Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My Friend Janice

In 1986, just as I was graduating from St. John’s College, falling in love with Todd, and winding down my grueling aerobics schedule, I was seized by the unquenchable desire to go back to Germany.  I applied for and got a Fulbright Scholarship for a year of study at the German university of my choice, to study the German educational system. 

This stroke of luck led me to the Universität Tübingen and to Fichtenweg 11, the ugly student housing up on the hill overlooking the picturesque town of Tübingen.  There I—to my horror—found myself surrounded by other foreign exchange students, including a slew of Americans and Canadians, most of whom were determined to speak English.  

Back in the day:  Fichtenweg 11

But not Janice.  She, like me, was there to LEARN GERMAN, and really learn it, I mean, really become fluent.  She says she doesn’t remember, but I do:  we made a pact right from the beginning to only speak German to each other, awkward as that was.  The amazing thing was, we actually stuck to it. 

Some things never change

Janice lived down the hall from me, majoring in German from Newcastle University in England, but she’s actually Scouse.  Like from Liverpool.  Or better said, Elsemere Port, just across the river.  She and I became fast friends and even hitchhiked to E’Port from Tübingen during Spring Break to pick up her car, a tiny Austin Mini, so that we could drive it back to Germany and have even more fun for the rest of the school year.  It was the first time I’d really heard her speak English, and vice versa, and to my shock I could hardly understand her.  

We drove this cute little thing through the Alps, too, all the way to Vienna--with 5 people inside!

After that year in Germany, I saw Janice only sporadically, a couple weeks in DC and California, a quick few days in London, an afternoon in Los Angeles.  But like true friends, it didn’t matter.  I was thrilled when we moved to Spain to be within reach of easy visits back and forth.

Janice and daughter Lili back in 2012, our first visit to London

But that Janice…she had developed a phobia of flying, and even though we invaded her London house a couple of times, it seemed like there was nothing I could do to convince her to come see our palace, until—FINALLY—at the 11th hour, in the last week of our time in Spain before we left on vacation…she booked tickets.

British Airways, the only way to fly?

We had a full week of glorious Spanish sunshine, perfect to lounge by the pool.  Janice showed up with her friend Theresa and her daughter Lily, and we enjoyed our palace and its massive garden and pool. 

Our awesome palatial pool

Next we planned a trip up to Cueva de Gato, a secret place discovered by our friends Linda and Vida.  We organized an outing to this enormous cave, out of which flowed a river, icy icy cold in comparison to the summer’s heat.  We splashed and lounged, with the girls jumping off of the high rock.  We plucked figs from the loaded trees with an improvised fig-picker, and relished the icy water.

Enjoying the sunshine


Vida is the same age as Sasha and a year younger than Tia.  We invited Linda and Vida to join us at the Fin de Curso dinner that was organized by our flamenco professor, Jaime.  But first, I was determined to show my own music skills off to Janice by arranging a final Vale That concert back where we started, at Bar Milord.  Juan, the owner, was thrilled to have us, and we again marshaled all our friends to cheer us on.  Janice, Theresa, and Lily hung in there all the way through the last song!  What troopers.

The last gasp of Vale That

Coming full circle at Bar Milord

The next night was the Fin de Curso.  We arrived for the dinner at 9 pm, a fashionable Spanish hour.  In proper Spanish form, dinner didn’t start until 10:30 pm, and finished up at 12:30.  The show got started about 1 am;  Janice, Theresa and Lily hung in there.  By 1:45, still waiting for Tia and Sasha to dance, Vida went to sleep in the car.  I sang my Mal Alma solo around 2 am, and Tia and Sasha danced their magnificent alegria about 2:45.  by the time I got onstage at 3:30 am for the Fin de Fiesta and my chance to dance the bulerias, Linda, Janice, Theresa, and Lily were in the lobby, on their way out.  What a way to learn how the Spanish throw a party! 

Getting our flamenco diplomas late, late at night

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