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Nameless Friends

SPAIN | Saturday, 23 August 2014 | Views [1136]

Considering the fact that I spent close to an hour panting behind her like a woman in labor, I’m surprised she acknowledged my existence, let alone wanted to talk with me.

We had spent the past hour headed up to Montserrat Monastery on a lovely air-conditioned tour bus. Not so lovely were the switchbacks carving our way up the mountain, and my motion sickness pills were not working, The views were extravagant, so naturally I wanted to take pictures.  After only 15 minutes, I had to take an extended break to breathe and calm my stomach. “I will not lose it, I will not lose it,” became my mantra. I managed about 5 photos in between my breathing sessions.

Once at the top we were given about an hour to roam about and explore the basilica, take photos, or hike along one of the trails leading to other chapels on the mountain. I took a few photos, hiked along a trail, and wandered the farmers market sampling goat and sheep cheese, honey, and fig cakes. I was headed back to the bus, munching on candied almonds when she said hello.

At first I did not recognize her, and then I remembered she had been in the seat in front of me.  I shrank at first, praying she didn’t ask what the labor breathing was about, but the conversation progressed quite normally. We talked about what we enjoyed the most about the tour, about Montserrat, about Barcelona. I learned she was from the Ukraine, Kiev specifically. We discussed vacations, work, and plans for the next day (she was going to the sea, and I was off to Bilbao). Then it was time to get back on the bus.

I had enjoyed chatting with her very much, but I figured we would sit separately again, especially since I had confessed to getting motion sickness on the way up. But much to my surprise and delight, she asked if she could sit with me. “You help me practice my English.” I was flattered and more than happy to have company on the journey down. We talked more about her home country, how I had always wanted to visit there and about current disagreements among the people. I was fascinated watching her work through difficult mental translations. I remember the difficulty of knowing how to say something in English but not knowing the words in French. The constant mental translation was exhausting, but she didn’t seem to mind and made it look much easier than I remembered. We laughed and chatted, but sometimes just sat in silence listening to traditional music or admiring the mountain landscape.

Upon arriving once again, we walked together a short ways over to the fountain on La Rambla. It is said that if you drink from the fountain you will come back to Barcelona someday. I wanted to take a drink, so she joined me, and then we parted ways. “Goodbye. Have a safe trip tomorrow!” “Thank you, enjoy the sea!” Gone as quickly as she appeared, my Ukrainian friend was quickly lost in a sea of faces. 

Suddenly I realized…I didn’t even know her name.

Tags: barcelona, friends, la rambla, monastery, montserrat, spain


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