Impulsive Shopper

Right. I am not the kind of person that storms into a shop when she saw a sign that says 70% off the latest items. Please. I’m not a girl.

But little bubbles formed at the corner of my mouth when I saw 70% off round way ticket to Frankfurt.

*fangirl scream*

That’s how I resigned from my job and backpacked for 4 months around Europe in 2008.

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The thing was, I didn’t know anyone in Frankfurt but I had a friend studying in Cologne. That’s 3 hours away. She skipped her master’s class to pick me up. World class friend, she is.

I stayed with her for about 6 weeks before deciding to go to Barcelona. I have another friend there and was supposed to give him a souvenir from Malaysia.

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Who would have thought that I ended up flying to Bordeaux? It should be serious offence, my friend’s indifference towards the names of the places in Europe while going through the list of the destinations displayed on Germanwings site.

So I flew to a place I did not plan to go. Big deal. I’ll just take a train to Irún (France-Spain border) and later a bus to Barcelona. Problem solved.

In the meantime, I got to enjoy Bordeaux.

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I loved the cathedrals. So Gothic and beautiful and scary 🙂

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Can you believe that this was the court house? That’s mindbogglingly awesome!

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And the fountain looked a tad scary too. Maybe this angle is better.

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Amazing! It looked so majestic. How do I build these things in my garden?

I finally got to Barcelona a week later and spent quality time getting to know the city before visiting Madrid again. It’s so different than the Madrid I knew in 2005.

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There were less tourist. More beggars. More misery. The crisis had started.

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I went to my favourite place; Plaza Mayor, but it had lost its charm.

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The city was  different. The were a lot of anger, hostility and rudeness. I wonder if the attitude was always there or situation forced them out. I always thought Madrid was home but I changed my mind after an old lady told me to ‘go back to my country‘ and how she hates Colombians.

That was uncalled for but if she truly met one, the Colombian would not let that get away unpunished, so I behaved.

Next stop: Seville.

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I loved the people; kind, generous and a bit mischievous. Of all Spain, I love the southern accent the most. The drawl, the little breath they make when they pronounce S and T side by side on the same syllable, the lack of personal space, the food, the songs, etc. I love Andalucía!

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The only complain I have is the lack of grass. That would be all.

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I had several stops more before falling in love with Santander. I wish I could park my yacht carelessly too.

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Or maybe cheaper ones over there.

Santander is by far one of my favourite Spanish cities after Bilbao and all the cities in the south. Sorry Madrid. You are no longer on the list.

With a bit of miracle, I secured a ticket to Edinburgh.

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In less than 2 hours, the train left me at the Newcastle train station, where a friend waited for me. I wished I could stay longer in Edinburgh. The hills made me fertile. OK. The men jumpstarted my hormones. Man, I sounded like I’m a full swing female were-wolf.

*Auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuw*

Maybe it’s something in the accent or something malicious spreading in the air. Very fishy, I know.

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It’s nice to finally see tufts of green grass again.

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The park was nice. It’s clean, people having civilized conversation and playing with their dogs. Sanity. It’s all I need for a while.

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What do you think a great host would do?

They’d bring you do Alnwick Castle, of course. If you’re a true Potterhead, then this information would not need explanation.

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This gentleman’s name was Harry Hotspur. Kinda get you thinking of another famous Harry, doesn’t it?

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You can do a lot of stuff. Like archery or like me, target practicing. You know…in case the muggles found this place. It’s unfair to fight them with magic.

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I heard the heir of the castle is a single man. Quite young for my taste but I think I can live with that.

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This little cottage was situated just outside the gates of Alnwick Castle. The owners weren’t there when we sneaked up their rose bushes.

Oh, this is it. Life.

I think it would be my greatest achievement, if I could own a little cottage like this in any part of Europe.

How long is this bloody crisis anyway?

Don’t Panic

I learned not to be panic when I’m lost. I imagine the World is a big playground and I’m on to the next see-saw somewhere.

It’s just a matter of time until I find it.

I once was lost in a place I don’t particularly like to be lost. It was midnight. My phone was off because I forgot to charge it and the address where I was staying was in the phone. I was alone. I can’t call anyone. I don’t know anyone.

I didn’t panic yet.

All the bars are opening. It’s about 12 AM. But the Madrid population doesn’t own a fucking Nokia charger, just Siemens! I went to about 10 bars before realizing that this isn’t working.

No. I can’t give up yet.

There was an old man sitting in front of his porch. I went and asked him if he could help me but he doesn’t own a mobile and his wife is inside…sleeping (what was actually he’s trying to imply, I still have a vague translation of it.)

