Almendralejo – The final hours

I’ve been hanging on for more than a few days by now. The leaving is hard, harder than it has ever been from any place I’ve frequented. My previous self would have been having a mental breakdown thinking about where to go next and where to find work. But somehow I trust that it will work out when it’s time to move on. It usually does.

It has been a ritual of sorts in recent years, that of moving onward to see what hand life might deal me in pastures new. As a lifelong loner I find myself in the position of having to say goodbye to a lot of people I’ve come to know, many of whom I’ll never see again. The unwritten agreement of “I’ll just slide off on a 6am bus and text you in a week” doesn’t work in Spain.  To do that would be to betray the very people who gave me so much over the last 8 months I spent in the western Spanish town of Almendralejo.

Normally I am full of regret when I think back on the time spent in a particular place. What I could have done, what I should have said, tried or experienced…. But now as I sit here and think back upon the time spent here, I don’t think I would change a thing.

There were good days and bad days, many more good than bad. The good were life-defining, the bad, well not so bad really in the larger scheme of things. On those bad days, the mere act of recognising the offending emotions and being with them, somehow made them a lot more transient, and their return ultimately more infrequent each time. To have my own comfortable pad, a routine, a fulfilling job, easy access to proper nutrition, ample time to read,  a host of biohacking experiments lined up that went better than I ever could have imagined, meant that overall it was a productive time. And, along with that, I met some interesting folk.

People have been so good to me here, much more caring and supportive than they could ever have any reason to be. People are always much more than what they appear on the outside, and almost always, at a fundamental level, very different from what their culturally sanctioned norms may predispose an outsiders mind to assume. Some you can help, some you can learn from, while with some you can co-exist with in a state of mutual growth. The opportunities are boundless if you seek them out. I’ve probably never been happier in my life at any point than when I came to live in a rural Spanish town……go figure.

Villalba

I’ve been the dumbest person around the table on so many occasions. Despite what many may think, it’s surprisingly easy to find yourself in such a position just about anywhere. Spending time in the presence of people who are years ahead of me emotionally, financially, spiritually is like lifting heavy weights, it’s where you get the burn and the benefits.

People who at first glance come from a less prosperous place, often have a way of speaking, a way of detailing their experiences in the most poetic of ways. Sometimes the quirky eccentricity of the language used gives a whole extra dimension of perspective on how life can or should be lived. The walls within your inner consciousness can be knocked by the most seemingly simple of folk, and your mind effortlessly opened up to an alternative view on certain topics. What one lacks in one department, they often make up for, and more, in another. If you use your own perception of reality to judge another’s, then you stand to gain nothing. Once you see it through their eyes, things change.

Everyone has something to share, and if you care enough you’ll find it. It doesn’t matter if you are in Silicon Valley or Almendralejo, some have stories, experiences, philosophies, lessons in life, a drive for happiness. Some are in pain, some are in the tumultuous depths of despair, a depth to which they have become accustomed. For some here I have felt untold levels of compassion for which I can’t explain. The welfare of some occupy my daily thoughts, when you see the potential, and the self short-circuiting sabotage they do unto themselves through negative thought patterns. I’ve been there, and when you finally come through it and acquire the hacks to overcome it, it is somehow easier to dip into these emotional states.

There are tears running down my cheeks as I write this, but the tears come not from regret from thinking about how I should have behaved, experiences I should have had, or despair or fear for what the future may hold, but from the sorrow of leaving people who helped me grow in ways they will never know or understand. They helped me realise that the door was locked from the inside all along, and for that I’ll be forever grateful. They helped me see things within myself that I may never have seen otherwise. They taught me to be myself, to be vulnerable, not to be ashamed and to openly discuss my deepest insecurities…..And they reciprocated. It was those moments that helped me realise that everyone you meet on the street in any town or city in the world is dealing with issues that you know nothing about. The mere act of knowing this can drastically change how you view and interpret any person’s behaviour and your subsequent interactions thereafter. The opportunities to leave a lasting impression on someone are boundless. In my time here, I have achieved things that I never thought myself capable of. Sometimes all you need is a gentle push in the right direction from others. It’s a liberation of sorts, finally to be able to consolidate the lessons learned from my travels.

Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why”.  I never imagined I’d think it, but after my stint here, and the people I’ve been blessed to meet, I’m a lot closer to uncovering the latter.

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  • Pilar Lopez

    Hi, this is Pilar , one of the chicas of Almendralejo who eat migas, ride bike and learn English, I was looking for a solution to delegate on someone to chek my exam today, because at the moment I am in Sevilla, a perfect place to be teaching english in summer, nobody is able to survive on shuch a warm weather, just if you are a bicker or a tryper ( traveler, with a mistake to do the rime… acording to my failling writting
    exam)… and looking I have find you! thanks for sharing your experiences in such a deep way… good luck where ever you go!!!

    • Hi Pilar! Thanks for your comment! I didn’t realise you were one of those chicas who ate migas! I’m in Madrid right now, but I may be back in Extremadura soon. I’ll give you a call and we’ll organise a cycle with Fernando too!

  • Joaqui Gomez

    HI Francis! Beautiful words about Almendralejo and its people. I agree with you; all experiences we live, all places we visit, all people we meet, enrich us, teach us. It doesn’t matter the place.
    thank you!