5:45am came quickly after only falling asleep after 3am. Some things never change. Even as a child if I knew I was going somewhere the next morning I could not sleep due to excitement.
The Thalys Hi Speed train departed at 8:16am as I sat comfortably in 2nd class, seat number 16.
A man and a woman realize they have the same seat number next to me. Resigning himself to that fact he took a seat across from me. With the problem resolved everyone sits back to enjoy the ride to Paris Nord Station.
After days of so much rain it seems the sun has decided to show her face, although hiding behind gray skies and rolling clouds. I am so happy to be going to the south of France after a six-year wait between holidays.
Sometimes it’s best, just to sit quiet.
Of course travelling without a map and research can have its moments of panic but it is such an adrenaline rush. Just what I needed. Arriving in Agde was both a surprise and a delight. It is ancient Greek established yet French. Amazing, quaint place and lovely people. Well excluding the Russian French and Moroccan French pickpockets in the Agde Central Station who choose the wrong traveler to play with. They were quite amusing to say the least and obviously amateur compared to some of the pickpockets in the early nineties in Amsterdam. Bless them.. they marked me.. LOL Within seconds I exposed them and asked which pocket on my backpack was the most interesting to them. They looked at each other and called me a blanking American and walked away. The clerk at the train information desk smiled and did her best to tell me where I was in no English but she said that was the best English she has spoken and was quite pleased with herself. I had no idea what she said but I thanked her anyway and decided to just go for a look and wonder about. Kim said this was where he was, in Agde. So if he’s here, I’ll find him.
Crossing the bridge brought me into the village..Wow.. was my only thought. The frescoes were amazing. A man from Denmark and his young son stopped me and said I looked lost. I laughed and agreed fully with him. He said that the sea was in Cap d’agde and that I would have to take a bus. Walk back to the station and catch a bus which I did. Of course the two pickpockets were delighted to see me return and began the buzzard circling act as I call it. Within seconds they gave up as I was having no part of it.
The bus driver said to take bus number three. I waited again with the pickpockets. They left me alone but they did board bus three with me which turned my internal weird-o-metor on high. After a long ride and many round abouts which did not seem to make any sense, I walked up to the driver and said, ” Cap d’agde?” and he smiled and said yes. Which beach do you want to go? He stopped the bus and showed me a small map and the various beaches on the Cap. I looked the map and at the driver and said give me a minute so he drove on. Two stops later I said, I’m getting out here. He said is this where you must go? I said I don’t know but I can feel my friend is around here or he has been. The driver was reluctant but let me out.
It was now around 5:30pm and the sun was blazing. I was sweating with that backpack on walking down the beaches looking and asking everyone for a Bar and Restaurant named Mango’s. Everyone was insistent that Mango’s was in Agde along the river. I explained that I had seen photos of them building it on the beach with the sea in the back ground. No one believed me so I walked to this place on the beach called La Lizards. I was welcomed and given beer and a phone to use. I love the southern French and they love Cajuns. The owner called everywhere and after insisting I drink a fifth beer he came to me and said Cheri it is finished. You must find somewhere to sleep. I laughed out loud and thanked him for his hospitality and hoped I could return it one day.
Walking in the sand up a sand dune with a decent weighted backpack on in the heat and sun after drinking five beers on tap is not always a good thing to do. It was now 7:30pm and still I had not located Mango’s. I walked up to this hotel. The receptionist was a Russian French man. I explained my dilemma. He got on the internet and made a few phone calls. He came up with the same place on the river in Agde. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be sleeping on the beach on my roll out and sleeping bag. The man then said, if you can wait thirty minutes, I will drive you to somewhere so you can camp until you find your friend. Never would I ever get in a car with a complete stranger but something inside told me yes, so I accepted graciously. He and his wife Tanya came out and we walked to the car. He took my pack and bag and put them in the trunk while I climbed into the back seat. He brought me to Cap Mole Beach and told me to wait in the car. It was now 11:30pm and the place was lite up like Vegas and center stage was a huge trampoline with kids strapped to it bouncing up and down to the loud music and flashing lights. The bars along the square were filled with laughing and dancing people. I thought what a lively place. He spoke to a man at a place called Coco’s Beach Bar and Restaurant. He came back and said that no one has heard of Mango’s on the beach and said that he was going to drop me off at the camping. I thanked them both and we said our goodbyes. I walked up and the security guard asked me if I had a reservation which I of course did not. I asked if I could just rent a spot and sleep on my roll out and bag and sort out details the next morning. He said no, they were full. I smiled at him and thanked him. I walked back to all the lights and found two bushes that I would call home for one night. I prayed and said ok God this is a first but I’m good, I know I would not be here if you did not want me here so I’m putting it all in your hands.
