Driving to Gibralter is a lot like an epiphany. A ‘Voila!’ moment, even. We started in the early morning fog from Seville, looking for the darkness and the fog to lift. Slowly, the olive groves became more visible, and the Spanish ‘pastors’ leading their sheep appeared. What a joy it was to be spinning down the Spanish countryside, watching the light grow like wisdom.
The girls were good sports, not minding another half a day in the car, so that we could see one of the most moving spots on the planet.
What would we find? Gibralter looms like Hercules over the bay. Morocco and the coast of Africa are visible. It is a mere 16 miles of calm sea away. We crossed the border and parked at the tramway, enthusiasm beginning to grow.
On this trip, I have discovered that trade is as necessary to the human condition as, well, perhaps even love. I found it hilarious that I have not been mistaken for an American once, yet as much as I try, first world affluence is difficult to shed.
Tour guides cluster around us, more North Africans come to where we have tea, all trying to trade their services for the contents of our pocketbooks. The African illegal immigrant problem here is enormous. With Spain in full recession, North Africans don’t get absorbed into the economy as easily as they once were.
No matter, Jesus asks us to share freely, so we do. A jolly Gibraltean, (Yes, they call themselves that) led us behind the wheel of his van, and we spent a genial three hours with his booming British voice regaling us with tales of the wartime history and the tunnels into the Rock.
A colony of Macaques lives on the rock, and Ronald, our tour guide, was fast friends with the dominant male.
He took us to several lookouts, and led us the maze of caves and tunnels built over the years.
The guards to the entrances of the tunnels get to be buddies with the Macaques.
There are many really cool things in the caves. One of them is this natural amphitheater where concerts and performances are often held.
The maze of tunnels goes on forever. Gibralter is still used for military purposes, so we couldn’t go to the very top. It was fascinating to run around the caves and see the openings where cannons were inserted. Several hundred cannons could actually fire with some degree of accuracy, and defense embrasures ring the Rock.
The analogies here are endless. Tourism is the main industry here on the Rock, but it isn’t solid. Defense is the main use of the Rock, but it sometimes fails. So what is solid, what can we depend on? The hymnist says “On Christ, the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
The Psalmist says the God is my Rock, in 62:5 and 6
5Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;
my hope comes from him.
6He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
The Rock has held a fascination for people since we started to write things down. Hercules killed the Hydra here, Jason sailed through here, and the phrase “Solid as a Rock” is so entrenched in our language, I doubt people know that it refers to Gibralter.
I stood at the lookout, thinking about all the things I’ve learned during the Sabbatical. We go home tomorrow, and I do feel more solid, standing here with the Rock under my feet.
People really aren’t that much different, even though culture may very tremendously. Humans still need things, difference and each other. A life without standing on the Rock of my salvation would be precarious indeed.
It’s been a joy having you along for the ride, my friends. The next entry I intend to introduce some of you to the rest of the world. Clare Flourish, Micheal Lai, Aii, Thane Furrows, Bird Martin, Cjplay, Clarence, Toemailer, The Ancient Librarian, and many many others have kept me company during this trip, and it’s been a blast.
Kids, you’re awesome. Congratulations on a successful semester. It’s been a joy being your mom. See you all in Colorado.