by Chris Smith
Do forgive the normally acute and engaged Mark Millan, LSR Class XI, if he seems during a conversation to be not quite all there.
Mark may have slipped back to Spain, where just recently he searched ancient, narrow streets for secrets to his DNA, witnessed the intoxicating madness of the running of the bulls and came to more fully appreciate the Iberian mystique that drew one of children far from home in Windsor.
Mark, a water issues expert and principal of Data Instincts, ventured to Spain with his nephew, Shaun, and with two far-apart generations of his family in mind.
He went to visit his daughter, Jenna, who’s 24 and since the start of the year has been living and teaching English in the El Born section of Barcelona. And he went to come as close as he could to retracing the steps of his Spanish grandfather, Ranferi Millan.
Mark posted journals – http://drinkingthewind.tumblr.com and http://espanawanderlust.tumblr.com – and at one point wrote: “We are drawn to the past to learn more about who we might be, where we come from and what it may mean. Deciphering pieces of our past that have been blown and scattered in the winds of time.”
He explored San Millan (“the origin of all things Millan & the Spanish language to boot”) and learned from a history-museum guide that Millan is not a common name in Spain. She told Mark his kin came most likely from the regions of Aragon and Navarra.
“So that,” he wrote one day, “is where we are headed next.”
He, his daughter and his nephew learned a good deal about his grandfather, who’d worked as a civil engineer. A professor in Barcelona advised them that an engineer in the early 20th Century would have been schooled in Madrid. “Aha!” Mark wrote.
He savored his bloodline connection to Spain and mounted a relentless search for the tastiest bottle of Rioja.
At Pamplona on the first day of the Running of the Bulls, Mark and his nephew waited for more than two “at what we thought was a great spot,” only to be displaced “by several friendly Pamplona cops about 10 minutes before the cannon went off.” As the bulls approached, the two Americans jumped a fence and joined a sardine-pack of viewers right up close to the street on which the bulls approached.
Mark wrote, “About 5 minutes later the bulls and steers went streaming by. Pandemonium ensued. What a crazy mix of people from all over the world thrown into a blender of narrow streets with six bulls (and a few cattle) to mix things up. I would do it again tomorrow.”
His daughter Jenna was shooting video of the Running with her iPhone when she realized a runner had been trampled. Her footage (http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-812952) was picked up on-line by CNN.
Mark came home unscathed but certainly not unchanged. If you check out his travelogue, you’ll find where he wrote that when exploring Barcelona, and Spain in general, “You are a wanderer who picks up stones and carries them in his pockets so that you may set them in the fire as you pass through the doors to the next life.”