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During my travels newspaper columns were published weekly in the Dutch daily newspaper
Dutch newspaper Spits

This project has been supported by these great and warmhearted companies:
Netherlands: Paping Buitensport, ODLO, IPtower.nl, AVRO Dutch Broadcasting Org., Travelcare, TunaFish, Book A Tour, StadsRadio Rotterdam; UK: Lazystudent, KissFM, The Sunday Times, The Guardian; Isle of Man: SteamPacket/SeaCat; Ireland: BikeTheBurren; Belgium: Le Temps Perdu, Majer & PartnersAustria: OhmTV.com; Norway: Scanrail Pass, Hurtigruten, Best Western HotelsSouth Africa: eTravel, British Airways Comair, CapeTalk, BazBus Spain: Inter Rail, Train company Renfe; Australia: Channel 9 Television, Bridgeclimb, Harbourjet, SeaFM Central Coast, Moonshadow Cruises, Australian Zoo, Fraser Island Excursions, Hamilton Island Resort, FantaSea Cruises, Greyhound/McCafferty's Express Coaches, Aussie Overlanders, TravelAbout.com.au, Travelworld, Unlimited Internet, Kangaroo Island SeaLink, Acacia Apartments; Malaysia: Aircoast; Canada: VIA rail, Cedar Springs Lodge, BCTV/GlobalTV, St. George Hotel, VICKI GABEREAU talkshow, Ziptrek Ecotours, Whitler Blackcomb Ski Resort, Summit Ski & Snowboard Rental, High Mountain BrewHouse, Cougar Mountain Snowmobiling, Whistler Question Newspaper, Snowshoe Inn, First Air, Nunanet.com, Canadian North Accommodations by the Sea, DRL Coachlines Newfoundland, The National Post and Air North.


Reports

Tuesday, 11 December 2001
Johannesburg (SA) --> Madrid (Spain) arrival

My first day in Spain was in the company of a lady named Belen, who had me photographed in the bed, fed me with pigs ears and whose boyfriend placed me in a very uncomfortable position later the day...

The Iberia Airbus landed around 7am in the morning at Madrid Barajas Airport where I soon discovered that it was COLD!

I came from a country where I walked in shorts and suddenly I was standing on the platform of an airport where I could see my own breath!

After standing in a long line at the police control I picked up my backpack and contacted my first host in Spain, Belen Sagrario, who promised me to pick me up after she had brought her son to school.

I met this spontanious lady around 9.30 and she drove me to her home in the very north part of Madrid. Belen works at Prisa, one of the world´s largest communication and information holdings, where she works at the media department of the internet section and she is the one launching new innovative websites for the Spanish market. And we could easily speak English with each other.

Her reason for inviting me was a simple one. In the early years of the internet, Belen had to travel from Japan to Korea and she found her contact addresses through the internet. She depended on the hospitality of other people who helped her out. It was in the time when the internet wasn´t so over-commercialized, it was the era when it was only about information and communication and that is what the Web is supposed to be.

She showed me the guest room where I would stay tonight and I wondered if I could have a little nap. The flight hasn´t been that great and I was really lacking some sleep at that moment.

Belen was going to write a story about my stay with her for the Spanish newspaper El Pais and she had arranged that a photographer came by at 11am. It was 10am and she decided to postpone the photographer for another hour, so at least I could relax until noon.

So you can imagine my face at 11am, when I was in a deep sleep, far away in another galaxy, when Belen entered the room and told me that she could not rearrange her appointment with the photographer and that he tought it would be a good idea to shoot me in the bed. Huh? And suddenly I was sitting in the bed, half naked, while that SPanish photographer is making shots of me, going “buen buen buen” and "Adios" at the end.

“He couldn´t wait until you´d wake up, because after you he had to go to a photoshooting with Julio Iglesias," Belen explained to me.

So, some newspaper will publish photos of me soon, where you´ll see me with a very sleepy face and my hair (What hair?) all messed up. But at least they come from the same film as the shots of Julio Iglesias.

I managed to sleep on after this thing and it was about 2.30pm when Belen officially woke me up to take me out for lunch.

I met up with all her collegues of her office at this cozy restaurant called Green in the modern art business district of Madrid, where they all offered some ten different plates of the traditional tapas.

And as everybody just stood around, talking to each other, everybody just grapped something of the many plates. This is lunch in Spain.

I also learned some more about the lifestyle of this country. The siesta is a myth, people don´t do it anymore. But the Spanish who I just met, do work from 9/10am until 2, have lunch until 4 and work until 8 or 9pm in the evening. Wow, that´s discipline if you ask me.