No, don’t panic. Somebody somewhere would say YES.

Right?

I walked and walked round and round trying to remember what I couldn’t. I was only there once. Katalina invited me to stay and I figured it was awesome, since we could catch up what we left last 3 years. The last thing I knew about her was she’s married to an Ecuadorian. She invited me to the wedding but I was busy in Rome while the wedding was held at Budapest (she’s Hungarian) so we left it that way.

But earlier that day when I met her she said everything was falling apart. She’s separating from the husband but they’re still living together.

I hope you don’t mind he’s here, she said.

Oh, it’s o.k.

Everything was o.k until the husband told her that he liked me and would like to go out with me.

Well, this is awkward.

Even more awkward when the wife told me that she’s totally fine with it. Go, get to know my ex!

What? I can’t do that.

Why? He’s not your type or you’re just not comfortable that we’re not finalizing the divorce papers just yet?

I mean..I don’t…I just…(how can you explain this nicely to your friend? I’m here to travel, not to f*ck your future ex-husband!)

So I figure I should stay out of the house as long as possible, read some books at my favorite store, walk off some steam, get to know some Spanish dudes and I just need to return home to get my beauty sleep in time and we don’t speak about this anymore which in turn the plan leaves me on the street homeless at 12 AM.

Don’t panic. There must be a solution to this stupidity. I am not sleeping on the streets tonight.

Not in Madrid.

I saw a cyber café nearby. Oh good! Katalina might be online! I can tell her to fetch me and I’ll be saved. Thank God for internet and Yahoo! Messenger.

I have too much illusion. She was not there. Only a friend in online and she lives in Newcastle-Upon-Type, United Kingdom

She can’t do anything!

So I did what I had to do. I said hi and told her what happened. I told her that I was lost and homeless and is panicking that I would be sleeping on the street. I also told her that if I hadn’t call her the next day then she can call the Embassy of Malaysia in Madrid and report me missing.

In my mind I had this elaborated things that would happen to me, as in robbed, raped, killed, tied, hang, abducted, not necessary  in this order. So this is my ending.

The friend and the husband were in the verge of exploding.

If I could listen to them it would be screaming and nagging. O.K. This is all my fault. Whatever will be, will be.

The c.c was closing and the owner, a guy from Cameroon asked me politely if I kindly go, as it’s 12.30 AM.

Oh dear! This is the deepest shit that I’ve been so far and it’s getting deeper.

Where do you live, he asked in Spanish and me, being a nice little girl told him that I was lost, that I only need a charger to get the address in the fucking dead phone.

I have a Nokia charger!

My hero! (my heart leaps with joy)

Can I use it?

It’s at my house.

Can we go there and get it? (by the way I didn’t realize the level of trouble I was suggesting because I was so preoccupied with charging)

He gave me that chilling-to-the-bone-smile and said of course!

So we walked and chatted. He’s a really funny guy. His mother tongue is French (you know how I love French) and we spoke French quite a bit. He was a nice gentleman born in Cameroon but the whole family is in exile. His father is a political refugee and they’re living in Madrid for that time being before they could get all the situation under control.

I’ve never met a person with such complicated situation in my whole life!

He bought me a drink on the way back home. I know you should not drink or take anything from any stranger but I was so exhausted that I didn’t care.

Nothing happened. I was not drunk nor possessed.

He lives on the 6th floor with other guys from the same country. None of them were there. After all, Madrid life started at 12 so they might be partying somewhere at Sol and coming back at 6 AM when the Metro starts operating again.

Where’s the charger? I asked.

I keep it somewhere hidden. In my luggage bag. Let me check. You might have to wait a bit. You want to take a shower? You can sleep here, you know. I can sleep at the living room, you can take my bed. (what chivalry!)

I was so tired and sweating a stream. I don’t even looked like me. Of course I said yes. He even prepared some clothes for me (it was the first time that I’m wearing a basketball jersey. I kinda like it)

So when I finished showering he was not there. He said (through the bathroom door) that he needs to go for a walk (a friend suggested he might want to buy some sort of protection because he is definitely getting lucky tonight) so I waited.

What took him so long? I don’t even know where did he put the damn charger.

I was not panicking because I have a roof on my head and about to be saved.

Only in my dreams…

When he returned, he took his time showering.

And then he let me know that he doesn’t have the charger.

What? Why would you lie to me?

Because it doesn’t matter. I am helping you and now you are helping me.

I don’t understand.

You. Are. Sleeping. With. Me.

[Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic.]

Then he stripped.

Man, this can’t be happening to me!!!

