Frank pulled up to our hotel in Spain in an old LandRover. On the sides of the car were sun-bleached advertisements for his company. Wearing a big smile and Michael Kors sunglasses he introduced himself, “Frank,” he exclaimed while shaking our hands. Although his Spanish accent was heavy, he spoke English perfectly. He told us how he would be leading us to the 2,000 year old village of Ronda and back. On the tour, we’d learn all about the countryside and history of Southern Spain. After reminding us a few times to strap in our seat-belts, we were off.
Along the way, my family and I were interested in Frank. Who was he? Where was he from? And how did he get into this business? The car ride to Ronda was about an hour and a half, giving us plenty of time to get to know him and Spain very well. As we rode through the winding hills of Marbella, I gazed at the view in awe and listened to Frank’s story. He was from the area, and as far as he was concerned, the south of Spain was “the most beautiful place in the world- but that’s just me.” Frank explained that he had a wife and two young boys. His family, he told us, were farmers. They planted olive trees every year, harvesting and selling green olives. Later, when the olives turned black and ripe, the family would harvest them for olive oil. The farm they grew up on was passed down to him and would be passed down to his two boys as well. “Although,” he explained, “the new generation isn’t so interested in farming anymore.” He seemed a bit discouraged by that.
After high school and working on the farm, Frank began working for his uncle in his uncle’s restaurant. He was a busboy, then a waiter, and every day he would watch the chef as he prepared meals diligently. Almost immediately it was decided, he wanted to be a chef. He attended chef school while working for busy restaurants along the water and eventually took a job as a chef in a hotel in England. He brought his new wife with him. She was a lawyer, but she took a job as a housekeeper at the hotel. Together, they were able to live at the hotel and work on their English. After a few years, the food business wore Frank down. “One day, worn out,” he explained, “I looked at my wife and told her I was done with the kitchen. She said it was one of the happiest days of her life.” Looking for a more relaxing work routine, Frank began working for this tour-group company. These days, he spends his time giving tours to families like us and helping out on his family’s olive tree farm.
Along the way to Ronda, he stopped along the countryside, sometimes taking unexpected routes filled with narrow, gravel roads. As we’d bump along the uneven paths, he would stop to quiz us on the trees and plants growing along the road. “What is this?” He’d ask us, holding up a type of branch or leaf. We would guess eagerly, but only half of the time were we correct. We learned about the mint, thyme, rosemary, almonds, apricot, lemongrass (his favorite for making tea), olives, and many other plants growing along the road. He said he studied history in his free time and pointed out where old Muslim farmers used to grow vegetables and live. He was full of knowledge and facts about the land. When we got to the old city of Ronda, we spent our time exploring the world’s oldest bull fighting stadium and cobblestone alleyways lined with shop and cafes. However, I have to say that the best part of the day was Frank. Being able to look into the life of someone completely different from a foreign country was so interesting. His life had been so different from mine and yet he had inspired me. He ended our journey with telling me to enjoy my life as well as my jobs, always.
By Carlie Rice