© 2002 Roger R. Fernández
Chapter 1.PLEASANT SURPRISES
Guest speaker in Fuentesnuevas
Fountain of the Pear Trees
Chapter 2.PROMISING MILLENNIUM
Leeds Castle, England
Chapter 3.CULTURAL REVIVAL
Odyssey Resumed presented
“BOTILLERA AND BOTILLO”
“TO LA COGOLLA”: seductive mountain
“OUR LADY OF THE EVERGREEN OAK”
“TO EL COQUÍN”: idyllic prairie
“TO EL CACHAPÓN”: natural pond
“THE CHURCH MOUNT”
Council woman Nevenka and Mayor Ismael
Book Fair in Ponferrada
Salas de los Barrios
Chapter 4.INDELIBLE CRUISE
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Chapter 5.CRUISING THE CARIBBEAN: dazzling escape… Miami, Florida
Nassau, The Bahamas
St. Thomas, Virgin Islands (USA)
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Chapter 6.TERRORISM STRIKES THE UNITED STATES
September 11, 2001
“To justify an unjustifiable abominable atrocity”
Truths about “G. W. Bush and the Long War”
“I share the pragmatic sentiment of the United States”
There are four very special women in my life: my sisters Delia, Dorita, Lydia and Esterita.
By Héctor Blanco Terán
The content of this book, which its author entitles Odyssey Fulfilled, so penetrates one’s heart, that it submerges the reader into an unmanageable eager desire to continue devouring its pages once the reading starts.
There are two clearly distinguishable parts to the book. It seems as if the author intends to show a before and an after, the transition of a century into another. The line of demarcation of their borders lies at the very heart of its plot. It consists of a tight, precise, almost philosophical presentation of his book Odyssey Resumed and an article in defense of some moral convictions, where no doubt is left as to his stand on the September 11 terrorist attack on the city of New York. And, of course, a lesson of commonsense ethic in the face of such topics as councilwoman Nevenka’s sexual harassment accusation against Mayor Ismael of Ponferrada. These are, definitely, passages that stand out to reveal and well define, dear reader, the true soul of the author.
One can find in the first part of the book, as usual, a profound feeling of patriotism when speaking about Spain and El Bierzo. He uses them both as the measuring rod to compare new experiences. It seems, furthermore, as if El Bierzo were the perfect gauge to evaluate all that is beautiful and surprising in that world which he has endeavored to know and to convey in such a marvelous style.
Similarly, in the second part, Roger shows a deeply felt patriotism towards the United States, his beloved adopted country. He describes with poignancy the events following September 11, 2001, one of the saddest days in the history of that great nation brutally assaulted. He defends his solid convictions declaring himself an enemy to death of terrorism and presents the American people united like a pine-cone with President Bush in his determination to do justice and his unequivocal principle to reject crime as money to exchange for liberty.
On the other hand, his precise and precious accounts of the Caribbean have left me with a natural sense of pride, both personally and as a Spaniard, since through them I have been able to appreciate the enduring cultural imprint that our ancestors left in those lands.
His unique style to describe landscapes, historical data and the most subtle details is a charming way to let readers know his experiences, making his book pleasant, delightful and, I dare say, a good consulting guide for future trips. And, when reading the second part, a journey through the Australian continent fills the soul with that soft gentleness and stimulating sensation that the seas of the south have always afforded their visitors. Thus, as the old mariners saying goes, their pure air, impregnated with the scent of a mysterious island, a solitary volcano, blissful reefs inhabited with tranquil and happy people, makes one feel eternally young. Those southern seas are like potent venom that penetrates into the blood. Those who have tasted it hardly ever forget. They strongly feel the powerful desire to return and sense the winds. These, impelling the sails of life, urge them along the waves of those waters and when the evening sun projects its rays upon its surface, it shoots forth golden, blue and coppery colors making the mortal human that contemplates them feel close to heaven.
And, its nights? Oh! its nights with that specially blue sky where the stars seem to sparkle in different ways, excelling amongst them that unique one: the luminous lady of the south as a blinking lighthouse, guide, stimulus and muse of navigators. It is not surprising that it takes a place of honor in the flag of the Australian people as an admirable symbol of its open, honest, courageous and brave spirit, which has created a marvelous nation.
The readers who already know Roger through his Odyssey to Opportunity and Odyssey Resumed will feel unbounded joy to meet their author again, and continue, through his hand, the journey through “the World Continent that I have yet to know”, as he used to say. In reality, not only has he known it, but he has been capable to transfer to us, delicately and sensibly, its people, its surroundings, its landscapes and its light with that charm that a good professor always brings forth when he communicates his material to his students.
