Pilgrimage of the Crying Child and Things I've learned from Eva

Eva and I

My friend Eva invited me to spend a few days with her on the Southern Coast of Spain in town called Las Carboneras located in Almeria. Her parents had moved there a few years ago. She was going to vacation there with them for a week with her young son Luis. Her husband, a police officer, could not join them until the weekend because of his work schedule.

Wanting to give the Garrido family a few days to rest following the wedding and before I joined them, I said Yes. Plus, I'd never been to the southern Coast of Spain. The only coast I'd seen was the beach front in Barcelona. I wanted to meet Eva's son Luis jr. and I thought I'd feel useful if I could help her take care of him. Finally Eva had always been Rocio's best friend but we'd never hung out for vacation.

How to describe Eva... She is force of positivity and always a caregiver. When I was 17 she made a continuous effort to talk with me, explain things to me. She always made me feel like I belonged. She speaks a little English, mostly what she has learned from pop culture, and somehow has always been able to speak with me in Spanish or through gestures when we can't find words. When I was 21 and a dirty backpacker traveling through Spain, she reminded me to take care of myself and even gave me a hair cut. Her's is a self care that is physical and mental. She has pride in how she looks but also in her ability to have close friendships and financial independence. She's got a wicked, sometimes dirty sense of humor, but is also very empathetic to people and animals. She is sort of like Madonna meets Mother Teresa.

(See you Soon Rocio.) photo 2

After saying a teary Goodbye to Rocio at the bus station in Pedroneras, I went on a beautiful sun filled bus ride to Madrid. Eva and her husband Luis picked me up and took me to their house. Following a tour of their house and shared photos of their recent life adventures; weddings, childbirth, and travel, we began to prepare for our early departure. Going through her storage unit, Eva pulled out a hat she had kept that I had given her 15 years ago. I felt really moved to think how she had kept the hat as a memory of our friendship. Going to bed I reflected on my good fortune, I was excited about the family and friends I'd reconnected with, and now this unexpected trip! I could barely sleep.

At 5 we carried our things to the car and Eva began the drive out of Madrid. As the sun rose, I admired the changing landscape, city to mountainous country, to rows of sunflowers. All the while Eva shared her experiences following happiness and her philosophies on being an independent female.
* Don't stay in relationships that don't make you happy or that are abusive whether is it physical or mental.
* Maintain relationships with your close female friends
* Find work that is sustainable and creates ease for you.
The last time I had seen Eva she was working as a hairdresser. She found the work exhausting and with few benefits, since then she studied to work for the government. Her government job has part time schedule with vacation and benefits. It works well with her new role as mother.

As we approached Las Carboneras, Eva pointed out her favorite view to me, the water appeared between the desert hills. It looked like you could drive into the ocean.

Arriving at her parents house, I met her father Augustin, mother Louisa, and aunt. I was excited to find out that her father was an amateur artist. Her aunt was an excellent cook. Her mother loved TV, movies, and gossip magazines. After a quick nap we went down the the water.

The water was a cool rich blue with little visibility. The sun was very hot, although the humidity was lower than in St. Louis. It was a relief to sink underwater. Two year old Luis was not crazy about swimming. Eva and her dad wanted him to get comfortable. We all took turns trying to swim with him. He cried a lot after Eva submerged him in water and so we played with him in the sand. I watched as Luis tossed the sand into the water. I joined him. Bad idea. A few minutes later he started tossing sand everywhere, even at people!
We tried to get him interested in making sand castles and it worked for awhile. When Luis got tired we went home. That night we took a lovely walk through the town as Eva and her father pointed out sites to me. I enjoyed seeing all the old folks sitting outside of their houses on plastic lawn chairs, just sort of watching things pass by.

Journey to Mojacar
The next afternoon we headed to Mojacar, a town set in a mountainous region alongside the water near Las Carboneras. White buildings interconnected and towered all over the top of this steep hillside. Flowers trailed from planters on windowsills. Mojacar looked like how I'd imagined that Greece would look.
We parked our car and then began to walk the winding hills looking in at artsy tourist shops. This was an incredible place to view the sunset. (Above photo). After exploring the twist and turns of the street, we drank a beer at a Tapas bar. We walked back to our car on the ever circling roads, feeling the heat in our leg muscles from all the hill walking.

