This is the final installment of my posts entitled “Would you do get this for me?” but this one is a slight variation from the first and second parts. In this case, we weren’t being asked to bring something back from where we were traveling; it was a request from someone back home to do something very special.
Through my Spanish Conversation group, I had met a very nice Spanish woman who had just come to the US to work. She needed help with her English for her job, so I set her up for a language exchange with my wife who wanted to learn Spanish. During her stay, her English improved greatly. Meanwhile, she helped us decide where we wanted to spend a month in Spain later that year.
We had originally thought that we would like to stay for a month in Girona, in the heart of Catalonia, where I believed that my wife would be able to learn Spanish and I could pick up some Catalán. Lucia cautioned against this, instead recommending that we choose Madrid since we had never spent more than 3-4 days at a time in Spain’s capital city.
This turned out to be a good decision because when after spending two days in Girona, we had seen almost everything we wanted to see. Our month in Madrid was full of exciting surprises, including the discovery of many excellent Chinese restaurants.
At the end of our stay in Madrid, we still had 12 days before we had to be in Malaga from where we were returning to the US. We wanted to spend at least three nights in Seville and Malaga, so we had time to take a leisurely route through the west-central part of Spain known as the Extremadura which borders on central Portugal. We stayed in the city of Cáceres, a walled city dating back to the 12th century Moorish times.
When we wrote our friend Lucia that we were in Caceres, she asked us if we would do her a favor. Her mother’s family came from the city of Brozas, 25 miles from Caceres which was on the road to the town of Alcantara which is famous for a Roman bridge across the Tagus River.
Lucia’s request was that we leave some flowers at the tombstone of her mother in the public cemetery of Brozas. She had explained earlier to us that when she was about 10 years old, she had been brought to Brozas to spend time with her grandparents. While returning to their home city in the northern Spain, her parents and her younger sister were killed in a car accident.
As we entered the city of Brozas at noontime, the area around the main church was unusually quiet. We were able to find a small store where we purchased some flowers. Our GPS wouldn’t show us the correct route to the town cemetery but a person we met along the way offered to lead us to it just outside the city. Only one person was working there when we arrived and when he saw me taking pictures, he approached me.
“Why would you be taking pictures in a cemetery?” he asked.
When I began to explain that I wanted to record our search for Lucia’s family plot, his eyes lit up.
“I knew the family well and I was a youngster when this happened,” he said, recalling the accident from some forty years before.
“I didn’t know that Lucia was in the United States right now,” he told me, as he brought us to the mausoleum plot of Lucia’s family.
“Last time I spoke to her, she was living in Madrid,” he said.
I immediately called Lucia on the phone. She was deeply moved by our visit to her family’s burial site. She was amazed that the caretaker of the cemetery was someone she knew since childhood. You could tell that she appreciated this personal favor.
For my wife and me, the real joy of traveling has always been the opportunity to have these authentic experiences. We have been on many trips or excursions where we have visited places on someone’s “must-see” list, but after a while, they are not especially meaningful. But we will forever remember the cemetery in a little town in Spain and the Indian city of Jodhpur because of the personal connection we had with these places.