Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta stranger. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta stranger. Mostrar todas las entradas

lunes, 29 de junio de 2015

Stranger tour

   I had just met him but I didn’t want to walk around a whole new city without someone to tell me what was what. You see, I had arrived in Barcelona only recently and I’m one those people that understands things better when someone else is explaining. I get lost easily when I’m all by myself but I learn rather fast, which has always helped me get through things. Anyhow, I was having my first cup of coffee today and this guy was just really nice and I just asked him if he could show me the city. I know, he could have been a serial killer or something. Actually, it would have been worst if he had just said no but he was very nice and gave me his number, asking me to send him a message at night to see what he could do for me and my request.

 I did write to him from my phone and he answered rather quickly. He explained that he wasn’t from Barcelona either and that he understood how nervous I was for being in a new city so he proposed to go out the following weekend and show me the places that he thought would help me get to know the city. The weekend was only two days away so the wait was very short. He came to my place, where I had recently moved. I offered him a cup of coffee but he said he would rather start right away. He seemed very serious and not in the mood to talk, so I didn’t say a word. We just walked a few blocks until we got to a subway station. There was a map where he explained me where everything was: downtown, Montjuic, the industrial areas, the beaches, the mountains and the bars and discos.

 We entered the station and he bought my ticket, in order to show me how it all worked. That part was fun because I knew how the system worked, I had traveled from the airport in the metro. But I decided not to say anything because he seemed a little bit fed up with the whole concept of explaining all these menial things to an idiot from another country. We sat down side by side in the train but wouldn’t even look at each other. Maybe it was best if I just let him go and be miserable alone, because I didn’t wanted my own weekend to be spoiled. I would just walk around and people would help me. I had noticed people were very nice so maybe that was my real thing. I had no idea when or how I had decided to ask that from a stranger.

 The train stopped and he got out so I did the same. He walked rather fast so it was difficult to keep up with his pace. When we came out of the station, I realized I had been there before: it was the main square of the city called Plaza Cataluña. There were lots and lots of people everywhere but I decided not to be still for too long because my companion had already started walking away. I followed him to the Rambla, trying to get to where he was but it was impossible. After a while, I didn’t see him anymore. Fe up with the attitude, I just stopped and went back to the square. The climate was getting a bit colder.

 About fifteen minutes later, my phone rang. It was a call, not a message or a text. And it was him because I could see the name “Coffee guy” on the screen. I smiled because I didn’t even know his name and decided not to answer. But he tried two more times so I finally decided to pick it up. He asked me where I was and why I hadn’t followed him. I told him he seemed too distracted and too pissed off at something or someone and that I didn’t have time to waste so I thanked him for his help and just hung up. But he called again and asked again where I was. I told him I was at a bar, drinking a beer. He got to the bar and, again, didn’t say a word when he sat down beside me. He didn’t ask anything for himself and I just wasn’t in the mood to ask some stranger what was up with his life.

 Then, he started saying he had had a tough week. Apparently, he had been into a number of interviews for jobs he would have wanted to get but he got none of them. I told him that maybe he had been just awful in the interviews but he replied that he had been relaxed and charming and had answered everything rapidly and kindly. He just didn’t got why they wouldn’t pick him. I didn’t say anything else. I just sipped my beer and looked at all the glasses and things the barman had behind him. The coffee guy then told me to go on with the tour but I told him I had decided not to tour anything with someone whose name I didn’t even know. He then told me his name was Evan and that he needed to walk around or he would keep thinking about the jobs that didn’t happen.

 I just gulped down the beer, closed my jacket and walked outside, not saying a word to him. Evan decided to be nicer and started talking as we walked, explaining the history he knew about the place and his impressions when he had first come to the city. At first, I wasn’t talking at all but he was trying so hard I decided to give in and have a decent Saturday. We walked through the Gothic neighborhood and the historic center, we went by the zoo and Evan promised to take me soon and then we got to the first and most popular beach in the city, la Barceloneta. Not many people were there, possibly because the wind was now colder but some were reading or just playing around in the sand.

 We got back into the city, walking along a big avenue and seeing old buildings. I took pictures with my phone and Evan decided to surprise me by getting into some of the shots. We decided to have lunch in a fast-food place and there I had one of the best moments since I had left my home. He was very kind and shared his frustration for not getting any of the jobs. He told me was still getting a masters degree but that he wanted to be able to earn money and just have a living. He told me he lived some blocks away fro me and that he had thought that by going out with me he could forget his frustration.

