I only have a few more days in Calcena, the small town where my brother Diego and his girlfriend Rosa run the “Albergue de Calcena” (Hostel of Calcena) with the help of their good friend Israel. It has been a great experience spending time here; I have met so many interesting people, in particular the few locals who live in the town year round. Folks like Santos, an eighty five year old sweet man, who has lived in the town his whole life, farming, raising sheep and goats, and making the best he could of his surroundings. His stories are fascinating, from the time he climbed up a stone wall when a cow decided to attack him while he was in the upper valleys, to the time when a cousin decided to ask for his help to put a small cat bell to a vulture, not sure why yet. Santos tells these stories laughing out loud and crying as much, a sensitive man who never found a companion to share his hard life in these valleys of Spain. His two neighbors siblings Angel and Maria (Santos, Angel and Maria… sounds like a Nativity set) also joined us for lunch a couple of times; it sounds like Santos and Maria dated for a while but her older brother never liked the idea so they never married, pretty sad. It is so cute to hear Maria talk about Santos, how handsome he was when he was young. Diego asked Maria if Santos used to laugh as much as he does now, she said no, she said Santos is a happier man now.
These old folks are still very strong and healthy (other than their dental health which does not seem to bother them that much); they still carry forty pound bags of potatoes up the steep streets to their houses and up the attic. I have so much to learn from these amazing people; they absolutely adore Diego, Rosa and Isra, and the love is mutual. For the old folks in the town having a group of young smart educated energetic guys running the hostel is of great value as there are really no other services in the town other than a small bar not very well run. All other services like fresh bread, fruit, meat and fish come by small vans every other day or whenever they are close to the area. They drive around town honking their horn and the poor old folks panic, running down the street to make sure they catch them before they drive right through to the next town, pretty amazing to see this happening nowadays. It is a fact that these villages will be empty very soon unless brave young people like my brother and his friends find ways to make a living using their imagination, the internet, tourism, or whatever. It is their passion to help these soon desolated areas that has ignited my idea of bringing tourism to these amazing valleys of Spain. My two brothers and I have started a business plan to dedicate part of our time to support the development of international tourism starting next spring. I have always dreamed of doing this and soon it will become a reality.
The other interesting group of people who visit this town are the climbers. It is hard to understand for somebody who has never climb why would anybody decide to go up a rock for the pure pleasure of doing it. The area surrounding the village is full of challenging rock formations ready to be climbed. Guys like Pablo, a twenty seven year old long haired, nose and ears pierced super nice guy, who spends time in this area setting up “chapas” in the walls (metal spikes drilled and cemented to the wall) to create more challenging seemly impossible lines to climb. Spain is a world Mecca for sport climbing and the skill level of Spaniards in general is above and beyond all other countries in the world. Diego, Rosa and Isra are avid climbers and they are trying to convert the area near the hostel in another first class climbing area to seek customers for their business.
Diego climbing in Calcena
Last weekend I did my first presentation / speech on what is going to be the subject of the book I am writing. What it was going to be a group of friends and family ended on more than sixty people most unknown to me listening to my life experience in the last year of my life: my life in America, the lost of my dear Sue, the start of a new life, the trip to Alaska and back and all the deep thoughts I accumulated during my journey, all combined with a series of videos I have created from all my adventures seeking northwest. It was scary, it was difficult, it was personal, it was deep but it was beautiful and fulfilling. I have to say it was a great success and I had a lot of complements at the end; many stayed at the hostel and continued the evening asking me questions about my adventures. It helped me tremendously to realize the amazing life I have been fortunate to live in the last eighteen years of my life.
Speech at the Albergue de Calcena
Sometimes we see life go past so fast that we forget all the accomplishments and beautiful moments we are given. Since I lost Sue I have struggled building my self-steam back, especially since I left GENESYS. Being alone has been good therapy for me but also has awakened the toughest challenger I have ever met… myself. Sue was my mirror, she constantly reminded me of my value, of my accomplishments, of the person I am; with the mirror now gone I look at my new mirror, my self image, and struggle to keep my chin up and see myself with all I am capable of and all I have accomplished professionally and personally. Standing in front of a large group of strangers and sharing my experiences I have lived in the last twenty years of my life has been a great step forward on my search for answers and the search for a new path in my life. Like Pat Perry told me once, if you are not afraid of the new challenges ahead, they are probably not the right ones.
I am once more scared… life is good.