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This is our website which has our updates and pictures of our trip abroad during 2004-2005.
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    Tom and Ronit Ricoy
    Sunday, September 04, 2005

    View from our apartment (Tenerife)

    Bananera (Tenerife) 2km from our home

    Final Blog Update

    From the Ricoys: Final Blog Update (September 4, 2005)

    Greetings from the Canary Islands!

    This is our last blog posting. From time to time we’ll send out a group e-mail, but mostly we’re going back to good `ol individual e-mails and even letters/postcards. The reason: Instead of encouraging communication, we’ve found we don’t write to individuals (since we’ve already given our “news” on the blog) and few people reciprocate with their own updates (which we would truly love to hear). So this is our final blog and then we’ll change our medium of communication.

    Above, you see photos from Tenerife. The promised Paris photos are just below this update.

    We live in a spacious (long but narrow, all with view) studio apartment on the edge of Puerto de la Cruz, on the northern side of Tenerife. (The southern side, where the popular beaches are, is crowded and completely overrun with tourists. The northern side has its areas, but it’s much calmer and retains more of its Canary character.) Our studio is old and does have some “peculiarities”: We have to wear rubber-soled shoes when using appliances to avoid shocks, we had to use candles for 6 days after we lost power in the bathroom and entry, the hot water heater provides 2 minutes of hot water and leaks, etc. Despite all this, it’s a comfortable place, and we are winning the war against the cockroaches who wish to share our abode…. Anyway, we are blessed with an ocean view!!! (That view pretty much makes up for anything and everything else.)

    We’ve just completed our second week of Advanced Spanish in Tenerife; we are gaining a better understanding of the subjunctive forms and usage. We requested to be in the same level and the Salamanca class content (Intermediate Spanish) was review for me, but now we are both learning new things. Just before coming to Tenerife, we heard that the school here was not very serious in comparison to Salamanca (which had us worried considering how much time was wasted there). I’m happy to report otherwise: The atmosphere is very casual but the focus in on substance. I love the informality of dress and attitude (the director and teachers wear old jeans and t-shirts or tank tops) combined with quality/substance (teachers are well-prepared and don’t allow un-interested students to distract interested students from learning, the directors are very responsive to questions or needs that arise, etc). People in general are also more laid-back and friendlier (more like Latin America than the rest of Spain) and yet things are organized and well-run (which is not as common in Latin America). This value system (serious substance, informal appearance) fits perfectly with my own.

    Tom continues with more than full-time studies (his online university classes plus Spanish) and I guess our biggest news is that we are looking into staying abroad until next summer. At the rate Tom is going, if all classes are offered when they should be, he could complete his degree in July 2006, so we have made that our goal. That means we’ll be settling in Austin next summer. (We’re thinking to get an apartment in the summer but move into a duplex with a yard in the fall, after Tom’s been employed long enough to qualify. We will likely eventually build a house by the lake but probably not for at least 5 years.)

    Here in Tenerife, I’m going to teach English (private students) to bring in some money. I’m also investigating volunteer opportunities in Spain now that I’m feeling better. A while back I saw a newspaper article lamenting the need for volunteers in the prison’s women’s modules and I may end up teaching EFL in a prison. I also saw a flyer for an animal-rescue network (the flyer was in German, the second most-widely spoken language here, but I knew what it was from photos and a German student translated it for me), so I’ve got some interesting options to explore.

    Physically we are doing much better, though we still have bad days (yesterday for example). However, my headaches are almost back to pre-accident level and my neck is much better. (I was already dealing with headaches and some other health problems in the months before the accident, but the accident aggravated existing problems and created new ones.) I am now able to stay through the 4-hour classes most days. (In Salamanca our apartment was practically across the street and I was able to lie down every day during break, which I needed, but that’s not possible here.) Tom’s hip (from the accident) flares up periodically but overall he is also better and we are very thankful for improved health.

    We have some trips in the works – a week at L’Abri in Holland this fall (we had planned on spending time in the original Swiss L’Abri but it was booked solid), heading over to Morocco this fall (the Canary Islands are off the coast of Morocco), and a trip to Israel after Christmas. Although not yet planned, we want to stop off in Thailand again and also plan a trip to Oaxaca (probably take Lucy to Mexico City or Puebla again) before back to Austin. We’ve been racking up the frequent flyer miles and will be cashing those in!