I just told him I understood what was happening and that I had gone through the same thing over and over in the past. But finally someone silly enough had hired me and now I was working in that beautiful city. He laughed, saying I didn’t even know if it was beautiful but I told him it was love at first sight. He just laughed and told me that wasn’t totally out of the question and that he wanted me to fall in love harder so he decided to take me to the other beaches after lunch. The wind was very cold and the ocean had turned into a grey puddle but we just stood in a pier and watched the weather happen for at least a half hour.

 During our time there, we didn’t talked very much. I noticed he was sad again, all of a sudden, so I decided to let it go for the moment. We walked towards the nearest subway station and then he started talking to me about how hard it had been for him the first weeks. That was not because of the city but because he had never left his house before and he had a hard time not seeing his mother and father whenever he wanted or not having his sibling to have fun with. He was all alone and he told me he had remembered the feeling as we walked down the pier. He talked to them every day but it was not the same. You always miss family, he said. And I knew he was right.

  After a transfer, I realized we where in a higher neighborhood. He told me that daylight was going to fade soon so he wanted my first tour day to end fantastically. So he just made me walk behind him through some steep streets until we got to a park. It was Park Güell and I had seen it in TV before. I had wanted to visit it and had no idea that’s where Evan was taking me. It was a nice walked inside the premises, taking a lot more pictures and now making Evan pose in some of them. We took very good pictures and he told me there was something else he could do for me. So we went up a road I had not seen before and he took my hand in order not to get lost, because the sun was setting and darkness was starting to settle.

 We finally got to the top where I was able to see the whole city in front of me. I could see downtown, I could see the neighborhood were I was living now and also some other features I hadn’t noticed before. The sunset’s light made it all look even more beautiful. We just stood there for several minutes until I noticed the artificial lights went on and the sun had totally disappeared. Then, as we came down the hill towards the park, I realized I was still holding Evan’s hand but he hadn’t noticed or maybe he didn’t care so we just kept it like that until we go to the subway station. He took me home and then I offered a cup of coffee again. He told me he was exhausted and wanted to rest his head but that maybe he would come for it soon enough.

 He left and I got in and I realize how good that day had been. I slept like a baby and was even more thrilled the next morning, when the doorbell woke me up early in the morning and it was him. He had decided he wanted coffee right then and I had decided I wanted him to come in too. That they, we held hand a lot. But that’s another story.

martes, 9 de junio de 2015

Broken camera in Rome

   I woke up very early, to the sound of m cellphone alarm. It was still a bit dark but I knew I had too take advantage of every single hour if I was to spend the whole day in the city of Rome. I entered the shower, thinking about how strange it was to wake up early in a holiday but that after all it was the best reason to do it. I didn’t take very long, dressing up pretty quickly and then grabbing my bag, where I kept everything I needed to walk around. I would leave my backpack, which was my only luggage, in the room until the next day when I had to leave the city.

 My real holiday had been spent in Greece, where I had been laying in the sun for almost a week. But I had decided to go back home via Rome so to have one day of sightseeing around the city. In Greece I had also walked around a lot, visited museums, gone to the beach, taken hundreds of pictures and getting to know one or two Greek men. Yes, I had a very good time in that country.

 I went down to the hotel restaurant and realized an hour had already passed since I had woken up. As I helped myself to orange juice and cereal, I noticed only another table was occupied at that time by an elderly couple. Every other person, especially families, woke up late during the holidays which would have been great but I wanted to have the option to visit as many places as possible. As I ate, I checked a small schedule I had created with things I could do: museums were ruled out as they usually take a long time to go through. But I couldn’t avoid going to the Colosseum and to the Forum as they were symbols of the city and walking them wasn’t that time consuming.

 After lunch I decided to go there first, as it was the farthest place on the schedule. I would begin to walk from there closer to the hotel, in order to get there late to have some hours of sleep and then leave early in the morning for home. The metro station was not very far so it was in a matter of minutes that I arrived to the Colosseum. The place was very majestic, although some of the walls were covered as they were being repaired. There were men dressed as ancient roman soldiers all around and a lot of tourists, even that early. The place had a weird vibe, as if it was palpable that people had died there. On the highest part, I took several pictures and realized more and more people were entering. After some more minutes, I crossed a small piazza towards the Forum. The entrance fee covered both sites so it was perfect.

 Various temples still stand, very large structures and the general layout of the site is magnificent. It was there when I noticed two things: there were lots of tourists in the city and the temperature was rising fast. After all, it was the middle of summer. Silly me, I hadn’t brought a water bottle with me and I already started to feel a bit lightheaded. I went on walking; trying to “shake it off”, but it wasn’t that easy. Finally, a sign saved my life when I realized there were water fountains all around the premises, in order for people to fill their bottles or drink directly. Apparently the city had one of the purest water in the continent.

