Before our son left to study abroad this semester, I encouraged him to keep a journal. I remember mentioning that very large adventures, like four months in Spain, should be chronicled. No doubt about it, without some kind of diary, it would take 20 years down the twisty pike of life for the dude to be left with just a few fond memories. Oh, Ricky would probably remember what he sorely missed about being so far from home. Yup, all the really important stuff that has dominated our brief telephone conversations each Sunday. Things like … Spain has no Pop Tarts or barbecue sauce … anywhere. The guy has checked. Oh, and the lack of hand soap and toilet paper in public restrooms apparently is a huge issue with Ricky. This was surprising to his mother, considering Ricky is the same kid who buried himself up to his neck in a huge pile of fresh, steaming mulch on the school playground in the first grade. My guess is Ricky musta taken my words to heart, because last week the dude e-mailed me 10 meaty pages dripping with juicy tidbits of his first 10 days in Spain. It was certainly beyond my wildest dreams. I liked that he even mentioned that his mom tearfully saw him off at the gate. It certainly made humbling myself before the ticket agent for a gate pass worth all the effort. Yep, if it weren’t for his journal, Ricky probably would not have remembered his very first European purchase. “After almost walking through a glass wall I could’ve sworn was a door, and going through customs, I made it to the gate and took off for Madrid. There I met up with some of the other students and made my first purchase in Europe: a 2.6 Euro .5 ml Coca-Cola. Best Coke I’ve ever had right there, and arguably the most expensive,” Ricky wrote. And he probably would have forgotten his first stay in a Madrid hotel. “It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to turn on the lights. Apparently, there’s a slot to put your room key in that gives power to the entire room. I can’t even begin to imagine how I’d go about using that second toilet bowl next to the main one. And all of the light switches were impossible to find until I realized they were huge square plates you just push on. That was way too obvious I suppose,” Ricky wrote, probably wishing he’d packed a flashlight. I’d also have to say his first stop at an Internet café, this particular one inside a Subway/Dunkin Donuts, was humbling, but also entirely memorable. “I tried to print out the code from a machine so I could use the computers. Well, right away a guy that was behind the counter came over and did it for me. Yeah, they pretty much thought I was a stupid American that had no idea what to do. I think they were surprised I could walk and breathe. Well, I used the crappy computers and managed to check my e-mail for the first time in days. My session ended with not being able to find the “@” symbol on the weird keyboard and getting the blue screen of death, which was a feat I haven’t accomplished in many, many years,” Ricky wrote on day three. Reading through the first few days of his European adventure, I learned that the cultural experiences were actually making an impact. After a visit to the Prado Museum in Madrid, Ricky indicated his favorite Spanish artist was El Greco and he especially liked the one depicting St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist standing together. The last time I can remember being in an art museum with Ricky was our own Museum of Fine Arts. Ricky had to have been 6 or 7 at the time. It was a summer kiddie cultural outing … just two moms and six kids. We got kicked out when Ricky sat in a very antique chair. After that, I think we went to the Houston Zoo about 12 times that summer. If the lad can keep the journal writing going, Ricky will probably have enough pages to publish a book. Add 12 passing college credit hours to that and the guy will have had a most successful semester. Dixie Frantz is a Kingwood resident and newspaper columnist for the past twelve years. E-mail Dixie with your comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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