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The only Spanish words I know, besides how to count to 20, are “bano” for bathroom and “Te quiero” for I love you.

I might need to brush up, since my husband and I are leaving soon to fly to Madrid to see our younger son, Scott, who moved to Spain in August to teach English at a primary school.

While our son was living in Lexington, Kentucky, working at a public library, he told us he’d been thinking about moving to Spain to teach. As the procrastinator we know and love, we really didn’t think he would, but sure enough, he applied, was accepted and got it all arranged. He found a great place to live, and off he flew (after bringing a few boxes to store in our garage and his car to park in our driveway).

Scott is having the experience of a lifetime, and we can’t wait to see him.

He knew some Spanish when he left and has made a lot of progress. He goes to language exchanges at local bars, where he has met people from all over the world. They apparently enjoy listening to him speak English. He has the least Southern accent of anyone in the family. Scott’s also meeting one on one with a Spanish TV journalist to help the reporter improve his English and, in turn, the reporter is teaching Scott more Spanish.

It will be my first time out of the United States. My husband went on a canoe trip to the boundary waters in Canada several years ago, but that’s it. We have our passports and our plane tickets, which were not the cheapest, because we kept putting off reserving them. We go from Little Rock to Dallas to London to Madrid.

Finding a place to stay in Madrid was a challenge because we tried to look at a map and figure out what was close to our son’s apartment, which he shares with three other guys. He gave us suggestions of hotels close to train stations, and I think we’re in a good spot.

It also dawned on my husband in the middle of the night a few weeks ago that we weren’t sitting together on the nine-hour flight, the longest part of the trip. He got up and went online to pay an arm and a leg to make sure we were sitting together. The stranger I would have talked to nonstop or put a death grip on when the plane took off and landed would thank him.

It freaks me out to think about being on a plane that long. I’m taking earbuds and buying a neck pillow and one of those sleep masks that I thought were kind of silly until now. I barely sleep well in my own bed, much less sitting 35,000 feet in the air. It will be a miracle if I can sleep on the plane, but if I don’t, I will be sleepwalking through Spain.

I’m thinking about taking Benadryl to make me sleepy, but I haven’t had any in years. It might have the opposite reaction and make me hyper, like it did our older son when he was a baby.

Packing is another stress. With Christmas shopping and early deadlines at work, I have not had time to think about it. I am not a light packer. On an overnight trip to Branson, Missouri, earlier this month, I took three bags.

I know it will be cold while we’re there, and I bought a packable down coat. I’m told that people in Spain don’t wear tennis shoes and that wearing them pegs people as tourists right away. Scott said he wears his anyway, and I will, too. I do have a pickpocket-proof travel purse I borrowed from my daughter-in-law.

We also decided that since we’ll be so close to France, we will go to Paris for a couple of days. It’s just a two-hour flight, and we can’t pass up the chance to see the Eiffel Tower.

We got an Airbnb in Paris, another first for my husband and me. It received rave reviews for its location, cleanliness, etc. The only catch is that it’s on the fifth floor, and there’s no elevator in the building. That’s fine; it’ll help me work off all those pastries I plan to eat.

The only words I know in French are je t’aime for “I love you.” I looked it up, and the French word for bathroom is salle de bains.

Armed with those phrases and a good pair of walking shoes, I think I’m ready to go.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-5671 or


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