With my sleeping spot picked out I decided to find something to eat and drink before everything closed. As I rounded the busy square the road began going up to the right. There were shops and food vendors open with music blaring and so many people. I began my assent along the cobblestone bricked foot path between the shops. I spotted two good-looking guys and thought to myself that if Kim lives here he will know these guys. It was a tapas bar and restaurant that had internet access. My heart leaped for joy. One of them spoke some English and I paid for the Internet and found the details for Mango’s and gave them to the guy along with Kim’s mobile number which I had been trying all day. After a few calls he handed me the phone. Kim was on the other end of the line. I screamed where have you been? I’ve been trying this number all day. He said I never hear it when I’m working. Are you here? I said yes I’m here. I was trying to find the restaurant to surprise you but now its midnight, these guys are closing and I’m on the streets. Where the hell are you? He said give the phone back to the guy and I did. The guy handed it back to me. Kim said go back to Coco’s Beach Bar and Restaurant and I’ll pick you up. Are you coming in a car I asked. He said no, you are within a seven minute walk from me. I said are you kidding, you see how God is good. Get there Miss Kelly, I’ll be there in a minute.
We hung up, I thanked the guys for helping me and made my way to Coco’s. Before I could fully set my backpack down, there was Kim running down the wooden boardwalk along the beach toward me. He and I were so excited to see each other we just hung on for dear life. He was both shocked and surprised to see me. I was relieved to see him. How in the world did you get so close to where I am he asked? Through the grace of God Kim. I even got in a car with strangers to get here. He laughed and said come on you crazy woman and he grabbed my pack. We walked along the boardwalk to Mango’s which was now closed being after midnight. What an adventure I had finding him. One I will never forget.
It woke me up and sent the adrenaline laying dormant inside me, through my veins presenting me face to face with the life I so missed and have mourned for years. We stayed up for hours talking, laughing and decided to sleep on the floor on our mats and roll outs. How great to wake to the sun rising on the water, sleeping on the beach. Ahhh was the only word that came to mind.
Staying up until 4am, catching up with Kim was such relief and fun. Locating him along this beautiful beach in the south of France was both a joy and an adventure. Cap d’agde is truly an amazing place. From Montpellier it is 62km and from Sete 35km.
With every intention of riding my bike it just wasn’t meant to be. For this I humbly thank God as it is way too hot to ride. Not to mention the non-cyclist friendly French. There are few to no bike paths to speak of. I’m spoiled to the Netherlands. Travelling has always been the glue, the excitement of living for me. This time feels very different. Starting with the decision to go, I did not feel the excitement that has always accompanied a travel decision. I noticed the change in me while waiting in line for two hours to buy my train ticket.
Boarding the train was now routine and non stressful. Changing train stations in Paris could have been stressful but I nonchalantly moved through the crowds locating the correct ramp as if this was something I did everyday. On the train to Montpellier I realized that the reason I was feeling this way is because I’ve been out of the travelling game for way too long. I realized how much I’ve missed the road and the not knowing. I realized that I had begun to grow into complacency over the past fifteen years while looking after the dogs. Until they died and up till now, I had forgotten about me. Missing them and their presence in my life was my focus and I simply continued living the lifestyle of a trapped owner two years after the last ones death. On the train I realized that I had stopped living the life I loved so much. People are easily coerced when it comes to love and responsibility and I recognized this within myself but now knowing that drastic and positive changes where happening inside me.
