Go away rain!
Fellow Muslimah~ I had waited eagerly for the next metro to Serrano; where I was to meet the group going to Portugal. Basically 10 minutes later, the metro arrived. I guess it was late because these were the last two hours before they closed for a while. Once I got to Serrano, I asked the security officials what exit was the fastest to the bus stop. Naturally, I had walked for a bit before realizing that I was on the wrong direction. I finally found my way and got on the only bus available. I sat on the bus for a while. “Este es para Traveler guiders” I asked another traveler sitting by me. “Sí” she replied. ” Ok, time to start scanning around on who I could hang out with for this trip” I thought to myself. There were already some people who had their groups. I was looking for the single people like me so we can form an “alliance”. Suddenly I saw a girl wearing the Hijab. “Am I seeing what I am seeing?!” I exclaimed internally to myself. There is a Muslimah on this trip!” The exclamation continued. I was so excited that I mentally planned how we would be best friends. ” Ok, first things first, we would definitely take selfies together”, “Pray together” omg! The tour guides came in the bus I kept hearing one of them tell his guide partner ” La gente para Barcelona están aqui” “Barcelona?!, what.. “Um Hello I am going to Portugal” I said out loud of course without anyone hearing me. I got up and asked which group this bus was heading for. “Barcelona” the other tour guide replied. ” Um, I ‘m going to Portugal” I said quickly.. “oh your bus is behind” he said pointing towards it. I hurried, got my stuff and made a line for the other bus. “I guess, I wouldn’t meet the Muslimah” I sighed.
Making friends~ Since my move to Madrid, I have started getting used to doing things like traveling, going to restaurants and shopping by myself. The old me would dread that, it seemed scary and lonely at first but now I am getting with the idea that it is ok being comfortable with being with just YOU. So I was less frightened to embark on this weekend trip to Portugal by myself, I mean I did it before in Morocco. Sometimes when you go alone, you even get to make friends with more people. I believe this was the case for me in Portugal. At first it was intimidating, literally everyone came with their groups: The Italians, The Mexicans, The Latinos, The French, The Americans and so on. I first tagged along with the two American girls on the trip. It was the easy choice- same country, same native language- We had breakfast together. One of the girls ordered the heaviest breakfast I had seen in my life; Oporto’s specialty Francheshina. My oh my did Francheshina get so much celebrity attention. Every passerby had to check it out. I couldn’t try Francheshina as it had pig meat. I just had a simple tomato and cheese sandwich.
After breakfast, we did our group tour. We headed over to the bridge crossing the Ribiera. At this moment everyone took out their cameras for selfies. I took a couple when suddenly I saw a girl struggling to take a selfie by herself. The American girls had skedaddled off without telling me. I guess they had a closer bond since they had known each other longer before the trip. I walked over to the girl struggling to take her selfie and asked her if she needed any help. “Boom” a friendship had been made. After I helped her with her picture she helped me with mine. My new friend, Maryss was from Puerto Rico, we got to know each other (by the way speaking Spanish entirely). It was an amazing feeling. “Did you come by yourself?” she asked “Yes” I replied. “You should totally join my friends and I” Maryss offered. We all got back on the bus. I sat down in the best position one can get on a trip~by the window~. There was a guy from Mexico who had sat by me from Madrid. I hadn’t said a word to him and he hadn’t to me. “LLuvia, basta ya!” I said ~Weather is the best ice breaker~ “I know right!” he replied. From then on I got to know Julio from Mexico. We asked about where were from, Spanish food, Mexican food, Traveling, unfortunately Donald Trump etc. Once we got down from the bus, Julio introduced me to his friends. I was on a roll.
“Quien quiere montar el barco por el Ribiera?” our guide asked. It was raining and we had the option of either still riding the boat as initially planned or staying in the bus. I made up my mind to enjoy Oporto rain or no rain. Maryss walked up to my seat and asked what I wanted to do. It turned out that we thought the same way. So we and a few other travelers got on the boat. There I made friends with another girl Lisset from Ecuador. She was hilarious and I guess I liked her because she laughed at every thing I said. While we couldn’t see much out of the boat because of the rain, I was chatting and laughing away with the people I had known in a short while.
