Thursday, November 30, 2006

¡España, Otra Vez!

I don’t spend a lot of time in cars. And when I do, I’m not normally driving. I’m being chauffeured. Most of the time, the chauffeuring is being done by a taxi cab driver. But on Saturday night, Dad was driving. He and Mom were driving me to the airport in Philadelphia, after a few days in PA celebrating Thanksgiving. Nine hours later, I was sitting in a limousine on my way to the Ritz Carlton Madrid.

It’s a tough life…

I arrived to a plate of chocolates, nuts, and dried fruits. But I was too tired to notice. I crawled into my bed and awoke nearly four hours later. I proceeded to take one of the best showers of my life. The water pressure and water flow was amazing. Seriously, I felt like I was standing under a steady stream of buckets of water. Better be a good shower for 480 Euros a night, right?

At 9:30 PM, I met the team for dinner. These late dinners absolutely KILL me. Spain and food in general kill me. I’m rather certain that my meal cost about 100 Euros. And I would have been just as satisfied eating a salad from Whole Foods for seven bucks. I don’t get Spanish food, really. So much bread. So little meat. So much fat. At least they poured healthy servings of wine.

The next day, we had a large meeting with almost 100 doctors and scientists who would participate in this clinical trial. The meeting went very well, and the presentation I gave ranks as one of the coolest speeches I have ever given. I was the only American in attendance at the meeting. And even though the participants were doctors and scientists, not everyone is completely fluent in English. Hence, my presentation was translated into Czech, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. Everyone wore headphones while I spoke. It’s how I envision the United Nations operates. I couldn’t help but get wrapped up in that idea. It was cool.

After the meeting, the group attended a fancy dinner out on the town in Madrid. We ate in what used to be a casino but is now a space for private parties. At the dinner, I quickly made friends with the Italian doctors. Or rather, they quickly made friends with me. They noticed that my last name ends in a vowel, and had to ask, “From what village is your family?”

(Now, Dad, before you get all excited and impressed by these Italian men, you should know they are very disappointed that you have not brought your family to your homeland. And their eyes nearly bulged out of their heads when they heard that your Irish wife has been to Italy but you have not. So, maybe you should get on that?)

After a brief meeting Tuesday morning, I found myself with a free day in España. So I packed my bags and headed to the train station, La Estacion de Atoche. Just a few blocks from my hotel, I walked there, suit case in tow, and purchased a ticket to Toledo. Toledo is a small town approximately 70 kilometers outside of Madrid. A thirty-minute train ride followed by a 5 minute cab ride, and I was checked into my hotel, Toledo Imperial, right next to El Alcazar.

As I stood out on my balcony, looking at the cobblestone, labyrinth-like maze of city streets, I couldn’t believe I had taken myself all the way from San Francisco through the Spanish country-side and into what is essentially a medieval town. All without speaking more than a few words of English. For anyone who has traveled abroad extensively, this little trip from Madrid to Toledo is no big deal. But to me, traveling on my own, in Europe only for the second time in my life... I was a little pleased with myself. But I've always been good at navigation!

And so I dropped off my bags, grabbed my camera, and set out to explore the town. I shopped. I ate. I took pictures. I realized I needed an adapter to plug in my electronics, so I hunted one down. No one spoke English, so my Spanish skills were put to the test, but I survived. And I bought an adapter for only 1,50 Euros. My fun was cut short by rain, but it was still a nice trip outside of Madrid. Toledo is a beautiful city, and I highly recommend this day trip to anyone visiting Madrid.

I got back to San Francisco late last night. The return trip took roughly twenty-four hours, from hotel to train station to airport (Madrid) to airport (Philadelphia) to airport (San Francisco) to apartment. It is amazing how tiring it is to sit on your ass in an airplane all day. Especially after a few days of leisurely strolling around town barely speaking to anyone.

This month alone, I have traveled 23,134 miels on United. That's a lot of miles. And a lot of hours. A lot of time staring at the "Welcome to United Economy Plus" sticker. And a lot of time thinking about life. But as exciting as traveling is, it's nice to be home again. Nice to get back into the groove. Again. ¡Otra vez!