 I didn’t walk all around because some areas were only trees and some ruins. I took pictures and then moved on. The Circus area was a disappointing place, more like an undeveloped terrain than anything else. Across that stretch of land, which was pretty big, I made the line to put my hand in the Mouth of truth, a whole in a marble image that people used to think was good to use as a lie detector. I then walked through the streets to finally reach the Piazza Venezia where there was a large statue of Victor Emanuele, the man who united Italy and made it a republic. I only took pictures from the outside and it was here my luck had run out.

 My camera had stopped working. It wouldn’t turn on so I decided to walk towards a small square in front a church and sit there to check it properly. This would have taken a lot of my time and I had no time to lose. But that was visible not important to an unanimated object that wouldn’t work. I took the battery out, the memory card, I shook it and even yelled at it but it just wouldn’t work. As I did that, someone came closer to me and said something in Italian I didn’t understand. It was a man, maybe in his thirties, who was extending his hand to me. For a moment, I felt scared, but then I realized that if the camera was broken, there was really no harm in giving it away.

 The man took it in his hands and checked it all around. I, for one, was looking at him. Italian men were very into the facial hair thing and always very lean, not muscular or fat but rather nice complexions. The man didn’t seem to notice my eyesight going all over him as he tried to ask me something in his language. I tried to understand, breaking it up buy words. I recognized the word “help” and the word “camera”. I nodded, looking a bit stupid, and then he stretch out his arm to me and I grab it, clumsily again. He started talking and walking and I just followed him. I realized I was losing time but I felt I couldn’t just be rude to him.

 He talked every step of the way. I just nodded and smiled, thinking how stupid I must look doing that like a robot. After a few blocks from the square, he pulled out some keys and entered and old building. Inside, it was beautiful. The place was full of lowers and everything was very clean and taken care off. A cat slept on a corner and barely looked at us as we passed. I followed the men up some stairs and to, what I presumed, was his apartment. It felt really cool at this time of day. He offered me a chair and then started to check my camera on a table with a big lens and a lot of different tools and gadgets I had never seen but would attribute to an engineer or a mechanic or something like that.

 He had stopped talking and was very concentrated in the camera. He opened one side and started moving things around. I nervously took out my cellphone and realized time was passing fast. I needed to head to the Trevi Fountain if I wanted to visit every place I had put on my list. Uneasy, I stood up and tried to say something but couldn’t think of the words. Anyway, it wasn’t necessary. He turned around, put a hand around my wait for me to get closer and explained slowly what he had done. Funny enough, I understood it all. The camera was working again and I could keep taking pictures. I took out my wallet to pay him for his troubles he grabbed it and put it back in my bag.

 So he didn’t wanted pay. I asked again but he kept nodding his head negatively so I stopped talking and just stood there like an idiot. Then I remembered my schedule and decided to just shake his hand and be on my way. As I turned around, he pointed at himself and said he would take me around. Yes, he spoke in my same language which was both funny and annoying, as if I had know he knew what I was saying it would have been less of a weird experience.

 We went out to the street and right enough, we went to the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and through streets he knew very well. We didn’t really talked about ourselves, not even when we decided to have lunch in the afternoon, after walking a lot. We had a delicious pizza and ice cream for desert and it was only then when I told him I was a writer and he told me he worked fixing all kinds of electronic devices. But we went on to talk about Rome and Italy and politics soon enough.

 To be honest, it had been a great day with him and I had more time to spend. So we went to the Vatican and entered Saint Peter’s basilica, which is enormous. It feels like entering a huge cavern or something like that. Pietro, as he had told me his name was, explained to me everything there was to know about the site. Funny enough, some tourists thought he was a guide and began asking him questions. He was kind enough to answer every single one of them. After that, he took me again through the streets, taking pictures of people, cafés, ice cream parlors and just about everything. The sun had already gone and I had only a couple of hours left.

 He invited me to have some wine and then we chatted again about things that were not us. About other people, my trip, his country. He was very charming and I could feel he didn’t do that often. He wasn’t a player or a very outgoing person. He was just one of those people that loves to help and that feels alone, because that I could see, as he walked me to my hotel. His eyes talked as his mouth didn’t and that was more than enough for me. When we got to the lobby, I wanted to shake his hand but he decided to hug me instead. It was a very nice hug, also speaking volumes, which his mouth was unable to express. We bid farewell and then I went up to my room.

 To this day, I regret not asking him for his number or email address or something. But I also answer myself that it probably wasn’t one of those encounters. Maybe it was meant to be a one-time thing, one of those that’s really great and lives in our memo