Sleeping the entire day off and on while reveling in the strength of the sun rays on my skin has been one of the most relaxed days I’ve had in years. Listening to the sound of the sea meshed with the laughs and excited screams of children playing has calmed me to a point to where my head is empty and I am struggling to write this. Whereas normally I cannot write fast enough to keep up with my thinking. I realized just how congested my mind has been with the same thoughts over and over for years. Thoughts that I could never turn into positive changes regardless of how many times I mulled them over in my head. Now after six days in Cap d’agde, camping at camping La Clape, I have discovered the campsite has a nice taverna and swimming pool. Lounging and sleeping in the sun after a late night on the beach with Kim and a crazy group of young French guys was exactly what I needed. I realized how staying in Amsterdam for six full years of not leaving is both unhealthy and emotionally straining on me. The life I’ve always loved is now running laps throughout my veins. Reminding me of who I am again.
Not having children has proved to be the right and only decision for me. For many years internally I struggled about this very point. Having been submersed into parenthood at a young age, changed my makeup, almost my dna. Maybe, had I had a normal upbringing with a normal situation, just maybe, then could I have desired to mother. God has His own way of showing us and leading us into the life He chooses for us. The doubt I housed is now gone. I trust Him with all that I am and will follow without hesitation.
Being alone all the time, outside of work has not been a good thing all together. At the same time, being alone has allowed me to sort through and process the loss I’ve sustained over the years. The loss has almost consumed me, creating the idea that I was unworthy of love of any kind. Loosing everyone I’ve ever loved and every animal and everything material, slightly hardened me but through the grace of God never jaded me. If anything it increased my faith and personal strength. I wonder if others in this world have ever gone this full circle with me. Did they handle it better? Did they come to this understanding faster? Has this process taken too long in me? Or has it taken as long as it should have? As I write the latter becomes apparent.
Day before yesterday I received word that a friend of mines husband died after so long of being an invalid. I never met him yet I was completely overcome with emotion, finding it difficult not to cry. Taking the bus to ancient Agde was the right decision that day. That journey led me to one of the oldest churches in Europe. The first step inside jolted every tear from me. They rolled down my cheeks with determination and meaning. Controlling them was impossible so I stopped trying and allowed myself to grieve this man I never met. Sitting and standing in front of one of the oldest crucifixes on earth jolted and surfaced feelings that were buried deep inside me. Now two days later all I feel is peace. True internal peace. Feeling unworthy of love is but a sad, past memory. The French are my history. They are as a reminder of kindness, a reminder of simplicity, a reminder of how to enjoy the life that God has gifted me with.
There are those in my life that are cynical and jaded and act with certainty that they are right about everything. They boast and speak crassly and loud with authority. I used to feel they were this way due to their experiences but I now know it is because of their lack of experience.
In three days I return to Amsterdam renewed and calm and at peace in my heart and in my thoughts. Back to work on Tuesday with yet another holiday being planned. Not sure where but the certainty is that I am going. With twenty-one holiday days remaining for this year, they will be used properly. Over these past years I took the days off but never left the Netherlands. I am feeling the excitement of travel again and long to do more camping. Freedom and self-reliance and God’s guidance are necessary factors within me concerning all that nears my life.
It would be an amazing gift to have my niece visit and travel with me. She is a busy young woman with both work and school so dwelling on this wish I cannot and will not do. When she is ready she will contact me. This is now God’s and I trust that all will come in His time, not mine. As to the female entity in my life that has dominated my thoughts. I’m certain she has issues that she continuously runs from. Always keeping up appearances and false facades in hopes of fame has been her forte for so many years that she has forgotten about what and who are right in front of her. One day she will wake up, of this I am certain. It will never be too late. All these years without her in my life has numbed a part of me and this part is beginning to sense feeling again. She has been ill, so much has to go full circle for her yet.
