June 16, 2005

May Update: Speeches, prom, and a fairy tale castle

June 16, 2005
Dearest Friends, Family, and Rotarians,

My Rotary Scholar year is nearing its end. I am just in the ‘closing up shop’ phase where I am saying my goodbyes, sending out the pictures people requested, selling my furniture, and making sure I have done everything in Barcelona so I don’t regret having missed out on something later.

In summation of May, I kept up with my normal rapid pace. I presented to Rotary audiences 5 times including at the District 2210 Conference in Segovia (Spain). My sister visited for a week and my brother moved in to our place. My former college roommate/bridesmaid visited me from the States. I kept busy between hosting my guests, maintaining my English classes, promoting the Martinez Foundation Dinner, which was held on the 9th of June, and also putting the finishing touches on the Americans for Informed Democracy conference that was held June 3-5.

As I turn 24 years old today (June 16th) and also need to write up the final report for my scholarship year, I am in an introspective mood trying to summarize what I have learned, how I have grown, and what I will take away from this wonderful experience.

For more details and photos, continue below, and check out my website at:

The Full Update:

May 1st was a crazy day. I was finishing the last day of my Camino experience. Another scholar (Christanne) and I went the wrong way and walked in the dark in the woods for about an hour with just a small flashlight guiding us. (We started the day from where we had ended the night before instead of just following arrows around the city which we didn’t see that morning.) We had left extremely early so that we could make it to the Cathedral on time for the pilgrims’ noon mass. We learned of our mistake when fellow pilgrims who left 30 minutes to an hour after us actually caught up with us early in the walk. This last leg also included a large uphill climb, and it rained most of the 4-hour walk. Because the other pilgrims had caught up with us, and we were all rushing to make it to the noon mass, we didn’t want to stop and take a break. In the end, I think I walked without a bathroom or any type of break for at least 4 hours going uphill in the rain.

Reaching the Cathedral was great knowing that I had walked 120 kilometers of the Camino. Some say that arriving at Cathedral is the goal of the Camino. But although there is a destination to reach, it is never the reaching the destination that makes you fulfilled. It should be the journey that you have learned from and appreciated that makes you walk away more complete and happy that you did it.
It was a bit anti-climactic to arrive to a large Cathedral filled with a lot of people all crowding around for a place to sit or stand before the mass started. We arrived just before noon. We had walked 120 kilometers, and we didn’t even have a place to sit. And for some pilgrims, they could care less about going to the mass. I didn’t like how the Camino had become a secular thing to do. I guess everyone has his/her right to do it, but minus my own personal reflection time, I did not like the lack of devotion to Christianity.

I walked away with a sense of accomplishment, the appreciation for nature and ‘roughing it,’ having had plethora of reflection time, and the continued realization that is all about the journey, but not the destination.

May 2nd I wanted to start walking again in the morning, but my schedule said that I had to catch a train to catch a bus to catch a plane back to Barcelona. When I got to the airport in A Coruna (near Santiago), I just walked around the parking a lot as I waited for my plane; I could not stop walking! I was going to miss walking the Camino.

I can be a bit crazy sometimes. I realized this when I also read that the same day I was returning to Barcelona from the Camino, I was speaking in another town an hour away from my house at a dinner meeting. As soon as I made it home, I put on my suit and headed to Sabadell to speak to the Rotary club. I had to crash at a friend’s house that night because the trains stopped when the meeting was over. Note: Rotary dinner meetings in Spain start at 9pm and usually don’t completely end until around midnight. Hence, every Monday night I come home at midnight from my local Rotary club’s meetings.

The following day, May 3rd, I had another speech. I presented to the first Rotary club in Barcelona, which was chartered in 1922. I met a wonderful member, the first woman member of the club, and have kept in touch with her ever since then. She is originally from Switzerland, but has lived in Barcelona for 40 years.

On the 5th, I held a Texas Exes meeting and met a friendly Texan in town and his Spanish girlfriend. Burak and I had a great time getting to know them, and I am actually having my birthday party this weekend at his place near the beach.
From the 6th to the 10th, an old Belgian friend whom I met in Texas when I was 16 at a RYLA conference visited us with his fiancée. We all spent some evenings together and went out for dinner. They had a great time touring the town and it was nice to see a friend that I have kept in touch with internationally for 8 years.

