A Carriage for Mustafa

Hello from Luxor, Egypt.

This post is a request for help.

Those of you who know me understand that I believe in helping those in need. Like many of you, I have done my share of volunteering, taking the cards off of the Christmas trees and giving anonymous gifts to children, donating to the local food bank and other small acts of kindness along the way.  I am now putting my faith in you!

Luxor, until 5 years ago was a magnet for tourism which provided the economic backbone for most of its inhabitants.  There is no major industry in Luxor, no technology, no manufacturing or any other economic base.  Tourism was the engine that drove this train.  5 years ago that train was derailed by the political upheaval here and it left people struggling; some more than others.

So, I want you to meet Mustafa the carriage driver and his horse Natalie.

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Mustafa is the youngest of 12 children.  His father was a carriage/Caliesh driver who was able to support his family with a healthy tourism economy.  The sons grew and went to school and each one began to work at young age to help support the family.  Unfortunately, the father died when Mustafa was still young.  He never had the opportunity to finish school.  He went to work at 9 years of age!

Mustafa wasn’t asking much from life – the love of a good woman, marriage, family and the ability to earn a decent living. Being illiterate limited his choices.  He joined the military thinking it would allow him to make something of himself, but found after a few short years that his inability to read and write put a ceiling on promotability.  He then went to work for the local police department where his job for 3 years was to stand in front of a building with a gun for eight hour shifts.

The one big thing that these jobs gave him was a way to fix up a small flat where he would live with his wife. This was a definate prerequisite to getting married.  He spent six years just getting to the wedding day.

Today Mustafa has a wife and two small girls to support and educate.  He is determined that his girls will have a better life.  He struggles every day to earn enough money to buy food, pay for his daughter Mina’s school and feed his horse Natalie.

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Getting Natalie’s shoes repaired.

His main struggle is not only because tourism is down. The greatest impedintent to his success is that he has to rent the carriage, and  for every dollar he earns the owner of the carriage and license gets  80%, there is no way to get ahead of this curve unless he owns his own carriage.  He has the horse Natalie, which he takes care of, saying she is the important part of the team.  Without Natalie there would be no income at all.

Recently he had the opportunity to buy a carriage and license.  He and his wife went to the bank to see if they could get a loan for the equivalent of 3500 euros.  Well, we all know how those conversations go.  Do you have an account? Do you have collateral? No? Well we can’t help you.  His wife brought her diploma from graduation and thought it would be collateral.  A valuable asset for her, but not he bank.

This man is like Cinderella, stuck in an untennable situation and needing a fairy godmother with a magic wand.  I volunteered for the job of fairy godmother and am hoping you can be the magic wand. If 100 people each decide to donate 35 euros Mustafa can buy his carriage and license and be his own boss, keeping 100% of what he works to earn instead of  a pitiful 20%.  I seriously doubt that any of us would want this type of work situation.

At this point, if I were you, dear reader, I would be asking – what do you really know about this family?  I can tell you that Luxor is a small town and everyone knows everyone. Not one person I’ve met has had anything but good words for Mustafa.  They say “he is good man” and “he is honest man” and “he takes care of his family”.  And, I have found him to be honest, kind and conscientious.  I have been to his small flat (one room, kitchen the size of a closet, and if you need he toilet you have to go downstairs to his brother’s flat); they have taken me to the fruit and veg market helping me buy my vittles each week at local prices.  Mustafa has given me valuable information about Luxor, and how to discourage hassles, teaching me Arabic words and making sure I am treated fairly! They have adopted me into their family.

img_20170103_103833So, how can you help Mustafa?  His friend and my landlord has helped establish an account at the local bank for Mustafa.  You need to send your contribution in EUROS, and I’m sure there will be a fee to send a foreign transaction. Your bank will ask for a

SWIFT CODE : N B E G E G C X 524

which includes the name and location of the bank.

IBAN number 524 00 391 36 000 605 240

Name on the account: Mohamed Ali Hefny Abdel Rahman

Who is my landlord and friend of Mustafa.

I have started this account with 100 Euros, please let the magic begin!

 

 

Poland = Polite

Poland is the most polite country I’ve visited in Europe.