Have you seen something darker than black? A black velvet perhaps? You don’t want to see a man with 6 feet tall, triple your size standing in front of you wearing nothing at all in closed quarters. Even the black of the night could not help you erase that image.

I avoided looking but I state my case, though shaken lightly.

I am not sleeping with you. You told me that you’d sleep outside.

No. This is my house. My rules.

[Don’t panic]

Fine. I’ll sleep outside, on the street. I’ll give you back your clothes.

Go ahead, I want to see that!

Fine!

Fine!

When I was changing, he was beginning to get more upset and nervous.

What kind of men do you think I am? Do you seriously think I would let you sleep on the streets? I am a gentleman! I am not letting you out!

But you just said…Fine! I’ll sleep on your couch, then.

No. You’re sleeping here, with me.

NO! You promised me you’d help me and I trusted you (voice rising) but you just tricked me, a helpless little girl and you think you’d get something from me…

Stop..shh..sh…the neighbors are listening! Be quite now…

NOW, you are intimidated of what the neighbors would say? Now??(voice rising) I can tell them exactly what they want to know!! Exactly!! You are a lying son-of-a-bitch and you are taking advantage of me!! ( I swear to God that we argued like a married couple. You don’t want to be begged by a black man wearing nothing, it just made you more cranky)

He said. I am sleeping here, in the same room with you. That’s final and you are sleeping here with me too. End of discussion.

Fine, I’ll sleep on the floor.

What kind of man do you think I am? (he keeps repeating this, gosh!) You are not sleeping on the floor. The bed is big enough for the two of us and I promise you I won’t do anything.

Yeah, it better be raining pigs tomorrow.

I promise.

Seriously, no one would sleep with a black man in the nude promising not to do anything on the same bed.

Absolutely no one.

But I did, because I was so sleepy and I know exactly where to kick if he plans to do anything funny of the sort.

He did keep to his promise. It was the longest night for me and I keep my view to the wall. Maybe he just needed someone to hold this particular night. I am being really stupid but I let him held me all night long (I can feel a bulge on my back but I chose to ignore) and I guess he was quite happy with what he got.

He even woke up early and charged my phone when I was asleep. He greeted me good morning and acted like we were good friends. Nobody was naked, nobody was screaming and we were nice to each other.

I switch on the phone and he even brought me to the address I had on.

You have no idea how I had to answer to Katalina, her husband and my friend and her husband in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

But I get out of that situation just fine. Nothing bad happened. O.K there might be a sticky-sticky situation to handle but look at the big picture.

I am fine and I don’t panic (most of the time.)

Moral of the storyCharge your phone, write the address on a friggin’ piece of paper or memorize it. Bring enough money to rent a hotel room. Don’t hang your hopes upon a stranger.

Wanderlusting Europe

In summer 2005, I got a scholarship to study Spanish Language and Culture but I end up touring Europe.

Best time of my life.

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Photo: Madrid – Granada bus ticket

I had always dreamed of traveling around the world and had stole pictures of Europe from the library but nothing could prepared me for the reality.

There was no word for it. I was overwhelmed by the smell, sights and sound. I can’t even find a better word than happy. I don’t know if ‘blessed’ fit the profile but I knew ‘fulfilled’ was some part of it.

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Photo: Bus ticket from Barcelona – Paris (You can get a Euroline pass to 51 countries from 185 Euros for 15 days. See Eurolines website for more.)

It was a scary experience too. I did not know anyone and that was my first trip overseas but I came too far to say ‘maybe next time.’

It was not a known fact that a single Malaysian Malay/English/Spanish/un-petit-peu-de-French speaking girl would travel alone in unknown territory. I was immediately dubbed ‘crazy’ by many peers.

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Photo: Apartment rent receipt from a luxurious unit across the Prague Florenc Bus Station.

I enjoyed Prague the most, of all the countries that I have been. There was a different vibe; mysterious and beckoning on the pebbled streets.

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I was robbed by a group of gypsies in Rome but I never felt that was a bad day. I met a good Samaritan, slipped in a deaf tour with him because he knew a friend who knew someone who could let us in for free and ate the most glorious food with ample Italian kisses.

I don’t know any day more perfect than that one.

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Photo: Ticket from London – Brussels

Funny thing about London was that it was a city of contradiction. Coming from a third world country and a country being colonized by the British Empire, everyone was fed different facts about England and my first impression did not meet any of it.

One thing that didn’t change is that the Englishmen are always the gentlemen.

I told a fellow English passenger in the bus that a Portuguese sat close-by harassed me. In seconds, it was chaos. The fight lasted for about 15 minutes and both broke their nose but later apologized.

