As I mentioned in my last post, my friends and I decided to have a fun yet relaxed Saturday night in Lisboa, so we bought some wine and played charades in our hotel room. We ended up staying awake so late that a bunch of us decided we ought to just stay up until breakfast opened at 7 AM. As expected, the breakfast was GLORIOUS.
Afterwards, I went to go shower and start packing my things, but after my shower I was feeling really sleepy. It was 8:30, and I figured if I napped for an hour it wouldn’t hurt. I set my alarm for 9:30 (we would be departing from Lisboa at 10:00 AM), snuggled into my sheets, and napped.
Well. I forgot one teensy weensy but ever-so-crucial detail.
Daylight Savings Time. The change occurred that very night.
The blaring of the alarm startled me awake, and I jolted upright in bed. I was still a bit too groggy to be thinking clearly, but it’s as if some part of me knew what was going on and wanted me to start moving ASAP. As my vision started to come into focus, I realized the room was completely devoid of any of my roommates’ belongings. Suspicion dawned, and I glanced at the time. Then it hit me:
It wasn’t 9:30 in the morning. It was 10:30, and the bus was supposed to have left to go back to Sevilla at 10:00.
I launched myself out of bed, threw my clothes on (cleaning lady walked in on me half-nude, awkwaaaaard), grabbed my backpack and jammed it full of whatever I could grab hold of **organization be damned! I’ll fix it later!**, did one quick glance around the room to see if I had forgotten anything important, and ran to the elevators. Once in the elevator I prayed to every god I could think of that a large group of obnoxious American students would be in the main lobby, but when the elevator doors opened….
Silence. Just some hotel employees chatting in Portuguese behind the front desk.
I glanced outside, hoping to see two large buses, but there was only a line of taxi cabs.
At this point, Dread curled its clammy fingers around my stomach and gripped it tightly. I approached the front desk and asked in a shaky voice, “Americanos?”
Receptionist: “Oh, they left 10 minutes ago.”
**Oooooohhhhhh myyyyyyyyy gaaawwwwwwwddddd-**
Receptionist: “Were you a part of that group?”
Receptionist: “We’re calling the lady in charge….. Hello, Lola? Yes, we have a student here…. Okay.” (turns to me) “Here you go, she wants to speak with you.”
*grabs phone* “¿Hola?”
Lola: “Biqui, where were you?”
“In my room.”
“The room keys were turned in, so there was no way of knowing yours was missing.”
“Well, I’m sorry, Biqui, but we just left the city limits of Lisboa, and we’re not turning around to get you. You’ll have to find your own way back to Sevilla. Vale?”
“…. OK.” *feels tears welling up*
“Vale, good luck, and I’ll call you in a few hours to get an update from you.”
“OK.” *Hands phone back to Portuguese receptionist.*
By now the three receptionists were looking at me to see what Lola had said, and I’m pretty sure the look of devastation on my face was a clear indicator, but I told them that the bus wasn’t coming back for me. They looked at me shocked, and kept repeating how they couldn’t believe it, it was only ten minutes, etc.
So at that point I did the only thing I could think of doing.
I cried. Like a Fado singer.
Not really. It was nowhere near as pretty as Fado.
So, crying, I went and sat down on a couch by the reception area and started reorganizing the things I had hurriedly shoved into my backpack. A litany of thoughts that kept repeating in my head. **How could nobody have noticed that I wasn’t there? Am I so easily forgotten? Not even my roommates? Not even my friends? How?** As I finished repacking, I told myself that enough was enough, to stop with the pity party, and figure out how to get back to Sevilla. I rubbed the tears away and one of the receptionists approached me. He handed me a bus schedule for that day, with buses leaving from Lisboa to Sevilla. The soonest was leaving at 1:30 PM. By now it was a little past 11:00 AM. The receptionists told me to catch a cab from the hotel to the bus station, then to buy my ticket there.
I thanked them for their help, smiled, grabbed my backpack and walked out the front door. I went to the first taxi in line and asked the driver to take me to the bus station. Once there, I purchased my one-way ticket to Sevilla (37 Euro; much cheaper than I had expected!), called my host-mother from a pay phone to let her know what had happened, then found a bench where I could hang out for the next couple of hours. As different buses arrived and departed from the station, I would steal their free Wi-Fi for a few minutes at a time so that I could communicate from my iPhone apps. I sent my mom a message via Whatsapp to let her know I was safe, and then I posted a Facebook status to let my friends know what was going on: “Got left behind in Portugal, I’m alone but safe & have found a way back to Sevilla. Good thing I speak Portuguese.”
Once that had been taken care of, all that I had left to do was wait. In my idleness, the thoughts crept back in. **How come nobody noticed? Why didn’t my roommates wake me up? Why haven’t my friends tried calling me? One of the room keys wasn’t turned in; how could they not know? Why didn’t anyone knock on the door? Why did I have to nap? Why didn’t I update the time? The bus was only 10 minutes away…** On and on it went, until I couldn’t stand to think of it anymore. I figured I would get my answers once I got back to Sevilla, but until then there was no use agonizing over it.
Eventually my salvation rumbled into the station. I found a seat behind a happy Asian couple, plopped myself down onto the cracked plastic, curled up into the fetal position, and endured the longest bus ride of my life.
By the end of the trip, I’d had plenty of time to reflect on everything that had transpired, and, believe it or not, I was kinda feeling proud of myself! I had accidentally been left behind in another country and was able to get back home on my own (with the help and guidance of the wonderful Portuguese receptionists)! That’s certainly one way to gain confidence in yourself. Not that I recommend my particular way!
After talking about it with my friends and roommates over the next few days, it became clear why I had gotten left behind. Everything that had occurred that Sunday had created the perfect storm. There were two buses. My roommates thought I was on the bus with my friends. My friends thought I was on the bus with my roommates. The directors of the trip had already been angry because a couple of party boys had slept in really late and made everyone wait 30-45 minutes. Lola kept counting and knew one person was missing, but then someone commented to her that a girl had stayed behind to meet with her parents in Lisboa. It was really all too perfect.
The next time I walked into the API office, I could tell that Lola felt a little apprehensive around me. I think that she thought I would be mad about the incident, but I wasn’t. It was an accident; these things happen. If anything, it was my fault for not updating the time on my phone. When the API staff asked me about that morning, I just laughed it off (Of COURSE this would happen to me!).
If someone had to have been left behind, I’m glad it was me. I can only imagine how much more scary it would’ve been for someone who didn’t even understand the language. At one point on the bus ride, I wondered to myself if I had learned Portuguese in college just to prepare me for this moment. I guess I’ll never know, but this experience affirmed my belief that everything happens for a reason. If anything, my misadventure in Lisboa was a learning experience, and I gained invaluable confidence in my abilities as a traveler.
You can call me Carmen Sandiego. 😉