The male entity in my life has not yet forgiven himself. This unforgiveness has destroyed many areas of his life. Through God’s graces he is facing himself now and will be on the road to self forgiveness soon. As long as he does not forgive himself he will not be able to love himself which prevents him from truly loving others as he should, which also prevents them from loving him as they desire to. God is working through many difficult details in all our lives. There is now a calmness in me directing and soothing me with hope and faith that we will somehow be restored.
Last night at the pool taverna I noticed a man dancing happily with his three sons. Today he is by the pool with them and is also writing. Makes me wonder if he too is a writer or if he is simply writing a letter. He really loves his kids and they him. They have such a great time together. This brings great joy inside me.
I suppose we all have regrets in this life although we all struggle diligently not to create regret, it seems to be a huge part of life for all. How we address and handle these regrets are key in our development. Beginning one by one, in a manner by recognizing and understanding which ones are priority is the fist step in resolve.
Adversity, bumpy roads, negative people and wrong decisions seem unfair and underserved by the novice. But after many years of travelling the traversing and ever winding road of life, one becomes agile, avid and skilled with understanding and perception. Knowing full well that without adversity there is no growth, no evolution of life. Therefore embracing all life has to offer without fear, without doubt and without self-pity. Never again thinking, feeling or saying, “Why me?” Instead with wise understanding saying, ” Why not me?”
There will always be those who fight life and do their best to manipulate and control it to their own benefit, as there will always be those who allow life in all its shapes and forms to just be.
Humanity comes in many faces, places, attitudes and mentalities. Within humanity is a particular sect that has and always will disturb my very spirit. They are the ones who disrespect life by mistreating the innocent and pure of heart. Innocence and purity not only in the human species but in animals, plants and our planet. They suffer the living with torture, cruelty and death without regard, proclaiming that anything outside the human species does not feel or understand the misfortune being thrust upon it. Fools! Claiming with pampas and irrevocable idiocy that their cruelty of life forms is simply part of the food chain or the way the world works. When in actuality it is for profit or personal gain, period. Rationalization and manipulation hold hands with lies and deceit which are all evil and never good.
In a sacred chamber within my heart is where I pray with full conviction and confidence that this sect of the human species will in the end suffer and be subjected to all pain they alone imposed on all living things while alive. There lays the full redemption, honor, dignity and righteousness restored of all that have suffered at the hand of this inhumane sect of humanity.
The global populations have bought into the insane idea that money delivers unto them joy, happiness and security. They hoard monetary and materialism as if the oxygen required to live and love life. As they stack their piles higher, they dream of travelling to far off lands but never engage their dream in fear of lowering the height of their stockpiled money and things. Oh what a life sentence they have created for themselves. Convinced that without money there is no joy or happiness.
Without judgment but with a heavy heart for them, the blinded, I silently pray that before the life they have is over that they remove the yoke from around their necks and finally realize that nothing from the hand of man brings sustainable peace, joy and happiness. That they realize that they are capable of complete happiness without what is man-made.
Yet, I know that many will die, never escaping their misunderstanding of what human life is really all about. To fill the void felt within them, they collect more objects and more money.
As the sense of satisfaction is short-lived, they must again purchase more. Ever increasing their stockpiles and depleting their chance at true inner peace and joy. Although I feel saddened for them, I understand that every person will eventually be subjected to the truth of life, which is compact within simplicity. This subjugation comes when it is supposed to and is different for each individual. Everything and everyone are in process. Some will wake up and choose life and others will remain asleep, choosing the man-made yoke because everyone and everything has its own place within and between the spaces of time.
Today is my last day in Cap d’agde. Check out time is noon, so I’ll wake early, pack up my gear then walk down to Mango’s for coffee to say good-bye to Kim. Then I’ll pop by the camping to get my things and take the bus to Agde. My train is not until 8pm so I’ll spend my last day in France there. I’m happy to return to Holland as I miss everything from the coffee, to the smells to the race of everyday life. Although Amsterdam is slow-moving compared to most major cities, it has a pace of its own, which is precisely my pace. I enjoy the differences between countries and cultures but I am at my best home in Amsterdam.