May 9th and 10th I subbed 6th grade at Burak’s international school. If I ever teach something besides at the university level, I really like 6th grade. They are young enough to respect you, but old enough to be responsible, like mini-adults.
On May 9th, I did something most Rotary scholars probably aren’t allowed to do. I invited a friend (30-something-year-old from Barcelona who works for the UN) to my Rotary club in Barcelona as a potential member. Normally only members can invite potential members. Anyway, she has been attending the meetings for the last month and is interested in joining, so I de facto sponsored a new Rotary member without being a Rotary member myself!!

On the 14th, David, my 22-year-old brother, arrived from the States. Within about 20 minutes of this arrival, Burak and I had to leave to be chaperones at Burak’s school’s high school prom. It was crazy timing. So we hooked David up with a friend to go hang out with for the night and lent David a cell phone. We welcomed him, gave him a set of keys and the phone, and wished him luck for his first night in Barcelona. The Barcelona soccer team won the Spanish League so it was a fun night to be in town.

The prom was great. I had the chance to go to prom with my husband! We were two out of the six chaperones for about the entire high school. Since it is such a small school, one class per grade, they invited freshmen through seniors to attend. The great thing about this prom was that I was young enough to recognize the songs and dance with the group and old enough not to care what they thought. You know how at that age you are always making sure you ‘look’ cool because you have to protect your image? It was a great chance to be a ‘kid’ again.

On Monday (a holiday), all three of us went to a local park. The park has a small lake, a huge fountain, and lots of walkways. We rented a boat and went under a very low bridge a few times, took a lot of photos, and left David on a small island so that he could get a funny picture. We also rented a 3-person bike and took turns pedaling all our weight around. It was more of a workout than a leisure activity. It was a lot of fun to be with my brother and husband doing silly stuff.

The next day, Emily, my 20-year-old sister, arrived from Texas. It was her first time in Spain as well. She came for a total of one week so we tried to make the most of the experience with us all being together for the first time in a year.
As timing would have it, I had previously booked my flight to Madrid so that I could speak at the District 2210 Conference in Segovia (2 hours by train from Madrid). I suggested that David and Emily go to Madrid and meet me there once I was done with my speech.

Segovia is a beautiful little gem of a town. I had never heard about it before. It possesses a large Roman aqueduct in the heart of the town, an alcazar (palace) that inspired Disney’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and a beautiful gothic cathedral. I arrived the night before I was presenting so I used the time to relax, explore, and prepare for my speech. To make an embarrassing moment public, I ordered a sandwich (bocadillo) for dinner at a place I had just decided to eat at since I was too tired to search for something better/cheaper. When the waiter brought me two small bite-sized sandwiches, one containing ham, I told him I had ordered the vegetarian sandwich. He told me that it was just the tapas to go with my wine and my sandwich was still on its way! I felt like an idiot.  I decided to just enjoy my time alone in Segovia by calling a lot of friends and catching up while I sat in a tranquil plaza with a fountain.

The next day was a bit ridiculous, I am not sure when people say they like my stories if they want to hear all of them. Basically, the hostel I stayed at wouldn’t let me store my things between check out and when I planned to leave town for the hotel of the conference (only about 2-3 hours of time). Therefore, a scholar who had met up with me that morning and I carried our luggage up and down hills (I felt like I was on the Camino again!) until we had seen most of the sights in Segovia and took a cab to the hotel.

In a few hours with all my luggage on me, I saw the Alcazar, a 12-sided church built by the Knights of Templar to hold a piece of the cross Jesus was crucified on, and about 7 monks singing at mass at a monastery.

We checked into our hotel room at the conference and took a break from the heat and carrying the luggage. Another scholar met up with us, and we rehearsed our combined 15-minute speech. We were nervous to speak in front of the 300-400 people in Spanish, but we tried to keep each other calm.

I started the speech by saying thank you to the Rotarians for their work and the opportunity to have this scholarship. I then briefly spoke about myself and what I had done over the year in Spain. At the point where I was to say I will return to the States and move to North Carolina to hopefully study law this fall, I froze and couldn’t speak. The realization that I would have to leave and the emotion that that evoked overcame me, and I couldn’t continue, but just had tears in my eyes. I mustered whatever I could find in me to whisper in Spanish over the microphone to the presidents and secretaries of all the Rotary clubs in northern Spain, ‘ I don’t want to go back.’

