Sunday, May 1, 2016

Walking Fish

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “like a fish out of water” to describe someone out of their environment, out of their comfort zone, out of their depth. Well, that was Steve and me these past 12 days in Spain and France—two fish, definitely out of water. We (let’s be honest—I) approached this whole adventure with much trepidation. We tried to pack clothes that would make us appear more like locals (albeit locals who stash their cash in hidden bags and belts) than tourists. We speak one language, with small, not particularly helpful, smatterings of a few others. We are unused to long international flights, foreign metro systems (Lansdale-Doylestown line is about our speed), and the ubiquitous euro.

Evan's very narrow street in Barcelona
What we don’t know about being cosmopolitan Europeans could fill a book (and did—I kept a journal). We got turned around (MANY times) on Barcelona’s narrow, winding streets, as well as Paris’ wide boulevards, despite guidebooks, maps and iPhone apps. We tipped when we didn’t need to (it’s usually included in the bill) and didn’t when we probably should have. We ordered Café Americano every morning expecting—well, American coffee, and instead got teensy cups of watered down espresso (I took to ordering two cups at a time just for me, and still felt under-caffeinated). There were moments, as we hopped on the metro going in the opposite direction from our intended destination, when I wondered just why we thought we could handle a trip like this.
Entrance to Paris Metro

But as the days went on, we began to feel comfortable. Evan’s presence in Barcelona helped hugely—not only did he have a great place for us to stay, but he was really knowledgeable about the nuts and bolts of transportation, the must-see sights, the best tapas bars. The other huge help (and this was true in Paris as well): the warmth and kindness of the people (yes, even the Parisians!) No one laughed at our pronunciation of “gracias” or “s’il vous plait.” We were served fabulous food and drink with genuine smiles; patient passersby gave us directions to this museum or that cathedral. Though we’d been warned about pickpockets, we emerged with all possessions intact (and frankly never saw any suspicious behavior). While the street signs were sometimes missing or hard to see (not unlike, ahem, Philadelphia), I have to say both cities were pretty darned user-friendly—or maybe we just became better “users” over time.

I recently read about a species of fish that live in Thailand known as walking fish, who have developed the

The Walking Fish
ability to spend large amounts of time on land (they can even climb rocks!) They have somehow biologically adapted, to allow them to survive and thrive. So maybe, just maybe, Steve and I might have been “walking fish” as well: out of water, perhaps, but learning to successfully navigate a completely different—and wonderful— environment. Climbing to new heights of experience and understanding. Thankful for this chance to see another part of our amazing world.