Next time I travel to France I’ll learn a bit of French and carry my cooker so I do not go hungry like I have this time. Everything here is prepared with meat and is an eating nightmare for someone like me. Ordering a simple cup of coffee is impossible for me as well. It either comes so small and strong or mid-sized and sweetened. As I do not use sugar at all and normally drink decaf, my morning ritual of coffee, a cigarette and relaxing to write has been completely disrupted.
Yesterday I ordered a Panini which is an oblong thin bread smashed together with another with a filling in the middle. My choice of filling was simply and only cheese and tomato. It came with some green sweetish, tart basil spread which altered the taste and was impossible for me to eat.
I found a natural food restaurant at the marina and asked for the smoked salmon and cream cheese baguette The boy prepared it not by spreading the cream cheese but by dropping clumps sporadically on the dry baguette. He did the same with the salmon. The result was hard crusty bread with zero salad added and was also disgusting and prepared without care.
I called the boy over opened the baguette and told him that this was ridiculous. I got up and showed him how to properly prepare an edible sandwich. He was actually delighted and re-prepared it and presented me with one of the best sandwiches I had there. He admitted that he never thought about spreading the cream cheese or adding salad which completely astounded me. I am so grateful for my Cajun french culture and upbringing concerning food, preparation and presentation.
I miss Amsterdam more today than yesterday. It is the norm I belong in. Dutch cuisine is not my cup of tea but in Amsterdam there is every kind of authentic cuisine in the world and every one caters to vegetarian and health minded individuals. The French pretty much refuse to bend in order to please every palate and diet.
Another weird but hysterical attempt to eat was at a local stand on the main shopping street. I spotted potatoes au gratin and was so excited to eat just vegetables for the first time in almost two weeks. I mean a hot cooked vegetable not a lettuce and tomato salad which seems to be the only vegetarian meal offered here. Who can survive on that especially in this heat? Anyway, I ordered the au gratin with an anxious palate.
With one large serving spoon the man weighed it and requested €4.95. My shock was obvious with my facial expression and question, “For potatoes?” I asked him to at least warm it up. The woman there then came up and requested one more euro for heating it. I started laughing and shook my head no. She began fussing in French as I requested a plastic fork and a serviette. The man obliged me but the woman was not happy and was still fussing as I walked away with my barely warm one scoop of €5.00 potoatos. To say the least being here has been a great weight loss period. LOL
My palate literally waters when thinking about a vegetarian bami from KamYin on the Warmoesstraat in Amsterdam. I’m hungry and long to be home and alone. I miss my privacy and my quiet life.
I woke around 9:00am, broke down my tent, packed up and checked out. The camping staff kept my bags so I could go down the beach and tell Kim goodbye. He made me an uitsmeiter met kaas with two koffie verkeerds on the side. Nothing like a Dutch breakfast. It primed me up for my return to Amsterdam.
Sitting out on the porch of the taverna and enjoying the sun, the sea and my last morning in Cap d’agde, we said our goodbyes and I collected my things from the camping. I made my way to the bus stop and rode into Agde. Walked to the Le Louisiane Glance Bar in the main square and ordered a double chocolate glance. The French do love and pride themselves on their ice cream.
After, I walked back to Saint Sever’s church and sat in adoration of the blessed sacrament and prayed a rosary. Many times my head bobbed waking me from these small cat naps filled with extremely odd dreams. The oddness and intensity of these dreams fully compared and equated to the dreams I had while camping. I don’t think I’ve ever slept so sound and hard in my life. A French woman told me that many people who are spiritually connected experience this in Cap d’agde as the entire place is one large volcano. Silly me, I should have realized this because Kamari Beach in Santorini, Greece has the same stones and boulders everywhere. The only difference is that Kamari Beach sands are gray and black. All of which are volcanic.
After two hours in the church I went to Hotel la Galiote and checked my emails while having a beer. The waiter recognized me from last week when I was there. He is one sweet and gentle soul that I will not forget. I decided to go to the train station around 5:30pm and was told I could get on the next train to Narbonne, so I did. The train line SNCF is brilliant, super clean, modern and fast. We were in Narbonne in a little over thirty minutes.
