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For the week of May 3 through May 9, 2000

An American runaway
in Spain

WRHS student Adam Brod ditches class near Madrid

Adam BrodI can run away in Spain and be happy…I am capable of existing on my own. I can go to Granada and ask the girl I met in front of the Prado for help….I can stay in Toledo and work at the inn…."

-Adam Brod


Express Staff Writer

Since the beginning of April, when Adam Brod decided to eschew life in the Wood River Valley—at least temporarily—for romance and adventure in Spain, his days, he says, have been going fairly well.

In e-mails to his father and the Mountain Express, he writes he has slept only a handful of nights on the street. Days he says he spends reading "Anna Karenina" ("the finest book ever written"), walking long distances between cities, asking shopkeepers for free food and meeting a cast of characters who frequently offer him temporary shelter.

To be sure, for 18-year-old Adam, a Ketchum resident and senior at Wood River High School, his temporary "defection" has turned into, well, a free spirit’s spree.

But for his father, David Brod, it’s something of a nightmare—although he’s stirred by his son’s sense of the dramatic.

As for his classmates, some applaud, some scoff.

For the most part, Adam’s teachers—and school principal, Bill Resko—refuse to talk about their wayward student.

What’s more, there’s the question for rank-and-file school pundits: Did Adam run away; or did his class inadvertently leave him in Spain after a week-long field trip?

In the words of David Brod, a local stonemason, by refusing to come home, Adam is asserting himself as an "emancipated male" for the first time in his life.

Not all adults see the situation as a heartwarming coming-of-age story, however—least of all, perhaps, the high school’s Spanish teacher, Shannon Sewell, who led the annual trip.

The week in Spain was characterized by the students, in separate interviews with the Mountain Express, as a hung over binge. Teenagers declared they chaffed at being asked to spend two or three hours at a time in world-famous museums, and at being asked to speak the Spanish language. As for Adam, though, he apparently displayed his independence not just from his teachers, but from his peers, too.

Adam and teacher Sewell butted heads, but not in the ways you might expect.

According to his classmates, and a slew of letters and e-mail messages he has sent home in the past month, Adam’s offenses included spending too much time at the world famous Prado Museum in Madrid, dallying in a park and leaving his backpack unattended at an airport.

After a series of such offenses, Sewell threatened to send young Brod home early. For his part, Adam gave the teacher a two-page "Declaration of Independence" in which he accused her of bluffing.

Then, Adam responded with his own threat.

"I can run away in Spain and be happy," he wrote in his declaration, a copy of which was obtained by a reporter. "[This] is not a bluff. I am capable of existing on my own. I can go to Granada and ask the girl I met in front of the Prado for help….I can stay in Toledo and work at the inn…."

Perhaps to prove she was not bluffing, perhaps with just cause, Sewell drove the youth to an airport days before the group’s scheduled return, changed his flight reservation and left him alone to get on a plane.

A week later, after she and the rest of the class had returned to the Wood River Valley, Sewell called David Brod and found out Adam hadn’t returned.

During a telephone conversation Saturday, David Brod said he "felt tremendously horrible," when his son called to say he had run away. While at the same time, the father seemed a little ambivalent.

"He sounded very sober," the worried the father said. "He was undertaking this mission—this adolescent rebellion that he could survive on his own. How much power do I have 8,000 miles away holding onto a telephone?

"In a way, I felt a little proud of him. It was a change in our relationship. I realized he was an adult—we were working on Adam’s plans instead of his parent’s plans."

Most people, it seems, don’t quite know what to make of the enigmatic Adam Brod. He is a high-achieving student whose grades have slipped since he spent a week in a coma following a 1998 skull-cracking fall on Bald Mountain.

WRHS science teacher Larry Barnes describes him as a student who is "interested in everything."

A group of students hanging out in the high school parking lot last week nearly all spoke at once on the subject of Adam Brod:

"He’s a goofy kid."

"Yeah, he usually just walks around by himself."

Cody Sluder, one of the students who went on the trip, summed up Adam Brod this way: "He’s got [guts]."

One of 40 Idaho students to win the 1998 Whittenberger Writing Project award, Adam Brod obviously loves to write. He has sent home dozens of e-mail messages, densely packed updates scrawled on the backs of receipts, and long handwritten letters.

"This entire thing is like little boys daring each other to eat worms," he told his father in a recent letter. "I am, of course, the one who acquires a taste for them….Yesterday, I met Atmut.

"He’s an economics major studying at Oxford. We talked for five or six hours in a café; then he let me sleep on his floor. Even though I have been gone more than a month, I can count the nights I have had to spend outside on two hands with fingers to spare."

So far, his letters say, he has spent his weeks of freedom simply surviving around Madrid, Toledo and Granada. With no job, and only a few hundred dollars in his backpack, he says he plans to visit Germany in the coming months, then return home this summer in time to register at WRHS for the five classes he’ll need to complete before graduating.

"I don’t think I will die in the streets," he wrote to his father. "I can always backtrack to Granada and beg help from Enrique and Asu. I also met a girl named Erin who is doing an exchange program in France. [People] have offered help if I need it. Presently, I don’t."

Whether the high school will allow Adam to register has yet to be determined.

The question of Adam being expelled remains, but school district attorney Rand Peebles said in a telephone conversation Monday it seems unlikely.

"I’m not sure you’re going to solve anything by expelling an 18-year-old student who’s one month away from graduating," he said.

How do you explain all of this? Is it a replay of the classic film "The Graduate" or simply a teenager’s carefree frolic in Europe?

Whatever the case, said father David Brod, "He’s independent. If he doesn’t believe in something, he won’t do it."


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