You take a risk when you invite me to share part of your foreign adventure. I just might accept.
That is what I did when Bobby Fraser, who shared his growing up years between Newport and Washington, New Hampshire, invited me to spend time with him in Barcelona and the island of Mallorca, about a 25 minute flight from Barcelona.
As background, Bobby showed up with his best pal and grandfather, another Bob Fraser, at my house years ago to interview me as his Senator for a 6th grade writing assignment. There followed a day at the State Senate as a page, and a semester in Washington as a page in the United States Senate under the patronage of Senator Judd Gregg.
After his experience in Washington, Bobby returned and did a combined high school senior year and first year of college at Clarkson University. He transferred to George Washington University where he graduated last June. Along the way in Washington, he even spent some time at a company I am very familiar with, Odell, Simms and Lynch.
Bobby has been accepted to graduate school but that was put on hold so he could be a field representative for Kelly Ayotte's senate primary campaign and take a teaching position with a parochial school on Mallorca. He was recruited by the Spanish Ministry of Education and hired by his school to teach English and American culture to elementary and high school students.
My journey started out on the day after Christmas. As I was going around route 128 near Boston to leave my car at my friend's house in West Roxbury, the highway signs were highlighting "blizzard." During my cab ride to Logan Airport, the snow was coming down pretty good. The snow continued and a long night of uncertainty had begun. In the end, along with many others from my British Air flight for which I was using up years of accumulated frequent flyers miles, we spent Sunday night at a Marriott Courtyard losing one day of my trip. The next day, because of the need for a second de-icing, we were nearly five hours late leaving Boston robbing me of an additional half day in Barcelona.
Integral to my story is Aleida Domingo Gisbert and her parents, Jordi and Elena. Jordi was there with Bobby, for example, at the airport on my arrival to take me to my hotel and set the plans for the next day, Wednesday, for walking around the city of Barcelona and getting the lay of the land. The next morning there was more touring and a wonderful lunch prepared by Jordi and Elena. It was my first experience with a Catalonian family in their own home. This is how you can come to understand a region and what life is like for an average family.
Bobby and I left and flew to Palma, Mallorca. The next day, Friday, was an exciting day. Not only did we explore Palma, we met up with Professor Ken Johnston and his son, Teddy, and daughter-in-law, Jennifer, who were also visiting Mallorca. It had been 10 years since I had met Ken at the wedding of his son and my daughter. Together we all had a quick lunch, walked around a little and toured the beautiful local cathedral.
On our own again, Bobby took me to the school where he teaches. I met a couple of the nuns who are in charge, and had a tour. As we left the school, we ran into a group of female students at a street corner. Up rose the call: "Bobby, Bobby." It is very obvious they like their "Bobby."
As night closed-in we stood by and watched a march by hundreds of people seeking more autonomy, or even independence, from Spain for Catalonia, the region that includes Barcelona and Mallorca. We attended a public celebration with politicians from many parties laying wreaths in honor of a 17th century conquest. But there were protesters, too, who drew helmeted police to watch over them. The payoff was that the governing party had set up a couple dozen grills and were passing out free meat and bread for people to grill over the coals.
We went back in Barcelona so Bobby, Aleida and I could celebrate New Year's Eve and enjoy a feast with her family at their lovely home on New Year's Day. We were at the table for four hours sharing a meal and stories.
As the blizzard held me up at the start of my trip, I came close to cancelling. Thankfully, I did not. I learned so much about Catalonia history, culture, and politics along with the daily lives and aspirations of one family as they shared some of their holiday time with me.
Most touching, following our feast on New Years Day, Jordi, drove Bobby, Elena, Aleida and me into town to see the Sacred Family Cathedral. The cornerstone was laid in April, 1882 and after 125 years of construction there are decades of work ahead to finish it. The Pope was in Barcelona just a few weeks earlier to bless it.
Just as we feel so strongly about New Hampshire and especially our region, that same pride of place and important landmarks of their society is part of the Barcelona and Catalonian story the Domingo family passionately shared with their visitor.
My thanks to Bobby and the Domingos for making my trip so memorable. Now I return to Concord refreshed and ready for the challenges of the new legislative session.
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