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Photo: Frankfurt – Rome

I was not particularly into Frankfurt. The people scared me. I need some time to adjust to the normal volume pitch of the locals. I don’t find them very friendly when they’re yelling on top of their lungs but it’s the norm. Surprisingly, I later found out that they made the best of friends when you earn their trust.

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To be honest I only understood the second last line 🙂

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Photo: Marseilles – Barcelona

My surprise destination was Marseilles. I never planned to go there but it was kind of an accident that left me no choice.

I could never thank the accident enough. Marseilles is the epitome of vintage, free, wandering soul. The strong wind, the old port, the clear turquoise water, the lines of parked yachts, the fresh seafood, the freckles of the waving children, flapping skirts of old ladies, gleaming teeth of the old men. I will never forget the first time I got the glimpse of the famous port. I never recovered that piece of my heart left in Marseilles.

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Photo: Metro map of Barcelona

I have been to Barcelona more than 3 times but I have this feeling that Barcelona did not like me very much. There was always something that made my stay unbearable. Be it a rude remark from a local that I took seriously, unsympathetic friend that preferred to let me sleep at the airport for 2 days than offer any sort of refuge or being ignored when asked for help.

I don’t know why all these happen just when I arrived in Barcelona and sincerely hoped to God that every single time it would be different. It never did.

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Photo: Spanish grammar notes

I am lucky enough to be able to reach out for my dreams just because I was determined to learn a foreign tongue. Although I did learn French for 4 years in secondary school, the foundation made me decide to try Spanish and there lies my road to the world.

I am hoping for a new adventure, a new luck and a new place to tread this year. Maybe this time it would truly happen.

And you, yes, YOU. what are you waiting for? If not now, then when?

Happy wandering, wanderfolks!

Madrid Memories – Part II

I’m getting very sentimental today.

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I even missed the brown sign boards. I hope they put on some effort for it now. If it looked like this in 2008, I can’t imagine what it must looked like in 2013.

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Apart of FNAC, I loved Casa del Libro too. Here, I found a water-proof book. It was quite expensive compared to the normal books but it was quite an experimental launch.

But it’s WATER-PROOF books! That would be an unthinkable thing in Malaysia.

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I would walk and walk around town, barely knowing where I was but I was never lost. I know exactly where I was. It’s like deja vu. I have been here at some point, some dimension of time before and I knew it.

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I would never imagine such a collection of cheese (my eyes grew to the size of saucers of the thought of so many delicious creamy thing at one place!) but later I have been brought upon about 200+ types of cheese on an aisle in a Bordeaux supermarket and spent about 2 hours to pick one.

I just can’t.

ciI have enjoyed the free flow entertainment from the locals. There is an Opera school in the heart of the city and sometimes the students performed/practiced their routines to fund their studies or just for fun.

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Some came from foreigners, like these Mexicans performing Mariachi. I enjoyed watching them as well.

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The least fun part was saying goodbye. Here I was, trying to get some sleep at the Barajas International Airport before flying to Edinburgh.

I hope to see you again, Madrid. I really do.

Madrid Memories – Part I

I don’t know when will I see them again but this was taken in 2008. Curiously I did not feel the same emotions when I was there the first time in 2005. Everything was different; the vibe, the people, etc. Maybe because the crisis was upon the horizon and people’s head was swarming with misery.

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I loved the bear at Sol. I wondered why it was there. He’s like an important symbol but my teachers at the language school never mentioned it.

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I loved the Metro of Madrid. It’s more spacious and cleaner than the one in Barcelona or even Rome and Paris. But the one that I found better than this one is BTS of Bangkok.

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It’s fascinating how much people loved cured ham of Spain. There’s even a ‘museum’ dedicated to it. I managed to stand at the entrance but cannot cooperate my body inside. I find the stench unbearable 😦

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TABAC, as they said. I bought my monthly Metro pass here. The teller did not speak English and I have very few Spanish vocabulary at that time but we managed with a lot of sign language, miming and a bit of yelling. There were a lot of improvisation too and the customers that came later did their bit of hand gestures until I understood.

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I bought several second hand books here for less than 2 Euros. You can find old stamps, old sketches and many priceless memorabilia. This very same narrow way also lead to another place.

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The one, the only, the famous Plaza Mayor 🙂 I went here so many times along with some other exchange students. Most of them are Turkish, Polish and Hungarian. They made me sing a famous Malay pop song on top of my lungs here. I never thought I could miss a country by singing a decade old love song that I don’t even like in the first place.