Friday, November 24, 2006

All I Want for Christmas 2006

It is that time of year again. And it has been since the day after Halloween. But in honor of Black Friday, I think it best to compose The List: All I Want for Christmas 2006.

  1. Energy. To wake up at 6:00 a.m. every day.
  2. Courage. To try new activities, like snowboarding and skiing and wakeboarding.
  3. Inspiration. To never settle.
  4. Charisma. To make each day brighter.
  5. Serenity. At home. At work. Despite the stress.
  6. Love. From a man.
  7. Loyalty. From my friends.
  8. Support. From my family.
  9. Ambition. To train for another race.
  10. Perseverance. To push through when it gets difficult.
  11. Speed. To run a marathon in 3:40.
  12. Acceptance. Of myself. For what I am and what I am not.
  13. Understanding. Of my brother. For what he is and what he is not.
  14. Patience. With my mother. And my father. Because I am only going to need more as the years pass.
  15. Discipline. To resist chocolate. Alcohol. Peanut butter. (In excess…)
  16. Forgiveness. For everything.
  17. Optimism. Because goodness often hides.
  18. Empathy. For everyone I know and love.
  19. Humor. Because I rarely feel like doing sit-ups.
  20. Laughter. Is there anything better on which I can blame the wrinkles around my eyes?
  21. Introspection. To write and read and think.
  22. Money. For now. And for later.
  23. Conversation. Over pots and pots of coffee.
  24. Pride. For who I am today. And for who I am going to be.
  25. Joy. To share with those around me.
  26. Growth. Despite the pains.
  27. Thoughtfulness. To give great presents.
  28. Depth. Underneath layers and layers and layers.
  29. Thick skin. To shrug off the criticism.
  30. Confidence. To toe the line.
  31. Curiosity. To explore. Dream. Discover.
  32. Peace. To sleep soundly.
  33. Flexibility. To bend when it’s necessary.
  34. Leadership. And something to believe in.
  35. Chemistry. And snap, crackle, pop.
  36. Surprise. Every once in a while. To keep it interesting.
  37. Warmth. In a smile.
  38. Comfort. In the embrace of someone I love.
  39. Excitement. In the ordinary.
  40. Excellence. Because anything worth doing, is worth doing excellently.
  41. Frequent Flyer Miles. To soak it all in.
  42. A porch swing. On which to sit on a clear night.
  43. A bay window. From which to view the San Francisco skyline.
  44. A boat. By which to sail away.
  45. Sand between my toes. While I lie and think about nothing.
  46. Musicality. Because life needs a soundtrack.
  47. Wisdom. To know what is important.
  48. To be genuine. "Even better than the real thing..."
  49. Creativity. To alleviate boredom.
  50. To "make the most of [myself], for that is all there is of [me]." (Emerson)

Monday, November 20, 2006

On the Road

For a while now, it has been hard to get started. Running. Going to yoga. Cleaning my room. Returning phone calls. And of course, writing.

But once I do get started, things aren't as bad as I think they'll be. I am always glad I went on that run. Or to that yoga class. I am always pleased with myself for cleaning my room. I am always happy after catching up with that old friend.

And with all that said, I do feel a little bit better about a few things. It is good to get in a benchmark of where I am out in the open. Because in the future, I will only feel "better" with a frame of reference for where I was.

And so, I am now officially on the road. Again. For the first time.

On the road, training for another race. (Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon) I'm training with my roommate this time, which will be great. We'll run three-four days a week with plenty of cross training activities to keep it interesting. I am excited.

On the road, traveling for work and pleasure. I just got back from Phoenix and I'm headed to Philadelphia to visit my family for Thanksgiving tomorrow night. From Philadelphia, I'll continue onto Madrid for another work meeting, then onto Toledo for some exploration on my own.

On the road, to figuring out what I really want to get out of therapy. And on the road, to reaching inner peace and happiness.