greet kind of thing, where you don’t have any work. Today was hard for me because I don’t understand a lot of the questions that they are asking during class and the teacher’s handwriting is really bad so that made it hard.  I also didn’t know where to write.  The lined paper is different.  It has a big spot to write and a skinny spot to write, a big spot and a skinny spot and apparently you are supposed to write in the skinny spot.  During math I had forgotten that they use “points” for commas and commas for points.  It was really confusing.  Instead of a decimal in a number they write it with a comma and a number over 1000 is going to have a dot in it like an American decimal.  Ten thousand would be written 10.000.  This was really confusing for me but after I figured out the first few basic things class got really easy and then even easier when I figured out how to comprehend the questions better.  Since I don’t understand what most of the questions meant I would have to wait until we would be 1/2 way through a section for him to explain more.   It was hard but fun. I learned a lot today especially in math class. I can’t wait for tomorrow…

Bienvenidos a Alhama de Granada

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We arrived in Malaga a week ago today.   We escaped the busy Malaga highways and drove into the beautiful Andalusian countryside.  It is a patchwork of olive trees and brown fields.   We drove from the Mediterranean Sea up a very winding road to Alhama which lies at 3000 feet. We had to make a couple of nausea stops but we all made it without losing our lunch.

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Bienvenidos a Alahama de Granada!

The mapquest directions that we had printed seemed pretty simple but it was a bit of a challenge to find La Casa Azul.  The calles are not marked as clearly as we are used to.  We drove up and down very narrow streets dodging dogs until we all but stumbled upon our address.  Of course we were looking for a BLUE (azul) house.  There are no blue houses in this town and I am not sure if there are any in Andalusia.

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It still says Casa Azul…

The View down the street from our house (and Savvy)

The View down the street from our house (and Savvy)

David, our Englishman owner met us at the door.   He tells us that he originally painted the house blue but was eventually told that there is an ordinance that states that all houses must be white or some shade close to white.  For fear of a fine he chose a light yellow.  He explained that the building is at least 100 years old. It was once a barn with animals.   7 years ago he bought the place and renovated it.  He is a photographer and lives in another village called Periana about an hour away.  He lives in an old mill where he hosts groups from around the world for photography tours/classes.   His website is interesting.  If you are interested:   davidwatermanphotography.com.  He has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Northern Africa and was once in the special forces for the English Army as a paratrooper!   His travels influenced his design and decor of the house.  There is a beautiful Moroccan influence throughout the house.  Many of his Moroccan photographs decorate the walls.

Moroccan photos

Moroccan photos

The downside? Unfortunately once a barn…well you know the rest.  The first floor is technically a bit underground. This is great because these rooms stay really cool.  On the other hand it does have a bit of a basement smell.  We are airing everything out so hopefully that will improve.

The entryway leads to an impressive courtyard with a skylight 4 floors above. There is an architecturally  interesting but somewhat dangerous staircase that winds around the 4 walls.  It is reminiscent of the moving staircase at Hogwarts.  Our stairs don’t move but they have that feel.  It does make me really glad that Sky and Savannah aren’t toddlers!

Entry way hall

Entry way hall

The staircase

The staircase

Up, up, up it goes

Up, up, up it goes

There are 4 bedrooms.  Sky and Savvy have been sleeping in the larger of the 2 on the 2nd floor. They have pushed the 2 twin beds together so that they are close.

Sweet sisters in their room

Sweet sisters in their room

We have the larger of the 2 bedrooms on the 3rd floor.  I had looked at the pictures of the Casa Azul so many times on the internet that I often feel like I am walking through the pictures; it feels so familiar.  Here is our room, imagine, it came with an orange comforter!

Leslie and Mike's room

Leslie and Mike’s room

This leaves 2 very tiny extra bedrooms each with the Spanish version of a “twin”. Let’s just say that Europeans are generally smaller than Americans so their single size beds are pretty small.  We are still hoping for visitors so if there isn’t enough bed space there is a really sweet little hotel nearby.  The host is a retired Flamenco singer, Paco.  We stayed with him the first time we came to Alhama.