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Nahid Ramazanov, one of the exchange students from Istanbul had a friend working here and he bought us lunch. It was amazing, rambunctious room filled with laughter and people in 2005 but by summer 2008 no one was there, the food was quite bland and there was almost a heavy dread on the shoulders of the server.

I wonder if it was a good idea to return to a place that you once knew. I wanted to remember Madrid as a place I once belonged, full of beautiful people and dreamy, rustic, citrusy summer but I can’t.

I can only hope for the charm of the third try.

The Thing I Missed Most About Madrid

I told this to a tourist and he smirked.

“You traveled so far just to visit a bookstore?”

And I felt a slight tremor of doubt. Since when you can’t like something as awesome as a bookstore?

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Well, it may sounds ridiculous to some of you but I happen to like FNAC and I would happily visit it everyday for as long as I like for the rest of my stay.

(Note: The photo was taken when I was in Bordeaux. I went to FNAC in Barcelona, Madrid and Seville)

I remember being in Madrid during the launch of PSP in 2005 and most of the population wanted to bombard the basement to see the launching. I literally had to fight them off at the entrance because I want to climb up the 5th floor to finish a book I started the day before.

I was always happy and it felt like a natural habitat. It’s the calmest place for a restless soul.

I wish I was there now.

Language Exchange

The only requirement that you need to join the Language Exchange Site is your ability to listen and speak in English and Spanish.

I can do that!

I may not speak like a native but this is an opportunity to truly listen to a person from this place, his pronunciation, the exclamation phrases that he uses, the themes, his life events summed up, the way he sees his country and mine, his interests, all things truly Spanish.

This site is genius.

So like an overanxious student, I registered online. After all I just need to go out with one person at a time for several hours. If I’m lucky he’d be paying for my lunch, (I don’t really put high hopes on that) I won’t meet this person again and if he’s really nice we can be pen-friend. Forever.

In short, I have nothing to lose.

The thing about Spaniards is that they are very curious. So when you put Malay female looking for a language exchange friend, the reply would came in dozens since they already have tonnes of questions in tow.

How did you learn to speak Spanish? How long did you take to be fluent in our language? Is it difficult? How do you say I love you in Malay? How’s the weather in Malaysia? What are you doing here? What do you eat in Malaysia? Where do you live here? Are you currently employed? Do you like Spain? Which place do you prefer? How did you learn English?

And we haven’t met yet.

My first time going out was with Ramon. He’s originally from Madrid. His English was quite good in writing. He’s a lawyer by profession so I was quite impressed when he showed up with his complete office suit.

Just got back from the court.

I see.

We talked for 4 hours non-stop. We took turn talking and listening and he turned out to be excellent at both fields. We switched English and Spanish every half an hour. He had trouble at first but it gets better after 1.5 hours. We took the corner table, asked for our drinks and food and catch up the things that we’d like to know.

From my personal opinion, he is the kind of language exchange partner that I dreamed off. He’s 38, the one and only child from a family of supreme intelligence. He basically lived in a library because both of his parents are historians and both working in a university nearby.

When I found out about this, I straightaway asked about the Civil War and Francisco Franco (I found out that Spaniards are not allowed to talk about this in public) I never learn this in school because this is not our compulsory syllabus. We were never taught of Spanish Civil Wars or Franco’s dictatorship. I found this out by myself but I don’t think I can carry a good conversation if anyone I knew by chance mentioned it. I didn’t get why it happened.

There was a long pause.

When he started to explain I wish that he would never stop. He is a walking encyclopedia! He told me secrets that I would never understand by reading alone. The Civil War, European economics, Spanish mentality, customs, imperialism in the New World, the effects towards the monarchy in Spain, the things I only wish to know in my dreams.

He broke the history down bit by bit, like a talented teacher and everything seemed so easy.

This is what I’m talking about!

I also have great difficulty trying to explain because I learned and read many terms in English or Malay and he in Spanish so we had a lot of terms which we need to elaborate much further.

But we didn’t give up.

When the sky is dark, we both had to return home (with great headaches of too much information loading in such a short time) and he continue sending me more books about the events that I wish to know.

I can’t thank him enough for shedding a bright light on the mentioned topics.

The only fact that I don’t like is that I didn’t have a lot of time meeting Spanish gentleman (why in the World would a meet a girl?) because I was constantly traveling so I only had time for 2 random meetings.

I stayed for about 2 weeks in my old apartment in Cea Bermudez, near Metro Las Islas Filipinas and the year was 2008. The first time I was in Madrid was 2005 and I stayed at the same place for 3 months.