After our rainy boat excursion we finally headed to our hostel. Now, this was my first experience at a hostel and my initial thought had always been like “eew, 8 people in a bedroom how cramped, Airbnb all the way!”. But the hostel at Oporto changed my perception immediately. It was new, clean and spacious. Since I came alone, I couldn’t go with “my group” to our room. After everyone had been assigned a room, I got a room with the people who were groups of two which were the people I had already befriended. Everything was turning out different than I imagined. We got into our rooms, which was huge. It had eight bunk beds. I ran to the top (for some reason I have always liked the top bunk bed). I got settled in for a bit; charged my phone, washed my face, prayed and then headed out. I had planned with Maryss and the 2 American girls to explore Oporto. We asked the hostel lady on her suggestions for the best places to see and eat. She gave us a map and highlighted major areas. We thanked her and embarked on our adventure.
Raining all day~ My ideal image for the whole weekend in Portugal was sun, beautiful scenery, and more sun. Boy did I not expect so much rain when arriving Oporto, . It rained and rained and rained during our entire trip there. The rain distorted some of the plans our tour guides had. For most of the trip we had to sight see from the bus. The most devastating was when we got on our boat,it started raining cats and dogs. We could see nada. So we all just sat in the boat, grimly listening to the guides explanation of the sights we couldn’t see due to the rain. “If this is my first trip and possibly only trip to Portugal, I better make the best of it rain or no rain” I finally decided. So after our guide had let us free like a bird, I toured around Oporto with the new friends I made. We were soaked like wet birds even risking getting sick but it was all part of the adventure. Of course towards the end we had to buy Ponchos and Maryss got new rain boots.
Prayer, Prayer, Prayer~ As Muslims that pray, one of the biggest challenges we face when traveling is getting to pray on time. For my morning prayer, I had done that on the bus. I was constantly worried that I would have to combine all my prayers towards the end of the day because being with a travel group, everything was structured. My advantage was that I could shorten my prayers and combined the two afternoon ones (Zhuhr and Asr), but what about my night prayers? What if I have to do all of them at once? Not good. All these thoughts were running through my head. I quickly asked the guide when we would get to our hostel. “14:00” he said. This was perfect. So when I got to the hostel I quickly did my afternoon prayers and then after coming back did my night prayers. I felt relieved for the day. “Now, I would have to figure out for the next two days” I thought again. 5 minutes later I found out that God had given me a break from praying. “Alhamdullilah, I wouldn’t have to be late for any prayer throughout this trip” I sighed, relieved.
Languages~ The short time I had in Oporto, I quickly learnt that the Portuguese were well versed in many European languages which gave them access to connection with a diverse group of people. I heard the staff at the restaurant where we had breakfast speak at least 5 languages to the various costumers walking in. He spoke Spanish with me, French with another lady, German with a group of young travelers, English with other travelers and of course Portuguese with his co-worker. It was amazing. This same access is what I believe help me connect with the new friends I made on the trip. Although I know only Spanish and English, it’s amazing what it had done for me. With that being said, not everyone on the streets of Portugal were multilingual. When my friends and I toured Oporto, we got lost a lot. We asked a couple of passersby for direction. There was a lady who we tried asking in English first, she didn’t understand and then we tried in Spanish,that didn’t work either. We eventually resorted to hand language. She spoke in Portuguese using her hands and we were trying to pick out the Spanish sounding words in Portuguese. After she got done with her explanation, one of the American girls said “Danke”. The lady looked puzzled. I grabbed her and burst out laughing. Really “Danke”? Are we in Germany? It was too funny. We all laughed about the situation and finally decided that at least we should know how to say Hello, Goodbye and Thank You in Portuguese.
My time in Oporto was eventually great. A lot of things I was initially worried about like making friends, praying, rain; all worked out better than I imagined. We had had a blast in Oporto, trying their delicious bacalhau meals, pastel de nata and ofcourse the beautiful scenaries with a touch of rain. We spent only a day in Oporto. The next day we started with a scrumptious breakfast from the hostel and then headed off to our next destinations: Sintra and Lisbon.