Wednesday, May 16, 2007
So it's about time I post an update, but I'm such a lazy writer.
OK, so I took a greyhound bus from Houston to NYC. Greyhound passengers are interesting and ghetto, to say the least. People who can afford it take a plane or drive, and Greyhound takes the rest. The first leg of my trip I got to sit by a kid who calls himself "Big Country", and insists that this is his real name. He was on his way from Brownsville to Lake Charles, LA, for a court date. The kid's crazy, full of hate. He promises that he is willing to kill anyone that looks at him funny. I had to ask him about gay marriage. Of course, all the faggots should die. Very well, but by the end of the trip it seems he had grown to appreciate my calm manner and my listening to his dumb crap without telling him to shut up and let me sleep, because the last few hours of his ride he gave me the window seat so I could lay my head against it and he even let me borrow a pillow. I don't believe in mean people, and I consider that people who try to seem mean or tough are really hiding their own emotional weaknesses....but whatever.
So I had 2 seats all to myself for an entire 15 minutes, woohoo! But at the next stop, the bus fills up again, and Pito "el árabe" asks if he can sit with me. Sure, why not. I was kinda tired, but Pito jumped right into the interrogation. Where am I from, what am I doing, why, and finally, "you crazy, nigga". It was only polite for me to answer his questions with questions. It turns out he's an aspiring Reggaetón artist, and is on his way to Pennsylvania to try to close a record deal. Hmm...that's pretty interesting, I like reggaetón. Me and Pito have a deep intellectual conversation, and Pito proposes that we be bus buddies until the trail do us part. OK.
Pito's last stop with me is in Richmond, VA. He leaves me a pillow. I will only be able to use the pillow until NYC, I won't take it with me to Europe, but I appreciate the gesture, and accept. So with a photo we say our goodbyes.
I get two seats all to myself for the rest of the trip. Virginia is not as far from NYC as I thought. In Baltimore I call my mommy.
NYC is crazy big. Everything is 24 hours. Burger King has a wifi hotspot. Two big slices of pizza cost $1. No one is similar in NYC. There's no such thing as a minority, everyone is a minority. You think you're asking a Chinese immigrant for directions and it turns out she's a lawyer and speaks better English than you could ever hope to. Jews walk around with their little hats on, Muslims in their robes, Catholics with crosses around their neck, and everyone else where whatever they want, and no one cares.
I picked up my ticket at 1:08, 8 minutes late. No problem there. I walked up and down 42nd street a few times in downtown NYC, eventually got tired, and decided to head for the airport. The lady at the subway boxoffice thingy is very nice, but very clueless. I ask her how to get to JFK airport (you have to make several line changes), and she asks me why I don't try the other airport instead. LOL, "my plane is departing from JFK!" I protest.
"Oh, sorry, today is only my second day working here. I can give you this map"
"Haha, don't worry about it."
So I bought a subway ticket for the first time in my life. You have to insert the ticket in the little machine, it unlocks the door for one turn, and then it relocks. Well I had no idea. I inserted my ticket, and in order to make sure it was turning freely and avoid getting stuck in the iron spiderweb they have to prevent people from getting in without paying, I turned it with my hand. Oops. So I wait there and ponder a few seconds, and here comes Florencia. I explain to her my situation, and I can tell she doesn't really speak English that well. "You pass with me?", she asks, and I look at her blankly, "or you no pass with me?"
"OK", so I 'pass with her'.
Great, so I'm in the subway station, but now what? I still don't know how to get to JFK. And NYC's subway network is biiiiiiiig. So I ask Florencia if she speaks Spanish. Indeed. So I ask her if she knows how to get to JFK. She's not positive but she can give me a start, and she'll tell me when to get off to make a train change. Cool. So me and Florencia chat it up. She's from Bogotá, Colombia. Ah, cool, I have Colombian friends :) She gives me her sister's address, in Barcelona, and tells me to give here a call, and perhaps she can get me a job in the deli she works at. Well, 4 West, this is my stop. Florencia warns me that Spain is not safe and they will try to rob me. (She lives in NYC, hehe).
