“Are you saying the greatest creations are manmade?”
“Of course,” said I, making sweeping motions with my arms. “Cities are amazing.”
Lucas was dubious. At least I think his name was Lucas. A Swede, he probably spelled his name with a K. And Lukas with a K was the unwavering sort.
Logical and devoid of passion, he made it hard to tell just how much he believed in the things he said. He made jokes using the same delivery someone might use when saying, “My dog got hit by a car today.”
“Nature,” Lukas went on, “is the greatest creation.”
We were obviously not going to agree. But this was normal. This was what we did for fun.
Well into a semester at the University of Barcelona, Lukas and a couple of others and I gravitated toward each other because of our inability to fit in anywhere else. My particular study abroad group was made of a bunch of fellow Americans who spoke mainly to each other and traveled to a country a weekend.
I was broke. And I wanted to learn Spanish. My idea of fun consisted of eating dinner with my homestay parents (Lola and Eduardo) and drinking café con leche with other café con leche enthusiasts who were also broke and didn’t fit in elsewhere.
There was the Armenian from California who could make friends with a plant (and the plant would love her). The Swedish Ecuadorian with an affinity for the ladies. The 40-year-old Taiwanese man who’d left home to learn Spanish for a few months. The amazingly sweet French girl from Bordeaux. The thirtysomething-year-old American who married a Spaniard and had just moved to Barcelona. And Lukas, the sometimes-friendly Swede.
Because only some of us knew English, or didn’t trust our English, we felt best speaking in clunky Spanish.
It was the one language we all equally didn’t know.
On this particular day, Lukas and I were disagreeing about what made countries interesting.
‘Tis the cities! I said, pointing my index finger to the heavens. Cities are culture, art, people, learning, innovation and architecture.
NAY! said Lukas, punching the air. ‘Tis nature! Lakes! Mountains! Purple majesties!
For years I thought he was wrong.
And then I went to Oregon.
Our campground mom at Joe’s, after our third or fourth water bottle: Where are you guys from?
Franco: San Francisco.
Campground mom: I knew it.
On our way up the Pacific Northwest coast, we stopped by Florence, land of many, many sea lions and endless seas.
Five hours across, the trees and lakes disappeared. We saw desert, nothingness and abandoned shacks. Every couple of hours, we saw another human. We waved.
Lake Trillium (Note: same place as first picture), the best part of Mount Hood. Which we never would have gone to had our cab driver, a proud Oregonian, not told us about it in Portland the night before.
And dassalligot. For now.
Much more to tell and just as many pictures. Some of them in FLAS.