Carlene Hempel in Spain 2014

Reflections from a journalist and teacher abroad…

Adios, beautiful Spain…

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Here I am, in the Madrid Airport on Tuesday, June 10, just about to board the plane home. I look the part of weary traveler, don’t I? There’s my laptop. See how I’m gripping it as if it’s a respirator? That’s sort of the relationship I have with it on these trips. There’s my tote – something I never carry at home, but abroad it has everything a walking foreign newsroom needs: Reporter’s notebook, flip drives, my camera and cable, copies of everyone’s passports and my Spanish phone, used by all the students to do the interviewing for their articles. (Sorry Northeastern. I know that’s going to be a hell of a bill. ) There’s my lovely necklace, too, given to me the night before by the students at our farewell dinner.

Here I am, just about to board the plane home. All the students are already on board except for the one taking the picture. How I loved Spain… it was bittersweet to have to go...

I am just about to board the plane home here. All the students are already on board except for the one taking the picture. How I loved Spain… it was bittersweet to have to go…

I’m on the plane now, as I write this, struck by how time is both stretched out and compressed at the same time. My fourth Dialogue program is behind me but all I can think about is the day I dropped Cal off at nursery school and he chose to put on a black cape instead of say goodbye to me. Was that really 37 days ago? In that time, did Cal really learn to label anything bad as the “F word?”  Did Lila really turn 12, and edge just taller than my own 5-foot-6 inch height? Did I really see beautiful Segovia outside Salamanca, and all those parks including Retiro in Madrid, the Royal Palace and some of the best gourmet food markets in the world? And did I really not see the Prado or Reina Sophia because I was too busy to carve out the time?

A fitting picture… There in front of me is the Spanish countryside, from a mountaintop in La Alberca. How I loved it up there. It felt like the edge of the world.

A fitting picture… There in front of me is the Spanish countryside, from a mountaintop in La Alberca. How I loved it up there. It felt like the edge of the world, and seems fitting in a post that bids adios to the country.

Oh well. That’s the compression part. On the other side of that continuum, I did jog in some of the most glorious gardens I have ever seen. I did visit beautiful cathedrals, monasteries, monuments and palaces that made me want to lie on the ground and stare upward for days. I did walk with my husband and kids through park after park getting as much ice cream as we wanted along the way. I did eat paella, ox, octopus and acorn-fed “jamon” (ham) and drink a glass of rioja every day.

Soon, I’ll be home, and a different kind of urgency will emerge. Geoff and I have a children’s chapter book about Julia Child due in just a month. He’ll be traveling a lot in the early part of the summer, shooting his new TV show for Discovery. The kids and I will be at White Pond in Concord almost every day, spend time at his parents’ cabin in New Hampshire and my parents’ house on Cape Cod, and then eventually, for a good chunk of August, we’ll be back at our beloved pond in Maine. But soon, all of that will come and go too and fall semester will be here again. I know I say this at the end of every trip, but time is moving so quickly now, and I can’t figure out if these programs abroad make it go faster or slower.

All I know is that I just want everything to slow down. I want to relish these days and the people I fill them with. I am trying my best to do that, and not let the pressures of deadlines and commitments creep in. Until next time – probably next year around this time – I’ll say adios. Spain was magical and a terrific adventure for me, my students and my family. Again, as always, I am so grateful for this gift. Next up? I’m thinking about Cuba for next spring. How about that for an adventure?… In the meantime, thanks so much for following along (sorry for the delay in posting… it’s been so hectic!) and be sure to tune in at some point to see where we all end up next.

Written by carlenehempel

July 6, 2014 at 3:21 pm

At one of Spain’s ubiquitous parks…

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So that Geoff and I could go to lunch with our dear host Arturo, Gina-Maria and Caroline watched the kids at a park. These two have been with Lila and Cal before – in Jordan – so they all know each other well. In fact, in Jordan, Cal started calling Gina-Maria “mommy.” I love these pics. (Click on any one to see a larger version.)

Gina-Maria had Cal pose next to some larger than life advertisements on the edge of the park.

Gina-Maria had Cal pose next to some larger than life advertisements on the edge of the park.

LIla and Caroline2

They look like sisters…

Cal in Spain 2 Lila and Caroline

Written by carlenehempel

July 4, 2014 at 11:58 am

Posted in Lila and Calvin, Madrid

Again, in The Boston Globe…

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Another triumph: Our bullfighting package was published in The Boston Globe. Read it here. What you’ll find is a main story written by Shandana Mufti, plus two shorter pieces written by Gina-Maria Garcia and Mackenzie Nichols, and a slide show along with plenty of stills taken by Maria Amasanti. (Look for those listed as sidebars on the right.) The package also appears atop our own web site, linked here. Here’s a note (below) I wrote to my faculty on the day we published to alert them to the work we did. I think it sums up the extent of the effort involved:

Hello All: Please take a moment to read through our bullfighting package, just posted on our site: http://northeasternuniversityjournalism2014.wordpress.com This was a monumental effort by many people. The reporting team consisted of three reporters. We had a staff photographer as well. Plus, a designer (my teaching assistant.) It took a lot of work and a lot of tensions (arrrgh) to break into this secretive and closed-off world.  I think it represents excellent work by all involved. It will also appear in the Globe. If you have had or know these students, I know they would appreciate a note from you. Again, only one of us speaks Spanish, and none of these sources did. So, you can imagine how difficult it was for our students to score these many many interviews. (Yes, there were tears along the way by multiple people…) Hope you enjoy it, Carlene

Written by carlenehempel

July 1, 2014 at 11:33 am

Posted in Madrid

Why is everyone always so tired on this trip?

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Could I be working them too hard? Hmmm… Somehow, I suspect that’s not the only reason. Take note of my teaching assistant Dylan, there on the left in all the photos. He, admittedly, might be able to claim fatigue from overwork.

Sleep on bus 1 Sleep on bus 2 Sleep on bus 3

Written by carlenehempel

July 1, 2014 at 10:47 am

Lila and Cal

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They fight, for sure. But at the end of the day, they’re great friends, and terrific travel companions, home or abroad.

Written by carlenehempel

June 30, 2014 at 8:41 pm

Posted in Family

Lila’s Birthday Party

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It dawned on me at this picnic for Lila that she has celebrated four out of her last six birthdays in other countries. She turned 7 in Cairo, 9 in Istanbul, 10 in Amman and 12 in Madrid. What a lucky girl. On this May 27, we invited all the students to a beautiful temple and park at the edge of the royal gardens. They all came and ate cake and romped on the playground with the kids. It was a gift, to her and to us. We’ve had parties like this in all of those countries, and the students always make their way over to celebrate. I am so grateful for these memories for the kids. And I am so grateful to my students for always making Lila (and, for the last three trips, Cal) feel so welcomed and special. They have added so much to our already enriched lives.

Written by carlenehempel

June 30, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Selfies and my hair…

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Almost every picture I took with my students features my messy hair blowing in their faces or in their mouths. Poor things. I love these cheek to cheek pictures, though. They remind me of the affection I have for all of them. How lucky I am to be able to grow so close…

Written by carlenehempel

June 30, 2014 at 5:32 pm

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