I would like to apologize for the delay of this post, and the next apology is for something you will not like much. I did rewrite the complete final installment because, as you know, I had technical issues. However, I asked some advisors to read over the final installment (the second time I had the privilege of writing it), and I was told point blank it was too long and people lose interest and it would turn them off. So, I was advised to break this ‘Final Installment’ into two parts. This may not be the best or the brightest thing I have ever done, and I may not even agree, but I have broken it into two parts. Since it is already written; I will post the TRULY final installment on Wednesday, September 19th, in loving memory of my maternal Grandmother as it is her Birthday.

AGAIN, I must give my apologies, but sometimes life and business just seem to get in the way of blogging! However, this is the grand finale, though I am not sure how terribly “grand” it will be.. You guys can tell me.

So, the scene is: me in the salon, surrounded by some of the most attractive women I’ve ever SEEN, and they are all fussing about ME!! And, it was the ENTIRE salon! My adopted grandmother wanted nothing but the best for me, and so that’s what they were providing. I saw some other American come in and ask to get her hair done, and she was TURNED AWAY. The salon said they were booked for the entire next few days… to a paying customer??? Obviously, that didn’t go over well with the American female, but she seemed like a bit of a snot anyway, so I doubt it was any real loss. And, she clearly, didn’t have a handle on the Spanish lifestyle, so it would not have gone well… Sadly, I bet she would have actually wound up being mean to these wonderful women who were so genuine… Ok, not the issue at hand… Back to the story.

I asked why they were closed, and a couple of the women told me, “it’s because we want to help you. That woman is a regular here, and we have never seen her so happy, and YOU did that. And now that she is gone, you look very “triste” (sad), even as you stand here trying to fulfill her wishes”. I started to cry again. They all spoke pretty decent English, but I took this as a wonderful opportunity to work on my Spanish, it was definitely on CRUTCHES 🙂

As soon as it really hit me that these women REALLY knew the woman that took me under her wing, I started to pump them for information. I wanted to know why she was there so often, and how come she was always alone? This woman has to be the most amazing person I’ve ever met, and she has this polarizing presence, so why alone? Another biggie was: WHY ME? What made me so special? I was just another American here to have a good time and learn the language…

The women started answering all at once, and I couldn’t catch any of the answers, but what I could see was every single one of their facial expressions. Something was definitely going on there because while most of them were staring lovingly, many were fighting tears. I immediately apologized for upsetting them, and the salon manager silenced everyone. She then started to answer for the group of women who, were now, all in tears and stroking my face.

The salon manager said I’d asked a lot of questions, and asked me if I really wanted the answers. While that did scare the living daylights out of me, I said, “Yes, please”.

It turns out that the woman had been coming to Madrid for well over the past 30 years and staying at Ritz each time. The salon manager said she used to travel with her husband and they were absolutely inseparable! She also said that the two of them, as husband and wife, made one of the most attractive couples, both physically and emotionally, that she thought Spain had ever seen. They spent every moment together, the salon manager told me, and with every passing moment, they fell more and more in love. And I kept thinking this isn’t bad at all; it sounds quite lovely really… The salon manager went on to say that the woman would always use the salon to get all fixed up for many black tie events; despite the fact that the woman could do a better job blindfolded putting her makeup on and doing her hair, than all the girls in the salon combined! That made me laugh, after all, this was the manager telling me this… I asked WHY, if that was indeed the case, would the woman pay so much money for others to do for her, and the reply was something that did bring tears to my eyes, “She knew we were working for tourists because we did not have any other options, and we were making very little money. So, she figured since she had money she did not need, she would come in, and order all the services, and that way… we WOULD make money. And she also TAUGHT US how to do our jobs. She also figured, if she could pay us, why could she not also TEACH us, and that way, maybe, word of talents and skills might make it around Madrid, AND THEN we would be able to each stand on our own, with our own special set of skills. And, she was, and IS, RIGHT!”

And now the thoughts running through my head are, “is there nothing this woman could not or would not do? How can ONE PERSON change the world SO MUCH? Look at all these lives she’s touched. Oh, and let’s not forget MY life… “

The salon manager proceeded to talk over the thoughts milling about in my head, and so I missed some of what she said. However, I tuned back in time to hear, “but she was always the happiest when it was the three of them…”. I start to wonder who mysterious third person might have been, when the manager started a new sentence, “She was always beaming when she had her husband and her GRANDDAUGHTER. *Insert LONG pause while the woman stares at me* You know, you look remarkably like her granddaughter. I wonder if she would be the same age now…” and her voice trailed off and she got teary

Salon manager talking: “None of us could believe it when she brought you in. She was as happy, and just as radiant as she was when she brought her granddaughter. As a matter of fact, we all thought YOU WERE HER GRANDDAUGHTER. You look to be about the right age, you have the same smile, the same hair, the same lovely demeanor, and you both captured her every second and every breath. To be honest, she did tell us when her husband died, but never about the granddaughter. We figured it out from the fact that you are American, actually, despite looking very Mediterranean… We were TOLD NEVER to ask her about it, and as much as we love her, YOU make her happy, and that’s all that matters. Anyone here would give anything to bring the kind of joy that you bring to her… She’s helped us all, and looked after us all so much, how can we ever give back enough? That is why you are the subject of the ENTIRE salon, because we REMEMBER, and we did used to play with her granddaughter, just like we are doing you up now… So, not only do you make her happy, but you are a beautiful memory to us as well. And we will do anything to make that last AS LONG as we can..”

