It was something like 10:00 in the morning. We had just had breakfast: green tea and wholemeal bread toasts with orange jam and cheese. It was cold in the dining room and Abi was preparing breakfast for a couple who stayed in the house, so we decided to go upstairs to our room to continue our morning routine, calm and warm.
Manu came out first and I followed him. We went upstairs, he opened the door of our room, and after a while I arrived there. Before entering I came across a little woman, blonde, with an angry face, whom I greeted but she did not return the “good morning”. I thought, “Did I say it in English?” “Did she understand me?” Our pronunciation is not the most polished, but I still went into our room and told Manu in a very prejudiced way: “I greeted an old woman who is staying in the room just in front of us, and did not answer a thing.” Yes, it is not good manners not to respond to a “good morning”, but until that moment I did not know what was the reason and my comment of “old woman” was contemptuous and I am not proud of it. And it’s not because I have something against “the old ones”. I already have gray hair.
Not even two minutes passed, and I was walking to the chair to start with the technological activities of the day, when suddenly, someone knocked loudly at the door. “What is it?!” we thought in unison. Those knocks indicated urgency, so I went quickly to open the door.
To my surprise, on the other side there she was, the little woman who had not greeted me, opening her eyes like ostrich fried eggs, with a murderer face that frightened me, and without waiting for me to ask nicely what she needed, peered through the room and when she saw Manu, she pointed with her finger at him and started shouting “You stole my money!”
“What?!” We thought again in unison (a year and a half traveling together without separating us practically not even two continuous minutes, lead us not knowing where it starts what one of us thinks and where it starts what the other one thinks). Without giving us time to process such an accusation, the dagger shook our heart again: “Yes! You stole my money!” Repeated the woman, her eyes even more exorbitant. And she went on, shouting in English: “I saw you! I left my room to go to the bathroom, I closed the door and when I came back you were entering your room, the door of mine (which is directly opposite) was open and my money is not there! I had 90 euros and now they are not there! You stole my money!”
Manu does not get angry easily. And I do not say this for the fear that he will get angry. He is very patient, very calm. But in this case, the accusation went beyond any limit and some smoke began to flow through his ears. Never, in all of his or my life, had somebody called us, “thieves”. And this lady, whom two minutes ago we had the pleasure of meeting, was pointing and accusing us with all the letters in the alphabet.
I went down to call Abi to intercede because the woman showed no signs of starting to calm down or giving space to any kind of explanation we could offer about the reasons she might be wrong. So it is, that she went into our room to look for the money and when she did not find it, she retired saying: “very convenient!”. And while we argued that there was not even a possibility that it was us, she caught a glimpse of a glove that I use as an exfoliant in the shower and accused us of using it to avoid traces of fingerprints. Manu made half a smile of those ones “I laugh not to cry,” and sayed softly “what do you do, ‘Criminal Mind’?!”
Abi went upstairs, tried to calm her and confirmed that we were downstairs in the dining room and that we had gone up two minutes ago, but the lady kept pointing out to us and repeating that she had called the police, they were on the way and they were going to take care of everything. As good “cockies” that we are, we answered that we did not care; they should come! We were not guilty of absolutely nothing. But we also warned her that they were likely to find money among our belongings because we also had something with us and there was no way to prove, that money was not ours. To which she replied again “very convenient”.
We returned to our room and closed the door to calm down. We began to feel a knot in the stomach because even though we knew we were not guilty, the fact that the police could come to interrogate us and stir our things, did not make us any fun at all. And if we add the fact that we are travellers, that we are foreigners, that we do not even have English as our mother tongue and Irish accent is very difficult to understand… Although we have years over learning the language, sometimes it is not enough and this is seriously complicated in a stressful situation.
We could not concentrate on anything else and we reshaped the scene again and again. Until somebody knocked again at the door, this time with a much softer force, and when we opened there was the woman apologizing for the error and the accusation. Her husband had just arrived from outside, he found her and the reason for the commotion, and confessed that he had left the money in the car the previous night.
The woman was so embarrassed, she not only apologized but also invited us breakfast for the next morning. Breakfast which, aside, we enjoyed as hungry pigs. It was delicious!
But how much bitterness would have been avoided having consulted as the first measure if that man had accidentally taken money!
And yet it was easier to distrust. Or not. Perhaps the lady was going through a complicated moment and her reason became clouded. Or perhaps the woman already came with a mentality and as a consequence a certain predisposition to prejudice towards foreigners. Perhaps before we met, she had already branded us as thieves.
Had they been her prejudices? Are they just our own prejudices? How can we know?
We inhabit a world in which prejudice is commonplace and no one escapes. We live by hating, discriminating, cracking, building walls. In a globalized world, we become more and more individualistic. I read the news, facebook, twitter, instagram… There is not a day when I do not find horrible news about femicides, racism, xenophobia, wars by religious ideologies (or using the motto as a battlehorse), highly offensive comments against political parties. The sad thing is that our own leaders approve and promote all this violence and the media is constantly brainwashing us.
Instead of celebrating the differences, we do not tolerate them at all. But in case some did not realize… we are not equal. We are not clones. We are different and there it is the wealth of humanity.
If you are interested, as a separate note but also related, we recommend you to visit Thoughts – What is the homeland?
Traveling opens you to many different situations, makes you know them in your “own flesh”, makes you trust, believe, want and respect a little more to the other. But it is not the only way to give a twist to the sense we are giving to the world. We have to stop a little, start thinking about the consequences of everything we are doing today. If today I rant to the “choripaneros” (to put a current example of offense in Argentina) by the mere fact of belonging to a social class different from mine, I can not expect my children not to inherit that hatred. And my grandchildren. And who knows where the line ends. The so-called phrase “hate generates more hatred”, is nothing more than that. Multiply horrendous feelings.
Lets begin to tolerate a little more. To look a little beyond prejudice. Not to focus on what we think. Let’s not see a single face of the coin. And I tell it myself daily too, because I am no Mother Teresa of Calcutta. We all make mistakes, but we also have the tools at our disposal to start correcting them and stop repeating them.
Thanks for reading, if you came to the end.
This is not just a boring travelling blog. Hopefully we can also transmit a little bit of conscience and we can grow together in our hearts.
Until the routes meet us again!
Kingscourt, Ireland – 11.04.17