I ate along with all the unkown variables of meat on the plates and Belen asked me how things tasted. “You know,you just ate pigs ears, like them?” And strangely enough, they were quite tasteful, ha!

After this lunch party, Belen took along some friends home (who sneaked out of their offices) to play cards at Belen´s home. They played an unknown card game in the living room and it was all about pride and dignity, as a man called Michael explained me.

As they played on I soon met Miguel, Belen´s 4-years-old son, his nanny and the housepet giant dog called Chebwacca, named after that hairy guy from Star Wars. And I met Olav, Belen´s British boyfriend, who was very interested in hearing everything about my project.

When Olav went to the kitchen to prepare tonight´s dinner, a lady called Bea started a talk with me about what being a host means in Spain. She told me that if she would have invited me at her place, that she would treat me very special - and someway I tried to explain to her that I don´t want to be treated special, because when that happens everyday: I´ll go crazy and I´ll have absolutely no life.

It was hard to tell this Spanish lady that I would not be unthankful, but I just want to stay with people to see how they live, not to see how they can spoil me. But she just stuck with the fact that she would spoil me, that is how Spanish hosts would treat me in Spain. Ohoh...

Olav had prepared caldereta de Santa Lucia, an oven dish by a recipe of the fourth person in our company, the Spanish Juan Carlos.

During dinner we were talking half English and half Spanish and someway it looked like a tradition that everybody just talks through each other. What a cultural thing this is!

When Olav asked me what my experience is with South African people, I couldn´t give him an answer that he appreciated. My answer was morpheus, as he called it.

Empty, shallow and he made me feel that I was just a dumb freeloader who doesn´t care about the things he sees around the world; I just bum myself around and I don´t have an opinion.

If he would have taken the time to visit my website once before, he would know what my life is about. I am in the middle of an everyday process of travelling and meeting new people, who all want to know more about me (of course). I don´t have week-ends to reflect, I go on and on.

I can´t even really realize that I am in Madrid right now.

If I would have six weeks off I might be able to reflect on things, but now I only write my experiences off me and my impressions are turned into words and I move on the next day.

But Olav wasn´t happy with any answer and it seemed that he just could not understand it. It ended up that we had a tiring 3-hour discussion about getting me to tell about experiences while they can easily be read online to keep my life a bit more pleasant for me.

He also wasn´t satisfied with my answers on Why are you doing this? Why are you in Spain?

Olav was being very rational and was digging very deep. I felt that you can´t ask me all that as I already answer thousands of questions. If he would just read one single report on this website, he would understand HOW I experience things, but don´t expect me to be the big story teller that sits on your couch and tells you about my past 7 months. No way, I just can´t do that.

But he wasn´t interested in the internet. I was staying here now and he wanted to hear things from my mouth. “Any writer that writes a book must be able to talk about it, any traveller must be able to talk about his travels,” he stated.

Oh, please, when do you get to understand it. Simply: I am still travelling and the book is still being written... How....

I was made feel small and little and shallow, because of my inability to talk about my travels in this very global way. The discussion really heated up, so unnecessary!, we even started -childishly- to insult each other. Calling me a worthless bummer while I called him ignorant for not showing any interesting in what I do do.

I felt very uncomfortable and was definitely not having a good time here. I felt like leaving the house within 30 minutes, because this person doesn´t make me feel welcome.

Finally Belen jumped in between us as a verbal wall, telling us to respect each others point of views. No = no, so don´t keep on going on about it. “Why is Ramon here? Because I invited him!! Why make life so dificult?!” she said. “And he writes about staying here on his website.”

“You don´t know anything about me but my name,” Olav said to me - and that sounded very mean.

I never had a change to just ask him a personal question, as he was constantly interogating me for over three long hours!

“How is that possible,” I asked him, “as you are trying to get juice out of an orange that has been squeezed out already by too many people?”

Belen went out for some fresh air as our conversations really created tension in the house. I lit up a siggarette which symbolicly became the peace pipe between Olav and me.

“What do you do in life, Olav?” I asked him.
“I am a teacher.”
“What do you teach?”
“English. To big company officials, like the people from Iberia Airlines.”
“Oh, well I hope you are good, because they really need help with their English there.”

And we laughed...

When Belen came back, she was surprise how we managed to become normal again.

Because that is what I like to write about most, people´s daily lives. But now, at 1am at night, I was just out of energy to continue...

Good night Madrid!

Ramon.



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