I get of at 4 West and don't know where I'm going. I ask some old guy if I can take this train to the airport and he says I can. "Where are you going?" he asks.
"Madrid is the capital of Spain."
"Ah, the Caribbean!"
"OK", and I smile.
The train arrives and we get on. The old guy opts to stand, and I was going to too, but this old Puerto Rican guy tells me to sit by him, and he'll tell me when to get off for the airport. We talk a little bit about my trip, but he tells me he's tired and he's gonna take a little nap. It'll be a while until we reach the airport. OK.
He wakes up a few stops before the airport and we begin to talk again. He wishes me the best of luck and reminds me that as long as I seek the favor of Jesus, things will turn out OK. Uh oh.
The subway ticket had cost me $2, and now to take the air train to my terminal, I had to pay $5. Dang, NYC is rough. I make it to my terminal about 5 hours early. I grab a bite to eat and waste time...write in my journal, call my mom. There's nothing really interesting about the airport. It reminds me of the movie, "Terminal", where that guy gets stuck living in the airport...
Madrid is crazy. Everyone speaks Spanish here. Chinese, gringos, everyone speaks Spanish. It's expected. KFC wants to charge me for water :( And Florencia of NYC was right, they did try to steal from me in Madrid.
I was on the escalator at the metro station (the subway in Madrid is called Metro) and I heard velcro opening. I turned to look and there was a kid right by me, but he like started playing with the wall or something, pretended not to see me. But then I hear it again, and this time instead of turning my head to look at my camera, I swat at where it is with my hand, and I hit the little kid in the chest. "¡¿Qué estás haciendo!?", I yell. And he took off running. Amazing. This kid must have been like 13 years old...tsk tsk tsk.
I'm tired of writing :-p
...I was robbed in Chueca, Madrid, at 4 in the morning...
Anyway, right now I'm in Puerto de Santa María, province of Cádiz, Spain, in the extreme south. I hitchhiked from Madrid to Sevilla, spent two nights in Sevilla, and then hitchhiked to Rota, spent one night in Rota, and then took a catamaran (something like a ferry) to Cádiz city, where I met up with another Wikipedian, he took me to his town, and I've eaten several meals at his house. I'll be in this area until May 19, when I have a wiki meetup planned for Sevilla. And from Sevilla I'm off to Barcelona, to arrive there by the 22nd hitchhiking, for another meetup. A list of my rides so far:
1. I went to Segovia one day, took pictures of the aqueduct, got lost, asked for directions to the train station, everyone said it was really far away, so this old guy gave me a ride.
2. I walked from Ciudad de los Ángeles, Madrid, past Getafe and several service stations, and this security patrol took me back to a service station I had already passed and told me I would have better luck there. I wasn't content with it, and actually ended up walking past where he had brought me from.
3. I walked all the way from Madrid to Pinto. In Pinto my sign that said "Córdoba" was getting me nowhere. So I made one for the town up the road a piece, Aranjuez. I got a ride from a Romanian pair of workers in about 10 minutes.
4. From Aranjuez I took a bus to Ocaña (It was only 1 euro!) and spent the night there in the plaza. In the morning I made the dumb decision to walk to the next town, Dos Barrios. I spent at least two hours waiting there with my sign and there was very little traffic. Just when I was about to give up and start walking again, this white car pulls over...way far away from me. His car must be broken or something, I'm thinking--he didn't stop for me. But he did. And when I get up there he's like scratching (or rubbing) his crotch through his pants (this guy is old, like 40). "Are you going south?"
"I can take you to Manzanares"
I was sure this guy was looking for something sexual, and I wasn't going to be the one to give it to him. He starts off asking me my name, age, what I'm doing, my sexual orientation (I tell him I'm straight). "You like girls?"
"Why of course. A lot of people don't?"
"You don't?" I ask.
"No. You know, hitchhiking, you'll meet a lot of people. They'll even make you propositions..." He starts.
"Yeah, they'll propose and I will refuse."
"What type of proposition would you refuse?" he pries.
"Well I wouldn't do anything sexual, or anything at all really. My objective is to get from point A to point B, and if someone doesn't like that, they can drop me off right then and there."
