A Fitting Farewell

I feel a little bad, because I didn’t actually think that my departure from La Puerta would usher in the floods, but that is kind of what is happening. La Puerta hasn’t really flooded, but LOTS of other towns have, and the river was absolutely raging all week long, lapping up over its concrete banks and depositing mountains of unbelievably orange muck all over the place.

When I arrived for the last time in La Puerta on Monday, my roommate greeted me by telling me that the river was about to overflow and that our upstairs had just contacted the police to find out what the evacuation plan was. The guardia civil told her that if the river overflowed that night, they would drive a fire truck down into the affected streets and blast the sirens to wake everyone up. My roommate moved her car up the hill out of harm’s way and we made plans with aforementioned upstairs neighbor to come up and stay with her if the water started rising. This was especially scary since we live in a ground-floor apartment three houses from the river. Our one window is about two feet off the floor and has sturdy iron bars over it. Our front door locks from the inside with a key, and can only be unlocked with a key. I made sure to keep the keys in the door that night.

In the morning I woke up alive. I packed up my backpack and left in on the bed just in case the water came up while we were at school. Then I learned we would be having a pizza party! In my honor! That night! I was thrilled because I had heard all about this pizza place which I guess is one of the only places worth going in La Puerta. Sadly, that night at the exact minute that the hot water AND power went out, my roommate got a call saying that the dinner had been postponed. Evidently someone’s roommate’s father had passed away (or at least that is what I had heard), and everyone decided it was better to postpone the dinner for one night. I had no problem with that, and some of the other teachers decided to go out for coffee.

We had a late coffee and  headed on our way…..somewhere. I didn’t really know where we were going, but I figured we would get there soon enough and it wasn’t worth me admitting that I hadn’t completely understood what was going on. I thought maybe another bar or cafe? It seemed weird to have food or drinks after coffee, but we had gone out pretty late, so maybe it was just a crazy day. We walked to an older part of the town that I had only walked through (it was the part with the kid with the bb gun and the creepy drooling man, so I have chosen to stay away). Anyways, I actually said “I’ve never been here before!” thinking we were going into a bar. We went inside the door and there was a casket sitting in the living room of what I at once realized was a Spanish house, filled with mourners.

Totally shocked, I quickly figured out what was going on. I had heard that someone’s roommate’s father had died, but it was really one of our coworkers. Compañero and compañero de piso kinda sound the same when you’re not paying attention. Well, the man who had passed away was 91 and while it wasn’t completely unexpected, it was still really, really sad. The son (my coworker), who is probably 60, had clearly been crying, as had his sister, and his aged mother, wrapped in a thick plaid blanket and sitting in a reclined wheelchair next to the casket of her husband, was still weeping. I realized we had to go around and offer our condolences to the family, so I did. Two kisses for everyone, and a few nice words. I felt really weird because the family had NO IDEA who I was, and frankly I don’t know why my coworkers brought me there. Then, as we sat under the brasero by the door and the entire town slowly trickled in, I realized that in a town this small, no one’s not invited to something like this. Especially when the person being honored had lived in the town for 91 years.

It was about that time that the power went completely out and the entire house was plunged into complete and total darkness. People slowly started getting out their cell phones until a mismatched collection of religious candles could be found to light the place. It was still pouring outside and we were literally right on the river, so you could hear it roaring by outside. We stayed for about two hours, and then headed home. It was honestly one of the weirdest things I’ve experienced yet in La Puerta, and something I don’t think I’ll ever see again.

So that experience felt like something out of an unfunny episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm for me since I thought we were going to the bar until the moment I saw the casket. The rest of the week proceeded with less excitement; the pizza party turned into a night of tapas, too many drinks, and some impromptu salsa dancing, and after a few tearful goodbyes and many, many kisses from my adorable students, I was back on the bus to Baeza. After a nauseating two hours, I got off, in the rain, excited to walk the 15 minutes home even with my bulging backpack and plastic bag stuffed with random bottles of spices and vinegar.  It was raining, but I was just excited to be done! Then I fell.

I fell hard. I haven’t fallen in at least a couple years, and I feel like I got what was coming to me since I think every human HAS to fall every once and a while. I was long overdue for mine, and I paid the price. I guess I was lazy, or tired, or stupid, but whatever it was, after successfully crossing a treacherous parking lot filled with mud and huge puddles and rocks and dog poo, I couldn’t quite get my foot all the way over the curb of the first sidewalk. I ripped my (new!) jeans, cut open my knee, cut open my hand, and my bottle of foodstuffs went flying. Driven by shame and adrenaline, I immediately got up and walked home, covered in mud, blood, and tears.

That was the end of my last day in La Puerta, which seems appropriate enough. My knee is now swollen and scabbed up like a seven year old’s might be after a tumble on the blacktop and my pride is equally wounded. At least I can rest assured that, at least for a while, I won’t be due for another big fall. And now, it’s time to pack. I have been procrastinating at one of my favorite Baeza institutions, La Nájera. They have free wifi and awesome tapas and sandwiches, and the best waiter I have ever had in my life. He sounds like a chain-smoking bullfrog and has a shiny bald head. He is awesome. I’ll actually miss this place, but as of 8am tomorrow, out of here! Wish me a safe journey!!

Café-Bar Nájera

c/ Acera de la Magdalena, 15 (Entrance on Avda. Andalucía)

607 562 353

Closed Mondays for “Personal Rest.” Typical!

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