Thursday, September 3, 2009

and so the penny drops

This is my last week of what has been a seven month stint, and so I will attempt to make this my penultimate post. I want to write a final, deep, thought-provoking blog post (something about those last four words grouped together doesn't seem right), but fear not, this is not that post.

No, this post is actually about someone we have already met.

Nico the chef.

You might remember him as the lad who did some shagging on a balcony. Last time we spoke he was heading off to Cadiz. Well yesterday he came back and he has already gone again. This time his face was full of facial hair and his skin darker than the night sky. But he left me with some stories, I told him to write them down, but he doesn't fancy himself as much of a writer, so I'll just do it for him. I am certain I don't know the majority of the places he went to by name, but I'll try my hardest to know what I'm talking about. And all of this information was gathered from conversations in Spanish, so some details are a bit hazy. Here is a re-cap of his interesting journey.

When our friend arrived in Cadiz he spent his first three nights in a hostel. Now I don't know if what I am about to write happened at this moment in Cadiz or later on, but for the purpose of the story it fits better at this point. All I know is that it definitely happened in Cadiz.

Nico cried. Loneliness was the cause. He told me he felt so lonely that he could not help but cry. When he told me that I felt sad and we did a little hug.

After three nights in the hostel, Nico spent a night on the beach with some homeless people. Drinking beer and playing the guitar. In what would prove a smart move, the next day he went back to the hostel. That night a new friend sleeping on the beach had his backpack stolen from under his sleeping nose. That would be Nico's last night in paid accommodation, the following morning Nico found his friends bag and the majority of its contents down an alleyway. A few nights on the beach passed by, asleep and cradling his backpack.

During one of those typically burning hot days in Cadiz he had a chance encounter with a disabled man, this is more or less how it went:

"Hey Boy come over here"
Nico went over to this gent sat in the wheelchair and offered his help. After a while the man who turns out to be slightly crazy offered Nico a bed for fifteen euros a night. Nico was not going to pay for a bed, so instead he offered Nico a bed in exchange for some help. For three days Nico took this paraplegic from one bar to the next and they had some fun. It turns out this man used to be a famous flamenco dancer, was in even in a film, and I'm sure after the tragic loss of his leg's functionality he became a one-man waste mission. How sad.

After Cadiz he ventured for a bit more through the province of Andalucia, seeing a side much different from that which I had seen three months ago. We both saw Granada and Sevilla, but when he went he slept in the streets, in school yards, and under bridges. He walked in symmetry with people who have been homeless for six years, with the children of prostitutes, and people with even less luck than that. I slept in a hostel, ate fine food and watched football.

Towards the end of Andalucia he met a girl. For the moment her name eludes me. They traveled to Portugal and saw plenty of the country, finally staying at her house in Coimbra. One time she was so upset with him that she locked him out for four days. For four days he lived and slept in the same clothes and did not shower, until she finally opened up on the fifth day.

Nico went back down south towards Almería. Here he stayed in a place that was completely self-sufficient, powered by the sun. A North-German family exchanged accommodation and food for labour. Although it took some time, Nico managed to describe to me how the family would cook their food reflecting the sunlight with a mirror and using magnification devices to heat it. They grew there own vegetables and had their own water supply, it sounded a bit like Al Gore's wet dream, I mock it now, but I too was impressed on hearing of their habits, perhaps what impressed me most though was how passionately Nico spoke about these things.

Then Nico did something stupid. He spent a day walking through the Almerian desert on his own. Nico took a bottle of water, the bottle broke and leaked all over his clothes in his bag. This resulted in Nico wringing out his clothes into his mouth as his only supply of hydration. A whole day through the desert with nothing to drink, not good.

I can't remember if a girl picked him up in a car or he made t all the way by foot, but I know eventually he ended up in Carboneras at a nudist colony on the beach. For three days he lived without clothes and without inhibitions, living in clay homes, far from anyone else. The people ranged from thirty until fifty years old.

Following the nudist colony Nico spent some time with an eighty-two year old shamanic woman. Healthier than him, she awoke every morning for her rituals and was a master of all things herbal. She ate cactus.

Then Nico ventured into the wilderness and found himself spending a night in a cave. The cave was right on the coast, with a beautiful sea view. He moved on.

He spent a month on a farm. With more Germans, these being from the south. There were tarantulas and he was left in serious pain after a chance encounter with a scorpion. On the farm he shepherded goats on the mountains high. He made his own staff. The goats had names, some German and some English. One called 'White Goat' was particularly fond of Nico. Nico left the farm with bracelets of friendship and a homemade didgeridoo.

Finally he had to make it from Almería to Barcelona. To come and collect a suitcase from me.

A fifty year-old Moroccan pervert picked him up. Nico proceeded to drive the over 500 miles, twelve hours through the night without sleep. The Moroccan tried putting his hand on Nico's thigh a few times, on the third and final time Nico got out of the car on the motorway outside Barcelona. He then walked into Barcelona and arrived at seven in the morning.

Nico is not a poor boy. He is from a bourgeoisie family, before coming to Spain he saved over two thousand euros, and that money remains in his bank still. He won't tell his family how he traveled, he can't tell them about the people he met, because they will disown him.

Nico learned plenty of things from playing the guitar and the harmonica to making houses out of clay and rock, not to mention plenty of new culinary skills. He met people from all walks of life, from all over the world, he lived cut-off from society, he spent days by himself, but the only time he cried from loneliness was one of the few times he was actually in a city. He has always professed to me that he was not made for the city, he was built for the country.

Nico has ambitions to live a self sufficient, minimalistic lifestyle that I can only admire. He wants to travel the world and take something useful from every corner. When he is ready he wants to settle and build an igloo from sand, cement and rock. I think that is lovely.

Plenty of us say we go 'traveling', but we sleep in hostels and surround ourselves with people just like us. What Nico has done and it seems will keep doing is something I can only dream I had the courage to do. He truly immerses himself and is not afraid to do so. He is willing to speak to anybody like a friend and his smile remains forever.

He arrived here in Barcelona just yesterday and after a tour of my neighborhood, we made some simple food and talked about things we deem important. Once we had realised our mutual admiration for Leonard Cohen, we just sat and listened to words for a while.

This afternoon we had the final meal. He left for the port. To catch a ferry. He might go to France he might go to Rome, nothing is certain. My only hope is that it was not the last meal we share together.

Nico the Chef has transformed into Nico the Vagabond.

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