I was met at Barcelona Airport by an Emirates driver who took me to Barcelona Sants station, part of the perks of travelling in business class. The other most obvious advantage is a seat which turns into a bed in the plane.
I bought a ticket for the train to Girona, bought a tea in McDonald's Café and went to the platform. I also had a plastic bag with a few clothes and some cheese which the Emirates crew gave me as a doggy-bag. I also had my 22kg suitcase. I was super-tired. I was balancing a polystyrene cup of tea to stop it spilling. What am I getting around to?
I was chatting to two friends on Skype using my expensive Samsung S6 phone. When I wasn't using it, I put it in my bag. But I guess I left the zip open because when I took my seat in the train, it was gone. There was a guy who brushed past me when I got on the train, maybe it was him. It was so unfair! But who said life was fair?? I was still wearing the tee shirt that I slept in and my jacket was still in my suitcase so there was nowhere for the phone. The bag was full so it was difficult to close the zip on the side pocket.
Welcome back to Barcelona. I was in a small compartment in the train and my companions were so helpful. One guy opposite lent me his phone to ring 1004, the Movistar number, in order to block the phone. Another person gave me tethering so that I could change my Skype password. The girl who spoke to me at Movistar had a Colombian accent and I am rather fond of that sound. I asked if she was in Colombia! She said, "No, I am in Madrid". We laughed because she was indeed colombiana.
When I arrived in Girona, I decided to take a taxi to the Movistar shop to get a new SIM to replace the one blocked. But it was a fiesta yesterday, part of the puente of 6th and 8th December and the shop was closed. So we just continued on to my home. For safety, I also changed my Google password. I rang Movistar again and they reassured me that the phone was blocked until I was able to visit the Movistar shop tomorrow, Monday. I started to think how stupid it was to be carrying around a phone which cost me 600 euros when there are perfectly good phones such as the J5 at a third of the price. My second phone which I use to connect to foreign networks when I am abroad is a J1, less than 100 euros. So tomorrow, I will buy a J5 or J7 because I need a decent camera and the camera in the J1 is of poor quality.
Sunday morning 7am. I slept well, it will help me synchronise with European time!
Reflections on the trip...... Some memories are of Nomel being rather distant with me while being warm and friendly with Joshua. But most of the time, we had a great time! He denied being cool of course but I said to him that I was sure he knew what he was doing. His English is not bad so it wasn't a language problem. His mum made the same comment to him, calling it his "attitude". It hurt me a little. And then on the very last day, he switched on his smile. Maybe it is about pride, accepting money. It is as though he is bitter. Anyway, who cares? I am back home among numerous friends who are kind to me and Nomel is now back to being an icon on Skype. But I am sad because there is so much I can teach him (father instinct). Maybe we will do it on Skype. I think not.
I was a little shocked (but not surprised) when, on Thursday, we went to the supermarket to buy food and mum wanted to buy 4 antibiotic tablets at the pharmacy for her toothache. I told her they wouldn't help, she needed a course of a week. And anyway, she needed to visit a dentist. But she expected me to pay for them. I protested, I had given them a sum of money a few days earlier to pay for things like that, to save them asking me for money all the time. In the end she agreed to pay me back when we went back to the apartment, which she did. It was not a large sum, maybe about 4 euros. Next morning, I decided that I had been a little mean and I gave the money back to her. She accepted it without hesitation. I have to accept that this is how they are, their culture is totally different. I mean, not because they are Filipinos because there are many Filipinos who would insist on paying for their own medication - they have no money. But I receive numerous messages from Nomel with effusive thanks for helping them. Thanks from the family. Photos of happy smiling faces. When I got home, there were several photos of them on Skype in front of a wall where they had posted some paintings which I gave them last week, including a portrait of Nomel in oil.
For 130 euros a month (which otherwise would sit in my bank doing nothing), I am supporting a family of a mother and five children (Nomel at 23 is the oldest in the house. There is an older married sister but she lives separately. The youngest, two boys are about 10). I don't pay for food, but I pay the rent and a share of the electricity. And I have offered to pay for wired internet, ADSL because they use 3G only which is very patchy and slow. Of course, I often feel that they are taking me for granted - taking the mickey - but it only takes one message, one word and I realise how much they appreciate what I do for them. I am mistaken if I expect an English response. By paying the rent for a separate house, I enabled them to move away from the oppressive atmosphere of their grandmother's house where there was a huge family packed into a small space. There were many arguments because their father came to visit the grandmother.
Am I glad I went? Oh, 100% sure! I had a great time in Bangkok. I have so many wonderful memories of the three weeks in the Philippines, some memories not so wonderful, sure. But that is how life is, not a bowl of cherries. It is there to be experienced and I am so lucky to have the money and the time to travel. Nomel and I argued from time to time but his mum and the two sisters who came to visit were so nice. Joshua made everyone laugh a lot including the staff at the beach resort, I was very happy about that. It would have been very different if Nemia or Nomelyn had come to Bantayan instead. Joshua was obsessive about washing his face with whitening soap, he would spend a very long time in the bathroom and it would end up awash with water. He cleared his throat obsessively and spat. He urinated even when he had no need, in a bus shelter when we were only 100m from the beach resort, as if it was leaving his signature (I am too polite to say what that reminds me of). I even caught him peeing in the bathroom by the shower which was not an enclosed space. Nomel's attitude towards me was probably linked to Joshua because it was different when Joshua went home. I talked to Nomel about it - I told him that I didn't like his habits (none of us did), but the person was funny and very camp. But a big show-off and competition for me, I think.
But I regret nothing. Even the money I spent. It seemed that I was visiting ATMs a lot - I had to pay for most things in cash - but when I got back home yesterday and looked at my UK bank statement which is what I had been using, it did not make much of a dent because my private pensions arrived during the same period and balanced it out. Much of the money was in supermarkets and I do that at home too. I paid for the airfare and condo at Redwoods a long time ago - water under the bridge and it was for me anyway.
Oh, by the way, one of the people working at the beach resort was also a ladyboy. I thought she was really nice, I had quite a soft spot for her. I know I say "he" sometimes and "she" other times to describe our ladyboys but that is how it is - still a guy but it is normal to say, "she". Try saying "he" to describe a transgender woman in the UK, even in error and expect crucifixion in the press.
I cried on the flight to Barcelona when I listened to my music with a glass of wine, ostensibly abut my friend with the beautiful voice in Manila who I will miss. But it went far deeper than that. I used to do it a lot; an aeroplane, a little alcohol and classical music and sometimes I go to a totally different plane. There is a pain inside me which I can't explain, but it departs for a short time when I do that and leaves me in peace. I look terrible but I feel liberated inside. It's too complicated to talk about here and anyway I don't understand what it is, despite many attempts to do so. It is not depression, that is different. Maybe I wrote about it in my life story which I am putting up as a separate blog here, I can't remember. It is a big puzzle in my life. I imagine arriving at the gates of Heaven and rather like the answer in a TV quiz, being told, "The answer is...... ".
"Ohhh, now you tell me!!"
I will do very little and spend very little over Christmas. On 21st December there is a critical vote in Catalunya, I am desperately hoping that the moderate parties will gain power and restore calm and equilibrium to the region. And on 27th December, I go to Colombia again and I will write about it here, of course! If you have read my blog in the past about Colombia you will think I am a devil for punishment, but I love the country and the people. It's not just about my friend there.