"Very well," he says. I was half-expecting for him to drop me off there. But he didn't, we made it all the way to Manzanares. And he's actually a nice guy. He respected my wishes.
5. This was my biggest ride. From the service station where Alonso left me outside Manzanares I put up my Córdoba sign. Within five minutes David stops. "I'm not going through Córdoba, I'm going to Málaga, is that OK?" South is south, of course it's okay. So I hop in and explain that I'm actually headed for Sevilla. We decide that our last neutral point is Antequera. We have a nice talk, listen to music, stop at a restaurant (David buys me a coffee), etc. David's a nice guy. But when we're almost in Antequera, where the road breaks left for Antequera and straight for Málaga, he drops me off just there. Not at a rest stop, not at a park, not even on the shoulder, he just slows down and I hop out. LOL, all well, I still advanced 500 km from that ride. So now I'm stuck in the middle of the Autovía, where the cars are going to fast to hitchhike and it's forbidden anyway.
6. No worries. I stick out my thumb, and about the third car picks me up. An English couple. They take me to the entrance to Antequera.
7. The English people drop me off at a roundabout at the entrance to Antequera. I stand in front of the road that goes towards Sevilla and stick my thumb out. Within 5 minutes a van full of construction workers picks me up and takes me to Mollina.
8. In Mollina I waited a long long time. Perhaps 2 hours. Eventually I got picked up by a trucker who had just dropped off his truck and was headed home now, in Roda. He said he cannot take me all the way to Sevilla, but he promises that he will make sure that I am in Sevilla tonight. And how will he do that, I wonder. About two minutes after we get on the freeway, in the middle of an ordinary conversation we were having, he interrupts with "THAT truck is from Sevilla!!" and starts honking and swerving like crazy, signaling the truck to pull-over. "This guys is absolutely mad," I'm thinking. Sure enough, the trucker pulled over. "Get your backpack ready and wait here, I'll go ask if he's headed for Sevilla," he tells me, and runs up to the truck. He comes back a few minutes later to tell me goodbye. The truck is going to Sevilla, and he wishes me luck.
9. So I pretty much have it made all the way to Sevilla. And when I get in the truck, the trucker already knows everything about me (18, backpacking around Europe, no money, from Texas, speak Mexican Spanish, hippie views), because apparently the last guy told him all this! How did he get all that in one breath, I wonder. All well. My new driver's name is Antonio. He can't pronounce Kyle, so he calls me Carlos. A very nice guy, I would have loved to converse with him, but it was already 10PM and I was tired. Antonio lets me lean the seat back and encourages me to doze off. He lets me off just outside Sevilla at a bus stop. So I wait about an hour at the bus stop and a car pulls over, "¿Qué tal, Carlitos?". Lol, it's Antonio again. He has dropped off his truck and now he's in his little 2-door. He says that he lives in the outskirts, but doesn't mind taking me towards the center to find a hotel for the night.
10. You can't really hitchhike out of a city. All the people around it are going to the city. It's as if cities have a gravitational pull, like planets. So I take a bus as far from the center of Sevilla I can (not far at all), and start walking up the highway. I knew no one would pick me up, I wasn't even sticking my thumb out. I was just planning to walk to the next little town. But someone did pick me up, and took me to Dos Hermanas, which is on the way, but there is no auto vía access there, so everyone who passes through was going to other little towns off that exit. So I start walking. After about an hour of walking a Taxi pulls over. "Where are you going? It's too hot to be walking around!", he inquires.
"I'm trying to get to Cádiz"
"Well I'll take you Los Palacios, get in."
"I don't have any money."
"Well if you keep on walking you're gonna evaporate. Get in."
And so I did. In about 15 minutes we were in Los Palacios. Wow, that would have been a long walk. The taxi driver insists that I not try to walk the rest of the way, and demands a plan. "I don't know, I'll try to hitchhike," I say. "You're not gonna make it. Look, a bus goes to Chipiona at 5, I'll pay for your ticket, ok?"
From Chipiona to Rota it was only a .80€ bus ride, so I decided to take it. From Rota I took the catamaran to Cádiz.