Friday, July 28, 2006


I met Nelson while I was at the train station in Córdoba, Spain, waiting to go to Barcelona. There was a man sitting across from me staring as I was sewing my daypack together. He was staring hard and unblinking, making me extremely uncomfortable. I proceeded to ignore him and kept sewing. I was still waiting on my friend, Matteo, and wondering where he was. He was late!

After a while, the staring man got up. Next thing I know, he was beside me handing me something I had dropped, saying nothing. I thanked him and he asked me my name. He told me he was Nelson and had been living in Spain for about eight years. He was originally from Nigeria and was on his way to Barcelona for business. We continued to talk for a while, then Matteo showed up 20 minutes before my train left. Matteo and I embraced like long lost friends. He shook Nelson's hand while I introduced them. Matteo led me away as I looked back and bid Nelson adieu. I'd really enjoyed taking to Nelson. He had a powerful & dignified presence. Very admirable. We were both leaving for Barcelona, but on separate trains that left 10 minutes apart. Maybe I'll see him again in Barcelona.

On the train to Barcelona, I kept thinking about Nelson. He'd left quite an impression with his quiet, power, dignified presence. I decided I'd wait for him when I got to Barcelona. After all, our trains would arrive within 10 minutes of each other. When I arrived in Barcelona, I went to find out on which platform the other train from Córdoba would arrive. I waited & waited, but no train for Córdoba. Thinking the train may arrive on a different platform, I found a spot to sit where I had a good view of all stairs leading from the underground platforms. While waiting, I ate a breakfast of fresh fruit. I'd received an email from my friend, Greg, that he and his cousin were arriving later, so I wasn't worried about getting to the hotel any time soon.

Neary 1 1/2 hours had passed & I was still waiting. I was thinking how silly to sit and wait on some strange man in Spain. I'd never do anything like that at home! Even so, I wasn't going to miss the chance of running into him. After a while, it was time to go meet my friends so I gave it up and decided to leave. With so many people moving about, I must've missed him. I gathered up my backpack & daypack and prepared to find a bus to the hotel. As I was leaving, I glanced over at the ticket windows and saw a man standing extremely straight and tall. He looked so dignified and kingly! I immediately thought of Nelson, but the shirt was different. Still, not very many men seem so kingly. I decided to walk closer to get a better look. It was him! He was surprised to see me. I played it off like I had business at the station and it was a coincidence that we'd run into each other. He asked where I was headed and I told him I was on my way to meet my friends at the hotel. He said he'd like to spend more time with me and asked me out to lunch after he'd taken care of his business. I said yes. He offered to get a cab and drop me off at my hotel. I said, "No thanks," but he insisted. He was very take-charge. After we arrived at the hotel, he walked me in and got the number to the hotel so he could call me later. (He and the clerk discussed how well I spoke Spanish with little accent. I beamed.) There was a note from Greg that they were in temporary room until ours was ready, so I bid Nelson goodbye and went upstairs.

After chatting with Greg and his cousin, Angie. I took a quick nap and shower. Nelson called for lunch, as planned. I explained my lunch date to my friends and agreed to meet them later. Angie asked in a surprised voice if I'd just met him, since I called him friend. I told her, "Yes." I didn't even try to explain how things seemed different when you travel. I didn't quite understand the phenomenon myself. I never would've done what what I did back home in the USA. It wasn't like I was all free and let my guard down in Spain, either. As a matter of fact, I was very cautious being on my own in a foreign country. Perhaps because everyone was so friendly and I felt safe. There had been a few moments of unease, but never any incident. Either way, Matteo, Nelson, Catherine, Toby, Glena, Hierom, Lamine, and everyone else I met were really good people who helped me and enhanced my experience in some way. I never felt that anyone was out to get me or take advantage of me in some way, as often is the feeling back home with strangers.

Okay, so Nelson came to collect me from the hotel and he met Angie and Greg. He asked what I wanted to eat & I decided on Chinese. We walked to a very nice restaurant where the food and dessert were really good. Nelson was extremely attentive and anticipated my every need. He talked to me about how he came to Spain not knowing the language and how he would play soccer with the local children who taught and corrected him. He was very patient and taught me some verb tenses and encouraged me to keep learning the language when I returned home. He also told me he has a little girl and owns a store. He was very patient and taught me some verb tenses and encouraged me to keep learning the language when I returned home.

Nelson asked me several times to return to Córdoba where he would find me a job teaching English. It sounded interesting, but I declined. (I'd love to live in Spain someday, but Madrid calls me.) Nelson worried that I would forget him when I returned to the States and wanted us to keep in touch. As we parted, Nelson didn't want to let go. I've written before how affectionate Spaniards are, so I was only a little surprised. He wanted multiple goodbye hugs until I firmly told him I had to go. I gave him my number and took his email address. Afterwards, he called my room several times while I was out with my friends. So much so, the front desk found it comical.

He's called three times since I've been back, but I wasn't able to talk during the wee hours he would call. I guess he didn't account for the time difference. Sadly, I never returned the calls, but I did send him an email about 8 months later. Nelson needn't have worried that I would forget him. Meeting him was a very memorable experience and perhaps we'll cross paths again someday.


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