Panic. Heart pumping, breath shallow, quick. The bag was gone. With it, a passport, credit and ATM cards, laptop, iPod, Eurail ticket.

I was gone two minutes, buying a snack in a cafe while we waited for a connection from Madrid to Valencia. My bag and Michael’s lay under our small table. A woman told us she had seen the man with the yellow tshirt bend over to tie his shoe and slip the strap of Michael’s small bag over his wrist before he quickly stood up and walked off with it and his own bag over his other shoulder. Michael had been sitting right there. Not eating, not listening to music, no distractions. He had simply been sitting with his back to the man at the table behind us. The bag was resting against the table instead of against his leg. I was just lucky that my bag had been out of his reach.

Lesson learned.

The next two days were surprisingly stress-free for me. Michael took care of getting a temporary replacement passport and cancelling his cards, and put his Spanish to good use while filing a police report. I would play bank for the following weeks, until the cards came. The whole thing went smoothly — Madrid was the best place for it to happen. Our trusty friend Don came to the rescue and hosted us for two extra nights.

I even got to see a friend and ex-coworker of mine who was also teaching English in Europe. Jordan, another Wisconsinite, took me to see the play Los Miserables, the Spanish version of the wonderful musical Les Miserables. The passion, strife, and intensity of the story was much better suited to the telenovella-like acting qualities that the Spanish actors imposed on the characters they played. Regardless of the slight language barrier, I had a fantastic time seeing a completely different version of a theatrical production I’ve known since childhood.

While regrouping from the roadblock, a night out in Madrid and an afternoon in Jordan’s pool made the whole thing seem like a vacation again. It was easy to stay optimistic with a couple good friends around to help us out, and before we knew it, we were on the road again to Valencia and Gandia beach…


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