Monday, September 21, 2009


Even though we are in Galicia, I keep thinking about the reunion coming up in February for my husband's graduating class from engineering college in India. The reunion is going to be in India, and I am so looking forward to it. Out of about 140 former classmates, about 110 are coming with their spouses. Before we left for our trip, I had the good fortune to meet two couples.

Here is how it happened: Jaggadeesan is one of the key organizers of the reunion. For the past few months, he and his wife, Lakshmi Devi, have been visiting their son and their son's wife and daughter in San Jose. Through a word-of-mouth network, he tracked my husband down and we visited them in May. Then another classmate, Sampath Voora, and his wife, Madeleine, who live in Toronto, were visiting friends in El Dorado Hills, about an hour away from Sacramento.

About a week before our trip here, they all gathered at our house for a mini-mini reunion. I'm excited about seeing them all again at the big reunion. Madeleine is French Canadian and naturally she speaks fluent French. I don't even speak nonfluent French, but we have good friends in Toronto who are fluent, and we gave the Sampaths their number. Meanwhile, Devi is a writer, and has written and published travel books in Tamil, as well as a volume of poetry. We are thinking of collaborating on a story for children.

On another note, on return to Sacramento, I have a school visit coming up to discuss my book, The Fourth Wish. I've visited schools before, reading works in progress, soaking up the students' comments and applying them in rewrites. This is my first visit to discuss a published book and to do a book signing, and I'm thrilled.

Meanwhile, we have ten more days in Galicia, reading, enjoying reunions with friends here, taking long walks on winding roads, and sitting on the bench with our neighbors. Cool weather has arrived, with misty mornings. Afternoons are still sunny, with blue, cloud-filled skies. Birds twitter incessantly. Crickets chirp. Dogs bark from every farm. Roosters crow at any time of day. The rolling hills are dense with forests, and rock walls cut through pale fields, while red tile roofs dot the greenery. These details etch themselves in memory and will be recalled long after we return home.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Another World

It's hard to blog here everyday. At the house, we do have a computer connection, but very low speed. We have to wait and go to the Parador in Monforte where the high speed connection is free while we have coffee or snacks.

Monforte is the nearest big town (or small city, depending on how you look at it) about 8 miles from our little hamlet. Up a high hill in the center is the Parador, an imposing castle/monastery/tower that was one of the many properties given to Count de Lemos centuries ago by the king to reward his loyalty. Our Spanish isn't good enough to track the whole history, but at one time it was a monastery and presently the main (huge) structure is a tourist hotel. (There is a whole system of paradors throughout Spain, where castles have been converted into tourist hotels.)

On the ground floor of this one is the hotel lobby, a restaurant and a cafe, all situated around an open patio with a stone dome in the center. Rooms for the hotel clients are on the first and second floors. Outside,a lovely cathedral abuts the hotel and is still regularly in use. And one can go up the many flights of the tower at appointed hours to see historical relics and peer out at spectacular views of Monforte spread below.

I journal most days about the area, but every time we come, there is so much more to learn. At this time of year, the late summer is still richly green, although fields have turned golden, and this week some of the trees started turning a faint russet. The air has become cooler. Orchards are lush with peaches, apples, figs, walnuts, and chestnuts that are just starting to fall, still in their prickly green cases. Blackberries are ripening. Wooded areas are thick with red pines, oaks, eucalyptus trees, and birches or aspens (I haven't decided which). As you go through villages, geraniums crowd wrought iron balconies, and hydrangeas bush up from the ground, next to fuschias and some wonderfully fragrant magenta-blooming plant. Ferns line the roads in abundance, whether in sunlight or shade. Pastures are thick with wild fennel, wild sage, wild mint, and Queen Anne's lace. And stinging nettle is everywhere. (I have found out the hard way that this is not a weed to pull.)

Every small farm has its grapevines, with ruffled leaves and lush fruit hanging in purple and green bunches. Yesterday Eva told us that this year the vendimia, or wine harvest, will be on the 26th of this month. And then it will be time for everyone to make up their batches of new wine for the coming year. And the cyle goes on.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Timeless Galicia

We have been here for a week. We had a good flight (in stages), and by the time we reached the house we had been up and awake for over 24 hours, since we don't sleep well in the air. After showering, we joined our neighbors at "el banco", a bench in the heart of the hamlet where our neighbors gather in the early evening to talk. It was wonderful to see everyone again.