    I’ve enjoyed reading this summer and would highly recommend these books if you’re looking for some good reads: Peace Child by Don Richardson, Eternity in their Hearts by Don Richardson, The Man Who Listens to Horses by Monty Roberts, and How Shall We Then Live by Francis Schaeffer. I’ve got a few more English books in my stack and then I’m going to try to only read in Spanish.

    We are enjoying an incredible year and only rarely get home-sick, but we do miss our friends and family, and it means a lot to receive letters or e-mail. Thanks to those who have kept in touch!
    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    Early Anniversary at the Eiffel Tower Photos

    Anniversary Lunch: Altitude 95 Rest., Eiffel Twr, 1st Lvl (Photos)

    Pictures from the top of the Eiffel Tower

    Notre Dame Cathedral Pictures

    The Louvre Pictures

    Random Photos in Paris

    Tuesday, August 16, 2005

    New Portugal Photos Available

    We have posted new photos of Portugal!
    They are below the following update so scroll down to see them.
    Monday, August 15, 2005

    Ricoy Update No. 12

    Another Ricoy update -- August 15, 2005!

    Ah, Paris! We celebrated our anniversary a few weeks early so we could do so at the Eiffel Tower. We started the day with a city tour, followed by lunch at Altitude 95 (Eiffel Tower restaurant) and a ride to the top for phenomenal 360 views. We lazed away the afternoon on the grass near the tower’s base, gazing up at the Paris landmark and asking each other the paradoxical questions all couples in love must ponder at their anniversary: Has it been 2 years already? (Time has flown!) and Can it only be 2 years? (But it feels as if we’ve always known each other; our love and lives have become so intertwined that no other reality seems plausible.) It has certainly been a beautiful 2 years and it was a beautiful day to celebrate! And the day was not over! Still stuffed from lunch (the most delicious non-Thai meal I can remember eating!), we walked around, then had salads at a streetside café. At 10pm, we took a cruise down the River Seine and marveled at the lights of Paris.

    Other Paris highlights included Notre Dame Cathedral (incredible!), the Louvre (somewhat brief – I’ll explain), great food (French and Thai… and even McDonalds tasted better in Paris), an introduction to the French language, etc.

    We took 2 French lessons. I entered that classroom knowing 2 or questionably 3 French words – and mispronouncing even those! What a humbling, tiring, and somewhat intimidating experience to be a true language beginner -- but what fun it was when things started to click, even after just a few hours, so that we could understand just a little more of what we heard and saw. It was moving to think of my own ESL students, mostly immigrants who work so hard to learn our language and to make a new life for themselves. I already had tremendous respect for my students, and this experience really reinforced that!

    All in all, Paris was a wonderful experience! The downside was definitely the price – expensive! We try to be budget travelers ($11/night on the beach in Thailand, 16/night ocean-view in Tenerife, Spain, 30/night by the beach in Portugal) but we forked out $65/night for 3 nights in Paris. Even youth hostels in Paris would have run us $50 (despite what I said about seeming like we’ve always been together, I do still face sticker shock when I realize that youth hostel prices which would be reasonable for 1 have to be doubled, as there are 2 of us now!)

    Visiting the Louvre was also a wonderful opportunity, though it didn’t work out quite as hoped.

    I will preface this story by sharing that we are tiring of attitudes toward our own country, government and culture. Regardless of political persuasion, I think most fair-minded Americans would be disturbed by the selective and biased news coverage and portrayal of our government (particularly the president), U.S. policies and American culture. While most Europeans are kind to us as individual Americans, various comments betray widespread perception that Americans lack class, culture, good judgment and intelligence.

    Well, our visit to the Louvre got me thinking about my own definition of class and culture. For one thing, the United States’ relative lack of class structure (though this is in peril of changing) paradoxically gives America “class” in my book. And Americans’ emphasis on the worth of the individual (much maligned as individualism is) is closely related and something I highly value. The way I was treated by people of varying nationalities at the Louvre made me proud of my fellow Americans, but it made for a disappointing day. I cannot stand for long periods of time (knees), so I always use a wheelchair when visiting museums. Our fellow tourists were beyond rude, cutting us off and walking in front of us so that it was difficult to move forward and even squeezing directly in front of me and blocking my view of exhibits, sometimes glancing back at me to make sure they didn’t trip and then placing themselves directly in front of my “view.” There were kind individuals of many nationalities (the most understanding was a Taiwanese Louvre employee who came to our rescue at the Mona Lisa), but most people were remarkably rude and acted as if I didn’t exist. The American tourists, on the whole, were a notable and refreshing exception. A number of fellow Americans were conscious of me as an individual and thoughtfully made way and asked others to do the same so that we could see. While I am the first to admit that we Americans are far from perfect, and it is quite possible that the American tourists on the whole knew less about the Louvre exhibits than their European counterparts, from what I saw, the Americans displayed true culture and real class.