My housemates changed like the season. This time I have an adorable housemate. His name is David. He’s 20, fresh from La Coruña. That summer I was lucky to meet very good conversationist, intelligent, friendly and good looking men.

I must have been a really nice girl.

Anyway, David is staying in Madrid because he had to register for a summer camp and this camp is only organized for students who managed to accomplish full mark in all subjects.

So he is an extremely intelligent good looking young man.

Like a good big sister (he’s the only child in the family) I always accompanied him during dinner. He always had a late dinner, about 9 PM and I was almost always out doing something or meeting someone during the day. I know that he doesn’t mind eating alone but I sat there nonetheless.

And we talked. We always stopped at midnight.

He is the kind of person that likes to know everything about anything. He would go to the nearest library and borrow books in random subjects, even though while on vacation with family. He can even go to the beach with piles of books and starts reading.

He would make any mother proud.

Oh, by the way he speaks gallego (a mix of Spanish and Portuguese spoken in Galicia) and French (his mother is French.)

How I wish I could do the same!

Like any other teenager, he asked a lot of questions, especially about my country and religion. He seemed to know a lot about Malaysia and has a very strong opinion on certain subjects. You need to argue restlessly and find a good evidence to throw him off his grid.

It helps being stubborn sometimes.

I found that our conversation is stimulating and intriguing. He helped me with a lot of new vocabulary and he now knows the difference between being a Malay and Malaysians (most foreigners still have no idea what is the difference between the two.)

I will always remember him as my smart Spanish baby brother.

My last meeting was with Ildefonso. I managed to call him because he sounded like a nice person on the mail and I don’t think it would be nice to leave Madrid without meeting another good soul (I believe in the goodness of other people.) It was my last day in Madrid and my last effort. I was supposed to fly from Madrid to Edinburgh the next morning at 6.20 AM. To avoid missing the flight or early traffic I decided that I should sleep at Barajas airport after taking the last train at 12 AM the same day.

Ilde said he can’t meet me as he’s moving to another apartment.

Oh, I said it’s O.K. I just don’t want to leave Madrid without meeting a language exchange partner that I contacted online. If you’re busy then I’ll just leave tonight to Scotland.

Wait, he said. Let’s meet now.

Now?

Yes, tell me where are you and I’ll find you.

That’s Ilde and he’s one Southern gentleman that any girl would want to meet. He’s 29 and from Jaén. I knew immediately that he’s from Andalucía when he first speak.

My heartbeat grew faster by the minute. Gosh, he sounds darn sexy!

Focus. I’m here for the language exchange thingy.

I can’t tell you how I loved his accent. During the first half an hour I gawked and listened and gawked some more.

I am in love with whatever things that he said. Good or bad.

When I finally got my bearings right, we spoke for 6 hours. He’s an agriculture engineer.

Wow. What’s that?

He had to explain 3 times. My mind doesn’t get it. He was worried that he explained it incorrectly but it was me who suddenly doesn’t understand a word of English.

We take turn speaking and listening in both languages each 10 minutes. The first session he said his head can’t tolerate the pressure. It’s exploding! Common exaggeration, I know. It has been too long since the last time he used English to explain something.

He is a great listener too and he really listened to me. I know this seemed like an easy task but listening is not the same as hearing. Listening requires you to focus, understand, emphasize the point by relating it to your current knowledge preferably with the same experience or field and remembering it, be it short or long term (I know men tend to forgot so I usually turn a blind eye if they repeat a story or a joke) and he nailed it or I admit that he made me believed that he really listened to me and I in turn listened to him.

What else I can do with such beautiful accent? I’m complete.

4 hours at a café and he suggested that we should go for a walk in the park.

I know just the place!

Where?

Have you been to El Parque del Buen Retiro?

I’ve heard of it. Is it far? Can we walk there?

No! It’s 12 Metro stations to the north and we had to change at the Green Line. Absolutely no walking there!

Then, shall we go?

I have been dreaming to go to the park but I was so scared since my last experience there. I can’t walk alone in the park so Ilde was the perfect company. It’s about 10 PM. I have another 2 hours before the last train to the airport.

I can do this. I can pack in 5 minutes and run like a mad cow chasing a mad man in tights with a red cape. In time I’ll enjoy the park in the shadows bathed in fluorescent lights.

He told me about his family. He’s the youngest of three. His favorite place in Madrid, his ambition, his friends, his cousins, his new apartment, his job, his colleagues, his boss, his pets, in summary, his life.

So this is the essence of a life in Spain. The thing that this soul had lived so far. A story. I have learned a lot from him. We both go to school but the education system of both countries have different ways of making us understand, we experienced different ways of expressing life but overall it’s the same.