To exalt here the content of this section of the book would amount to show lack of consideration for the readers, for it would deprive them of the glee of unfolding, step by step, a fan of sensations, experiences and beautiful descriptions where the author has left his inimitable touch.
Those of you who are lucky to live in those lands will simply feel proud when reading each one of their passages. Those at the other side of this Planet who still do not know them will sense that beautiful desire of traveling along some ship’s courses full of the subtle beauty that the sea, the sun, gusts of wind and huge reefs put on a delightful stage.
Some of us, without knowing that continent, are lucky to have in possession lovely videos of the coast and ports of Australia. Specifically in my case, I received such a video from my deceased good friend César Josa Álvarez with whom Roger maintained long and interesting conversations, which delighted us for many hours. I heard, also, passionate descriptions from my dear friend Rubén García Frades who lives there. None of that has been able to fill, however, neither my spirit nor my heart as the narration of this book.
In sum, dear reader, it is easy to imagine Roger on the highest deck of Legend of the Seas crossing the Tropics on a serene and tranquil night next to two charming ladies, Lucille and Amante. Indeed, those are suggestive names for such a night, remembering perhaps the thousands of experiences that could be surmised in a poem:
On its way the breeze sings
A “nana” with all sweetness,
Thus producing freshness
Of indelible experiences.
It returns to us the memories
Of lovely times gone by,
Which hidden in the soul
Make us again being born.
The caresses of a mother,
The warmth of a tender kiss
Leave the heart prey
Of such sweet solitude.
And the Heaven, in its immensity,
Wraps us humans with its silence.
Translated from the Spanish by the author
August, 1999. Two weeks after the return from the pleasant trip through Alaskan and Canadian coasts, Roger undertakes with joy and enthusiasm his usual annual date with “El Bierzo”, his favorite corner on earth. He longs to relish once more in Fuentesnuevas, in mid August, the deep-rooted festivities of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Roque, and the most recent Festival of the Sardine. He was gratefully surprised by the completion of the new freeway from Benavente to Ponferrada. It made the drive from Barajas, Madrid International airport, shorter, faster and more enjoyable. He drove his car with calm and even with pleasure…and by noon, he was in Ponferrada.
After a warm welcome from his sister Esterita, she asked him:
“Roger, did Mayor Mary Crespo talk to you?”
“No. Why?” – he answered.
Roger went to the offices of Bierzo 7, a weekly from Ponferrada. There he met Soroya Guerra. She is the daughter of one of his friends, and was working at the paper for that summer. She asked him: “how do you feel being Guest Speaker of the Festival?”
“So, is it true that I was nominated Guest Speaker?” - he asked.
“Well, yes. Didn’t you know it?” - continued Soroya.
“No”, he answered. “My sister mentioned something to me when I arrived, but nothing official.” DELIVERYING A MESSAGE
That afternoon in Fuentesnuevas, Roger profited by the opportunity of talking with Mary Crespo Marqués, who in fact confirmed for him what he had heard from his sister and from Soraya. The Mayor had tried to contact him in the United States, but failed in the effort: his area code number had been changed. He expressed to her how honored he felt to have been chosen by Fuentesnuevas as the Guest Speaker of the last Festival of the 20th century as well as the 2nd Millennium. So, on the 14th of August, at 1:00 o’clock in the morning, before a well awake and lively audience, Roger delivered his speech, which will be reproduced in its entirety in later pages for the benefit of the reader.
While preparing his speech, many other thoughts rushed to his mind. Roger then realized that his long journey around the world was about to be fulfilled, completed, finalized. Now he considered his duty to give back in return that which he had so generously received… and returned it willingly. He began to relive a real gift, a visit to the past. He was pleased and surprised with curiosity to remember that Antonio Marqués, Mayor of Fuentesnuevas when he started his “odyssey” was an uncle of Mary Crespo, the village Mayor now that he is completing his journey. Mayor Antonio then joined the priest and the teacher in signing documentation verifying Roger’s parents’ permission to start his odyssey going to study at Grugliasco, Italy. Mayor Mary, now, invites him to honor the town with the fruit of that narrated journey which is about to end.
In as much as he would have to crown the queen of the festival at the end of the speech, Roger suspected that there would be many young people present for the occasion. For that reason, youth took possession of his thoughts when he wrote his message script. Its translation from Spanish reads:Dear Friends:
On this notable occasion of bell ringing and rejoicing, I would like to extend my deeply felt gratitude to recently elected Mayor Mary Crespo for inviting me to talk to you. It is a great honor to be selected Guest Speaker of this joyful festival. I hope to interest you and to be brief, for, according to Gracián, “that which is good, if brief, twice as good.”
