The rest of the day went fast. Later in the afternoon, Antonio decided to go exploring. As soon as he stepped outside, once again the cloud of children came to him. It took fast walking and some convincing to make them realize that he was not going to buy anything.
Walking around downtown made him re-appreciate the beauty of the place. Pink flowering bougainvillea bushes covered the sidewalk gardens, while palm tress of all sizes adorned the middle of the streets and contained the traffic chaos.
The streets were busy with cars going in all directions, motorcycles crossing each other at stunning speed, bicycles carrying baskets of fruit and vegetables, and slow-moving wagons carrying the weight of enormous loads of unknown nature. It was orchestrated pandemonium, nothing like back where he had live most of his life.
Everything contributed to keep a light cloud of red dust in the air. It stuck to the humid skin. Bystanders looked at him, smiled, while vendors said hello and signalled him to visit their stands. What locals saw was someone who did not belong there, except as a client to whom they could sell their homemade crafts.
It took Antonio a couple of hours to walk the streets. Every few metres he stopped to look at incredible works of art made with straw, wood, or leader. After a while, he felt comfortable asking questions and talking to the vendors who were as willing to explain how they made the objects as they were anxious to make a sale.
When the sun came down, the small cafés and eateries began to fill with noisy young people and workers in their formal suits from the offices around, just following up on their business meetings. The evening went by fast. After a quick snack and a couple of drinks of the local elixir, he decided to walk back to the hotel. His plan was to start at sunrise the next morning to take the train early, not knowing how busy the old station was going to be, and wondering if he should continue the trip at all.
He reached the hotel just when the young night was beginning to show a sliver of the moon. A cool breeze, brought by the sunset, made sitting outside more pleasant. Only the mosquitoes were a constant distraction, and the fruit bats, large as seagulls trying to catch the insects, provided some sort of evening entertainment.
As he entered the hotel patio, the sound of a guitar playing in the background added a relaxing rhythm to the evening and made his spirit move. The music was a mix of beats that he had forgotten long ago, fearing the memories that came with them. The sounds took him by surprise. It was like entering a bubble. Although he had always thought that music made one feel miles away from everything and everybody, surprisingly this time it was the reverse; he realized that he was missing home back in the northern cold.