This story is a part of the#30dayswritingchallenge project that I am working on now, with today’s topic is “a memory”. You can find my other stories on my profile.

I worked in a blue-chip Danish shipping line company. My placement was in Jakarta.

After more than a year served as Care Business Partner, I got my dream role to switch to an Account Manager position in January 2019. It was in the Sales department. Been there for like two months, I got a surprise notification from my manager that all account managers would have come to Madrid for a company global sales conference.

I was in aww! Is this for real? I will travel to Europe again since my college time in the Netherlands finished two years back. After examining a formal invitation from the global team in the HQ, it was confirmed that I must go to Madrid.

The global conference was held in April for a week. The company will cover all expenses during our stay there, including the Schengen visa request. The roundtrip ticket from/to Madrid, accommodation, consumption — we got it for free. Another good news is the company allowed the conference participants to come earlier or leave later in Madrid from the event date — with the personal expenses. I took this leeway for having a short budget trip to Seville with a colleague.

My colleague and I mapped our itinerary. We agreed to come to Madrid earlier and spare the two days trip to Seville. Arriving at Barajas Airport at around 10 pm, we have arranged our journey to Seville the next morning by train from Madrid Atocha Station. Considering our limited budget, we planned to stay a night at the station and then caught the first train to Seville. Then, we would spend two days and one night in Seville, visiting some nice spots (Plaza de Espana and Alcazar) and wandering the city before going back to Madrid by bus to join the conference.

However, things did not run smoothly as a plan. After touching down at Atocha Station, we were shocked knowing that the station will be closed at 23:59. It was the thing that we didn’t expect to happen. My friend and I stared at each other thinking of the best solution: spending extra money for five hours in a hotel — by considering it was 23:00 already. We thought that there was no other better solution other than that.

We then moved out of the station and just about to look for a hotel. And that was when the sh*t happen! Around 300 meters from the station exit door, there was a cross-road. While I was waiting to cross the road since the traffic light was signed as red, a Spanish guy came approaching me, talking in his language. I thought he was talking about something serious and asked for help. Both my friend and I don’t speak Spanish.

“Disculpa, no hablamos Español” — that’s the very limited Spanish words I prepared earlier.

“Aah, so you don’t speak Spanish, my friend? No problem. Won’t be an issue. You will enjoy Madrid.”

He spoke in English. A minute later, it was scary since the guy hugged me suddenly. I froze for a while. Carrying a suitcase on hand with a backpack in the windy night in Madrid, a stranger hugged me tightly and screamed close to my ears, “Welcome to Madrid, my friend!”

It was, of course, an awkward moment. I forced the guy to lift off the huge. Then, he walked away, saying some indistinct words.

Not long after the traffic light reflected yellow then green, I crossed the road immediately. We just stopped at some hotels near the station, none of them were available for booking. We searched for others online, also all fully booked. After two hours of wandering the city, the weather turned too cold. Too bad that we could not get a hotel while the clock indicated 1 am.

We determined to stop at a cafe for a meal. Just got an idea since there was no hotel to book, staying for short hours in a cafe wouldn’t matter for us. However, unlucky since no cafe in Spain open for 24 hours — at least that was what a local guy told us in a cafe.

Once we finish our meal, I was about to pay the bill. But, surprisingly I could not get my wallet in my trouser pocket. I clearly remembered that I kept my wallet there. I tried to get it in my jacket pocket as per my friend’s suggestion, there was none. Also on my backpack and my suitcase. There was no wallet. All of my cards, e.g. personal identity cards, debit cards, and insurance cards were kept there. I fluttered. So did my friend.

I then recalled the time when the stranger guy hugged me like crazy and screamed: “Welcome to Madrid!”. I was sure that was the last time my wallet was there. I was also sure that the guy pilfered it from my pocket. Perhaps, that was what he meant by saying that word — Welcome to Madrid!

It was only my first day there and a bad thing appears. But there was no time for long grief. I had been there for free. And in five hours I would be in Seville for an escape. Life must go on!

Long story short, I reached Seville. And man, the town was wonderful. The city buildings look old but gold with a sign of artistic heritage. To me, Seville fascinates you with its intense passion, melancholy, and old secrets. Here are some snapshots from my visit to Seville.

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