For two weeks, I haven't been able to write. I have actually even struggled with the occasional tweet or text to the family. Call it writers block or fear or dread or depression. Call it whatever you like. I couldn't write.
Two weeks ago, Dapple died. We heard a clunk, then a jerk, then the engine went absolutely dead. DrC kept his cool, we coasted a bit, spotted a place to drop off the side of the road and (fortune smiled on us) we drifted into a unmarked rest stop just off the road. We were in the middle of Spain a few dozen kilometres out of Córdoba. There was nothing for kilometres around but this little wide spot with a natural spring and acres and acres of olives. Dapple was absolutely dead. We could see a large shiny chunk of Dapple's innards where a large shiny chunk absolutely should not be. Even with my limited understanding of diesel engines, it was obvious that we were not going anywhere soon.
We called the guy who sold us Dapple. DrC got a lift from a very friendly local into the nearest town and came back with a mechanic. He confirmed the Death of Dapple. Due to some complications with warranty repairs, we were instructed to wait. Wait for our Dutch dealer to work out something with his mechanic friend in Portugal regarding a tow and repair since Dapple is still well within our 3 month, 5000k warranty. So we waited.
Then we waited some more. The tow worked out would be Monday. It was Saturday. Nothing happens anywhere in Southern Europe on Sundays as near as I can tell so we were not particularly surprised. We wandered in the olive fields, we walked a few kilometres to a small town called Espejo for late afternoon beer.
Monday came and we waited some more. Monday became Tuesday. Sometime after noon on Tuesday with DrC pacing like a cat outside, we finally got confirmation that we'd get picked up. Today. Today was more like 8pm but at least we were moving again. And in all this time, I couldn't write. I couldn't really think. It was like being in amber. Disaster struck in New Zealand reminding me of past pain, past frustration, past horror and I couldn't feel and I couldn't do and I couldn't think.
By Wednesday afternoon, we were in the garage of the Portuguese mechanic in a hitherto completely unheard of place called Leiria. Sander was everything promised, but his first take on the dead Dapple was yep. That's really dead. It'll take awhile to fix, but he was confident she could be resurrected. We found a place to stay and tried to be patient while Sander took all the bits apart and figured out what it would take to put the egg back together. We did some shopping. We went to see Captain Marvel. We got an outfit to wear to the opera, in the faint hope we would actually get there. But Wednesday became Thursday and it was clear Dapple wasn't going to be ready before 'next week' - so we got on a train to Lisbon.
Lisbon is lovely. I liked it. I still felt like I was in a weird dissociative state but at least it was a fluid one. The news rolled by and my pride in my adoptive country grew along with worry for all of you. It's so hard. I wanted to write about the change curve the nation is just starting, how moments like these define a country and divide time into before and after. I wanted to mourn with you but also explain how deeply fearful I am having watched my birth country go so terribly pear shaped in the face of a sudden challenge of the fundamentals which constitute national character. But having truly adopted Kiwi ways, every time I hit the keyboard an enormous wave of Yeah nah hit me. Not this time. Not yet.
Tuesday looked promising. This would be the second Tuesday. Everything was coming together nicely. And then it wasn't. Still not great on Wednesday and by Thursday it was clear that we were in for another Nope for the weekend. Numb. Pained and numb. Opera in Milan, nope. Southern France. No time. Another fucking weekend in a hostel? Where. This time we chose the beach and were on a train Friday mid morning to Figueroa de Foz. I don't know. It was something to do.
This is all so stupid. The degree of privilege and selfishness in this entire story is painful to expose. I'm literally expressing a depressive state because poor me my European vacation of a lifetime hit a major hiccup. The thing about being sad about something is that no matter how many times you tell yourself your problems are minor and recoverable, it just never feels that way. Rational brain shuts down, emotionalism takes over. So as unprofessional and inane as it sounds, I'm really f*cking sad right now. We are back in Leiria, and we are still not out of the yard. Dapple is running, but I can tell by the way DrC is pacing around that the third Tuesday is going to go by, and I am still going to be in a little town in Portugal NOT living the life I wanted.
I feel sorry for myself. Okay? I didn't want to write anything, because I feel sorry for myself, and I'm pouting like a god damn toddler while people I know, love, care about are dealing with some really heavy grief. They are getting disestablished, they are grappling with the changes inevitably falling out of the Christchurch events, they are figuring out what it means to grow up and move out and not have mom pay for stuff. That's all real. And just like everything else about this EU sabbatical, Dapple's premature death isn't real at all. It's just frustrating and inconvenient.
Fortunately, I think that even I have a limit to wallowing. Time to suck it up, buttercup. Where's the rum?
LOCATION: Leiria, Portugal
PLAN: get the hell out of here
TIP OF THE WEEK: We have a lot to say about vehicle purchase warranties and how that plays out when you are a camper in Europe. For now let's just say get details, be careful, and ask yourself the question "if it's covered under the warranty, what is the fine print? Do I have tow it to the country I bought it from? How much would that cost? How long is a reasonable timeframe to get a warranty repair?"