At this point I am tearing up, and thinking that I must not cry because I am sure that it will set everyone off, and my make-up will run, and I will have ruined all their hard work and/or my dress… But who am I to deserve all this attention? And to have the power to evoke beautiful feelings and memories in COMPLETE STRANGERS???? I did repeatedly pinch myself to make sure this was not a dream.. and apparently I was doing it too many times because one of the girls slapped my hand and told me that I was going to really hurt myself!

Back to my very own Rico Suave that sauntered in…Tall, dark, and handsome is definitely THE way to go. After a while he was allowed into the salon to chat with me, but the salon women and girls were fiercely protective. They told him how close he could get to me, NOT to touch me, and that he was to explain what exactly was going on, and that he was also allowed to talk about how beautiful I am.

I won’t be giving out his name, so let’s stick to calling him Rico Suave, shall we? Lovely Mr. Suave introduced himself as a Spanish businessman and he was involved in various sorts of media. One girl whispered he was one of the top executives at a Spanish company, and she told me the name, which I will not be sharing here. Mr. Suave also informed me that I would be accompanying him to see the most famous Flamenco show and dancer(s) in Madrid. We would also be having dinner together, and there would be dancing. And at the word “dancing”, I nearly died! Since when did I inherit a rhythm section????

I start to PANIC!!! What was I going to do? I mean, besides look like a TOTAL FOOL in front of this drippingly gorgeous man, who is being so nice to me… And, he is someone that merely appeared out of THIN AIR because my adopted grandmother picked him out and asked (more likely, knowing her TOLD Rico Suave he would not only be my date, but that it would HIS pleasure to take me around, pay for everything… and it had to be THE BEST).  After all that had happened that day, I really was about to come unhinged. I was so emotional, and I felt amazingly loved, but I also felt lost and abandoned. Now, here was this absolute DREAM male, and clearly someone she had wanted me to meet and hit it off with, and I was going to go screw it all up by stumbling about on the dance floor as if I were a completely uncoordinated drunk L… I was really at the end of my rapidly fraying rope.

Luckily at this point Rico Suave seemed to read my mind again he started talking to me but the salon girls, especially the salon manager, would only let him get so close to me. They kept saying ‘She isn’t ready, she isn’t ready’ and he said, “I just want to talk to her for a minute about our plans for this evening. I was told she does not know how to Flamenco dance and as she is American I don’t think it’s fair to expect her to know how based on watching professionals”. To this the salon manager replied in Spanish (Translated for your reading ease) “OK you may talk to her but please be aware she is very fragile right now and if you upset her we will all make your life miserable plus do not forget the instructions SHE (my adopted Grandmother) gave you. You certainly do not want to go against her wishes nor do you want to disappoint her, remember that. Her name is Jamie, just in case you forgot and remember that she is absolutely off limits. She is not just any female, she is especially NOT one of your dumb dates. We know you don’t know her but we know her well and because of the relationship you have with (insert adopted Grandmother’s name here) she trusts you implicitly, and honestly believes that you have not just her best interests at heart but those of (insert adopted Grandmother’s name), and therefore her safety, her physical well-being and her mental well-being are in your hands. She is young and very sweet. She speaks Spanish better than she is willing to admit, so I suggest you do not say anything you do not want her to hear in either English or Spanish. By now you should understand just how much this girl means to us, and if anything at all happens and she is either disappointed or wounded physically or emotionally we will most certainly make sure that this is reported back to (insert adopted Grandmother’s name here), and you will have to answer to us as well”.

Rico Suave approached me just as they were finishing pinning my gorgeous, blue and white Flamenco dress. As he came closer the girls withdrew but stayed at a very safe distance and were clearly making sure that he did not do or say anything to upset me. Rico Suave properly introduced himself and shook my hand commenting on what a sturdy handshake I had, how beautiful I was (and I didn’t even have makeup on yet), and how amazingly Mediterranean I looked and confessed that not only was I more beautiful than he had hoped, but that the saying the eyes are the window to the soul was clearly true just like (insert adopted grandmothers name here) had told him. However, he went on to say he did not believe the next part of what she had told him about my eyes. As it turns out she had told him that my eyes were far more than windows to my soul, they were a portal back in time to the happiest and most memorable period in one’s life.