Play de Los Muertos
The following day Eva wanted to show me Playa de los Muertos. She said that this beach was one of the most famous beaches in Spain. Playa de los Muertos or Beach of the Dead was named this because its where bodies lost at sea washed up. Located near Las Carboneras, it was a quick ride to the top of the desert hill. First we looked at the old light house. I tried to carry Luis but his squirming body and loud protest gave me the message that he only wanted to be held by his mother. This should have been sign to me of the pending terror.

Heading down the hill towards the entry to the beach path, I noticed that it was a long way to the water. Eva told me she was trying to teach Luis to walk on his own instead of relying on her to carry him. She also wanted to teach him that he can't just demand things be done. With this in mind she encouraged him to walk down the rock hill. Holding his hands we flew him over rocks and watched as he joyfully jumped down. It looked like a lot of fun. Walking with him was a slow pace, because he had to get his foot grip. When we got to the bottom, I looked back at the distance we had descended. Pretty good for a little kid.
The beach was gorgeous; it was covered in tiny pebbles, the shore slowly met the turquoise water. When I got into the water I was amazed how the tide kept me in one place. If I was close enough to the shore, the pebbles massaged my body as the water moved me over them. People sunned themselves all along the beach some topless or nude. Everything was peaceful, except for Luis, once again he was not happy to be at the water. He spent some time throwing rocks and then got bored. I tried to entertain him for awhile so Eva could swim. He was getting tired. As we packed up to leave, I gave him a couple of cookies that I had with me. He gladly ate them.

We started to walk back and he immediately began to whine for his mom. Eva told him that she was tired from carrying him earlier and either I could hold him or he could walk. I held him for a few minutes but he began to squirm and cry so much that I could no longer hold him. I set him down and as he walked with us he went into a full blown crying tantrum. Eva and I kept walking with him crying next to us. At one point he made himself so upset that he threw up on himself. While we climbed up the rocks, people coming to the beach looking fresh and fabulous looked at us with a bit of irritation or maybe pity. Eventually Eva picked Luis up and he just kept on crying. By the time we reached the top we were hot and tired. I will always think of this day as our mini pilgrimage, just like those who walk to Santiago de Compestela, we had walked to and from the Playa de Los Muertos and all with a crying, tantrum filled, wild child.

The last couple of days of my visit were very restful. We ate good food---fresh melon, paella, russian salad, and as much jamon serrano and manchego cheese as my heart desired. During the later afternoons, I painted the view from her parents apartment all the while capturing the changing light. When evening set, we strolled the neighborhood of Las Carboneras.

The night before I left, Eva and I shared tapas at one of her favorite spots. I drank Tinto Verano a drink sort of like Sangria. We ate grilled blood sausage and fried calamari. Wondering towards the beach boardwalk, we admired the artist booths and ate ice cream from the arcade.
We reminisced about how cool it was to meet when I first came as an exchange student. Her and her friends thought I was brave and unique because they had never met anyone from the states, because at that time no one was coming to Spain. I talked about how Spain had changed me. I felt so fortunate to become friends with such caring and stylish friends and to be welcomed whole-heartedly. I thanked Eva for all the ways she reminded me to take care of myself.

The next morning when it was time to leave town her whole family walked me to the bus station. This was the first time I'd seen her mom walk this far since I'd visited ( because of her broken shoulder), I love how even in the goodbye picture Luis is squirming!

At 17 and 21, I'd made a series of friendships abroad and I had not anticipated what would happen with them. Like a friend that I haven't called on the phone for awhile, I felt guilt and I worried that our friendships would be lost by time and the infrequency of our seeing each other. In my friendship with Eva, as with many of my other friends all over the States, I am reminded it is not the distance that matters as much as the quality of the connection. Friends that I am really close with will remain this way despite barriers of, time, distance, and even language.


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