I left the Hague for the final, and last moment ever in the history of time. It was raining, a slight drizzle agains the window pane…of my train. I am not sure if the true sentiments of that morning warrant such skillful poetry. Perhaps it is a hook for the reader. That’s you! How are you? Have you been learning your mathematics/taking your B12?
That morning might have been a bigger deal if I was not completely zonked. I had vowed long ago that I would take every possible precaution to avoid running/fast walking/every genre of hustle through an airport. But I gotta wake up early to honor this and accept the zonk/attitude. I looked deathly. Even my bags had bags. Not my luggage but my eye bags (Lol, my carry-on didn’t have it’s own little bag). So I woke up at some early time, chilled on the fifty minute train ride to Schiphol, and performed a last minute luggage exchange when it became obvious I would not survive the trip while wearing half my clothing. I read about a guy who wore an entire checked bags worth of clothes on an airplane. He passed out from heat exhaustion and had to be escorted to the hospital.
Sometimes I try to make a moment meaningful when I deem it cinematic and worthy of feelings. Sitting in the terminal waiting for my flight to Lisbon seemed like the ideal time to do so. I stared out of the massive windows toward the city of Amsterdam, pushing myself to reflect on the lessons I learned and the friends I made. Fun, fulfilling moments and weird, cringe worthy experiences. I was trying to appreciate them all, and it wasn’t really working. Not sure it’s possible to force that kind of thing. While pondering as such, I suddenly realized I was at the wrong gate and my flight was scheduled to leave 15 minutes prior. I snatched my massive backpack and booked it to my actual gate. It was a sweaty moment, that blossomed into a miraculous miracle. Some divine host had delayed my flight to Lisbon by two marvelous hours. I sighed every ounce of stress away, and sat down at the correct gate. My chair was kind of sticky, and my flight was delayed by so long I was going to miss the connection to my actual destination. But like whateves yo. Life was taking care of itself and I was coastin.
A few days later after a new flight and a reimbursed hotel and dinner (complements of Air Portugal) I arrived at the Principality of Asturias. Asturias is one of the northern provinces of Spain, bordering the Atlantic Sea. The place is great for surf, hiking in the mountains, and the soft clanking of bells from free-range vaca de rubio. It is also known for it’s paella and hard cider which pair excellently. My plane dropped down into Oviedo, the region’s capital and home to my AirBnB among other things. It was a hot and sunny day. Sadly enough, I was not able allow the slight stoke that I usually associate with such a climate overwhelm me completely. I needed all my neurons to focus on triangulating my AirBnB. That’s the cold hard reality of my backpack life. Papers, passports, canned goose passé and whatever else one lugs are susceptible to attack by foreign predators. Like a hermit crab scuttling to a new shell, the backpacker must have his wits about him during this vulnerable transitionary period. Fun comes later. I stepped down from the bus and threw my massive backpack over my shoulder. Next I tossed my smaller bag on, kangaroo style.
I survived the trip and met my host. A young guy named Caesar who spoke English like I speak Spanish. I said “Hola” and “Que Tal,” then proceeded to pantomimed through through the rest of the interaction. When he left, I breathed I sigh of relief and flopped onto my big orange bed, aptly dubbed “Tangerine Dream.” Now at this point I wish I could say that I put Oakley sunglasses, rolled a tight Spanish cigarette, and toasted my prevalence for independence and adventure. That I kicked of my Birkenstocks and put a scoop of Crew’s styling gel into my luscious head fur. Medium hold. (‘Head fur’ makes me uncomfortable but I will leave it to allow breathing room for more unorthodox descriptions). Anyways, none of those cool guy actions actually occurred. But now I’m forgetting what I actually did… Think I called my mom or something and was stressed out. Then I watched a Comedy Special with Spanish subtitles.
I left Oviedo on the 31st de Enero and arrived on the WWOOF farm that was really more of a garden. If you don’t know WWOOF, it is an acronym for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Connects farmers of organics and such with naive young adults so that that the latter works in exchange for room and board. Based off my experience, the organization seems to have abroad idea of what a ‘farm’ actually is. Apparently it is possible qualify as a WWOOF host if you own around three potted plants and collect forgotten walnuts from your neighbor’s backyard.
