Dancing the Sardana on Easter Sunday
We are standing in front of the Barcelona’s La Seu cathedral in the Ciutat Vella (old city) of Barcelona. It is Easter Sunday. Less than a half an hour earlier, I drag Claudia from her bed and we rush through the cobblestone maze of alleys from La Rambla to arrive in time. I do not want to be late. Already, a large crowd has formed in the plaza in front of the church. I push ahead in the crowd, not quite sure where the performance will begin.
It starts to happen. As if by silent cue, a few old ladies and old men solemnly place their belongings in a pile together. They join hands and back up, creating a circle with the items that they have placed together in the center. The placing of all of their belongings together symbolizes trust and community. Similar groups simultaneously begin to pile up their belongings and join hands. All around us, the crowd is now more filled with participants than it is with spectators. The circles, like ripples in a pond during a rain storm, are forming all around us. We are in the center. I can feel an electricity of anticipation. I see young and old, men and women, traditionally dressed and in jeans, join together in circles. As the music begins, slowly at first, the dancers execute little hop-touch steps. As the music accelerates, the dancers raise their hands, their faces fill with pride and emotion.
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The Ferryman of Paros
“Tickets,” demands the man in the uniform, his hand out stretched with impatience. His face is filled with disgust and disapproval. I can hear him tapping his foot. We are seated in four very comfortable, squishy chairs on the air-conditioned interior of a ferry headed from Athens to Paros. In our group is my husband, Frank, my 2 year old son, Max, and my 14 year old daughter, Claudia.
We found these beautifully vacant chairs after searching high and low on the gigantic ferry. On the deck of the ferry the heat of the summer and the smoke of the cigarettes cling to the deck like a frightened sailor, afraid of being swept into the sea. This combination of smoke and heat is suffocating. There are no available seats. We boarded late and now everything is taken. It is like a game of musical chairs and we arrived after the music stopped. As we search desperately for a place to sit for the five hour journey, we drag our suitcases behind us like balls and chains. Finally we spot four large, beautiful, cushioned chairs side by side in the cool air conditioned interior of the boat just around the corner from the bathroom. They are tucked in a corner as if forgotten. Gratefully we sink into this heavenly oasis.
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The wind is blowing fiercely. Our ferry heads directly towards a sheer cliff. It looks as if we are going to smash into the giant cliff face. Then I notice a narrow line of buildings huddled together at the base of the cliff. This lonely group of buildings and narrow road does not seem large enough to receive the avalanche of human bodies and cargo that is about to erupt from the interior of our ferry. I stand with my husband, my son and my daughter in the bowels of the ferry waiting to disembark. The sea is rough and we wait for the ferry to steady. Finally, the giant ramp begins to slowly lower. As the giant ramp lowers, a digital version of Fur Elise plays eerily over and over again, a strange accompaniment to the methodical, mechanical descent of the back flap of the boat. As the ever widening patch of light and the howl of the wind entering the dark interior of the ferry, the light melody repeats as if we are trapped in a giant music box.
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