My two-week vacation had come to an end. This was my last day at the resort and I had to be out by noon. My friends had gone home the day before. My plane though, wasn’t scheduled to leave until the next day. Knowing this, I telephoned around to hostels to find a place to spend the night. Finally I found a place and made a reservation. I checked out of the hotel, took the bus into Malagua. With my luggage, I wandered the streets of the city trying to locate the address asking everyone I met (in my halting Spanish) for directions. After several wrong turns I found it. I checked into the small hotel, took the ancient elevator up to the third floor and stood before the old wooden door hesitant to insert the key. I felt as if I’d stepped back in time. It reminded me of the tenement buildings in Harlem where I grew up except this hallway was much smaller. Slowly, I opened the door to my room and stepped in. I was greeted by a sea of brown – brown walls, brown carpet, brown doors – one leading to a closet, the other to the tiny bathroom, a single bed with a faded bedspread. The forty-watt bulb dangling from the ceiling cast ominous shadows on the wall. On a small table sat a 14 inch TV screen, with programs in Spanish, mostly featuring bull fights. The only window looked out onto an alley – quite a comedown from the luxurious apartments at the resort with large color TV’s that featured international programs. Nonetheless, it would do for one night.
I wandered through the Lara, an interesting maze of streets, and as I was getting hungry, I decided to find a place to eat. From a guidebook I’d borrowed from my local library and copied pages, I thought about having one of Spain’s famous dishes “Malaguena.” The problem, my funds were quite low. I could either dine out my last day in Spain, eating at one of the outdoor restaurants, or save the money to pay my hotel bill and take a taxi to the airport the next day. I decided I’d eat out. When the waiter delivered the huge dish of fried fish, I savored the wonderful taste. But when I began to look closely at what I was eating, I saw what looked like eyeballs staring up at me – octopus or squid tentacles, I think. Despite the delicious flavors, I couldn’t finish my meal knowing I was eating octopus.
I returned to my lonely room, tried to read in the dim light until I finally fell asleep listening to voices murmuring nearby and the elevator as it rattled up and down its shaft. The next day, I returned to my exploration of the Lara. As my checkout time from the hostel approached I felt my anxiety rise, I was deep into the Lara and lost. Walking quickly down one street after another, I finally found one that led to the boulevard and to my hostel. I paid the hostel bill with my credit card, took a taxi to the airport, and sat around for hours waiting for my plane to take me home. It had been a wonderful adventure; however, I was ready to put it behind me.