Miguel de Unamuno left written the great truth that, in his old age, man tends to return to his mother’s lap. Similarly, as I mature in years, I acquire a greater spell for my native land. I delight in returning daily by imagination and the Internet, and each time with greater attraction and nostalgia, to this most affectionate Bierzo where I was born and grew up. In my daily odyssey, reigns, above all, the eloquence of memory, and tears of remembrance invigorate my living.
I know for certain that we all gather here annually, not only to have fun during these deep-rooted festivities of the Assumption, Saint Roque and the most recent Festival of the Sardine. We also reassemble to celebrate our past praying together, dancing together, tasting together the fruits of our land, sharing our adventures and perhaps our hopes and aspirations. We join together, furthermore, to charge our batteries to be able to face, with peace and tranquillity, the great difficulties and injustices along the twisted highways that at times we have to travel. Throughout all my existence, this “berciano” soil has become the very rich and extraordinary burrow from where, like a torrent, have sprung forth religious and human forces that have helped me to overcome obstacles, realize dreams and concretize aspirations.
We gather here, furthermore, to appreciate our artistic patrimony in the church of Our Lady of the Assumption, as well as the monuments to our way of living. In my trips, I have seen many cities and all of them have their monuments. Even the Indian Eskimo tribes of Alaska, from where my wife and I have just returned, have their “totems”. These monoliths made of trunks of trees, carved and painted, represent aspects of their lives and existence. Here, these festivities manifest, by themselves, a monument to our past with our processions, “rondas” (rounds of drink with friends, through the town) and our other kinds of entertainment which place us near our present and unite us, at the same time, with our loved ones in the past.
We remember, besides, the hermitage, symbol of our religious unity, since it was part of our traditions, our processions during the Feast of Corpus Cristi and our warm welcome of pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. On a personal level, and due to its closeness to Doña Viruca’s farm, to think of the hermitage, reminds me of my father’s funny way to irrigate the land by yelling at me from far away “Arrea el Burro”(Spur the donkey on). This has become the only name by which many of you in the audience know me.
Evidently, we come together to this celebration to gather courage to reconstruct that great monument to the life of this village: “La Fuente de los Perales” (The Pear Trees Fountain). It is a monument to our mothers and sisters who in its environs washed our clothes; a monument to those who used to return from working the fields and the vineyards and would stop to cool themselves or to quench their thirst; a monument to those of us who used to visit it after school to drink or to play. And I hope that this guest speaker’s evocation will become a reality in a not too distant future; that this fountain will be a place for community gatherings as it used to be and the hermitage will form part of our processions as in times past.
There is another reason why we meet here to relax and to enjoy, and it is the beauty that charms our existence in this region. Certainly my wife and I have seen beauty of natural sublimity as those of the shores of Alaska, which you will see described in my new, soon to be published book Odyssey Resumed. I enjoyed a beauty which can be contemplated and admired, but which represents only one more experience in my life, without forming part of it. The beauty of these surroundings, the beauty of El Bierzo, is also contemplated and admired, but it is neither plastic nor superficial, but rather it penetrates the heart, takes possession of the subconscious and becomes part of one’s living.
When I behold that splendid scenery, those landscapes of such natural pulchritude as in the case of Alaska, I see a fascinating but empty immensity, resplendent but deserted, appealing to the eye but repellent to the desire of living. However, wherever I go, El Bierzo accompanies me, Fuentesnuevas is my way of feeling, my imagination’s spoiled whim and part of my life, even in my absence, and when I return, I rejuvenate in my happiness. I have not found this beauty of El Bierzo, undetected by the senses, anywhere else in the world that I visited or in which I have lived.Allow me to conclude by reciting to you the first poem of my poetic trilogy to Fuentesnuevas, which you will be able to find in Odyssey Resumed, the second book of my autobiography.
(Hymn to the pleasure of living)
Sprightly village! From this small “berciano” garden
In a sunny corner of the pleasant California south
Life I feel vibrate, thinking of your great fortune.
I open my memory’s door and sing your many praises.
Idyllic dream-like town, flaming, rustic and joyful
Destined you glow to plow new merry, pleasant vigor.
Perennial spring of new life and many hopes
In your bosom and your dwellings their comfort you renew.
No great ancestral lordship can in your annals be found.
Noble houses your borders fortify and enlighten you without equal.
Preserved vestiges from your past, your present ennoble verily.
Nests of learning and of caring for your people, your future guarantee.
With your enchanted landscape you always shine so graceful,
And the moorings in your meadows a precious picture sketch.