The view here is incredible! There are balconies on each floor.  The dining room on the first floor leads to a lovely garden flourishing with very healthy grape vines, a mulberry tree and a fig tree.

The garden off of the dining room

The garden off of the dining room

Sky in a fig tree.  Anyone who knows Sky would know that she would find a tree to climb!

Sky in a fig tree. Anyone who knows Sky would know that she would find a tree to climb!

Sky and Savannah on the lower balcony overlooking the olive trees.

Sky and Savannah on the lower balcony overlooking the olive trees.

The elementary school from our balcony.

The elementary school from our balcony.

We look out over beautiful olive groves .  The olives are ubiquitous.   We read that there are over 100 million olive trees in Andalusia!

To our left we can see the school Sky and Savannah will attend.  It is called Conde de Tendilla.  It is 1/4 mile from us by the road.  Unfortunately there is a very high, sharp cliff off the balcony so it isn’t possible to just drop down into the olive grove.

Dining room with a balcony that leads to Sky and Savannah's room up the stairs on the left.

Dining room with a balcony that leads to Sky and Savannah’s room up the stairs on the left.

Kitchen, again orange cabinets.  They knew I was coming!

The kitchen, complete with orange cabinets. They knew I was coming!

We are pretty sure that no one has lived here for quite some time.  There was a layer of dust covering everything and the spiders had pretty much taken over. When we arrived we were too tired to notice it, but by the next day we realized that if we wanted to live here we had a huge job ahead of us.  Our first morning we set out in search of food down the hill into town. With our bellies full of tostada con tomate we started back up the hill to our house.  On the way home we stopped and bought a vacuum!  Who would have thought that would have been our first big purchase in our new town?   We have spent many, many hours cleaning this week. It was not how we imagined our first week in Spain but a week later we are feeling much more comfortable and at home.

More later…

August 24 From 30,000 feet

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The Adventure finally begins! I am writing from 30,000 feet on our Iberia flight from Chicago to Malaga!

The past 2 months have been a blur! Preparing for a year abroad seems to have taken every spare moment in the past several weeks.   There were many parties and goodbyes.  Mike’s office threw him a pot luck lunch.  Not quite sure what typical Spanish dress was, they gave him a Zorro hat and mask, a chile pepper necklace and maracas to carry around!  I am sure his assistant Secret and all the doctors and nurses will miss him!

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ZORRO and his assistant Secret! 

My office threw a Dos Coyotes luncheon complete with a sheet cake!  My assistant Lana had everyone sign a giant card and they gave me a generous Athleta gift card so that I could stock up on cool running gear for the coming year of trail running around Alhama de Granada!

THE SHEET CAKE

THE SHEET CAKE

Sweet Lana! Miss you!

Sweet Lana! Miss you!

A few months ago we decided that we all need some help with our Spanish. If life wasn’t busy enough we invited Carolina, a lovely young woman from Sevilla to come to be our Au Pair/Spanish teacher for our last 6 weeks in California.  Carolina is 22 and in her last year at the Universidad de Sevilla. She is studying to be a teacher. She was lovely and patiently gave Sky and Savannah Spanish lessons while we were at work.   They learned games that the children are likely to play on the playground and common Spanish songs.  Over dinner she would politely correct our grammar and California-Spanish slang.  We had lots of fun showing her around Folsom, Lake Tahoe and San Francisco.  Sky and Savannah taught her Californian English and how to dance with the  Wii.

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Bienvenidos Carolina

At the end of July our Spanish Visas were approved by el gobierno de Espana.  Opening the e-mail was like getting an acceptance letter to college. What a relief.  It was quite a saga to get all of the documents for the Spanish consulate (I’ll describe that in another post…) but we did it!  Now we can live legally in Spain for the year without worries.  The entire family was required to present themselves to the Consulate in San Francisco so we made our 4th and finally trip to the Consulate.  We felt like celebrating so we decided to spend some extra time and reserved a room at the Villa Florence in Union Square.   We hadn’t really spent any time as tourists in San Francisco so it was a good chance to show Carolina around.  We explored Chinatown, Fisherman’s wharf, the Academy of Sciences, the Japanese gardens and walked 1/2 way across the Golden Gate bridge.  We ate a late dinner Spanish style and Sky and Savvy fell asleep in the booth.   It was an exhausting but satisfying trip as we left with our passports with a new official page.

