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  • I boarded the train in Rota for my first baby steps alone in a foreign country. When I say baby steps, I only rode it to Cadiz and got off. It was a beautiful Sunday morning and the sky was a vibrant blue. I was afraid to get too far away from the train station for fear of losing touch with my lifeline to return. Much like I imagine a time-traveler wouldn’t want to forget the location of his portal.

    I felt conspicuous standing there alone on the platform, so I began walking down one of the avenues, glancing back every so often for assurance that I could still find my way back. It’s a wonder I didn’t drop breadcrumbs!

    Eventually I screwed up my courage enough to expand my horizons by a few streets. There I came upon a high wall much like the outer wall at a city ballpark back home. I could hear young boys yelling and laughing on the other side. I kept walking until I reached an opening in the wall; a passage into the ballpark.

    I entered by going up a few steps to the circular seating area of a local bullfighting arena. Oh, don’t get the wrong idea. This was nothing grand by any stretch of the imagination. Small and dusty with stone bench seating. A protective wall isolated the spectator from the action.

    In this case the action was three young boys, maybe fifteen but more probably closer to thirteen, trying out their skills as matadors. Two on the sides and one in front with a polka dotted bed sheet waving it at the bull. The two were yelling encouragement to the one. He was making aggressive steps and shouting in the bulls face.

    Now this is beginning to sound exciting and dangerous, so I should tell you that the bull was the most non-threatening creature I’ve ever seen. Its horns were mismatched – one up and one down. It was so skinny that its ribs showed like a washboard. It had obviously been brought docile on a rope from one of the boy’s father’s pasture for the event. It acted bored as if it was used to the boys practicing their techniques and honing their futures at its expense.

    I watched them take turns being the matador for maybe an hour before I slipped away, unnoticed by them the entire time. I walked back to the train station without getting lost and breathed a sigh of relief. There I bought a small loaf of hard bread, much like a Kaiser roll, and a beer from a nearby vendor and sat down on the platform to eat and await the train for my return to Rota.

    The walls of the station were plastered with large colorful posters advertising upcoming and past bullfights. I stared at them pretending to be able to read them, and was able to understand enough to get the meaning and the dates of each event. Each one listed the main matador for that bullfight, much like the posters for a heavy weight bout back home. I imagined that those boys would have known their names much like we grew up knowing the names of major ball players.

    Too soon the train back to Rota came and I left Cadiz. After a short train ride and a longer walk, I was back aboard the U.S.S. John C. Calhoun, SSBN 630 and, like Alice, safely returned to my own world after a day’s adventure. I know it doesn’t sound like much of an adventure, but to me it was a “one small step for man-one giant leap for mankind” trip. A visit to a world with experiences unlike any I had in my own world.
    Down the rabbit hole...and....through the looking glass.
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