Country mice in Almería

Once in a while, my roommate and I like to get out of our immigrant town and feel like we’re in Europe (because it’s so easy to forget that we actually are!).

I looked up a local art museum and an intriguing café in Almería. So, pretending to be polished and cultured, we country mice set off to spend our Friday evening in the big, frightening city.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. It’s not like we never go to Almería and neither of us are frightened by the relatively small city. However, despite how sophisticated we felt that night, I rather think we still looked like country mice.

Our adventure began at the Doña Pakyta art museum. I highly recommend this little museum if you’re ever in Almería. Not only is it full of local art and snapshots of the city’s history, but it’s also located in an old residence. (And it’s free!)

Our next stop was Café Cyrano. I had only browsed through reviews, so we had really no idea what we were getting into. But we pretended that we did. And we were pleasantly surprised by a bustling and yet relaxed atmosphere. I managed to tune out the world and study Arabic while munching on a pita griega vegetal.

Last of all, while waiting for the last bus back to Immigrantville, we sat along the Rambla, the main boulevard, and enjoyed the life happening around us.

My November guests

In November, three guests traversed the Atlantic to visit me: my mom, my brother, and my friend. Some of our adventures included:

  • Finding each other at the airport… and managing to convince security that I was not a risk
  • Traipsing around the city as each phone place we had been directed to directed us to someone else
  • Arguing with taxi drivers who were even more stubborn than I
  • Tasting the old medina, literally and figuratively
  • Posing for awkward pictures
  • Sampling camel burgers and a salad that tasted “like donkeys”
  • Wiggling cooked snails out of their shells with wooden toothpicks…and sampling them too
  • Long talks
  • Laughing until we cried
  • Visiting my friends for tea, dinner, or just to say “hi”
  • Tasting uncured olives that pickled our mouths
  • Eating most of our meals standing around in the kitchen
  • Souvenir shopping in the rain
  • Souvenir shopping in the rain again
  • A long train ride in the rain
  • Walking along the bay in the rain
  • Two nights of cold showers
  • Spending a night snuggled in the musty hotel blankets
  • Staying in a concrete hotel room which reverberated with the early morning call to prayer and reading of the Qur’an
  • Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar by ferry only to find that the rain in Spain does not stay mainly on the plain!
  • A long bus ride around many many roundabouts…in the rain
  • A bus break-down which seemed to temporarily mend itself
  • A few days in Spain with friends, church, a birthday party,  an open air market, olives, churros, pastries, cocido, and tapas
  • Goodbyes

I forgot to see the sky

Trees were only trunks, lining my peripheral with motionless human beings beside the square tiled sidewalk. But at the rhythmic slapping of wings against broad leaves, I looked up at the silhouettes of startled birds in the bright sky.

The sky. When was the last time I had seen the expanse of soft blue, white, and gray? Far above the wailing streets of traffic and layered buildings was majesty. And it watched me with quiet pleasure, waiting for me to remember.

Learning to listen

I was yawning between pages of War and Peace. The train’s rumble of metal on metal was soothing after three hours.

As we had moved from city to city, passengers had changed so often that they became a blur of faceless humanity. Across the compartment, someone took a seat facing me, another faceless being. I yawned again.

But then I smelled him. Cigarette smoke. I tried not to wrinkle my nose as I looked at him. Our eyes locked. He blinked, and I looked away.

Him.

What?!

When I had started the trip, I had spent time in prayer. God,  I want to listen to Your voice today. Several times, women had sat down next to me, but most had avoided eye contact. All I had given or received was a smile or maybe a greeting. But now it was a man. I didn’t talk to men unless I had a reason.

Remember the woman at the well? Who talked to her? Was it a man or a woman?

But I can’t talk to him. And my Arabic is horrid. Besides, I will only get myself into trouble… Fine. Okay, but You have to make Your timing really clear.

More than an hour later, he stood up–was he leaving? No, he took the empty seat next to me. I continued to skim through a dry chapter of War and Peace.

Now? But what if I heard You wrong?

Then he stood again. “Can you save my seat for me?” he asked in perfect English.

Wait, he speaks English? 

It was only a few minutes before he drifted back to his reserved seat, bringing along a cloud of cigarette smoke. This time I did wrinkle my nose. “You’re killing yourself, you know?”

He turned to me. “Do you believe in destiny?” His voice was low and gentle.

A subconscious understanding of where the conversation was headed triggered words that I didn’t hear until they had sprung from my lips: “Are you a fatalist?”

From there, our conversation careened down a different path than he had intended. But it was exactly the path that God had intended.

I doubt I will ever see him again. But it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am learning to listen to God’s voice.