Marta and John's Wedding in Lodosa, Spain

Trip Start Aug 08, 2006
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Trip End Oct 11, 2006


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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Lodosa, SPAIN
Marta and John's Wedding in Lodosa, Spain

11:00AM - Recovering from the post-Rehearsal Dinner Party last night, I took my time waking up on the big day of Marta and John's wedding. Since the ceremony would not take place until 6PM, there was still plenty of time to relax and gradually get ready. I leisurely sipped some café con leche (coffee with milk) in the kitchen while chatting with Maria, a very nice Rumanian-born domestic assistant for Marta's family. She expressed also her immense excitement to attend the wedding.

4:30PM - With the ceremony 90 minutes away, the last-minute preparations were quickly concluding at a feverish pace. Flowers, bouquets, neatly-pressed suits and dresses, make-up, hair-styling - all the visible components of a wedding ceremony were in place. Marta had returned home from her last-minute errands, as did her brother Fernando, who had come back from picking up some Houston friends at Pamplona Airport 80km (50 miles) away. Gentiana and Isaac had just flown in from Hannover, Germany. We were all friends with Marta and John back in Houston. However, Gentiana returned to work in her specialty of ENT (Ear-Nose-Throat) in Germany, where Isaac was also studying. I also received a call from Claudia, another friend of ours who was doing her post-doc at MD Anderson. She was currently in the car with Mark on the Autopista (Spain's interstate highway) somewhere between Barcelona and Pamplona. They wanted us to know that they might arrive several minutes late to the church. Then the other group of friends from Houston, now dispersed all over the world, had just arrived in Lodosa the same afternoon. Elisa and Xavi, Sara and Ian, and Nathalie and Philippe drove in together from Sara's hometown of Zaragoza, the same city I had first stepped foot in upon arriving to Spain almost a week ago. Elisa was Marta's roommate and dear friend in Houston. Now she was working back home in Barcelona, where Xavi was also teaching at the university. Sara transferred three months ago to a subsidiary of a global chemical engineering firm in Paris while Ian headed down to Honduras for a venture capitalist project. Philippe voluntarily moved to a subsidiary of the same company as Sara, but in Algeria. Nathalie, originally from the province of Quebec as Philippe, was the only alumnus of the Houston group still working in the "Space City." The Houston "mafia" used to be a big network, but now only existed as a diaspora scattered on four continents. Therefore, to come together again for this reunion was really a special event many months in the making. And all 11 of us were going to bring a little of the spirit of Texas to this small town in northern Spain.

5:50PM - The bride was standing in her beautiful wedding dress in the foyer alongside her parents while family and friends from afar - Madrid, Galicia (NW Spain), the Basque region, etc. briefly stepped through the door for a brief admiration of the blushing bride. "Qué guapa! (How stunningly beautiful) was the most echoed remark from each visitor. Pre-wedding photography around the house also came to a halt. With 10 minutes to go, it was now time to get the bride to church! Surely, the groom and all his party were also anxiously waiting at the church entrance for the bride.

5:55PM - Upon exiting the front door of the house, we were all suddenly surrounded by elderly onlookers on the street. They approached us while marveling at the blushing bride. They were either neighbors or distant friends of the family who were not coming to the wedding. But they seemed happy to have had the chance to view the bride leaving for the church. Marta, her father and brother, got into a very nice BMW decked with white flowers. I got into another car carrying Marta's mother and Maria, the family's housekeeper and long-time friend. As we approached the cathedral and main town square, we were awed by the sight of so many townspeople lining the streets and entrance to the church - all were curiously witnessing the arrival of the bride. Marta's mother was shocked for a second at how crowded the normally sleepy square was. Onlookers stood, forming a cortege outside the church and around the square, to catch a glimpse of the bride stepping foot outside the car. And there was John standing next to his family, trying to catch a glimpse of the bride. As soon as my car pulled up, I quickly got out to open the doors for the others. Then the bride's vehicle arrived right behind mine, and John anxiously approached the door of the bride, who came out amid resounding cheers and applause. The atmosphere could only be described as a Carnival celebration typical of Rio de Janeiro.

