Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Morriña

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and according to this website I found, I am 3,747 miles from home. On Christmas I will also be 3,747 miles from home. Maybe even a little more depending on where I am that day. Perhaps a little less.

No matter the small change of distance, it doesn’t change the fact that I will be very far from home for this year’s holidays. But I am not unlucky, I have chosen to be in this position, to work here, far away from Kirby Ct. In fact, I’m having a pretty good time over here.

Some people don’t have a choice. For necessity of work or a better life, or trying to work for a better life, they’ve traveled long and far, far from home. Some people will never again spend the holidays with their families and friends, for one reason or many others. If you’re a solider, a scientist in Antarctica, a migrant worker picking berries.

There are these guys here in Bilbao, most of them are from Senegal and Equatorial Guinea, and they walk the streets trying to sell cheap watches and caps, mostly counterfeit. Some of them will never go home. Some can’t. There might not be a home anymore. Instead, they’re trying to sell things to passersby, many of whom pretend to not even notice them.

Imagine their holidays, whatever time of the year they may be. Eid. Christmas. Ramadan. They find themselves in Madrid and Marseille and Münich, selling fake Tag-Heuers and Dolce bags instead of being with their mothers and brothers and sons and cousins and friends, wherever they may be. And in a place where many people are at best cold and at worst openly hostile.

Imagine that. Imagine the sea they crossed, one that separated both lands and cultures.

I am grateful and I give thanks that these are things of which I know nothing. This kind of self-sacrifice is not why I crossed an ocean. I did it in search of a better understanding of what life has to offer, of what it’s all about. Along the way, the hard times like this, in rooms alone thinking, and also the good times of lights and colors and laughing, have shown me that so much of the meaning of life comes from simply learning and trying to understand.

So give thanks that you’ve got what you’ve got and that you know whom you know and that you love whom you love and that they love you right back. Somewhere, across many seas, is someone who wishes they had the food you have, the situation you find yourself in. I always took Thanksgiving for granted, but now I’m starting to understand.

And we go on learning alright.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Respite from the Internet in Portugalete

It can't be.

Because we are changing internet companies at my house in Getxo, we have been most unfairly left without wireless internet for several days. I think it's almost been four days at this point. Barbarity.

I can barely live like this. Because of this most unpleasant interruption in the transcurrence of my normal patterns of looking up random bullshit on wikipedia, my cell phone's 3G bill will certainly have gone up significantly. In addition, this evening, after sitting inside for a while, in the dark, I decided to take my trusty MacBook for a walk.

 I crossed La Ría de Bilbao in the hanging bridge of Puente Vizcaya, and for the past hour I have been ducking into bars trying to find one that has wifi. Finally, on a small backstreet in Portugalete - a most quaint callejón if I do say so myself - I found a bar with semi-functional wireless internet.

I am somewhere over there to the left, in a bar in an alley near that church. 
To be here on my laptop in a bar amongst drunken, socializing Basques is a novel thing indeed. There are many groups of people, and though I am not the only loner, I think I am the only lone person who is not a sad, old, alcoholic government employee drinking by himself. I am, however, a somewhat malaised, young, alcohol-in-relative-moderation-consuming, government employee drinking by myself.

But because I have my computer, that almost counts as having company. I have the world at my fingertips. Or at least, a staggeringly small and narrow-minded part of it, as long as I keep reading The Nation blogs.

The computer's screen turns my face blue.

I think I am going to do this more often though. Go to bars with my laptop. I need to make this commitment, even when we get wifi back at my house. I'm not going to lie, I am downloading a few episodes of Tremé right now, so that is my ulterior motive for being here.

Now, more and more people are coming in, and I am beginning to feel more than a little bit awkward. There is a golden retriever tied outside the bar's front window and he is staring at me intently, with a sizable stalactite of drool coming out of his smiling mouth. He has significantly added to my joy.

And how would he not?