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WESTERN EUROPE - THE “HISTORIC MINDSET” TOUR

Seville Postcard

SEVILLE

"HEARING STORIES OF AFRICA"

Morning

It was early morning when I arrived in Seville, Spain's major southern city, situated just over a 100 kilometres north of the country's southern tip and the Strait of Gibraltar. The sun was hot with a particularly high level of intensity even at this early stage of the day. The sun had already sucked all moisture from the air.

After an epic 20 hour bus trip travelling from Barcelona, Spain's major northern city situated just over a 100 kilometres below the country's border with France, I needed a rest. I therefore decided to delay exploring Seville till later in the day. After all I had just travelled virtually the entire length of Spain, coming to the conclusion it is quite a large country after all. These new insights need to be pondered to allow them to properly sink in and hopefully learn a lesson from.

Besides I had no strength left to combat the sun, its menacing glare sapping my will power; sucking the state of my mind and body dry. I was drained and needed to recuperate.

Evening

Plaza de Espana

During the day while the sun was at its most intense I hid in the shade of the hostel, trying to catch up on some sleep. I reappeared with the living, while it was still light outside, a couple of hours before the sun was due to set. I needed to make use of the day and see the city sights.

Still I did not stray too far from the hostel and ticked off a couple of tourist sites which were within walking distance of the hostel. There was a cathedral said to be one of the biggest in the world; big maybe, but nowhere as eye catching as the La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Did you notice that?

See how adept I have become at dropping names into the conversation. The name of a cathedral, I can't even properly pronounce, here and the name of a tourist city there. Both included in the one sentence. This travelling is really paying off, giving the pretence of making me a worldlier, well rounded person.

But back to the name dropping:

After visiting the cathedral I continued in the same direction to the Plaza de Espana, an incredibly elegant regal edifice in an orange coloured hue. It was closed so I turned around and headed back in the general direction of whence I had come.

Plaza de Espana

Near the hostel I rested in a courtyard surrounded by a white wall with orange painted framings. Here oranges grew on the trees and I relaxed in the shade as the sun began to finally lose its intense shine. It was all very picturesque so I did not pick an orange from one of the trees for fear of stealing the scene from the prosperous images in my mind.

Back at the hostel I opened a cheap bottle of wine I had bought in Barcelona. I poured myself a cup and forced myself to drink this dank brew before pouring the rest down the drain. Wasting alcohol was not in my character but I would be entering a Muslim country in the next few days. I was unsure about the protocol of having a half full bottle of wine in my backpack and decided to play it safe. I am sure my stomach intestines were much relieved.

Night

That night I was a feeling a tad nervous as I was due to enter another continent called Africa in two days time. To be more specific I was travelling into Morocco.

Before I left New Zealand I probably hadn't even heard of this country but by now Morocco fascinated me. This was due to the glossy stories I had read in the backpacker's magazines during my coffee breaks while working at the warehouse in London.

That night, while settling down to sleep, I began talking to another backpacker who had just been to Morocco. He seemed quite relieved to have left the place, telling me the wonderful tale of how he had been held at knife point and persuaded to buy hashish by some of the locals.


Persuaded to buy hashish now that is interesting! I hope the police establishment around the world listen to this story and realise that it does in fact happen.

I am sure they have heard the supposed fable many times but have put the story to sleep along with the suspects other fantasies. But now they know the truth.

Police Officer:

"Let me just make sure I have all my facts correct. You are carrying a large quantity of hashish because someone forced you to buy it from them. That is very unfortunate sir. Do you want to lay any charges against this said person? No? Well you must be more careful in the future sir. Sorry for disturbing you sir and have a nice day."

An orange garden
An orange garden

The tale of been held at knife point was the kind of story a cruel older brother might tell his younger sibling before he went to sleep. The younger sibling would subsequently develop a history of suffering from recurring, ongoing nightmares. To be honest I suffered a few bad dreams of my own that night. They involved images of evil looking men with beady eyes and pointy beards holding sharp curved knives under their cloaks.

As a child I used to lie awake at night worrying about death. I used to ask my older brother about this unfortunate end to our life in the hope he would offer succour and support but to no avail. Mum offered support by telling me that when we died we would receive an ice cream every day in heaven. It is stories like that which must be the reason young boys love their mothers so much.

But mum's story only put a smile on my lips for a short space of time. Learning about death was a dramatic, life changing experience for me. But life still goes on.

Smile. Night Eventually Leads to Day.

All my life I have received comments regarding the fact I don't smile.

I might be passing the laundromat and someone, bored senseless watching their washing dry, might yell out:

"Serious life isn't it."

I might be at the bus station, minding my own business, when someone in a passing car might shout:

"Had a bad day have you?"

I might be at a cafe, staring into space and someone might lean over and whisper:

"Bad coffee is it?"

Mostly however I simply get yelled at by complete strangers and told:

"Smile, life can't be that bad" or the more truncated version which is simply "Smile!"

One evening I was in a bar, having a few beers after work, when someone whom I had never laid eyes on before, came up to me and said:

"Smile, life can't be that bad."

Well I'd had enough. I'd already had a day which couldn't be described as the best.

"Well, what is there to smile about? Haven't you noticed the state of the world? I'm currently not smiling because I'm thinking of the poor souls who are the victims of ethic cleansing in Bosnia."

As soon as I had finished my quote I knew instinctively I had picked the right reply for the wrong person.

"I've just come back from aid work in Bosnia" he replied.

Well shit. How do you reply to that?

You don't. Instead you gulp down you beer, look to the heavens for mercy and move to another part of the bar.

Smile and the whole wide world will smile with you he said to himself.

But back to Morocco where I was hoping I would not meet anyone with a menacing smile beneath their pointed, threatening beard. As my only guide for travelling around this exotic country I borrowed a book about Morocco from a library in London. The author was some woman whom I imagined to be a peroxide nouveau blond in her early 40s.

Did she smile much?

I don't know. Perhaps you will have to ask her dentist.