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Not All Who Wander Are Lost...But Some Are

SPAIN | Friday, 22 August 2014 | Views [1208] | Comments [1]

Casa Batlló!

Casa Batlló!

You know you are lost when you can’t find your destination on a map. You know you’re REALLY lost when you can’t find your current location on a map.

The directions from the airport to the hostel were simple. Catch the train, the only train leaving the airport. Ride for 15-20 minutes. Get off at Sants Estació. Walk 10 minutes to the hostel.  It sounded easy enough. But my journey went as follows:

Upon arriving at airport a half an hour late due to “technical malfunctions” I took a bus to Terminal 2 to catch the train (red flag number one, as it was not mentioned in the directions). None of the ticket machines at the station worked in English (red flag number two), so I begged a ticket from the disinterested man at the information counter. Then I jumped on the train, the only train leaving the terminal.

I rode the train for 20 minutes with no recognizable stops. Looking up the next stop on my offline iPhone map, I found it was way off track from the hostel.  Figuring it was just taking a different route, I looked at chart of destinations on the train wall. There was no Sants Estació, no Sants, nothing even close. My heartbeat quickened a bit, but I decided to get off at the next stop, Barna Sants, to problem solve. 

After wandering around the station 3-4 times, I asked several people for help. Nobody spoke English, or they feigned confusion, I couldn’t decipher the difference. I checked the map again, and couldn’t find the train station or any of the roads nearby, so I started walking back the direction I came.

As I crossed a recognizable road, I make a quick right and started following a route to the hostel. After about a mile, I happened across the Casa Batlló by the famous Antoni Gaudi. I almost missed it, completely focused on my trek, but suddenly I found myself in a crowd of tourists taking photos. It felt like a sign that I was doing ok, that I would arrive soon, to keep pressing on. So I did. Three miles later, I collapsed at a restaurant/bar with faded paint, a sign dangling from one hook, and rickety black outdoor seating. “Agua….por favor, ” I gasped at the gaunt old Catalan man gaping at me. Soaked in sweat, waddling like a penguin from blisters, and hunched from the weight of my backpack in the oppressive heat, I must have looked a special sort of charming. Making a quick meal of my patatas bravas and croquettes, I was soon on my way again. A mile later I had supposedly arrived. Or so my map said.

Realizing by this point that very few people older than me had knowledge of or were willing to speak English, I sought out the younger generation in the skate park across the road. Choking my way through a veritable cloud of marijuana smoke I found two young men who spoke English. But they had no idea where my hostel was. I wandered each surrounding block several times to no avail. After four hours of wandering, I just wanted to lie on a flat surface and cry myself to sleep. I was drained both physically and mentally. I felt so utterly hopeless.

I decided to go into one last hotel and ask for help. Again, no English, but she tried her best, even though she did not know the location either.  Another guest was checking in who apparently knew the street, so she walked me there. We wandered together for a while, her talking in Spanish and asking questions, pretending I understood. I followed her diligently, providing answers to questions I didn’t even know were being asked, doing the best I could to communicate.

She eventually found a woman in a market who knew the hostel and gave us directions. She walked my there and as I saw the sign, relief washed over me. I gave her a hearty handshake and offered a horrendously pronounced “Gracias, muchas gracias” as thanks. “Nada, nada,” was the reply. A single tear escaped and slid down my left cheek. She sighed and offered comfort in a language I spoke: a hug.

Never before has a hug from a stranger felt so warm, so understanding. We did not know each other, yet she went out of her way for over fifteen minutes to help. We could not share a single spoken work of understanding. Yet in my moment of need, she was there.  Our shared human experience allowed us to bond regardless of background, age and culture.

I am not sure I would have ever found my lodging were it not for the kindness of one woman. After 5 hours of trekking, wandering, and confusion, she saved me. She may never know just how much her unspoken words meant to me, but I like to think that through that hug, words passed between us that did not need to be spoken.

 I understand. I have been there too. It will be okay.

And that was all I needed to hear.


Tags: communication, gaudi, help, hope, lost, wander



Totally enjoying your posts, Rachel. Good writing. This one choked me up.

  Leona Martin Aug 22, 2014 11:15 AM

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