Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Farid Fatigue

The most important thing you need to know about Farid is that he loves milk. 
Something about him being French.
Farid is cycling the whole world.
Like, for real.

Farid's Very French Website

He is raising money for a charity he helped start to benefit deaf and hearing impared children.

He started in France, made his way south through Spain and crossed into Africa.
He loves children, and they like him too.
He's a good guy.
He is also writing a book.
I won't pretend to understand everything.
He's been through a lot of countries all ready,
France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia I know for sure.
Somewhere in Africa there was an Ebola scare, and he wasn't allowed to cross a border.
He took a flight to Canada and found it snowed under, so he took a bus south to Jacksonville.
 He came into Bicycle House needing new pedals for his rig.

One flag for every country.
 I was planning on leaving for Mobile the morning he came in. I decided to hang around and see if I could help translate a little, I took French in high school which means I'm an expert Google Translate user.
Farid speaks very little English, which has made is time in America difficult. He is also Muslim, and he looks very Muslim which scares some people who have been brainwashed by the American media. I think I have never seen a news story that shows Muslims in a positive light. Despite being a kind and friendly guy, he has had a hard time fining hosts. I saw some of this bias firsthand later on. When he came to the Bicycle House, he was being hosted by some of the Brothers at the Tallahassee Mosque.

Farid is headed for Houston and then Mexico.
And then the rest of the world.
Since we're headed the same way, we decide to ride together.

We share campsites and Warmshowers hosts.
Notice the 12 pack of Pepsi. 
His priorities are somewhat different than mine.
Like I said.
Our riding styles are very different too. He has a significantly heavier rig, considering he is riding around the world. And I went on an extraneous-weight-shedding spree so my bike is relatively light.
But Farid does a good job keeping up and I try to pace myself.
And the weather is wonderful.

 I found where summer had been hiding.
Life choices have been justified.
I had been hoping to meet some other touring cyclists my whole way south, but nobody else seemed to feel like riding through the slush and snow up north. Now that I'm along the Gulf I've met several other tourists.
Ron crossed our paths several times over the next few days. He's retired, going self supported without much of a plan other than "Head west!"
We get chased by dogs in the 80's together.
We make it to Panama City.
 Its touristy, but beautiful.

This is a good story :
Farid takes forever to do just about everything (he's French)
so I don't think much of it when he stops to pick up some change off the ground.
I joke "Ah! Now we can stay in one of these hotels!"
Farid "Oui, five star!!"
But I'm worried, because we actually don't have a place to stay.
No Warmshowers hosts are able to have us, and there isn't any camping close by.
I've been in this situation many times by myself, and learned how to handle it.
But not with another person.
After much deliberation as night falls, Farid has the idea to go to the local Mosque and see if the brothers there can help us. We arrive at what is more of a community center than a Masjed, but there will be an evening prayer soon. Farid tells me to speak with the Imam when he arrives and tell our story.
Slowly, the brothers arrive.
I'm kinda nervous.
Ive read some of the Quran, but found much of Islam to be symbolic and mostly beyond my scope of understanding. I'm not a religious person myself.
I feel pretty out of place as people begin to arrive and start praying.
The Imam arrives and I briefly explain our situation before the service.
"Farid is Muslim and he is traveling around the world by bicycle to raise money for a charity for deaf children. Im traveling the country for a separate reason, but I'm trying to help him. We arrived in town tonight but we don't have a place to stay. Would it be possible for any of the brothers to help us?"
He's stern and doesn't say much.
"We'll speak after the prayer."
After the prayer several brothers come talk to us, one even speaks French!
Then its my turn to be in the dark for a while as they speak heatedly in Farid's native tounge.
One thing leads to another and we're told to load our bikes in one of the brothers gigantic ford truck.
They take us to a hotel.
A 4 star hotel.
One of the brothers owns it and NO JOKE they put us up in a four star hotel.
I took a bath. An actual bath. I ate the biggest breakfast I've eaten this whole tour at the continental breakfast buffet.
Life is weird.
After a few days along the coast, we make it to Pensecola.
Another weird story.
So we're constantly looking for tuna fish sandwiches, because Farid eats only Halal food.
We're sitting at a Subway, eating Tuna sandwiches when this little old guy come up and starts talking to us. I honestly thought he was going to ask us for change. That's usually what happens in Cleveland. Instead he says he saw the bikes outside and is curious about where we're going. This happens all the time, people are curious.
Farid asks "Did he ask for money?"
"Is he hungry?"
"How should I know??"
Farid then procedes to buy a man a sandwich. Farid's a good guy. The only condition was that it had to be something halal, so I think it was another tuna. When the gentleman asked why tuna, I explained that Farid is Muslim and only eats halal meat, which can be hard to find.
"Well hey, I know a brother who raises cows and pigs and he's Muslim, I believe he sells the meat too. If you like I could give him a call and see if he can help y'all out."
We call Brother Ron and right way he's incredibly kind.
One thing leads to another and Brother Ron says if we like we could come over to his house tonight, for dinner. It will have to be later because he's just returing from France.
That will have to wait too though, because Farid needs to go to the hospital. 
He's developed an ear infection. How our health care system works with someone from another country, I have no idea. It didn't seem to be a problem. Luckily, one of the doctors was a native Algerian who spoke perfect French, AND was Muslim AND super cool so everything worked out.
Brother Ron came to the Hospital to meet us. Once again, a total stranger turn out to b an incredibly kind and generous human being. Since brother Ron is on the Board of Directors for the local Mosque, he offers to put us up in the Mosque while we're in town.

We slept in the mosque that night. It was quiet and comfortable, and humbling.

The next night we stayed with Brother Saddiq so we can stay an extra day in town to visit another Masjed and see if the brothers there can contribute to Farid's charity. Saddiq who cooks up a an awesome southern dinner of fried chicken for us, halal of course. Saddiq is a rad dude. He takes us all over town and tells us his life story.
Out side of his little shotgun house, I got my first flat.

My Continental Touring Plus tires have been bombproof up until now.
 An enormous sliver of glass worked its way deeeep into the tread.
Pensecola is the last bastion of Florida, which I've been in far too long now.
I took lots of time off in Clearwater and Tallahassee
and Im antsy to put in some miles.
Alabama here I (we) come.