0110 Living at the Rehab Center (Spain 003—revisit)

Algeciras Travel Blog

 › entry 23 of 35 › view all entries

*For previous Spain adventures go to entry 0089

 Travel guides describe Algeciras as a boring, dangerous port city.  Don't believe it.  The city has a lot to offer.

 I guess I love this city because it was my first experience in the Old World back in 96.  Also, during the years that I was in Morocco on a tourist visa, this is where I'd come every three months to get my passport stamped.

 Don't get me wrong, I love Morocco, but frankly it was nice to occasionally come to a place where cars actually stop for pedestrians, where nobody notices me, and where women can walk around anytime, anywhere,  in whatever attire they choose without getting heckled and harrassed.

That's Gibraltar

 And of course, Spain has no shortage of plazas to parkbench at--just not much of an audience.  When I play my songs here at the plaza alta, ironically my only audience is a couple of Moroccans.

 And then there's beautiful Parque Maria Cristina with some cool recently-uncovered Moorish ruins...

 Next day, saw some old friends, got rained on and headed on my way...


 Here's an old blog on Algeciras from back in 96 that I'll paste on here...

 March, 1996

The first couple of days, the other two male students and myself stayed in an apartment with a couple of Mexicans working in Algeciras.  But as it was obvious that we were in no shape to pitch in financially, our welcome wore thin quite quickly.  So our director came up with an alternative solution: we could live at the local drug rehab center for free.

  He made arrangements so we could work there in the mornings and take our courses in the afternoons.  Not exactly what we'd had in mind, but me an Jaime decided we were game. (The other fellow called it quits and headed back to Mexico.)

 As it turned out, the rehab center turned out to be a great window into the dark underside of Spanish society.  I had the chance to see the full vicious cycle that heroin has wracked on these fellows: They experiment with drugs when they're young.  Become addicted.  Try to come clean.  Fall back into drug use.  Try to come clean.  Get married and have kids.  Fall back into drug use.  Contract AIDS.  Try to come clean...

 Heroin is a brutal master. 

 I was pretty much treated as "one of the gang".

  I couldn't go anywhere unnaccompanied.  I'd go with them to collect old furniture which we'd carry (sometimes down 8 flights of stairs), and either discard or sell.  We'd go collect donated food (I learned that yoghurt is good well past its expiration date--just watch for the green stuff!).  And of course, we'd watch Real Madrid vs. Barcelona on Saturdays...  It was sort of a cross between military boot camp and a frat house--with a tinge of sadness...

 I quickly learned that--despite their historical bond--Spaniards and Mexicans are quite distinct culturally.  Spaniards are very blunt--they'll tell you what they think of you on the spot.  Their also quick to get into verbal fights--but these very rarely lead to blows.  Andalucians in particular are quite witty and humorous.  

Overall, a great experience in Spain--although I was getting more and more antsy to get down to Morocco...

Back to the present…

Now I feel a tinge of nostalgia as I remember what it felt like to be far from home in a completely foreign culture for the first time… Those were exciting and sometimes scary days…

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Thats Gibraltar
That's Gibraltar
Moorish ruins
Moorish ruins
Algeciras is in my 2nd music video
photo by: Riz7