Narbonne is gorgeous and old. I walked into the center and found the most amazing and ancient cathedral. Cathedrale Saint-Just which stands front and center. There is also a wonderful beach as well as rows and rows of restaurants, terraces, bars and shopping streets. I sat down at the Le Citral Cafe terrace and had calamari, a salad and french bread. With my last bite the rain began and every waiter began running around gathering dinnerware and crystal from all of the tables. I tucked my pack under its rain gear, went in, paid and walked across the street and bought a beautiful chocolate cookie. I walked back to the train station to wait for my 11:04pm train.
Immediately, I spotted the local train station pick pickets. Instead of worrying about them as my train was a late overnight train to Paris. I went straight to security and pointed them out and asked about the late night security. They were already aware of these guys and asked me if I was a police officer in Amsterdam. I laughed and the male officer told me that I should be and we all had a laugh. So now I’m having a beer in the station restaurant being served by the officers girlfriend who speaks perfect English. I really love the French down here. They are quite different from the Parisians. They are southerners and it is so very evident culturally that Cajuns originate from the south of France. I will be back to France soon as there is so much to see, learn and discover. They make me feel so at home and welcome. I just adore their simplicity and kindness. This trip has been so good for me and I humbly and graciously thank the French for being French. I’m going to close for now and enjoy these people over beers before my train arrives. :o) Au revoir for now :o)
The moment I left the station bar after it closed, while on my way to sit and wait for my train, the same pick pocket approached me asking for God knows what. I screamed as loud as I could, “Attention, Attention. This guy is a pickpocket! I’ve been watching you all day and you are a pickpocket, get away from me!” Immediately security arrived with a muzzled rottweiler and the guy ran. I never saw him again. The security continued to check with me until my train arrived.
My next shock was to find that I did not have a private couchette as promised when purchasing my ticket in Amsterdam. Literally a small square with 6 beds connected to the walls with a small ladder on the back wall and a luggage rack that wrapped around the top near the ceiling. My bag was heavy so I was not impressed to say the least. Shared with an elderly French couple who were nice enough but the lady was a bit of a control freak and did not want the air on and wanted the door closed for security. I need air all the times as everyone who knows me knows. So I pulled out my spray water bottle and portable fan that sounds like a vibrator when on. She decided to turn the air on. Now I try to sleep. Will write more in Paris.
A slight continuous knock persisted and woke me. There were two locks on th door. One near me and the other by the French man sleeping above and across from me. I began saying, “Monsieur, Monsieur” to wake him while I unlocked my side and turned on my night-light. He woke and did the same. A Chinese couple entered the small square cabin with suitcases the height of the two beds from the bottom up, now blocking the two people in the bottom beds as well as the two people on the second level which included me. I was already sweating and doing my best to keep my composure with no fresh air flow. I rolled over and said this is not going to work. You are not boxing me in. The suitcases have to go. They spoke English. We cannot leave them outside was their reply. The French man sat up and motioned the guy and together they removed the ladder and stacked the bags against the back wall then placed the ladder over them. I rolled over and faced the wall praying silently that I could handle this situation. There was just enough room for me to raise my head and shoulders and only slide out of the bed. I was sandwiched in the middle without fresh air, sleeping with complete strangers in a square the size of my shower room at home. They left the door open and the lights on so after a while I asked out loud if everyone was now inside. The Chinese guy said there was another boy coming. Within a few minutes he arrived, closed the door and turned off the lights.
Within a matter of five minutes it was an oven with stale air and everyone’s various body odors became evident, including my own. I stripped down to my underwear and sprayed myself with my water bottle and turned on my portable fan. I fell asleep and the sound of the plastic blades hitting the wall woke me and everyone else as the fan fell from my hand while I drifted into sleep. I knew I could no longer use my fan. I sprayed myself again and tried to fall asleep. My bed was soaking wet with hot sweat and my body was dripping sweat and the sand and grime all over me was now mixed and gritty on every inch of me.