Life is a mystery and it’s up to us to find the answers.

Most memorable thing he did was ignoring a phone call from his cousin (In Spain they don’t text.) I told him to pick it up but he said no, it will take a long time since it’s from her, most probably asking about the moving. He’ll call her later because we don’t have much time to spend.

That is the sweetest thing a man could do to a woman (though as a random stranger I probably don’t deserve it but I feel appreciated.)

We were lying on our backs on the grass and observing the stars and everything was perfect for me. I told him about the constellations that I knew and how to read them and we talked until midnight. No one dared to bother us.

I was happy and I had the best day in Madrid. I hope he was happy too. My last chapter in Madrid was closed with a good ending.

He sent me home. He wished me luck on my future traveling.

Changing my mood from a happy girl to mad cow, I started running and never looked back.

And Edinburgh was the gift I was waiting for.

I was in total bliss for about a month more and then the nightmare took over.

And it’s still not ending.

Don’t Panic

I learned not to be panic when I’m lost. I imagine the World is a big playground and I’m on to the next see-saw somewhere.

It’s just a matter of time until I find it.

I once was lost in a place I don’t particularly like to be lost. It was midnight. My phone was off because I forgot to charge it and the address where I was staying was in the phone. I was alone. I can’t call anyone. I don’t know anyone.

I didn’t panic yet.

All the bars are opening. It’s about 12 AM. But the Madrid population doesn’t own a fucking Nokia charger, just Siemens! I went to about 10 bars before realizing that this isn’t working.

No. I can’t give up yet.

There was an old man sitting in front of his porch. I went and asked him if he could help me but he doesn’t own a mobile and his wife is inside…sleeping (what was actually he’s trying to imply, I still have a vague translation of it.)

No, don’t panic. Somebody somewhere would say YES.

Right?

I walked and walked round and round trying to remember what I couldn’t. I was only there once. Katalina invited me to stay and I figured it was awesome, since we could catch up what we left last 3 years. The last thing I knew about her was she’s married to an Ecuadorian. She invited me to the wedding but I was busy in Rome while the wedding was held at Budapest (she’s Hungarian) so we left it that way.

But earlier that day when I met her she said everything was falling apart. She’s separating from the husband but they’re still living together.

I hope you don’t mind he’s here, she said.

Oh, it’s o.k.

Everything was o.k until the husband told her that he liked me and would like to go out with me.

Well, this is awkward.

Even more awkward when the wife told me that she’s totally fine with it. Go, get to know my ex!

What? I can’t do that.

Why? He’s not your type or you’re just not comfortable that we’re not finalizing the divorce papers just yet?

I mean..I don’t…I just…(how can you explain this nicely to your friend? I’m here to travel, not to fuck your future ex-husband!)

So I figure I should stay out of the house as long as possible, read some books at my favorite store, walk off some steam, get to know some Spanish dudes and I just need to return home to get my beauty sleep in time and we don’t speak about this anymore which in turn the plan leaves me on the street homeless at 12 AM.

Don’t panic. There must be a solution to this stupidity. I am not sleeping on the streets tonight.

Not in Madrid.

I saw a cyber café nearby. Oh good! Katalina might be online! I can tell her to fetch me and I’ll be saved. Thank God for internet and Yahoo! Messenger.

I have too much illusion. She was not there. Only a friend in online and she lives in Newcastle-Upon-Type, United Kingdom

She can’t do anything!

So I did what I had to do. I said hi and told her what happened. I told her that I was lost and homeless and is panicking that I would be sleeping on the street. I also told her that if I hadn’t call her the next day then she can call the Embassy of Malaysia in Madrid and report me missing.

In my mind I had this elaborated things that would happen to me, as in robbed, raped, killed, tied, hang, abducted, not necessary  in this order. So this is my ending.

The friend and the husband were in the verge of exploding.

If I could listen to them it would be screaming and nagging. O.K. This is all my fault. Whatever will be, will be.

The c.c was closing and the owner, a guy from Cameroon asked me politely if I kindly go, as it’s 12.30 AM.

Oh dear! This is the deepest shit that I’ve been so far and it’s getting deeper.

Where do you live, he asked in Spanish and me, being a nice little girl told him that I was lost, that I only need a charger to get the address in the fucking dead phone.

I have a Nokia charger!

My hero! (my heart leaps with joy)

Can I use it?

It’s at my house.

Can we go there and get it? (by the way I didn’t realize the level of trouble I was suggesting because I was so preoccupied with charging)

He gave me that chilling-to-the-bone-smile and said of course!

