Lost in the woods (may contain some hyperbole)

When you start a life somewhere new, it’s natural to find yourself in incredibly, face-meltingly awkward situations. I’m the kind of person who has grown up living in a constant state of mortification so very little has phased me and most of my idiocy I can gloss over.Since I’ve arrived in Donostia however, I can’t seem to find my way. Not in a deep, reflective and spiritual sense but  practically, in my everyday life, I get lost on a surprisingly frequent basis.

While I’ve lost my path in Dublin a few times, here I seem to get epically lost. Long, perplexing, soul-searching rambles in which I eventually talk myself back onto the right track. Donostia, a city of less than two hundred thousand people. The reason why perhaps that one hiccough later and bang-you’re in the mountains. If you’re lucky you can blag your way back to the ocean or river. If you’re not, you make it to a weird suburb. The buses run on a loop, the Euskotren(Topo) goes to every tiny hamlet you can imagine and taxis rarely exist outside the hotspots.

The first time I seriously lost my way was the first Thursday after I started working here.I came here determined to launch myself head first (drink in hand) into experiences, friendships and culture. This is why when someone suggested going to Pintxo Pote in Gros (THE thing to do on Thursday nights here) I enthusiastically agreed to join. Oh what a night we would have, how cultured I would feel, how much I would eat!I barged out of my apartment and followed my instincts, Gros, of course! That’s the old part of town. To hell with making my way there alone. I was an independent woman with Google maps.

I feel like when you get lost on the way somewhere it means that you never meant nor cared to find it in the first place.

Gros is AN old part of town but unfortunately it is not where I headed. One and a half hours later and I felt like I had been through something. I had seen things. I finally found friends, congratulated myself on surviving and enjoyed a dried-up croqueta and some txakoli. Was the hike worth it? Well I had learnt to navigate Parte Vieja quite rapidly.

On the way home, I also lost my way.

The second time I got lost was in Renteria where I work. I was walking my usual way to the Topo. For some unknown reason, probably because I was daydreaming, I took a wrong turn. Within seconds I was in the hazardous backstreets of Renteria, avoiding gang after gang, staring wild alley cats down with a fierce glare until finally I made the right decision and found the station.

Next time was not in Donosti but when I went to Bilbao for the day. Bilbao and I had a wonderful day together but it got really petty when I tried to get home. I still don’t know where I was but I do know that I was one of the only sober people there except for the beautiful prostitutes. I was so lost that I felt like I had become part of a community by the time I got out.

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So to the latest event.On Friday I tried to go to a gig in the woods. I’d had a fairly stressful week and I convinced the girls that a nice performance in a glade surrounded by nature would conquer any ill feelings we had towards the world. I happily suggested ways to get there and I hoped to arrive a little after them when I had finished work.

What followed was more of a spiritual retreat than anyone had intended.

I got off the Topo at Añorga. This according to Google maps was the best decision. The little stick man promised me a quick 12 minute jaunt to the Basque Culinary Centre. It seemed so direct and easier than changing for a bus. Añorga, how do I describe Añorga? Well put it this way, it’s like you couldn’t ever possibly go there on purpose. It’s like a bad marriage choice in the 1920s. Beautiful but not well-connected.As we approached the station, I eyed the intimidatingly large hill to my left. I then squinted at my stick man. It seemed like he was suggesting I veered left also. Into the trees.

While I was keen to see some folk music, there were some limits. I thought climbing a large hill in suede boots and coming down the other side to arrive at the venue to the tune of Climb Every Mountain which was already swirling around my head would be a tad over-dramatic, even for me. I had intended to keep a low, super-relaxed profile. It was Friday evening. I looked like a zombie professor. So I got back on the Topo.

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Seems so simple

The good news is I finally found out what happened to the Topo when it does the full Lasarte to Anoeta turn. The bad news is, I ended up in Anoeta.

“Bring beer”, my people said.

I went into three sweet shops to look for beer in Anoeta and not a damned one sold a can.

A short bus ride later I had arrived at a brightly-lit roundabout covered in steps. I hopped nervously off the bus, one foot at a time. The driver gave me a backwards glance and I imagined him saying a short goodbye to my lonely figure as he sped away. That’s when my world began to crumble. My housemate said she was coming to find me, a broken shell of a human being but I didn’t trust that I was in the right place. My battery had been at one percent for half an hour. This was truly the end of the line and I thanked my lucky stars that I was close to a hospital because it would surely have a vending machine.

I stood there, contemplating a return home and saying a silent goodbye to my Friday night and suddenly I heard something drift towards me from the trees below. The gentle  strumming of a guitar and an ethereal voice floating from the silence. It faded in and out in the breeze. God? Jesus? Singer-songwriter?

I emitted an audible gasp and ran hell for leather (shuffled)  towards the trees, past a couple having sex in a car (hi!) and towards a collection of people sitting at picnic tables. Not one single thought went to my housemate who I probably could’ve saved from climbing to reach me. All I could think about was finding my people below. There in the glade was a simple stage and an audience seated on hay bales. A hipster dream! Moments later, I was safely with friends, notably calmer and hey, only two hours later and four times more sober than I had originally anticipated. My housemate even came back safely.

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Charlie and The Colours @ Olatutalka

The thing that I’ve learnt about getting lost is that the more it happens, the less you panic. My theory is that if you make it there in the first place, you can find your way home somehow. Still, I was pretty jazzed that the organisers had arranged a bus return to the centre because I haven’t a clue how we would’ve got back otherwise.

 

(This blog comes with thanks to the Olatutalka festival  for the atmospheric and unique event or whoever else was involved and a nod to Adam Giles Levy whose voice I followed into the woods.)

 

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