I was miserable and was flipping out by this point and threw myself out as far as I could and said, “Monsieur, turn on the air conditioning now!” I reached up and stretched my arm and neck and turned the knob to cold. The French lady at the top said something and he replied to her, “Oh my Cheri.” The cabin went quiet as everyone began to feel relief with cold air now circulating in the cabin. It was absolutely no use. I couldn’t take another second. Even with the air on cold it was never enough to over power the amount of body heat in such a small space. I was sweating without fresh air flow and smashed between the top and bottom beds. I grabbed my purse and left the cabin.
Within seconds the young boy followed me out and the train made a stop. Two other French guys joined us and we stepped out of the train to smoke a cigarette. The young one in my cabin said his name but I cannot remember it. At the time I was engrossed in cooling off, getting air, calming down and trying to light a cigarette. He rolled his quickly. So fast that I said to myself, he’s quick. The other two guys also spoke some English. The broader one laughed at me and said, “The couchette is small isn’t it?” I looked at him while pulling on my cigarette realizing when seeing his eyes and face that I must look an absolute mess. Which I did. I was now dirty and sweaty with streaks all down my chest, back, arms and legs. My hair was wet and pulled up directly on top of my head. I was certain I looked like a freak show by the way they all looked from my head to my feet and smiled. I finally said, alright, I know I look like hell and laughed with them. The two guys said that they choose to sit on the floor outside the couchette because they know how hot and small they are. They had taken this overnight from Narbonne to Paris many times.
The young boy smoked his cigarette just as fast as he rolled it. He was different and I couldn’t help noticing things about him. I asked how he learned to roll so fast and to speak such good English. He smiled and began telling me that his father was a French Diplomat overseeing the agreement with Djibouti and he had been living there for the past five years. I had no idea where Djibouti was geographically. I told him that I had never heard of it. He explained it was in Africa. The population was around one million. Six hundred thousand in the city and four hundred thousand in the surrounding countryside. There was no industry with the exception of creating electricity which was overseen by the French. This is what his father was in charge of. He explained that officially the Republic of Djibouti is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east. Djibouti is one of the least populous countries in Africa. The predominant religion in Djibouti is Islam, with a 94% majority, with the remaining 6% practicing Christianity. The land was known as Obock in the 19th century, and in 1967 changed its name to the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas after treaties with France. The territory was declared an independent nation in 1977, and changed its name to the Republic of Djibouti. Djibouti joined the United Nations in September, 1977. While Djibouti is an independent sovereign state, it maintains deep French relations, and through various military and economic agreements with France, it receives continued security and economic assistance which is only a part of what his dad was overseeing.
He said they were a non-technically oriented nation of people. No cell phones, laptops, tv´s, computers. He said when he would show them photos on his cell phone it was like magic to them. They are desert country tribal people and have no connection to other muslim nations or the world for that matter. He was now returning to France to complete his studies and attend university. Such a bright young man he was. He agreed with me when I told him how fortunate and blessed he was to have had such an experience at such a young age. I told him to be patient when facing how spoiled we all are in modern societies and cultures because we take for granted what the people of Djibouti no nothing about. He smiled and said his father had the same conversation with him before he left to return to Paris. We decided to try to get some sleep and returned to the couchette. The train announcement came quickly but I knew I had fallen asleep and felt somewhat rested. With twenty minutes to wake, dress and gather our belongings we worked around each other in that small space and managed it.
Standing in the aisle waiting to de-board it was evident that the elderly French couple did not rest and sleep on the train as they had hoped having been mis-matched in the couchette with mis-fit travelers that we all were was not how they envisioned the overnight train to Paris. Well, that is just a part of budget travelling. We all seemed fully rested and energized with excitement to get off the train and wonder the streets of Paris until the next boarding call for our individual destinations.