At this point my advisors are telling me that this installment is becoming very long and may turn people off by the sheer size. I must say that I feel myself reliving the story yet again as I retell it and as much as I love this story/memory it makes me both very happy and very sad to be back living in this world reliving this memory. I know you have all waited a long time to see how this story ends, and I promise that I will not keep you waiting long this time.  I have already written the truly final installment and that will be posted on Wednesday, September 19th.

And NO, I am not using my dead grandmother’s birthday as a PR move. Since what was supposed to be the FINAL post in this series was cut into two posts, and my grandmother knew this story… I thought I would honor both my maternal grandmother (who passed away in 2009) and my adopted grandmother who gave endlessly and helped shape me into the person I am today, by posting the TRULY final chapter of this story on the birthday of the woman who raised me, and who was (and I am sure STILL is proud of me) for making a lonely woman happy. And I am truly blessed to have been able to share and aid her in living and perpetuating a beautiful memory.

Jamie Bonnette, Founder&Owner

Found In Translation, LLC



The most beautiful people, part 2

I really wasn’t much of a drinker, but they coaxed me into trying some Sangria, Cuba Libres, and heaven knows what else… I didn’t want to seem ungrateful OR rude, so I tried to drink as much of whatever they gave me, as I could. And I while I was already really comfortable with them, I found myself relaxing even MORE!! I was willing to separate myself from my dictionary, and take a change using incorrect grammar and talking around the words I did not know… and while I certainly caused a lot of laughs; it was all in a fun and loving sort of way. They and their friends would correct me, and then ask me to help them with some of their English, and I, OF COURSE, agreed… TO EVERYTHING. And I probably should have paid more attention as to what I was agreeing TO, but I was SO caught up in the moment, there was NOTHING I wouldn’t do.

As the night went on, the grandmother figure with the energy and spirit of a 20 year-old pulled her chair closer to mine and talked to me more and more. She told me more of how I reminded her of her granddaughter, and showed me pictures. I have to say that EVEN I THOUGHT the resemblance was ASTOUNDING! She told me more about how similar our personalities were, how when we smiled we just lit up the world, how stubborn we both were, how devoted we both were to our family and friends, and most of all how we both cherished the time we spent with our grandparents. Her eyes were watering up and I saw the first tear fall… it was just us at the table because everyone else was dancing, so I pulled her in and hugged her tight and she sobbed harder. Just think, I hadn’t even known this woman 12 hours and she was bearing her soul to me? I was certainly not worthy of that, but I felt very honored. I held her and rocked her, and told her everything was going to be just fine. We obviously met for a reason, and I thought it was her granddaughter wanted her to know that her spirit is all around her, all she has to do look. I also told her that I was SURE her granddaughter continued to love her very much and was always watching out for her, but did not want her to suffer so… at that point she looked up embraced my face, looked me straight in my teary green eyes, and said, “She sent you to me. She is the reason WE met, and YOU are the reason I will go on living”. I burst into tears just as she seemed to be doing better, and she held me close. She said things like no matter we both thought the universe acts in strange ways, and that I had renewed her faith in God, humanity, and her will to live. …. I was SHOCKED.

I just continued sobbing. I told her I was sure that her granddaughter was a far better woman than I could ever hope to be, but I would try to make them both proud.

She then asked for a favor, and I instinctively said yes with tears still dripping down my face. She asked if we could meet the next morning in her hotel room and she could do my hair like she used to for her granddaughter, in a couple different ways, and asked if I wouldn’t mind leaving it that way for the day, and I agreed and asked her what time she would like me to meet her there and what I should be wearing. She told me she had something she wanted to give me to wear… I told her I couldn’t accept it, but she insisted…. Then someone noticed we were all alone and pulled us both up to dance. We danced the night away and the last few things I remember were us getting a cab and going back to their SUITE, not room, at the Ritz…

I woke up when she came in with some orange juice. I looked around and she had tucked me into this amazing bed in this gorgeous room, drawn the curtains put my heels at the end of my bed, and gone to my hotel and gotten some items of clothing for me to wear and took the liberty of getting toiletries and the stuff I use to keep my hair from frizzing… I do have naturally dark, thick, curly hair. I must have showed some alarm, because she told me what had happened, while I came up to say goodnight, she was too tired to go out again, and as she was asking me if I would mind staying the night in one of their guest rooms, I fell asleep!!! How bad am I!??? So, she woke me up enough for me to get into bed and she tucked me in, and did all the things you LOVE your grandma to do… make sure everything is just right with the pillows, not too much light, but just enough, left some water and aspirin by my bedside… made sure my purse was in sight and left a note next to me on my pillow saying if I needed anything or anything happened simply to call her name…. I looked over, and sure enough, there was the note, I had completely and embarrassingly PASSED OUT!

