Serendipitous Encounters

When I entered Mad Hostel, I noticed an attractive, Indian-looking girl at the front desk. I asked her in Spanish where she was from. “Los Estados Unidos,” she responded with a thick, American accent. I laughed and teased her in English that she needed to work on her accent. We started chatting while she waited for her room key.

Her name is Samantha, a.k.a Sam, and she hails from Ohio. She is in town because she’s starting a study-abroad program in Spain. I told her about my plan to take a train to Valencia in a few hours to try and make it to the La Tomatina festival in the nearby town of Buñol. Oh, there are two guys in the lobby booking a bus to Buñol, Sam offered. A direct trip to Buñol sounded much better than my roundabout itinerary. I thanked her for the info and found Kagan (pronounced “Kahn”) and Alex in the lobby.

The guys informed me that there was a 5:00am bus leaving for Buñol. It was scheduled especially for La Tomatina, and it would also bring us back to Madrid later in the evening. Kagan and Alex had made reservations online just then, but they weren’t sure if the reservations actually registered since it was so late. They planned to walk to the departure point and show the bus driver a print-out of the “reservation pending” notice they received via email. I decided to do the same.

It was around 3:00am at this point, so we had some time to kill. I was pretty hungry. I had seen an open restaurant on the way to the hostel, and I told Kagan and Alex I was going to grab something to eat. Alex headed to his room to try and sleep for a bit, and Kagan offered to come along with me.

Kagan, it turns out, is from Istanbul, Turkey. He’s a big, burly guy with a bushy beard and long, curly black hair. He reminds me of a bear. He has a cool, laid-back attitude, which makes him easy to talk to. It also helps with the ladies, I think. Sam, the girl back at the hostel, appeared to be infatuated with him. Kagan and I had a good discussion about politics and the especially friendly Turkish-Pakistani political relationship. I plan to visit Istanbul near the end of my tour, and I feel that my meeting Kagan is another one of those fated moments that are becoming so common along my journey.

When Kagan, Alex, and I arrived at the bus stop, there were already several people gathered there. I met many Americans, mostly study-abroad students. Several other people were in the same situation as us. They made reservations online but didn’t get confirmations. We were all there to try our luck.

I was the first to board when the bus arrived. The driver seemed nonchalant, and Kagan, Alex, and I scampered to the back of the bus, relieved that there weren’t any issues. Soon, however, a young man boarded the bus with a clipboard. He cross-checked people’s names to make sure they were supposed to be on board. My heart sank. Did this mean we would be kicked off? Before he reached us, he came across some American students who didn’t have reservations either. Instead of booting them off the bus though, he took a cash payment from them and assured them that their credit cards would not be charged. We breathed a sigh of relief, and when our turn came, we paid cash, too. The bus rumbled to a start, and we set out for the La Tomatina festival in Buñol.

There’s a moral here, folks. If you see a pretty girl, talk to her.

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