The day after Christmas I fell ill and didn’t leave my bed for several days. Looking at it from a positive perspective I could say that my knees definitely got some rest. Having no appetite meant I didn’t eat anything for a few days, so I got as thin as a stick. Some people say I was already thin as a stick, but that only shows there are different kinds of sticks. Not eating anything was also good for my budget.
Every supermarket in Portugal has a section dried fish, mostly bacalhau (cod) that exudes a very typical and instantly recognisable smell.
I meet a Frenchman who doesn’t speak English. I don’t speak French very well, but that doesn’t matter, he only wants to speak to me. I am the only one in this hostel who understands any French at all. He is indignant. Thirty years ago, everybody speaks French in Portugal, he says, now, no one speaks French anymore. He’s 63 years old and a pensioner. The first day he tries to find out how to travel to Seville in Spain. Every time we meet he tells me about bus-schedules and train timetables. The second day he’s found out the train only goes to the border, but doesn’t continue because there’s no bridge. And there are only two direct buses to Spain per day. He points at a map of Portugal. Look at the Algarve. It’s a poor region and no good transport links to Spain. You know why? I have no idea, but I fear a conspiracy theory and I want to go away.
In the new year I go to the hospital. The receptionist doesn’t speak English. He asks if anyone speaks English and a feeble, old man steps forward to translate. I have to wait. The waiting room is full of old people and there’s a television with the sound turned off. I try to follow the news but it’s difficult to decipher the headlines. It appears a lot of people have died. Mainly everywhere. After the news, a Brazilian soap is shown and, bereft of my only distraction, I hope I don’t have to wait much longer. About three hours later I hear my name over the loudspeaker. I have my knees X-rayed and it seems I got Baker’s Cyst. I get a lot of prescriptions.
I ask if I can ride my bicycle.
Better not if you have pain, she says.
It seems I have to stay a bit longer in Faro. When I leave the hospital the sun has almost gone.