Did you know that Barcelona is famous for their pick-pocketers? Yeah. Neither did I. Until my wallet, along with my passport, got stolen from me while I was there.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Cindy, why did you have your passport on you while in the city? Why didn’t you leave it at the hotel/airbnb you were staying at?” Well. I flew in during the middle of the day, and decided to meet my friends, who were already out and about in the city, near the cathedral. Because I did not go to the airbnb immediately, I decided to check my luggage at a locker center for 4 euros for the entire day. I did not feel safe leaving my passport there (dumb decision Cindy) and therefore took it with me.
The good thing: I did not have cash in my wallet and it was very simple and quick to cancel my cards and get them replaced and sent to my home in Segovia. My main concern was to figure out what to do about my passport and my ID. Without both, I had not way of proving who I was (officially, of course). There was a US consulate in Barcelona, but lucky me, it was closed the two days that I was there and I had class to attend very shortly, as well as a flight that I was sure no one would let me on without ID. I called the airline to ask if there was any way I would be allowed on, and unfortunately they said no.
After crying for what seemed like hours, I sat in silence, not knowing what to do. I quickly transferred some money into my friends account so she could withdraw some and I would have some cash to get by until my cards get to me by mail. As for getting back to Madrid without being allowed on the plane? I was lost. My wonderful, wonderful friend bought me a ride through this website called BlaBlaCar, basically uber, but for long-distance locations, and pretty cheap too. She booked me a ride from Barcelona to Madrid for 35 euros. A five hour drive for 35 euros. That was a steal. But I was scared. A complete stranger would drive me for five hours? I don’t know…but it was the only option I had.
So the driver was really sweet. His name was Marco, and he had a thick Spanish accent. I would say he was around the age of 26 years old. He tried to explain the Catalan and Spain situation, but he said it’s more complicated than what it seems. We stopped about halfway to Madrid in Zaragoza to fill up his tank. I went to the restroom and then waited with him in line to pay behind a group of about 100 American teenagers. I knew we would be there a while.
One of the supervisors of the travel group noticed we were standing there and tried her best to speak to us in Spanish, asking if we were a part of the group. Marco didn’t understand and said “Yes ma’am, I can watch your spot. It is okay.” Obviously he said it in broken English, but that is what came across. The lady tried speaking in Spanish again, to which I simply responded, “I speak English, can I help?” She seemed baffled. Bumping into another American at a gas station in a small town in Spain? What are the odds. Yet, there we were.
She quickly explained that we can pay first instead of waiting behind everyone else in the group. I told Marco and as he paid I asked the lady where she and the rest of the group were from. California. On a choir tour. I wish my highschool took trips outside of the US, but at least I am experiencing the world now, older. I told her I was from Texas and am on an exchange semester in Spain. We chatted for a bit longer before Marco said it was time to leave, and so I said goodbye. Wished her and the group safe travels before heading back to the car. She called after me and when I turned around she said “Hook ’em” and did the horns sign.
I hadn’t felt that comfort in such a long time. The fact that she knew about my university back home just made me feel happy and prideful. I sat in the car and thought about the conversation and how I realized that I hadn’t spoken English that entire day up until then. Strange. Thinking about it now, nearly two months after the occasion, brings me a sense of warmth. She seemed genuinely interested about my travels, and it felt like speaking to an old mentor of some sort. Maybe it was because she was a high school teacher, or maybe it was because she was another American, but it was easy to talk to her.
The rest of the trip to Madrid, I hardly remember. I was in and out of sleep. But the few times I was awake, I saw the sky change colors with hills and hills of green, soft grass. Not the grass that looks scratchy. The kind of grass that you know you can walk barefoot in without any discomfort. It was glorious. I don’t know if any of you remember the old Windows XP desktop background with the green hills and the blue sky? That’s what it looked like, but during sunset.
Once in Madrid, I thanked Marco and made my way home to Segovia. I only had 150 euros on me and knew I needed to pay 120 euros for a replacement passport. The rest I would use for groceries to hold me until my cards came in the mail. Luckily, the US embassy in Madrid deals with lots of stolen passports daily and the process went by smoothly. I got my cards and my passport within a week and a half of losing them.
I just remember being on the phone with my mother, trying to hold back tears. It seemed like the world around me was falling apart. But looking back at it now, I don’t know what I would have done without the support and help from her and my friends. They made everything okay. They took care of me when I was short on money. And it was then that my beliefs were solidified: that these friends are not just acquaintances that I would only talk to for the semester, but life-long friends that I can have by my side as we grow together. Across the globe.
Things are never as bad as they seem.