Chinatown!

Chinatown!

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Checking out the Koi fish in theThe Japanese Gardens

Checking out the Koi fish in theThe Japanese Gardens

A butterfly lands on a Savannah flower in the rainforest at the Academy of Sciences

A butterfly lands on a Savannah flower in the rainforest at the Academy of Sciences

The Golden Gate Bridge Yes, it is August!  It was so cold we wore all the clothes we brought!

The Golden Gate Bridge
Yes, it is August! It was so cold we wore all the clothes we brought!

Our last couple of weeks were dominated with packing and closing down the house.  Mike had a 50 point checklist compliments of the Arizona Snowbirds and pages of notes for how to organize our finances, bills, re-routing mail and planning for an easy return next July.  We made the rounds to doctors and dentists.  It’s funny how leaving makes a person remember that it’s been 3 years since my last pap smear (thanks, Janel!) and 17 years since Mike’s last eye exam.  After all the visits we had a clean bill of health, Sky had 2 vaccines, Mike has new glasses to wear for night driving and Savvy had 2 teeth pulled.  Savannah’s trip to the dentist 2 days before the flight was the most dramatic.  Dr. Jenny ordered a panoramic x-ray and noticed that Savvy’s incisors were not coming in properly.  Her adult incisors were pushing on 2 other adult teeth so she recommended pulling the baby incisors.  Savvy was very brave and promised to rest the remainder of the day.  Well at least until gymnastics practice!  She and Sky had a meet the next day so she couldn’t miss practice.  Luckily her mouth didn’t really hurt and the bleeding had stopped by the time that she needed to tumble!   We had specifically planned to leave on August 18 so that Sky and Savannah would at least get to participate in the first meet of the season.   Both girls performed brilliantly!

Savannah focusing before her event

Savannah focusing before her event

Savannah and her best buddy Arya

Savannah and her best buddy Arya

Sky and Savannah with their buddy Megan

Sky and Savannah with their buddy Megan

For one last goodbye Janel, Linda, Lindalee, Sarah and Cathie took me out dancing in El Dorado Hills.  Cathie’s daughter informed her that “that place is for old people”.  Great, we thought, they will have just the right music.  And they did, when Linda requested Journey the DJ immediately played a dance version of “Don’t Stop Believin”!

Leslie, Cathie, Janel, Sarah, Linda and Lindalee

Leslie, Cathie, Janel, Sarah, Linda and Lindalee

Sky has already posted her version of the day we left Folsom. It did seem unbelievable that we were actually climbing into the shuttle and leaving the house behind.  Mike did literally seal the house.  The front door is sealed with duct tape and the toilets are wrapped in plastic wrap!  Kathryn came by for one last run in the morning and we quickly finished up the packing.

We spent the next 6 days in Chicago visiting my family.  It was my Grampy Harley’s 98th birthday so we were lucky to be there to celebrate.

Grampy Harley, born in 1915!  You look great Grampy!

Grampy Harley, born in 1915! You look great Grampy!

My brother Russell who lives in Brooklyn was there with his wife and new baby son, Ansel.

Sweet baby Ansel Harley Whitmore

Sweet baby Ansel Harley Whitmore

Ansel with his Mom and Dad (Sara and Russell)

Ansel with his Mom and Dad (Sara and Russell)

 

My aunt Bev drove up with my Grandma Ann who is 93.  We spent the day with my Dad and had a lovely visit.

Dad (David), Grammy Ann and Leslie

Dad (David), Grammy Ann and Leslie

Sky, Savvy and I spent an evening with my high school buddies Susy and Aimee and their children.