La Cogolla and El Coquín, the Los Perales Fountain and El Cachapón
Beget from earlier times tender nostalgia that caresses today’s hearts.
In the Church Mount and its environs, your dreams you crystallize.
You decorate them with apple trees and good vine of much succulent food.
With rounds of drinks in streets you celebrate good friendship.
Playing cards in bars, a close community you affirm.
To your lauded festivities of Corpus, San Roque and the Assumption,
Your children welcome people to celebrate with rhythm and with devotion.
With your prayers towards heaven and to the palate good taste
You perpetuate your greatness and with true savory roast delight.
For this, oh Fuentesnuevas, and for many other lauds
Forever, to live you will continue and will conquer any oblivion.
You will evoke forever to the world, gallantry with immortality,
For in your name you embody, eternal spring and luxuriant youth.
Roger felt quite content with the reading of his speech. The Mayor thanked him and congratulated him publicly, and privately, she promised him an engraved plaque, which turned out to be very lovely and attractive. It recorded the fact that he was indeed the guest speaker for the festivities of Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Roque in the year 1999.
Though it could be noticed in his voice that his throat was constrained at times by emotion, the audience seemed to have liked it, for the applause was warm and enthusiastic. Since soon after he had to travel back to Madrid, he left the festivities in a big hurry and could not witness personally the villagers’ reaction to his speech. Nevertheless, his friend Héctor Blanco Terán wrote Roger a letter in which he expressed his own impression, since he had been among the listeners. Here is part of what he wrote:
Well, you must not worry about your performance as guest speaker of the Festival: it was magnificent. In this instance, the Guest Speaker and the Mayor were above the expectations of the moment. As you well know, this does not occur everywhere…
Indeed, I want to tell you something very important. Your speech was much more suggestive than you can imagine. There were many young people who did not know either the needs or the traditions of Fuentesnuevas. You well know, better than anyone else, that youth does not normally take notice of such things. But see. You succeeded in catching their intense interest, and when, upon remembering your loved ones, the emotion constrained somewhat your throat, we all felt that same sensation, and in more than one face shone that indiscreet tear, which showed how deeply touched we were by the words you were pronouncing.
Roger was truly amazed by the number of young people present for the speech. He could not believe that they would be much interested in what a mature, not to mention old, professor had to say at one o’clock in the morning. Even though he was surprised, in reality he expected many of them. He understood that the crowning of the Festival Queen at the end of the speech had more magic than his long professorial experience…
Undoubtedly, his honorary function at the Festival presented Roger with a very pleasant duty: he had the opportunity to greet and congratulate, in the name of the town, Delia López García, Patricia Prieto Mauriz and Noemí Villar Vargas, second and first runners-up and queen of the Festival, respectively.THE PEAR TREES FOUNTAIN
At the conclusion of the speech, Mayor Mary Crespo took the microphone and promised the audience that the evocation of the Pear Trees Fountain would in fact become a reality and that in a not too distant future it would be inaugurated totally restored. Then, she turned to the guest speaker and suggested “I hope you can be present”. Roger nodded affirmatively and expressed audibly that he would do whatever possible to participate in the inauguration.
Each of the previous three years, Roger had composed a poem for the annual August Festival in Fuentesnuevas. With his poetic trilogy to that idyllic pastoral village, which the reader can find in Odyssey Resumed, Roger thought to have exhausted his poetic inspiration of that special corner of the world that he always carries in his heart. It was not to be so, however. The idea of the inauguration of the Pear Trees Fountain kindled in him warm childhood memories of a pleasant past.
Thus, he abandoned himself to a whim of nostalgic reverie. He relived the happy moments when he used to visit his mom and his sisters while they were washing clothes near the fountain. He would also remember the joyous moments when he played with friends in its surroundings, especially with Orencio who used to challenge him to run with the iron wheel to get faster and taste its water. He rekindled more intimate moments such as when he returned from the Marists for a short two-week vacation and used to go to the fountain environs to pray the rosary and meditate in the morning… At the same time he would observe the rays of the sun timidly piercing the branches of the poplar trees so as to warm the grounds… In sum, Roger started to recall his youth. It was thus that on the 10th of April of 2000 he sent the Mayor the following little poem, asking her to do with it whatever she thought most appropriate for the benefit of the village:
THE PEAR TREES FOUNTAIN
Fountain of the Pear Trees,
Spring of memories that last,
In your environs is heard the song
Of a noble town the throbbing heart.
How soft and docile your water crystalline
Reflects the joy and unity from times of old.
Your solitude intones a very refined melody:
To Fuentesnuevas friendship returns to last.