My eyes watered up, and I could see hers start to as well… so I thanked her for the OJ and asked her to sit next to me, and tell me what was really wrong, and how I could help. I told her I knew the man was not her husband, from conversations last night, and he was not there when I woke up. She told me that he was an old friend and squired her about when she came to Madrid, so she wasn’t alone.

The truth turned out to be that she lost her husband AND her granddaughter at the same time, the same day, same car… Her husband has taken their granddaughter out to buy a new dress and a gift for her grandmother’s BIG birthday celebration… On the way to dress shop, while driving, he had a heart attack and drove the car off a cliff. They were both pronounced dead at the scene. So, ever since then she has houses all over Europe, and Latin and South America and friends everywhere, and when she gets too lonely she leaves… and that’s what she did that lead her to Madrid…

I grabbed her and held her tightly because I could see she was trembling and very afraid I would be upset. I told her I couldn’t express how sorry I was for her losses, but if in ANY small way I could help her, I most certainly would. She then asked if I had any plans for the next few days, to which I replied, “not anymore, I am 100% yours”. And she hugged me and kissed me and thanked me, over and over again.

She told me that I must not feel too great because my color was a little off and I clearly was not used to drinking. She told me she was going to get me some more aspirin and she expected to see all the juice gone when she came back because she was bring me more; we had a big few days ahead 🙂

I did as she requested and fell back onto, what was quite possibly the world’s comfiest bed, and closed my eyes and pictured each of my grandmothers, who were still living then, and saw them smiling. I knew I was doing the right thing. I opened my eyes spread my arms around on the pillows and took a sniff of the air, the sheets, and looked around the room because I wanted to REMEMBER THIS MOMENT EXACTLY THE WAY WAS!

To be continued once again….

Jamie Bonnette, Founder & Owner

Found In Translation, LLC


The most beautiful and loving people I ever met…

I will never forget the first of MANY language mistakes I made when I moved to Spain. I had a little Spanish under my belt, albeit NOT Castellano, so I was feeling pretty good when I stepped off the airplane and into the wonderful world of Madrid. And then I looked up at the signs, which were in Spanish and English, and I thought, “Easy”. WRONG!!!!

Apparently, I look Spanish, so some woman came up to me said she was from Buenos Aires (all in Spanish), and was wondering if I might help her around the airport and suggest some restaurants she might like in Madrid. I UNDERSTOOD what she was saying, but when it came time to reply, I was at a total loss. Don’t get me wrong, I sputtered out something and did indeed help her, but that was a MAJOR ego blow. I knew I had to reassess my attitude then, and there.

There happened to be a sweet elderly couple who were having trouble with their bags, so I went over and picked them up and put them on their luggage trolley. The woman reminded me of the sweet grandmothers you always see portrayed in Italian, yes Italian, movies… As it turns out, they were quite wealthy Argentines, and I was the only one who would help them, and I did so without asking… I pushed their trolley piled high with my luggage and theirs to the taxi terminal. When we arrived, the woman couldn’t stop hugging me and telling me that she had just lost a granddaughter who looked very similar to me, and that she was just sure it was her granddaughter’s way of looking out for them. She started to cry, and her husband teared up and stared at me as I helped the cabby put their luggage in the trunk.

I walked back over, and tried to figure out what to say in my head, BEFORE I opened my mouth and screwed everything up…. TOO LATE… They started asking me all these questions.. And all I could get out was that I was from California here to study and that I missed home. And because the woman was crying and so was the man at this point I had NO IDEA what to do… They begged me not to leave them. Apparently, their granddaughter had died while they were on a trip to Madrid before, and they were convinced I was there to show them they had a second chance with their granddaughter. How could I say no?? These people were clearly distraught and for some reason, needed ME.

Before I knew it, we were in two taxis, due to all of our luggage. They took me to my hotel and took care of the Spanish speaking and got me settled in my room, and then they took me to their hotel. Where I did everything I could to act like a good granddaughter, and tried very hard to communicate how appreciative I was for ALL their help and kindness.

And then they asked me to dinner, did I mention they were staying at the Ritz??? I tried to say that I couldn’t impose, and even got someone at the hotel to translate for me, but the woman begged, and had the same person translate back to me, saying “Please, this would be the greatest gift one could ever have or give, more time with my granddaughter”. What kind of JERK says NO to that????? I was in WAY over my head…

They took me to some very upscale restaurant, where they introduced me to all sorts of Spanish food and culture. And as I found myself relaxing, something strange started to happen. I understood them…It was almost as if I had stepped into the twilight zone!

….To Be Continued

Jamie Bonnette, Founder & Owner

Found In Translation, LLC