  • Men hold doors for women and the elderly.
  • People on public transportation willingly  give up seats to pregnant women, elder!y and handicapped passengers. (Unlike my experience in Dublin)
  • Children greet visitors and say “good bye” when visitors leave.
  • Drivers actually STOP for pedestrians in crosswalks (and honk at jay walkers).
  • You hear people saying “thank you” all of the time.
  • Bus drivers help with you with directions.
  • Husbands understand that household chores have no gender designation.  They help with childcare and cooking.

On my first day in Warsaw I wanted to ride the tram but could not find where to purchase tickets.  When I got on the tram I asked “bilety?”with a shrug, as if to say “where do I get a ticket?”. The tram was jammed and a lovely older woman gave me 2 tickets, showed me where to validate them but would not take any money for them.  Fortunately I have been able to return the favor for two Japanese students in Warsaw for only one day; and “paid it forward” for a visiting Ukrainian woman.

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  • People in shops actually show you where to find things, not just point to a section of the store. Have a headache, looking for aspirin?  Just put your hand on your forehead and look pathetic, a clerk will take you to the correct place immediately.
  •  In TK Maxx, on an extremely crowded Friday evening, I could not find the location of the shopping baskets.  An employee saw my quandary and simply said “stay here” and she returned in less than a minute with that all important retail sales equipment – a shopping basket.  (It is much too crowded with merchandise to have carts in this store).

I think I want to live here!

Polish people are eager to learn English and travel to Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Miami.  Sorry  LA,  Dallàs, Boston, Seattle and DC.  Participating in several Angloville English Immersion programs here has led me to believe that travelers from Poland have four cities on their bucket lists.  And, I was surprised it was Miami and not Orlando/Disney World.  One person actually said “Disney World is sooo passe today, we want fun and sun in Miami”

Unfortunately, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, PizzaHut and Starbucks have invaded Poland, which may be a positive for young Poles, but not so much for the over 30 crowd who seem to flock to Asian and Indian eateries.

Have you ever told a denegrating Polish joke?  Perhaps you were just unaware of the hundreds of contributions Polish people have made to improve our world.  Here are a few.  Let’s start with ones you may know.

  • Nicholas Copernicus, renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated the model of the universe against popular and church beliefs, that the sun and not earth was the center of our known universe.

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    Monument to Copernicus theory of sun as the center of the universe; in his birthplace, Torun, Poland.
  • Frederic Chopan, composer.  In case you are not familiar with his music go to  YouTube, The Best of Chopin.
  • Marie Curie, yep, she was a Polish girl named Maria Skiodowska before she married the French physicist Dr. Curie.  She is the first woman to be awarded a  Nobel Prize in two categories, physics and chemistry.
  • If you want to read about an extremely interesting and diversified man, check out Ignacy Jan Paderewski, composer, diplomat, philanthropist, and vintner on Wikipedia.
  • Thank Polish-American Stephen Poplawski for your blender, which made lives easier in 1922 when he received his first patent.
  • More modern would be Albert Sabin who created the Salk vaccine, our weapon against polio.
  • Who has not heard the name Lech Walensa who led the shipyard workers in a revolt against communism through the Solidarity movement and became the first president of Poland.Lech Walesa bio
  • Lesser known is Mieczslaw Gregor Bekker, an engineer who worked with General Motors to develop the Moon Rover.
  • And, if you have ever used a Q Tip, you can thank  Polish-American  Leo Gerstenzang who then advanced his invention for the medical profession,  creating one that could be sterilized using an autoclave.
  • People in New England can give a big shout of thanks to Polish Marie Elizabeth Zakrzauska for establishing the New England Hospital for Women and Children and for also establishing the first general training program for nurses in America.
  • And, yes, there are also theatrical and literary Poles like director Roman Polansky and four Nobel Prize writers: Henryk Sienkiewicz for The Deluge, although he may be better know for his book Quo Vadis.  Also on that list is Wladyslaw Reymont for The Peasants, a 4-volume national epic; and Czeslaw Milosz for The Captive Mind and last but not least the poet Ms. Wislawa Szymborska.
  • In a previous post I wrote about the 3 math students from Poznan who were instrumental in breaking the Enigma Code that brought WWII to an early end.
  • Last on my list (although there are hundreds more) is Pope John Paul II.