6:00PM - The church bells tolled while German composer Felix Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Night's Dream" echoed through the interior of the cathedral. Like in a movie, I entered in file and rank behind the bride's and groom's family, into the church, and I was immediately struck by the beautiful golden altar that rose almost to the top of the 40-foot ceiling. My camera's memory card was burning up space very quickly, as my fingers did not know when to stop clicking. Constant flashes were scintillating against the ancient cathedral walls. The bride and groom, flanked by both families, were now at the front of the church. The service was very beautiful. Interspersed by live guitar music and angelic voices singing traditional songs of the region Navarre, the entire ceremony was made more interesting by its bilingual nature. Excerpt readings from the Bible were done by family members in both Spanish and English. Even the Polish priest conducted the ceremony and the Catholic mass in two languages. One of the most fascinating moments was the exchange of the rings in two languages. The groom made his vow in English while the bride reciprocated in Spanish, enhancing the universality of this tradition between different cultures.

7:00PM - At the conclusion of the ceremony, many people approached the altar to give the newlyweds their heartfelt congratulations and best wishes. Suddenly, I ran into Gentiana and Isaac in the main aisle, followed by Claudia and Mark. There was so much to catch up on. We gave each other a bear hug, feeling a sense of surreal dream that we were together in a tiny town in northern Spain. Outside, we met up with the rest of the Houston crowd: Elisa and Xavi now living in Barcelona, Sara residing in Paris, Ian on Roatan Is. (Honduras), Philippe in the middle of the desert somewhere in Algeria, and Nathalie still in Houston but with a serious contemplation about moving back to Calgary, Cananda. There we were, a true clan, a tribe, a mafia of sorts, from the cattle-raising state of Texas now transplanted to the heart of bull running country near Pamplona. The reunion was delicious. What was more delicious was the anticipation of the reception dinner in Larrión, a small town about 45km away.

8:15PM - In order to facilitate the transport of guests to the restaurant in Larrión, the couple provided numerous gigantic tour buses that could hold 50-60 people each. All of them were parked outside the cathedral and were ready to depart at 8:15PM, with return times at 2:30AM, 4AM, and 5:30AM. The tour bus rental was a conscientious act on the part of the couple to curtail the chances of any inebriated accidents. It also meant that Spanish wedding parties would not necessarily end at early time.

9:15PM - Everybody got off the buses and shuffled into the restaurant in the sprinkling drizzle. We walked upstairs into a foyer where canapés and cocktail were served. Then the main doors opened, allowing the guests to find their tables. I sat at the Houston - Mississippi table: Table #2 close to the front, and more importantly, within hand's reach of the wedding cake. My old friends from Houston and new friends from Mississippi all sat down, and the dinner began. Plate after plate, the exquisite appetizers kept on coming - lobster, pate, shrimp, etc. By the fourth appetizer, I turned to Ian and Nathalie to signal to them my impending gastric explosion. They also were straining to finish their appetizers. We then glanced at the menu only to find several main courses, including a fish and steak course, that were coming our way. By the end of the night, there were no more loose notches on my belt.

1 AM - Shortly after one o'clock in the morning, the dinner finally ended. The dance floor then opened up with live music. After consuming so many calories, everybody had the same idea of rushing to the dance floor to dance it off. There were long congo lines, paso doble dancing, flamenco dancing, and many other beautiful cultural showcases of Spain. We all forgot how late it was, as we were all together, dancing the night away, with laughter in our eyes. The alcohol was also constantly flowing from the open bar. Before long, I felt so exhausted that I decided to abandon the vampirish lifestyle of returning home at the break of dawn. I took the 4:30 bus with Nathalies, Isaac, and Gentiana. The rest of the Houston and Mississippi group courageously stayed back until the sun rose.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2006
Madrid, SPAIN

I had a blast in Spain, and Marta and John's wedding was immensely fun. I am now preparing to leave Europe and travel back to the continent, from which I began my world tour almost two months ago: Asia. I will fly from Madrid to New Delhi (via Zurich on Swiss Air) -- a 9-hour flight. Trading the crisp autumn air in Spain, I will be facing 41 C (104 F) weather for the next 8 days in India. But to see Daria and Ashish again will be worth it. Until next time,

Adiós and Namaste...
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