Okay. So we're a little bit stranded. We've spent the whole week in limbo looking for vehicle parts and waiting for an answer as to whether at least our carburetor can be fixed here in Spain. In between several national holidays, the long Spanish lunch breaks and what seems a national shortage of any sense of urgency, it's been a bit frustrating. Tempers have frayed, there have been some tears (they were shed privately and not in an effort to emotionally blackmail anyone into resolving things faster) and I suspect the mechanic will celebrate once he gets rid of us. But here we are, stuck in Sopelana just outside Bilbao. It could be a lot worse, let's face it.
It's in these moments however that you begin to question why on earth you ever thought it was a good idea to buy a historic vehicle to travel long distance? Why you left your corporate job, your home, friends and family to go on a journey without any fixed plan and without any defined end? Whether this was all just an enormous mistake. If it's pie-in-the-sky dreaming to believe we could make this work? I mean who the hell do you think you are? (Everyone meet my inner critic or as I like to call it 'THE FEAR'). So apart from suffering the uncertainty over when and even if we can fix poor old Sam, I've also been making myself suffer by listening to all my most negative and fear-induced self-doubts. Not fun or helpful.
And we do have some huge questions to face. Where do we want to live? How are we going to make our living in the long term? What are our shared values and how does affect our future choices? How can we best utilise both of our skills? Part of the reason for looking at other businesses enroute is to see exactly how other people are making those same decisions. And we are on a journey of discovery so it's going to take time to resolve all of these questions. But that doesn't stop your mind from turning them over endlessly, driving you into a hole of doubt and insecurity.
So as one would do with a crying child, I decided distraction was probably the best way to get my inner critic to shut up and talked Carlos into an afternoon trip to Bilbao with what was left of the day. If in doubt you can always go and look at some art to take your mind off of life's problems.
Food, as distractions go, is not bad either and walking through Bilbao on the way to the Guggenheim museum we stumbled upon El Molinillo - an informal little bar with one of the best selections of Pintxos either of us has ever seen. It was the never-ending wave of beautiful food displayed along the bar that caught our attention; squid, cod with pil-pil, seafood-stuffed peppers, iberico ham with boletus mushrooms, scallops, foie gras with caramelised onions, goat's cheese rolled in sesame seeds, black pudding, the choice was incredible. And it was served with wit and a smile by the inimitable Rosa, who had over 32 years in the business or as she put it winking heavily, "since she was 2 years old".
Between the ice cold beer, the delicious food and Rosa's charm offensive the world started to look brighter. And one of the things I have come to love about Spain (if not the speed of their automotive repairs) is the incredible openess and warmth of people and way in which you can find yourself in the deep conversations with strangers as if you'd known them all your life. Enter Jose Antonio and Asuncion. This local couple in their seventies were enjoying the food and Rosa's rasor-sharp commentary as much as us and we were soon discussing the meaning of life, choices, money, happiness, death and existence. Jose Antonio is an IT consultant turned bar philosopher and without prompting he started to advise us that in life one must live in the moment, not put off your dreams until tomorrow, stray outside your comfort zones and not accept the status quo, because life was short and moves faster than you think. Many of the replies in fact to the doubts and insecurities that had been plaguing me for the last few days. I have to say after the last week any encouragement, even if imparted by a stranger in a bar, was welcome.
We said our goodbyes like old friends and headed to the Guggenheim and Richard Serra's permanent exhibit, 'The Matter of Time'. The huge sweeping walls of rusted iron change your whole perception of space and sound; like walking through a strange monumental landscape. Inside their curves reality melts away and you are just an observer, carried into a different space and time. Beautiful and very distracting.
On the way out of the museum you have to walk through an exhibition on the subject of creativity in times of crisis and I saw this, written by artist Ines Bermejo:
"We are going through difficult, uncertain, undefined times that affect us all, both socially and individually. This reality has immersed us in a pessimistic thinking of infectuous negativity in our everyday life as we see unsustainable situations develop that make us wonder, where are we going? But we do not want to focus on what we know, we are not interested in talking anymore. We want to focus on how to express ourselves. move away from pessimism, absorb negative experience and transform it into a creativity which is beneficial for the individual's and society's growth, for an instant.
"Life is defined as a series of changes and small crises; by facing it, we adopt a firm clear attitude. We may content ourselves and see nothing else or try to find alternative ways, such as the "do-it-yourself" philosophy: a way of self-production where you do not hinge on others' will to carry out your own convictions. This new concept helps us to reflect on the possibility that things can be done differently."
My takeaway from our day, our meeting with Rosa, Asuncion and Jose Antonio, the art at the Guggenheim, that writing by Ines Bermejo, is that life is always only ever a matter of perception. With this in mind we've decided to turn our forced stay here into a blessing rather than a curse. So we'll be working on some creative projects of our own this week and our enjoyment of that, rather than any pressurised need to resolve our future, will lead our steps forward on the right path.