Saturday, Februrary 27
My trip to Portugal started early on Saturday at 6:00 am. We left Sevilla for a six-hour bus ride to Lisbon ("Lisboa" in Spanish). The fifteen of us who had signed up for the exclusive, totally-planned tour of Portugal, were in for a fantastic ride. Little did we know that we would be entertained the whole time by Toba (nickname for Christopher, or in Spanish, Cristóbal, as in Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus)).
With bugged-eyed vintage classes, hippie clothes, long curly hair, and a big smile, Toba (or should I say, the self-proclaimed "Toba Turbo") guaranteed us an unforgettable weekend in Portugal. Toba made sure everyone was smiling the whole trip. When we asked Toba about his background, he described the day of this birth: his mother suddenly needed to go to the hospital, saying "Toba Turbo is coming." A native of Sevilla, Toba manages his own business, "International Party Sevilla" and works in the student travel agency hosting the Lisbon trip. By night, he juggles drinks as the bartender of the hip Sevilla nightclub,"The Jungle." Bottom line: Toba earns income by showing the endless rounds of American students in Sevilla how to have a good time. He has therefore adopted American youth colloquial language and speaks American English well. His favorite phrase is "you guys, you don't even know" (in describing how great something is). He cannot hide his Sevillano accent though, and often slips in and out of Spanish. The guy is straight out of a movie (like Bruno or Borat). Below, Toba preparing a peanut butter and chocolate snack bar at a rest stop along the way:
We had much to learn from Toba. He taught us traditional Sevilla songs and phrases like the Sevilla Feria song: "Obí, obí, obí, obá, cada día te quiero más." Also, the Sevilla tong-twister: "Amarra la jaca a la estaca que se escapa." He told us how to break the ice with Spaniards in order to better integrate ourselves into the culture. For talking to Spanish girls, Toba recommended embarrassing them (or at least making them laugh); otherwise, they will remain on their pedestal above you. The strategy: since you feel stupid speaking Spanish, make them feel silly by asking that they speak English; that way, they know how you feel. For American girls talking to Spanish boys? Toba says no advice needed.
As you can imagine, Toba has connections. Everyone, somehow, knows him. We ran into several acquaintances of his in Portugal at random. Others reunions were planned, which allowed us to tour Lisbon's hippest district, the Barrio Alto, on an exclusive bar crawl. We were also fortunate to have Elder, our driver for the whole trip and native of Portugal. He knew how to get us around, take us to the best restaurants, and swing by the beach. We truly entered Portugal through the back door.
Finally, Toba united the group of students and made everyone happy. He got everyone together for dinner the first night. We were solicited at our table by someone selling trinkets (common in Spain and Portugal). Knowing it was Claire's birthday, Toba bargained a good price for the crown the man was selling. He also commanded irresistible group hugs and silly sing-alongs like "Vamos a la Playa, oh oh oh oh oh" (We are going to the beach, oh oh oh oh oh). Under normal circumstances, I would not participate in this raw-raw behavior. But, Toba's charm won me over. Thanks to him, Elder, and a wonderful group of students, Portugal was truly unforgettable.