Last night coming off the beach after a surf at Arrifana, I ran into M and P parked at the parking lot at the top where they’ve been camping out in their vans. If you remember, they were guests at my Thanksgiving dinner, and M and I have been in touch here and there since then, mostly about the condition of the surf and the like.
While I was talking to those guys (the beautiful boy from Guernsey was no longer with them, unfortunately — he’s already gone back home), another traveling surfer I hadn’t seen before came around and asked me, in a very American accent, if I knew of an Internet cafe. Born in the U.K., R is more or less American, having grown up in Indiana, where his parents moved when he was two, although he travels on a U.K. passport and is technically British.
I was thrilled to meet another “American” (mais ou menos, as the Portuguese say), and spent some time chatting with him. He’d been living in France for the last four years working here and there as a chef both on land and on boats, but has been traveling in Portugal since mid-October, with plans to move to Amsterdam with a brief trip to England for the holidays in the works.
I invited the three of them over to dinner last night but they didn’t come, which turned out to be just as well because I now have two freelance stories due in the next two days, so needed the time to work.
This morning, I drove to Arrifana to check out the surf, hoping I could get a quick dip in before having to do some work in the afternoon. On the way over on the only road that goes there, I saw M and P pass by in their vans, but didn’t see R with them. The thought flashed in my head that there was a reason he was still back at Arrifana — that there was a reason I was meant to miss the Thanksgiving boys and see him instead.
That reason turned out to be van trouble; when I got to the parking lot overlooking Arrifana, R had the engine compartment of his van (which is in the front seat) open and was working on it. He said the other guys took off without offering help, and he was glad I came along when I did because, based on my offer to cook dinner for them last night, I seemed like a good hearted and generous person.
And so that’s how it came to be that I spent most of the morning and part of the early afternoon helping a fellow American (sort of) figure out what’s wrong with his van. I took him to a mechanic I knew of down the road, where he dropped off his battery to be recharged, and then I sat in the sun enjoying an unseasonably warm day while he tinkered more with his van, waiting to give him a jump start when he said he’d be ready.
As I sat there, talking with him about his life philosphy (similar to mine), his experiences in France and traveling around on boats in the Mediterranean and his plan to move to the Netherlands, enjoying the sun on my face and watching below as a huge swell pummeled Arrifana (it was so big and messy no surfers were in the water), I once again felt pretty blessed.
While most of the people I know were waking to cold weather and getting ready to head to their jobs in offices where they will sit all day under the harsh glow of fluorescent light, I was sitting in the warm December (December!) sun overlooking one of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches, chatting up a cute, shirtless surfer who was going about manly, mechanical tasks that involved lots of sweat and grease. Does it really get any better than that?
I had to leave R to get back to my house to do some work before he resolved his car issue, so I don’t know the end of the story that started with a chance meeting and a good deed.
I’m glad I could help him out, in appreciation for all the lovely people here who have gone out of their way to help a stranger fumble her way toward a possible new life. And I hope he passes the goodness on.