Bylanes of Barcelona

It must be there, I didn’t see it the first time. Maybe I put it in the other pocket?

After rifling through my bag and turning it inside out five times, it was becoming more and more difficult to block the thought that my bag had been picked. Cash, wallet, cards, keys…all gone.
Standing at the tube station in Barcelona, watching the metal arms of the exit turn as people kept passing through in a blur, a single thought echoed through my head –This can’t be happening to me!

I was in a foreign country for the weekend. Alone. Didn’t know anyone there. Had limited balance on my phone card – which was on roaming. Also, this vacation was taken while on another trip to Luxembourg for work. Home was a continent away.
The enormity of how alone I was broke in on me when I considered this. How did I get here?

I need to think. Breathe. One thing at a time. First things first.
Get back to a known place.

In Barcelona, this would be my room. Booked a trip back with the three of the five or six euros I had in my pocket. Walking back to the hostel from the station, I began to calm down and wondered how to deal with the situation. Ten steps from the hostel, I remember seeing its dome and wondering what to do next.

Place to stay? – Check.
Passport? – Check.
Flight booked? –Check.

All the warnings about the dangers of solo travel that I had heard in the last two weeks, came back in a rush. Given all this, do I want to take another solo trip, ever?

Yes.

An answer that was as true as it was unbidden.

It made me realize that I was meant to travel. I discovered that I travel just because it was right for me. Regardless of the worries, the fears, the possibility of such problems, I will travel… and if anything went wrong, I would handle it.

I roamed around those two days without a care in the world. Pondered over Picasso’s genius, was moved by an aria under the arches of Liceu, strolled through the colourful La Rambla, walked on the beach as people whooshed past me on roller blades…
saw someone enjoying a quite coffee on the steps of La Catedral, turning up her face to soak in the sun…watched a grandfather trying to have his three year old granddaughter sit still for a photograph at Placa Reial…followed the strains of music through the cobbled grey alleyways of Barri Gotic and was held spellbound by the performance of some amazing street musicians.

Best trip I had so far.

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From Mrs. Hore’s English Class

A while back, we had to do a writing assignment based on a prompt. While another one spoke to me a little more at that time, I decided to revisit a few that whispered. One in particular struck a chord – Teacher’s Pet.

Its not really about being her pet or anything, but more about something she said once, which has stayed with me ever since.

She taught us History and then English through classes 4 and 5. Once, after our finals I guess, she wrote the following for me:

Do what you think is right,
Do it to the best of your ability.

She spoke it out aloud as I took the book and read the two lines. She asked me if I understood what she meant and I remember repeating the lines and replacing the word “right” with “best”. She corrected me immediately. I remember asking her “aren’t we supposed to do what is best?” I had learnt by then that we were. It wasn’t safe to do what I thought was right. It hardly ever seemed to be the best option, it could hurt someone, be inconvenient and get me into loads of trouble…which seemed like such a lot of unwarranted effort, for quite a bit of unnecessary pain.

I don’t remember what I said to her, something to the effect of “shouldn’t it be “best””, or “are you sure its not best? Isn’t that better?”. She assured me that she had not made a mistake. She meant to write “right”, because “what’s best may and can keep changing, what is right won’t”.

I remember asking her “how’d I know what would be right?” She said “you’d know”. I was dubious, but thought I’d give it a shot once.

Its been 20 years and ma’am, I haven’t stopped giving it a shot since.