Let me introduce Chen. He was in Bunk “I” last night, but had taken the bedding from Bunk “J” (mine) and stored some of his gear in my locker too. The rest was spread across the floor and piled up in front of the kids’ lockers.
We didn’t actually see Chen, because we were asleep when he came in just after “lights out and silence time”. But we heard him; he was chatting loudly with his mate across the other side of the room. He was rustling plastic bags. He was dragging something across the floor. We could have seen *what* – he had turned on the lights, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that five people were already sleeping. I stuck my head under my pillow in silent objection and denial at such insensitivity. I simultaneously started an internal monologue with hostel-goers in general and Chen in particular. I ended up suggesting to him (in my head) that if he didn’t strew his stuff all over the SHARED space he would not need a light to avoid tripping over it. I was certain he would extinguish the light and quieten down, and indeed he must have, because at 1am the dark silence was broken abruptly. On went the light. On went Chen’s flip flops and somehow – I’m not quite sure how he achieved this – he both stomped AND scuffed his way out of the room. Of course, he left the light on. I’m guessing he still didn’t want to trip over his things which he had not tidied up before retiring. I reminded myself we *chose* to stay in a hostel.
Chen returned to bed, turned out the light and infuriatingly dropped straight off to sleep. Very soon he was both farting and snoring. He even slept through the phone notifications that started dinging and whooshing and popping on his phone. By this stage I considered failing to put his phone on silent was pretty consistent with the rest of his behaviour. But I was still a little surprised when, having been roused by one particularly annoying ping, he decided to reply to the message. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap – every letter typed could be heard in the otherwise stillness.
At about the 70th ding something happened. There is something about that number. Seventy. Seventy times seven, Seventy-seven times. It brought to mind (somewhat annoyingly I might add) some teaching we try to live by. Something about forgiveness. If a brother sins against you forgive him up to….how many times was that? Now, I was counting dings and we were getting close. But the point of that number is not its finiteness, but the exact opposite. Keep on forgiving. What is faith if it is not expressed in action? Forgive. Forgive even inconsiderate, think-only-of-himself, irritating, frustrating, unbelievable Chen.
It was time (2am to be precise by now) to let it go. It was time to banish thoughts of revenge. It was time to decide to walk in integrity. We would get up extremely quietly in the dark and tip-toe around at 5am. We would not turn on the light gleefully. We would not think it served him right that we would bang about when he wanted to sleep and “accidentally” trip over his stuff scattered around the room.
Fine intentions. And they were to be tested one last time. At 3am the phone rang. It woke me first, Chen second. When he realised it was his phone he sat up and answered it. Yes, at 3am he took a phone call there in the room with eleven other people, not considering the possibility that he might take it out into the hall. Who knows what the person on the other end said? All I know is it prompted Chen to tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap-tap some messages which went with a decisive whoosh….and a few minutes later the replies started coming. Ding Ping Tap Whoosh.
I didn’t go back to sleep.
We got up quietly soon after 5. I suspect Chen didn’t even hear us.
We were on the first train of the day to the airport. We were going to Seville.
It was a short flight. We were barely up in the air and we were coming down again. There was just time to compare the scenery of yesterday’s European flight (snow-capped mountains and swathes of cultivated fields in all shades of greens and browns) with today’s Spanish fields – lots of dusty browns. We were grateful the trip was so short because we were acutely aware that we would soon be WALKING the whole length of the flight and then some. It never fails to scare me to look out of a plane window and realise that we are going to walk farther than we can see.
But today was just a short walk. It seemed apt to head straight for the city centre and then cathedral, which will be our starting point for our official walk. After the shenanigans of last night, I had to smile at this (do read the sign):
If we’d realised that it was going to get so hot and that our chosen spot in the shade would remain shaded for only quarter of an hour, we might have decided to draw something inside. But we all wanted to do the Giralda Tower, so we melted in the thirty degrees.
Aware that everyone was still tired, I made the call to keep the day short (and buy icecreams), and so we wandered back to the hostel. Even that little trip was full of interesting surprises….teeny tiny lanes suitable only for pedestrians, open plazas with tables and tapas, doors opening directly off the street revealing leafy internal courtyards, blue-and-white tiled undersides of balconies providing a visual feast for those standing below, beauty everywhere. (It was a pleasant contrast to the uninspiring concrete and brick apartment blocks that lined the road from the airport to city centre).