So we walked and chatted. He’s a really funny guy. His mother tongue is French (you know how I love French) and we spoke French quite a bit. He was a nice gentleman born in Cameroon but the whole family is in exile. His father is a political refugee and they’re living in Madrid for that time being before they could get all the situation under control.

I’ve never met a person with such complicated situation in my whole life!

He bought me a drink on the way back home. I know you should not drink or take anything from any stranger but I was so exhausted that I didn’t care.

Nothing happened. I was not drunk nor possessed.

He lives on the 6th floor with other guys from the same country. None of them were there. After all, Madrid life started at 12 so they might be partying somewhere at Sol and coming back at 6 AM when the Metro starts operating again.

Where’s the charger? I asked.

I keep it somewhere hidden. In my luggage bag. Let me check. You might have to wait a bit. You want to take a shower? You can sleep here, you know. I can sleep at the living room, you can take my bed. (what chivalry!)

I was so tired and sweating a stream. I don’t even looked like me. Of course I said yes. He even prepared some clothes for me (it was the first time that I’m wearing a basketball jersey. I kinda like it)

So when I finished showering he was not there. He said (through the bathroom door) that he needs to go for a walk (a friend suggested he might want to buy some sort of protection because he is definitely getting lucky tonight) so I waited.

What took him so long? I don’t even know where did he put the damn charger.

I was not panicking because I have a roof on my head and about to be saved.

Only in my dreams…

When he returned, he took his time showering.

And then he let me know that he doesn’t have the charger.

What? Why would you lie to me?

Because it doesn’t matter. I am helping you and now you are helping me.

I don’t understand.

You. Are. Sleeping. With. Me.

[Don’t panic. Don’t panic. Don’t panic.]

Then he stripped.

Man, this can’t be happening to me!!!

Have you seen something darker than black? A black velvet perhaps? You don’t want to see a man with 6 feet tall, triple your size standing in front of you wearing nothing at all in closed quarters. Even the black of the night could not help you erase that image.

I avoided looking but I state my case, though shaken lightly.

I am not sleeping with you. You told me that you’d sleep outside.

No. This is my house. My rules.

[Don’t panic]

Fine. I’ll sleep outside, on the street. I’ll give you back your clothes.

Go ahead, I want to see that!

Fine!

Fine!

When I was changing, he was beginning to get more upset and nervous.

What kind of men do you think I am? Do you seriously think I would let you sleep on the streets? I am a gentleman! I am not letting you out!

But you just said…Fine! I’ll sleep on your couch, then.

No. You’re sleeping here, with me.

NO! You promised me you’d help me and I trusted you (voice rising) but you just tricked me, a helpless little girl and you think you’d get something from me…

Stop..shh..sh…the neighbors are listening! Be quite now…

NOW, you are intimidated of what the neighbors would say? Now??(voice rising) I can tell them exactly what they want to know!! Exactly!! You are a lying son-of-a-bitch and you are taking advantage of me!! ( I swear to God that we argued like a married couple. You don’t want to be begged by a black man wearing nothing, it just made you more cranky)

He said. I am sleeping here, in the same room with you. That’s final and you are sleeping here with me too. End of discussion.

Fine, I’ll sleep on the floor.

What kind of man do you think I am? (he keeps repeating this, gosh!) You are not sleeping on the floor. The bed is big enough for the two of us and I promise you I won’t do anything.

Yeah, it better be raining pigs tomorrow.

I promise.

Seriously, no one would sleep with a black man in the nude promising not to do anything on the same bed.

Absolutely no one.

But I did, because I was so sleepy and I know exactly where to kick if he plans to do anything funny of the sort.

He did keep to his promise. It was the longest night for me and I keep my view to the wall. Maybe he just needed someone to hold this particular night. I am being really stupid but I let him held me all night long (I can feel a bulge on my back but I chose to ignore) and I guess he was quite happy with what he got.

He even woke up early and charged my phone when I was asleep. He greeted me good morning and acted like we were good friends. Nobody was naked, nobody was screaming and we were nice to each other.

I switch on the phone and he even brought me to the address I had on.

You have no idea how I had to answer to Katalina, her husband and my friend and her husband in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

But I get out of that situation just fine. Nothing bad happened. O.K there might be a sticky-sticky situation to handle but look at the big picture.

I am fine and I don’t panic (most of the time.)

Moral of the story: Charge your phone, write the address on a friggin’ piece of paper or memorize it. Bring enough money to rent a hotel room. Don’t hang your hopes upon a stranger.