Mothers and sisters near you have their laundry done.
To freshen up gleeful plowmen always came to you.
Boys and girls to you have happily rushed to drink.
Running on your grounds they also had great fun.
Sanctuary of eternal silence in isolation,
Your tidy flow entices dry lips to sprinkle there.
Your moist stones, vigor and majesty do infer,
Reward those who come to quench an anxious spell.
How fortunate, oh thirsty travelers
Who by this mythical fountain are yet to pass,
If dry your lips descend its opulent gush to flavor,
A worthy recall of dignity, you certainly will taste.
One of the reasons that brought Roger to El Bierzo that month of August was the promotion of his new book Odisea reanudada (Odyssey Resumed). His festival speech presented him with the opportunity to discreetly mention his new work. In addition, he made the necessary arrangements to carry out one of his cherished dreams: to publish his book in El Bierzo. He succeeded in the year 2000 with the cooperation of the “Instituto de Estudios Bercianos”.PROMISING MILLENNIUM
In the 19th century, the English writer William Hazlitt, quite accurately observed “The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases.” After having read Odyssey to Opportunity, Héctor Blanco Terán wrote to Roger “We are all odyssey travelers in our own lives.” This is an idea that Roger highly appreciates and gleefully shares. He is convinced, besides, that he must enjoy a trip and not worry about its place of destination. Similarly, he believes that moving from one place to another brings with it more satisfaction and joy when done with his loved ones, since it amounts to placing one’s home in motion.
Though Roger and Lucille could not fulfill their dream of spending the last hours of the 2nd millennium and the first of the 3rd one in Vienna, the year 2000 was for them a year of intense traveling indeed. In July they took a cruise to Ensenada, Mexico. In August, few days after their return from the cruise, they undertook a trip of more than three weeks to England and Spain. At the beginning of December, they took another cruise through the Caribbean, the Panama Canal and the western coasts of Costa Rica and Mexico. In addition, Roger had the opportunity in September of spending more than two weeks in El Bierzo and enjoying the festivities of Our Lady of the Evergreen Oak.ENSENADA, MEXICO
In times of old, to take a cruise seemed a luxury only for the rich. Today, however, it is within reach of any one who looks for a time of leisure. A modern ship is like a floating city: it provides its passengers with all kinds of comfort and activities. Furthermore, cruises are rapidly acquiring greater popularity as the place where people in love tie the knot in matrimonial relationships. So many weddings take place in summer that many cruise ships seem to “convert” into Las Vegas “chapels”. Such nuptial vows, maintains Cruise Lines International Association, have shown a phenomenal increase since 1995. More and more cruises now combine the wedding ceremony and the honeymoon.
It was precisely to attend to such marriage that on the 21st of July Roger, Lucille and the rest of the family took a three day cruise to Ensenada to celebrate the nuptial vow between Rick Roberts and Stella Ang, Lucille’s niece. The religious ceremony took place in the ship Viking Serenade of Royal Caribbean, moments before sailing. It proved to be a very pleasant, joyful and spiritually special ritual, for the celebrant to perform and celebrate such a union was Bishop Bruno of the Anglican Church of Los Angeles. According to him, this was the first wedding he officiated in, after his ordination as a bishop, but he “could not say no to such a devout family as the Ang Family”. In fact, it was very edifying to see two young people consecrate their life in holy matrimony before a bishop of their religious persuasion and of their worship. The Viking Serenade sailed at 6:00 in the evening from San Pedro, Los Angeles Port, and anchored at Ensenada the next day at dawn.
Ensenada has a population of more than three hundred thousand inhabitants in an extensive area, some sixty-five miles from San Ysidro, a United States town that borders with Mexico, and some eighty-three miles from San Diego. It is the third largest city in Mexico. There, passengers could participate in various excursions, such as a tour of the Candiotera Cetto for wine tasting, or on horseback to the “Sendero de bandidos” (Bandits Path).
The wedding group decided, however, to go together to “La Bufadora” (The Puffing or Blowing), a natural phenomenon, which according to the guide can only be observed in two other places in the world: Hawaii and New Zealand. She must have forgotten, of course, that it can also be contemplated at Peníscola, Castellón, Spain, which curiously enough, is known by the name “Bufador”. The activated water from the sea is channeled into gigantic natural rocks structured in the form of a tunnel. The compression of the tide makes the water jump several yards high and exits furiously as white foam at the other side of the rocky tunnel. It exhibits a truly curious and impressive scene,
THE first suggestion of this Record of a very charming trip came from Sir Donald Currie, the genial and courteous Host of our palatial ‘House Boat.’ Others pr...
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