After changing train stations from Paris Austerlitz to Paris Nord I still had almost four hours to kill before my next train to Amsterdam. Delighted to find a McDonald’s outside the station I ordered two egg Mc Muffins with cheese. As hungry as I was I ate them both quickly with ease. How fun to have breakfast in Paris and then dinner in Amsterdam. I thanked God again for the type of life He has given me. I have no money to speak of, no assets, a job I adore, colleagues I love and friends who are indeed my family. Excitement surged to a high with the thought of walking out of the doors at Amsterdam Central Station. My heart began fluttering as the feeling of being in love, which it always does when returning home to my beautiful city God placed me in.
Through the window of the train I knew when we entered Dutch soil by the roof tops and architecture. A broad smile etched its way across my face and I chuckled to myself and thanked God again. With Schiphol being the last stop before Amsterdam I was already standing with backpack on, ready to make a speedy exit onto the streets of Amsterdam to head straight to work as my shift started at 3pm. At precisely 1:45pm the train doors opened and I took my first step back on Dutch soil in two weeks. I yelled out loud, “Good Morning Amsterdam, how are you darling, I’ve missed you” as I made my way through the station and out the front doors. The sight of the busy station square brought tears of joy to my eyes. When I left it was raining which it always does when I am on holiday. It was still slightly raining and by the looks on everyone’s faces they were at their limits and ready for some sunshine. Again I smiled because I knew full well that the sun would burst her rays with impeccable glory by the morning. Sure enough the next morning and the mornings after the sun has beamed in all her glory.
Upon my return to work I was filthy and sweaty with backpack on and bag in hand. The door bell rang and to my surprise it was Adje. He came in to visit and wanted to know all about my adventure. The bell rang again and it was Shady carrying a box of fresh strawberries as he knows they are my favorite fruit. A colleague walked in with Puccini chocolates that put a huge twelve-year-old smile on my face. We had a wonderful visit eating strawberries and chocolates with our dutch coffee’s. I love my friends. They are family and they love me too were my thoughts while gazing at them across the table. This is how one greets a friend upon a travel return. They treat me as I treat them. By these very thoughts I realized that this was not the least of the epiphanies and learning curves received by and from my holiday.
As the day settled down to-night I was now surrounded by the most amazing group of young Italians who were cooking, laughing and enjoying their last night in Amsterdam. What a wonderful way to spend my first night back. One of them stood out and my spirit was drawn to him as I could feel his reaching out to mine. I was off of work at 11pm but sat talking with him until almost 2am. A beautiful young man both inside and out. He spoke to me of football, his life and his goals. I spoke the words being prompted by the Holy Spirit. His eyes welled up as he said, “I feel funny inside. I know you are telling me the truth.” He took a deep breath and said “Speaking with you has given me the peace inside I have been seeking. I have never seen true light in anyones eyes as I see in yours.” I smiled and explained that this is not a credit due to me but to God. That God made it clear that many would come and those who had ears would hear and those who had eyes that see will wake up. He loves you Tommaso. You are already His. Always follow Him and only Him and you can have anything you ask of Him, should it be His will.” He hugged me so tight as if we knew each other all our lives. I told him I loved him and he told me he loved me too. He asked for my contact details and I gave them freely and let him know that I would always be here for him to talk to. As it is always when God places one of His in my path, I love him like he is my own flesh and blood.
At 2am I put on my backpack, grabbed my bag and began my walk home. Still not having been home yet, I was so looking forward to a hot shower and my bed. I had been travelling since 10am the morning before and was past ready to get home. Opening my door and throwing my things down was pure joy. A shower never felt so good.
The next morning I woke with a sore back again. I knew it was my bed. Now I have to rid myself of it and sort out what is best for my back. Sleeping on my thermarest mat on the ground for two weeks had me sitting up out of a sleep. One night in this bed sent my back to a point of agonizing pain again. Until I get another bed the floor and my thermarest mat will be my resting place. This was yet another learning curve.
Travel is great in more ways than one. It brings us full circle with knowledge of cultures and wisdom of self. Most people are restless and in search of a place that can help them make sense of this world. A place that can catapult them to being who it is they are born to be. I think what they want is to feel how I feel when I’m riding my bike or travelling. Because when I’m riding or travelling, all I feel is free.