Poland is no slouch in the yummy food category either, with bakery windows full of tortes, hand made breads in every flavor and grain you can think of.  Then there are the cookies and morning danish, pastries and cakes.  Yes, cakes for breakfast and Charlotte Rousse

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for lunch. Oh yes, and the hand made chocolates, coffees, and slurping good hot cocoa.  One more thing you might enjoy is Hazelnut vodka or a Mleczny Orzoch (Bailey’s, hazelnut liquors and shaved chocolate).img_20161110_102438

So, the next time you hear someone starting to tell a Polish joke, you have enough ammunition to say “Hold it right there partner, no Polish jokes allowed here”.

Next stop Torun, home of Nicholas Copernicus and gingerbread, yummmm

And, The Winner Is. . .

On September 26 the winner of the annual Tidy Town competition is announced.

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Invitation sent to the Tidy Towns Portmagee, County Kerry committee.

Since 1958 Irish communities have been vying for this prestigious title.  Initially 52 communities entered, today there are over 700 entrants.  This competition, it is said, is not so much about winning, but more about each community working together to create harmony and to beautify the community, increasing the pride people have in the place they call home.

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I remember working on an air force base when word came down that the “Inspector General” team would be coming.  All of a sudden things were painted, flowers planted, roads patched, fences mended and shoes spit shined.  Why, I wondered could this not be done for the people who lived and worked here on an everyday basis, instead of just when “company came calling”?  Similar to gramma saving the good china and glassware for special occasions.

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Although this program was initiated by the Irish Tourist Board for the beautification of Ireland for the tourist trade, it now is more about community pride. In 1995 this program was shifted to the Department of Environment, Community and local Government along with the support of a national sponsor SuperValu supermarket chain .

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Hundreds of thousands of people make choices each day to create the community of their dreams.  They pick up trash, chop weeds, plant flowers, trees, shrubs, paint fences, restore historic structures, wash windows and many other small tasks are repeated each day by people of all ages and abilities.

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Schools take on art projects, you may find grandfathers touching up paint on the local bridge, children drawing their versions of flowers on flat rocks placed around the base of trees in their schoolyards. No job seems to small to do.  It is a great example of “many hands make light work”.

Have you ever heard this poem called “Everybody, Anybody, Somebody, Nobody and Someone Else”?

Let me tell you the story, of four young lads by the name of Tom, Dick, Harry and Joe.

Their full names were in fact:

Tom Somebody

Dick Everybody

Harry Anybody and,

Joe Nobody

Together they were the best of friends, but I must confess, when it came to a task they were not very good.

You see, whenever they were given a job, they all began to fight.  Because this is how it always went.

Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it and Anyone could have done it.  But, in the end Nobody ended up with the job.

When Nobody did it, Somebody was always mad because it was Everybody’s job.  But Everybody thought that Somebody would do it instead. Now, Nobody realized that Nobody would do it. So, consequently Everybody blamed Somebody. When Nobody did what Everybody could have done in the first place.

If you have never read this, have forgotten the rest of it, or would like to read it again in full you can find it on All.Poetry site. It is obvious that these four lads do not live in Ireland, where the communities work together to ensure that they live in a beautiful place.  Perhaps places rife with graffiti might be improved with Tidy Towns initiative.

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If you could list some thing that you would like to change in the looks of your neighborhood, community or city what would be on your list? I know on mine, I would have to write (excuse the pun) graffitti. Along with that, trash along the roadway. And, yards not maintained. What would be on your list?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a natural sense of community spirit to beautify, or just clean up the environment? How does a city create that motivation? How about an entire country with that spirit of beautification?

Well, perhaps we can learn something from a country that has has managed to create and expand this momentum since 1958.

And, the winner is: EVERYBODY

Shared Passion!

What do these cities have in common?

They all share an international designation, along with 10 more cities.

Dublin, Ireland
Krakow, Poland
Iowa City, USA
Tartu, Estonia
Barçelona, Spain
Baghdad, Iraq
Lviv, Ukraine
Obidos, Portugal
Montevideo, Uruguay
And, Nottingham, England

Just looking at the list you could summize that it would have something to do with cultural diversity. Ok, maybe not Iowa City, Iowa or Baghdad.

Let’s put on the old thinking cap and see if you can find the common denominator of this puzzle.

Clue #1: All of the cities must demonstrate their active participation in traditional and new media in the promotion of this “product”; and, seriously endeavor to find new sources/markets in which to promote, sell or distribute this “product”.  OK, not much help there, huh.

You understand that the most difficult clues come first on the list, don’t you?

Clue #2: This product can cause people to love or hate one another; change the way some people see political or social issues.  It has started wars, encited hatred, been a mirror into the soul, left children giggling, and gave some people the idea that we could fly to the moon.