Front row: Savannah, Sky, James, Kelsee Back row: Jenna, Shelbiee, Aimee, Susy, Zoee, Leslie

Front row: Savannah, Sky, James, Kelsee
Back row: Jenna, Shelbiee, Aimee, Susy, Zoee, Leslie

We drove into Chicago on Friday night and ate at Flaco Loco with my good friend Jena and her husband Sam and daughter Athena.  I hadn’t seen her in years but the time instantly dissolved and we were right back to where we had left off.

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This morning Mom and Dave drove us to the airport. They helped us get our many bags to the Iberia counter, gave us hugs and waved to us as we stood in the security line.

Hugs for Grammy

Hugs for Grammy

Hugs for Grampy

Hugs for Grampy

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And here we are flying over the Atlantic!  Flying on Iberia is a bit like stepping right into Spain.  The flight attendants addressed us in Spanish which delighted me.  We all had a long laugh when the flight attendants offered us dinner.  In contrast to my travels in India where on a flight you are offered veg or non-veg.  On Iberia we were offered meat or the other meat.  Our dinner was served with real silverware and cute little bottles of red wine (tint rojo).     SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

We are here now so the next post will include lots of pictures of our first week in Spain.   Remember to log in and register as a follower so that you will get an e-mail when we publish a post!

Sky’s Post #1 early morning August 18, 2013

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 Hi, I’m Sky Kezmoh and this morning my family and I are starting the biggest adventure of our lives (so far)!

We are leaving CA for an entire 10 month “vacation” in Spain. But first we are flying to Illinois to visit my mom’s side of the family and our brand new baby cousin, Ansel! 🙂

My Dad is turning off all the electrical items and the water power before we leave today. I am going to finish packing my carry on, watch a bit of a movie and we will catch a shuttle to the airport.  My mom is going to drive to Posh bagel and Starbucks to get breakfast for everybody. Then she will help my dad finish turning off/shutting down the house. Savannah and Carolina will also finish their packing and come eat breakfast with me and watch the Hobbit.  

I cannot believe that today is the day we leave!  My friends and I always used to joke around about leaving but now it is actually happening!!!

Thanks for reading, Sky

Waiting for the Super Shuttle!  8 suitcases, 2 carry-on suitcases, 4 backpacks and 2 purses! It is going to be a trick to get checked in!

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Getting ready to go, check out all the suitcases!

 

 

Alhama de Granada

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Our planned destination! Alhama de Granada is in Southern Spain in Andalusia. It is about 30 miles from Granada. It is located roughly between Malaga on the Southern Coast and Granada. I is home to about 6000 people and is at 3000 feet.

Mike and I discovered Alhama de Granada in our search for the perfect spot for the kids to go to school and for us to be near some trails to run on. We found a website called trailrunspain.com. Paul Bateson is an Englishman who is a race director based in Alhama who also takes tourists on running adventures. Perfect! We meet him there in 2011 and went on a 3 day running tour with him and fell in love with the area and the little town.  Before we made made our decision we put our packs on and explored the town. It is a very old village but does have some modern conveniences. There is a very small medical center. There is a community center with exercise classes and workout areas and a pool.  There is a bike store called  Cycling Country run by a couple from England. And, most importantly one elementary school. We found the elementary school and knocked on the door. A cleaning woman answered the door and politely listened to us.  She invited us in and we met Javier, the school director. It was summer so he was working in his Bermuda shorts and t-shirt.  He welcomed us warmly and let us know that if we are able to come and have visas the children would be welcome in his school.

We found a great townhouse to rent on trip advisor!  It is technically a vacation rental so it is furnished.  We are going to live in La Casa Azul!  It looks lovely from the pictures, hopefully it will be as nice in person.

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Alhama is a lovely little town.  It has many lovely festivals and little cafes.  It attracts tourists from around the world for it proximity to nature and the hot springs outside of town.  The city sits on a gorge so it is a short run down to some beautiful trails. It is a 10 mile run to the top of the nearest mountain. We ran there with Paul and were excited to see a small glimpse of Africa through the clouds! There is a fresh spring at the top of the mountain so we are planning many 20 mile days!

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We are excited less than 2 months to go to get started on this adventure!

Ready for Take Off!

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