Friday, July 2

The low night

After waving goodbye to Aydin and passing through customs into the port I found myself with time to kill. My ferry across to Spain had yet to arrive but cars were already lining up to drive onto the ship. Near the parked cars I saw a European looking woman sitting playing with her two children. With nothing to do I decided that greeting this stranger would be a great first step in the greeting of the many strangers to come.

I greeted her with 'bonjour' and was pleasantly surprised to discover she actually was French and she spoke a little English. We talked about my coming trip and her children seemed fascinated by me. They spoke to me several times in flowing sentences of French and I would answer in English and we would smile at each other. The older of her two children, a little girl, occasionally would turn to her mother to translate something to me but for the most part we just enjoyed our Babel companionship.

An hour or more later the sun had set and the ferry arrived. I met the lovely woman's husband and their friend, maybe an uncle? They were going to drive onto the ferry so I was invited to meet them inside. It seems I was the only person walking on or off of the ferry. I felt the stirrings of unease in my stomach. With no one else walking on that meant that no one else would walk off. Everyone would have a car and somewhere to go immediately. Still I took a deep, breath, hefted my backpack and walked onto the ferry.

Though separated by language my new French family adopted me for the two hours that it took to cross to Spain. We shared smiles and coffee and I folded their little boy an origami crane that he flew through the ship. Later he came over to show me his video game and collapsed against my leg as he talked, trusting and taking it for granted that I would catch him and pull him onto my lap where he stayed until we arrived in the Algeciras port. I was certainly sad to see them go when we waved goodbye but I also felt I had proven myself capable of making good friends wherever I could need them even without language and I was ready to face my next challenge.

That next challenge came quite a bit quicker than I would have hoped.

Stepping off the ferry on foot alone I found myself in a ghost of a port. There was no one there. I walked alone through the hallways and was passed through customs with barely a nod by the lone officer who did not stop talking to his friend on his cell phone as he stamped my passport and waved me through.

I knew I was supposed to have met a Couch Surfer at 9pm in Algeciras but it was far passed that time. I wanted to call her but I didn't have a cell phone that worked or Internet access to email her. It was late. Passed midnight by the time I found the ticket offices, waiting rooms, and the entrance to the port that led out to the rest of Algeciras. Everything was closed and one thing became very abundantly clear that no one here spoke English. I was alone.

There were a few lone travelers, mostly men who were asleep on benches or sitting at empty tables in the cafeteria. I decided that my best course of action was to take a deep breath, let go of my anxiety and just sleep the night here. I found an empty bench on the second floor where I could sleep unobtrusively, tied my backpack to my wrist, laid out my travel pillow and fell asleep.

The following morning found me quite a bit more upbeat than the night before. The sun was shining, there were more people now, getting ready for their own travels to places unknown, and the cafeteria was open where I could get a croissant and a coffee.

Here are the three wonderful things I learned about Spain that day.
1. Ordering 'una cafe' gets you a delicious cup of espresso even at the lowest class dining establishments

2. food in very very cheap. One coffee and a croissant baked that morning costs 1.50 Euro and is delicious.

3. an Internet cafe in Spain can be found in the same place where there are pay phones, an establishment called a Locotorio and they also sell Spanish SIM cards for mobile phones.

By 9am I had been able to check my email, post to Couch Surfing and get a Spanish cell phone that allowed me to call the Couch Surfing host who had expected me the night before.

As soon as I left the locotorio I called her and boy was she upset. I was informed that she had waited for me that night and that I had changed plans on her to often and staying with her tonight would not be possible.

Ok. That changed things a bit. But what could I do? I apologized then hung up. I understood and I do not hold any bad feeling for her. It must have been quite frustrating from her point of view.

With no where else to go I headed for the bus station and promptly got lost. I found a kind old man talking to his friend and tried to get them to direct me to the bus station. They only spoke Spanish and I only spoke English so with gestures I asked them to draw me a map but instead the old man offered me a ride to the station and drove me right up to the door. I repeated my only word of Spanish 'muchos gracias' several times then waved goodbye and headed in. I knew there was another CS host who was expecting me that weekend in Estapona and figured I could stay with them early or find a hostel for a few days so I bought a four euro ticket to Estapona that left at 4pm.

Since by then it was only 1pm I decided to wander around for a bit. I asked for directions to a SuperMaket (not a spelling error) but was directed instead to an open market with stands and stands of the most beautiful fruit and vegetables I had ever seen.

All my anxiety and depressed feeling vanished as I found joy in this bustling mob of people and lives. Everything was so beautiful and so real, how could I be sad when all this beauty was around me and I could only look forward to more as I continued this trip.

Imagine my surprise when I hears, "ALISON!"

I turned around in surprise, and found myself staring into the grinning faces of the marvelous friends I had mad on the train to Tangier. Gustav and Julia were smiling from ear to ear and I joined them in laughing at our good fortune. They led me to a building that was part of the market where all the fresh fish and meat were sold. There among the meat stalls they showed me a tiny bar so small there were no tables or even stools. Just an alcove big enough for the owner and his wife to prepare tapas and serve beers while their patrons stood in the market's street laughing and watching the crowd.

Tapas are another thing that Spain does very very well. For each beer that only costs €1 - €1,50 you receive a small plate of food for free. These plates can be fish, or meat, or bread with exotic cheeses. Everything is good and as far as I can tell the tapa you receive seems to be at the whim of the owner, although that may have everything to do with my lack of Spanish. Still I will never complain to play such a delicious roulette. Gustav loves to talk and make new friends and it wasn't long before we were joking with the other four patrons of our little bar along with the owner. One man in particular was very very drunk and his foolishness was for the most part amusing and only occasionally fell into the realms of obnoxious.

One of the men was apart from the others. At first I thought he was quiet by choice before I noticed a shadow at his throat and realized that at some point in his life he had had a hole cut into his throat and he was unable to speak at all. I smiled at him and we began to try to communicate. Our conversation was stunted and I saw unbearable frustration in his eyes and anger at constantly being ignored by his boisterous companions. However I tried to talk to him and I tried to understand and listen and in the end, as we said good bye he kissed me on both cheeks and there were tears in his eyes.

As for Gustav and Julia, I felt comfortable with them, like old friends and when they mentioned they were planning on catching a train to a city called Granada at 3pm. I asked what was in Granada and they shrugged.
'What's Alhambra?'
'Its supposed to be beautiful.'

I decided, 'sure why not'. My bus ticket had only cost €4 so I ditched it and bought a €20 train ticket five hours north along the coast to Granada with the plan to enjoy my time with my new friends and see what kind of adventures we could find.

1 comment:

  1. I <3 TAPAS!!! I <3 You too! I'm so glad you're having fun. Stay safe!