We've already slipped into the cyle of Spanish rural life. It's still dark at 7:00 a.m., although some of our neighbors already go by our window in their tractor, on their way to harvest the potatoes. September weather is hot, hot, hot. Lunch is around 1:30 -- 2:00 p.m. or even later, since shops close down at 1:30 and don't open again until 4:30 or even 5:00 in the evening. In our village, we usually gather at the bench around 7:30 p.m., and then everyone disperses around 8:45 for dinner. It's usually 11:00 or midnight by the time we get to sleep. It only took about two days to slip into this routine!

Already our wonderful neighbors have inundated us with food: Eva brought us eggs and tomatoes; Antonio and Maria Elena potatoes and more tomatoes; Milagros gave us a bag of peaches; and Miguel keeps us regularly supplied with his wonderful home-made wine.

Despite the heat of mid-day, mornings are misty once the soft indigo lightens and night fades. The air is filled with bird twitter, the baaing of lambs, and the barking of dogs. This is also cricket season--not the sport, but the insect. (If a cricket on the hearth is good luck then our luck is fabulous.) In the evening there is usually a soft breeze around dusk. And then the night goes suddenly black.

We faithfully walk a mile or more a day, but it's a different mile here: uphill and downhill on winding country roads that go through successive villages, where people wish us "buen dia" or "buenas tardes", and cows or sheep give us long, curious glances.

At the end of September the wine harvest is coming. Starting in spring, nearly every week-end one village or another is having a fiesta to celebrate it's patron saint. Time slips away. Local life catches us up in its repeating cycles of custom and season. And always there is the sense of nature's tranquility.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On Our Way

Early tomorrow morning we will be on our way to Spain. Well, Philadelphia first, where we change flights, and then on to Madrid. Next, a short flight to Santiago de Compestela, and then a drive to the tiny hamlet of Trasulfe, one of the more beautiful spots on this planet. Trasulfe is in the region of Galicia, the northwest corner of Spain, a region with two coastlines, endless hills and dales, crosswinds and ghostly mist, and brilliant sunshine. It's been called "Green Spain" by some, and "Ireland with sunshine" by others. this is not the Spain of bullfights and Flamenco dancers. It has a Celtic history, as well as a Roman history. It's an area with a rich tradition of bagpipe music and pilgrimages to the cathedral in Santiago.

We had planned to be on our way to India tomorrow, to visit Rajan's family, and then go on to Spain. But Swine Flu has struck India. Since it's believed to be brought in mainly from people returning from the U.S., passengers from the U.S. are being scrutinized for symptoms, which could result in quarrantining. I'm really sorry for the postponement. I love India and our family there. Whenever we do visit, I can't get enough of India. Still, we hope to make our India trip at end of January and combine it with a reunion of Rajan's classmates from engineering college. (More about the reunion in a later blog, as time is short, and characteristically, I haven't finished packing yet.) For now, it's on to Spain, which I also love. We don't have family there, but we do have wonderful friends and neighbors.

A prime reason I haven't finished packing is due to my pledge to wind up some writing projects. I am happy to say that yesterday I sent out my chapter book to an agent, a picture book to a publishing company, and two poems, each to a different magazine. Apart from being on pins and needles to see what the responses will be, now I feel I can relax on vacation. I have to confess, though, I'm taking two stories to work on, as well as some notes on my historical novel that need organizing. But, even on vacation, writing a couple of hours a day is fun. And I'm eager to get to work on that book when return.

I'll also be making an author visit to my old school, Elder Creek Elementary when we get back. The librarian, Eva Chu, is setting things up so that I can discuss The Fourth Wish at an assembly and then sign books afterward. This is my first school visit as an author. It definitely should be interesting. I'm already getting excited.

Still, I'd better finish packing if we plan to be on our way tomorrow. "Adios" for now.