It’s interesting and frustrating and necessary to meet people with different viewpoints from your own and learn from them. Sometimes it feels impossible, but it plays a large role in becoming my idea of a cool person. My host 2 weeks with Almand, a retired actor from the Spanish island of Mallorca, cemented this truth into the fiber of my being. Sixty-six years old, recently divorced, and wielding a passion for Catalonian independence matched only by an adamant belief in chem-trails.
Meeting him and only him was my first surprise. His ad on the world wide web declared that he was apart of a small family that was studying permaculture on the weekdays and baked bread for neighbors and friends on the weekends. YET as I pulled up to his house perched on the high hills of Asturias, no family seemed to exist. No wife, no kids. Just a cat and a ridiculous dog that looked like an chewbaca if he was inbred.
Almand greeted me in Spanish and quickly learned that was not going to be our method of communication. To his credit, his English was the best I had heard so far in Spain. But that is a high bar (limbo metaphor) given that my only other interactions with the Spaniards were limited to tapa bars. Quiero una tapa does the trick. He walked me through his little house and the two other buildings on his property. The casa was cute and comfy. Two stories high and surrounded by a little garden full of zanahorias and zucchinis.
Most of my time here was spent clearing debris out of a packed room to make space for the main man’s AirBnB. I did most of the space in about 2 hours. Everything except a shoddy sofa with faded upholstery and holes in the cushion. Pretty certain a coalition of mice were living inside. Almand assured me that I was right but field mice are cute lil guyz and are unlikely to carry the plague. The sofa was gross. I would have thrown it away, but craigslist does not exist in the mountains of Asturias and Almand recycles about 80% of his waste. So we invested about 30 hours into this couch, 28 of which were spent making coasters for the legs so they wouldn’t scratch the floors.
So in summary I didn’t exactly enjoy my time on this farm. Almand was enough hombre, but the age/language difference did not produce much stimulating conversation. Community is important and I was missing it from two sides, homies in Europe and homies in US, and decided to come home early after five days. A wonderful decision I have yet to regret, yet still difficult to make. Never feels good to not to follow through with a goal, but I give myself wiggle room here due to a deficit in little details. Such as living with a retired senior just skirting by off his pension whilst committing to quit cigarettes. Not fun for anyone.
One of my favorite and final conversations with Almand took place at the small dinner table in his kitchen. I was particularly bummed on this particular evening and had no shred of motivation to follow Almand’s rickety train of thought as to why our soup was saltier then he would of liked. I think it had something to do with adding salt to black beans that were already laced with sodium. Riveting! Half way through his 10 minute explanation, I realized that I needed to share an actual feeling to an actual person or risk a brain aneurysm. When he was done I looked at him and said (clearly and with my monosyllabics), “I have been sad today,” He looked at me curiously before asking, “Why is this?” I told him of my plights and frustrations, to which he replied, “AHHH yes. Matters of the heart. What can I tell you. Hmmm, well, the world is always changing. Nature is always changing.” “Like the seasons,” I offered. He ignored me and continued. “Human beings don’t deal well with change.” He gestured with his hand towards the window. “Humans like to grab on to moments that are subject to change, and hold them close. But this is, incorrect. To be whole with ourselves we must be whole with nature. We must embrace change.” This little speech had very little to do with my situation, but it was authentic and actually coherent, and it made me feel better.
The moral of the blog is to give relationships breathing room for change and hopefully growth. Seems like an honorable endeavor. But then again Almand was drinking a decent amount fermented stinging nettle, so head these words at your own risk.
Glad to be back in the US. My mommy bought the Kirkland double pack of bacon at Costco which has come to define what I missed about this country. I have one more blog post to submit and, (my god Chihuahua has aged terribly and looks like a Wight Walker.) But yes. I have one more post to submit about reverse culture shock. I’M excited. Until next time. xoxox.