Clue #3: Some of the people who directly or indirectly contributed to this “product” have received a Nobel Prize for this category. And some have gone down in flames in history.

Another criteria a city must meet in order to have this distinguished title bestowed upon them is this: the city must have effective educational programs including foreign and domestic services for children of all ages and people in various economic and social groups.  In other words, available to all people in the city.

Stuck?  Perhaps the names of the other 10 cities will help you.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Melbourne, Australia

Heidleberg, Germany

Reykjavik, Iceland

Dunedin, New Zealand

Prague, Czech Republic

Granada, Spain

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ulyanovsk, Russia

And, Norwich, England

Still stumped?  Ok, here are some names of people responsible for developing this “product”.  Adolph Hitler, William Shakespeare, Plato, Arthur C. Clarke, Tolstoy, Dr. Seuss, Ernest Hemingway, Kitty Kelly, Alexander McCall Smith, Daniel DeFoe, Mark Twain,  Donald Trump and Stephen Hawking.

Do you think you have it now?  Fill in the blanks.  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ !

Oops, not quite there, yet?

Clue #4:  The city must have both public and private locations to store, preserve, showcase (as in festivals, exhibits, etc), demonstrate and encourage the use of this product in all of its many forms.  This includes entrepreneurial, traditional, and foreign translation which also would include music and dance.

This program was initiated in 2002 as the UNESCO Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity to encourage entrepreneurial and creative potential of small enterprise.  The Creative Cities designation includes literature, music, film, media, gastronomy, folk arts, crafts and design.

The 20 cities listed above are all Cities Of Literature and I would think be of interest to all bibleopheliacs/bookworms.  The next time you want to travel to a place that is big on literature check out Slovenia, Uruguay or Iraq.  For those of you a bit less adventurous try Prague, Edinburgh or Dublin, all of which have literary tours of the cities.  Just looking for a little road trip?  Iowa City may be your choice.  Just be happy, read books!

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Stay tuned for the next blog: Ireland’s “Tidy Towns”. A book we could all take a page from.

 

 

 

 

 

 

English Immersion Programs

Are you a native English speaker?

Have you always wanted to see Madrid, Prague, Bucharest, Budapest or other places in the world?

Are you a person who is easy to talk with?

Would you like to help non-English speakers improve their English?

Are you an active listener?

Would you like to meet other “Anglos” from around the world and share their experiences?

Can you talk about a variety of topics?

Are you social?  Can you play charades, or sing, or just have fun in a group?

Do you have a talent you could share with others?

Do you have  week to share your knowledge and abilities with others?

Would you like 6 days, all expenses paid in a resort or four star hotel?

If you can answer yes to most of these questions you may be interested in participating in an English Language Program.

Lately, it seems like I am the poster gal for these programs.  When people ask how I can travel so frugally and what I do in my varied volunteer jobs, interest in English Immersion Programs seem to get the most attention.

The first thing you need to understand is that you must get yourself to the venue.  That means that if the program is in Budapest, then you must also be in Budapest at your expense.  So this works well if you are already traveling, like me; or, if you can plan ahead for vacation time in order to find cheap tickets (off-season travel, guys!).

The second question is something like this – Do I need to be an English teacher?  NO!  You are not teaching grammar, or sentence structure or verb conjugations.  You are offering real live English conversation to people who want to improve their English speaking skills. Period!

Having now done 5 of these programs I feel confident in sharing what I have learned. The programs are structured.  The coordinators are professional. You are treated well by the organizers and held in esteem by the participants.  You will get more from the experience than you give, and you give quite a bit during the week.  The accommodations have been lovely each time no matter the venue or the organization holding the program.

Are you interested yet?

The caliber of people you will meet is amazing, like a physician who gave up his profession to become a perfume entrepreneur; or, an elementary school teacher who motivated his class to write a book, which was subsequently published and copies of which now reside in many school libraries throughout Spain; or the woman from New Zealand who had been teaching English in Siberia for 6 months and came home with pockets full of money.

And, the food!  A Michelin 2 star chef at an exclusive golf resort in Poland who made lavender ice cream for dessert one night. A delightful Spanish wine with dinner, at the mountain resort a few hours from Madrid.

Accommodations are lovely.  Below is my room at the mountain resort in Spain, followed by the golf resort in the Czech Republic, near Prague.