After the two other scholars finished their parts, we were given a standing ovation. We loaded on buses and traveled to a small medieval village for dinner. On the bus ride there, the district governor told my fellow scholar that our presentation saved the beginning of the conference with its genuine emotion and sincerity. We added heart to the opening session, and he was extremely grateful. I was glad to hear that they realized that it wasn’t that I was nervous about speaking, but it was that it actually HIT me that I wouldn’t be able to live as a scholar for much longer in Spain.

For beautiful pictures of my time in Segovia, click on this link or copy and paste it to a new window. You will see a short slideshow of my time there.


The next morning, I left for Madrid. It was a difficult choice. I had my brother and sister in Madrid, but I had worked so hard to go to the District Conference. I wanted to use that time to promote the scholarship so that this district would start offering the scholarship in the near future. I figured I did my best to both parties. I arrived where my brother and sister were staying, and we started our family reunion in Madrid.

Saturday and Sunday, we ran around to tourist sites and took a lot of photos. When we got bored, we would just start taking funny pictures. We got really good at taking pictures of us jumping in mid-air with people, museum, palaces, fountains, lakes, etc. in the background. Basically, we spent almost no money, but had fun just being together and possessing almost a thousand dollars worth of camera equipment to capture all our (silly) moments. Here are some photos:


It was sad to see Emily leave after the week passed by so quickly (just like this year). We had a great time, and she got inspired to study art in Europe in the future.

The very next day, I was subbing high school by day and had to present the Martinez Foundation Benefit Dinner at the monthly meeting of all the presidents of all the Rotary clubs in Barcelona at night. The president of my club told me that he would present the benefit dinner (my Scholar project) for me, but he must have forgotten all about it because I found out he was in Turkey for two weeks at that time. I called a president of a club I had presented to before and found out when and where I would find the meeting so that I could present it myself.

I came in a suit (of course) and was quickly recognized by the attendees since most had seen me speak in Segovia just a few days prior. I planned on just presenting the dinner, but I was invited by one Rotarian to stay and before I knew it, I was joining them all at the dinner table.

There were about 16 people at the dinner in the end, and I was one of the two females. They were very nice, and a couple of them reassured me that I was welcome there so I shouldn’t be nervous speaking to them. In the end, I presented the Martinez Foundation, the upcoming dinner, ways to donate if they couldn’t attend the event, and also got in contact with the clubs I hadn’t yet presented to. It was extremely successful.

Later that week, Ann, my college roommate and bridesmaid, was traveling through Spain with a friend. They stopped by in Barcelona to see me that weekend. It was great having an old friend come visit me and pick up our chats as if no time had passed.

At the same time Ann was in town, I was hosting from afar the Wulf family (Matthew Wulf, 7, is a patient of Dr. Martinez) that was in town for a week of treatment staying at a Rotarian’s apartment. I helped this family find housing last November and that is how I learned about the Foundation. We had dinner together one night and talked about the upcoming Benefit Dinner. We will be living just 3 hours away from each other next year in North Carolina.

The next day, I spoke to Rotary Club Barcelona Diagonal at lunch and updated my club, RCB Millennium, at dinner. I was running a public relations campaign to get awareness for the Benefit Dinner and the Foundation in general.

On the 31st, I had the joy of subbing kindergarten for my third time. I love those little rascals.

I know June is half way over, but you will soon learn why it took me 2 weeks to write this update.

June’s events will include / have included:

- The Americans for Informed Democracy Barcelona Conference (3rd – 5th)
- Martinez Foundation Fundraising Dinner (9th) and raising more than 800 euros from donations alone
- Rotary/Rotaract speeches to 5-7 clubs in the Barcelona area
- Finding out that I am on the shortened waitlist at Northwestern Law, the waitlist at UNC Law, and still waiting to hear from Duke Law
- Finishing my year-long English class with the 4- and 5-year-olds
- Starting a new English class at Wrigley’s (the gum company) in BCN
- Hosting 8 people from Germany, France, and the US.
- Birthday dinner and party (Tapas dinner - 16th and Beach party - 18th)
- Selling furniture and packing some stuff up
- Celebrating 3 years of marriage (June 22nd)
- Going to Mallorca for a couple of days as a second honeymoon

Hope all is well, take care of yourself, and keep in touch.

Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar 2004-2005
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

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