    We did manage to see the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, some fascinating Egyptian antiquities, beautiful sculpture and a number of less-than-inspiring French and Italian Renaissance paintings (okay, call us uncultured, but we didn’t like them… I do like painting, though -- Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet…).

    Coming from a 24-hour, flexible American culture, we have had to adjust to a more regimented (especially in Spain) European culture – or starve. When it is “eating time,” the restaurants are packed. When it is NOT “eating time,” the restaurants serve only drinks or close. (We missed a few “eating times” this past week as we discovered “eating time” is different in Spain and France. As we neared the border on the way home, we were trying to decide whether to stop quick before we missed French “eating time” or to hold out for a few hours before Spanish “eating time” began.)

    There seems to be a “time” for everything. Lots of activity or no activity. There is “shopping time” and the stores are packed (but they close for a few hours every afternoon), there is “movie time” when all the movies start at exactly the same time, and “standing-in-unnecessarily-long-line time” (which no one seems to question) for the ½ hour before movies start (followed by 2 hours of inactivity at the box office during “movie-watching-time.” And there is even “vacation-time” (which we are now in) when the whole of Europe seems to be on vacation, all packing into the same campgrounds, beaches, etc and making for very busy roads. To our American minds, the logical solution to spending one’s life in long lines is offering more choice so that people can choose to go at less busy times if they so desire, but that is contrary to the culture here. So, we are watching the clock because we don’t have any food in the refrigerator as (having just gotten back from France yesterday) we missed “shopping time” and so are planning to go out at “eating time.”

    The Portuguese border is only about an hour from Salamanca, so we rented a car a few weeks ago and drove to Portugal. The countryside was beautiful and we drove all the way to the coast, meandering into a small seaside village.

    No, we didn’t go to Guatemala (not since December anyway)! However, we are happy to report that Quinn (current subdirector) will be able to stay at least through the end of the school year and Kevin (English teacher) will be able to stay through 2006. Quinn has identified a Guatemalan teacher he feels may be a good future subdirector, so please pray about the school’s leadership and future. There are still many concerns regarding the director’s ethics and this limits the ability of those working to provide students with the education they deserve.

    No, we’re not in Mexico either (not since January, though we’re talking about heading back there next winter or spring). However, we ask for your continued prayers for a family that has been through a terribly difficult couple of years. Lucy still needs your prayers and Elipidio (her father) was recently hit by a motorcycle and is recovering.

    We are now off to the Canary Islands, Tenerife to be exact, where we will continue our Spanish studies. I love the ocean and we are looking forward to island life!

    We won’t be online much while we’re in the Canary Islands. Tom will be online a couple of times a week, but that is for homework so he may only check e-mail occasionally. I will try to answer e-mails once/week.

    Our mailing address from now through November will be:

    Thomas and Susana Ricoy (estudiantes)
    Don Quijote Puerto de la Cruz
    Avda. De Colon, 14 – Edificio Belgica
    38400 Puerto de la Cruz – Tenerife

    (Yes, I am Susana at Spanish school, as my first name is Sue.)

    We’d love to hear from you!
    Thursday, August 04, 2005

    Photos from our very short trip to Portugal

    Saturday, July 16, 2005

    Plaza Mayor, Salamanca, Spain

    Salamanca's famous Plaza Mayor celebrates its 250th anniversary this year.

    Tom and Ronit in Plaza Mayor

    View from Our Front Door

    This is literally the view from our front door. It is the La Clerecia, also known as Universidad Pontificia.

    Casa de las Conchas

    The famous Casa de las Conchas (conchas means shells in Spanish) is just down the street.

    Random Pictures of Salamanca

    Amazing Drama in Plaza Mayor

    This is the drama written about in our update.

    “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.” Exodus 23:20 (NASB)