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So, you ask, what is it we will actually be doing?  The programs are similar and provide opportunities for the “student” to speak on a topic, one-on-one (with you) and to incorporate specific words into that conversation along with one idiom.  Your job is to participate in the conversation (but not to control it), to assist with words that may be unfamiliar and to explain the idiom.  These sessions are 50 minutes each and you will have about 6 each day.  You will also be conversing during your meals, and in the evening there is some type of entertainment that you will be a part of. Each program also has individual differences, but these are the basics.  You will be involved with the participants from 9 am to 9 pm. This is why it is immersion!

These photos are from the riding academy.  Our breakfast buffet and a snap shot of a group of participants giving a presentation.

So, how do you become a part of this?  You can type “English Immersion Program” plus the name of a country and search or if you are interested in Spain, go to Vaughntown.  If you are interested in eastern Europe go to Angloville.  Sign up, get accepted and then look at their calendar and choose your program location.  My suggestion is that you choose your programs early, because they fill quickly.

If you have a 2 week vacation, your plan may go something like this: arrive at your destination (Prague) 2 days prior to the program date.  Relax, see some of the city.  Day 3 join the group and participate in the program.  End of program, return to destination city and enjoy the rest of your free time.  You have paid for 7 days in a hotel, hostel, B&B or couch-surfed; and met some interesting people, perhaps made new friends and gave someone additional confidence in speaking English! Not a typical vacation, but who wants typical, anyway?

An additional benefit of Angloville is that they offer the opportunity city to earn a TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification which is easier and much less expensive than getting it online.

There are smaller organizations that offer these programs in Poland and you can find them online.  I have not found any in Italy or France.

If you decided to do a program let me know.

See you there!

Marzapan, The Alcazar & Don Quixote

Where can you enjoy all of these things in one place? Yes! Toledo, Spain, a mere 33 minutes by Spain’s AVE, high speed train from Atocha station, Madrid.

Let’s start with what is marzapan/marzipan/marzepan?  It is a confection of sugar or honey and an almond paste. Marzapan is often formed into fruit shapes and colored to look like apples, pears, bananas, grapes etc. It is also used to decorate elaborate cakes, or just covered with chocolate. Marzapan is most often seen during the winter holiday season.

When I was a young child I would sometimes be invited to my great-grandmother’s house which now belongs to the local historical society. Gramma Grayce was a very thrifty woman and as such she was stingy with treats. I was allowed one piece of marzapan fruit and one only. It was a big deal to a 6 year old. The marzapan usually lasted about 15 or 20 minutes melting in my mouth.

So, those of you who have had marzapan are now thinking…how did she keep from swallowing or chewing for that long? It was not difficult, because many years later I learned that gramma Grayce had kept that box of marzapan in the house for several years, just in case she had company. This was no longer marzapan … It was now rock candy!  And, no one ever did visit, except me! Marzapan is soft, not a hard candy; and Toledo, Spain is famous for its marzapan.

Marzipan recipe with photo

So, did I purchase marzapan in Toledo?  YES, fresh, soft, delicious marzapan! If you are watching from the other side gramma, that was a dirty trick to play on a 6-year old.

Walk up the street with me  (yes, up, because Toledo is built on a steep hillside) to the imposingly interesting Alcazar.

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A square building with 4 turrets, one on each corner with more than 8 floors to climb.  The interesting part of this structure is that each side is different, because it was restored under four different rulers over hundreds of years.  It is now a military museum and the La Mancha regional library.

Toledo history with photos

Imposing Alcazar standing guard over the old city of Toledo.

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Unlike other historic cities, Toledo is not surrounded by modern structures.  The new city of Toledo is at the bottom of the hill.  All of the original buildings and cobbled street are much like they were in the past, with the exception of shops along the streets.

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Can you see it?  Look closely.

I felt it before I saw it.  Cool, wet, soft.

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Yep,  every 30 seconds a mist would be emitted from tubing in the umbrella to keep the diners refreshed.

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Cellphone, schmellphone.  When you live in a small town, just walk over to your neighbor and call up to the balcony.  You not only save money, but you get some hill-walking exercise as well.

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Can you believe that cars actually drive these streets?  When you hear one coming, you pop into the next doorway and watch your toes. Uphill again!IMG_20160614_124639

Did I mention that Toledo is built on a BIG hill?

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And, as we continue up the hill who do we see, but Don Quixote and his sidekick Santo, plus me and my two friends. Do you notice that I dressed to match (somewhat) the breastplate of Don Quixote’s?

As I speak with people along my travels, there seems to be a trend that younger people do not know The Man From La Mancha, Don Quixote or the famous name Cervantes.

 Although they may not have known the name Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote is world famous.  Cervantes is credited, in the literary world with the first best seller, which now has been translated into 60 languages; and, it has been reported that several world famous writers as well as Pablo Picasso were influenced by Miguel de Cervantes story of an old man who “tilted at windmills”.

The moral of the story is to dream the impossible dream, fol!ow your heart, no matter what others may say or think.

Perhaps this will encourage you to dream!!

The Impossible Dream, The Man From LA Mancha musical

 

 

 

Ahhhhh! Avila, Spain

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City of the Knights, birthplace of Saint Teresa, UNESCO designated as the world’s best walled city; and home to mystic, San Juan de la Cruz. Pronounced Ahh-vee-la with the accent on the first syllable.  Almost like taking a breath upon seeing it for the first time.

Look at the size of these stones.  How to lift and place them without a modern crane?  And look on the right side, at the level of each row.  When considering the circumference of more than 8,000 feet around this wall, with turrets, it is mindboggling to me.

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Artist painting the cathedral.  The inside of the walls are speckled with painters and paintings for sale.  This guy had the most onlookers of all the painters I saw.

A little history for you, now.

After the decline of the Roman Empire, this land was inhabited by the Visigoths (German warriors) until displaced by the Moors in 714 and recaptured by the Christians in 1088 who began construction on the wall about 1090. This fortification was built on Roman ruins, designed by Moorish architects, construction was managed by Jewish engineers and craftsmen and labor contributed by the Christians. How’s that as an example of everyone working together.             

History and photos of Avila

This magnificent structure is 53 miles northwest of Madrid and is one of the highest cities in Spain. The fortress is 8,202 feet in circumfrance with 90 massive stone turrets, and 7 gates. Obviously built to withstand military attacks and protect the city.

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Although the history of Avila is of interest to me, I was surprised and intrigued by the history of St. Teresa.

See: YouTube, Biography of St. Teresa of Avila.

When the tour guide started speaking about St. Teresa, I was only half listening; instead, my attention was on the massive walls and turrets of the city.  However, when he said that in a dispute with the religious leaders of Avila, she left the city, stopped at the top of the hill, took off her sandals and shook the dirt from the bottoms saying “I take nothing with me from Avila, not even the dirt from my shoes” I knew I would have liked this woman.

Her story was interesting when you consider that during her time convents were not necessarily a place to find religious solitude, but instead, a peaceful interlude for people of means.  Nuns could have personal items and relationships with people outside of the convent.  The church was more interested in money than prayer at this time.

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Her widowed father sent her to be educated by the Augustinian nuns after the death of her mother.  She appreciated the structure and solitude of her surroundings; joining the Carmelite order at age 21. Later in life she suffered a severe illness that left her legs paralyzed for three years, until she experienced a vision that changed her life forever and spurred her to vigorously reform the Carmelite order to it’s original austere religious tenets.

As a very devout woman, who was known to have experienced many mystical visions; but was often counciled by other priests to “keep her visions to herself,” St. Teresa was an unstoppable force on a mission to reform the church: and, was not known for always doing as she was instructed. She, with the help of St John of the Cross, established more than 14 monestaries prior to her death.

After her death, she was reburied several a times and in several places.  Her body was dissected with pieces going to chapels, and private residences of the rich who wanted a piece of this mystic/saint. (I guess it was like having a rabbit foot – which was never good for the rabbit).

At the same time as St. Teresa you have the mystic, poet, reformer of Spanish monasticism and helper to St. Teresa in restructuring the Carmelites, St. John of the Cross, also in the area of Avila.

St. John is regarded as one of the greatest Spanish poets, and one of the greatest mystical poets of all times. There is a book, “Flame of Love; Poems of the Spiritual Mystics, St. John and St. Teresa of Avila”. Together with his writing of “Dichos de Luz y Amor”  are the most important works of Spanish mystical literature today.

If you ever find yourself in Madrid, with time on your hands, I would suggest a short train ride to Avila .. Or .. Toledo, which is my next blog, or Segovia.

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Vaya con dios, amigos!