Left Behind

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.

HO.

LY.

$H!T.

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?”

*nods head*

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.”

“OK.”

“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. 😉

I am definitely a 90’s kid.

Not Completely “All Play and No Work”

Journal Entry: March 20, 2012

So, I know I’ve been talking about the trips I’ve been on and the friends I’ve made, but I can’t forget that I’m doing something else while I’m here, too— school.  Yeah, sadly, I’m still a student and can’t just go off gallivanting through Spain whenever I feel like it.  Sometimes I forget that school exists, though, because we never have any homework.  But then I get an assignment like THIS one, and it’s a rude awakening.

In one of my classes (Social Psychology Applied to Advertising — it’s not as interesting as I originally thought, mainly because the profesora isn’t very good), we had a group project where we had to create some advertising and promo items for a conference. No sweat, right? If I could survive ADV4800, I can handle anything.

But what happened was that we decided to do the whole thing in one sitting. Everything done, all at once, Sunday night. Even though it was due on Wednesday.

So, to make a very long, miserable story short: I left my house at 6 PM, thinking I’d be back in time for dinner at 10 PM.  I came back at 8 AM the next day.

That was my first school-related all-nighter in Spain! (remember Barcelona? Those were like 2 or 3 all-nighters in a row)

Good news: We finished!

Bad news: After getting back home I had the most massive, unhealthy (death by carbohydrates) breakfast imaginable, then slept through my first class that day.

Hopefully that won’t be happening ever again.

Oh, and fun little anecdote: We went to do the project at my friend Ana’s house, where she lives with her parents.  Her mom is a little firecracker, and she got a kick out of the fact that I’m an American. While we took a brief dinner break, she ended up grilling me about all sorts of fun topics like American politics, Obama, and abortion. SO. MUCH. FUN.

(NOT!)

Mama, Papa, I’m sorry. I’ve become a thief.

Journal Entry: March 4, 2012

I know you’ve raised me better than this, but my circumstances have made me this way! I’m not alone, either. All of the American girls have become thieves.

You see, the problem is this: There is no toilet paper in Sevilla. Let me rephrase that. There is hardly ever any toilet paper in any of the restrooms in Sevilla. With the exception of your bathroom at home, you won’t find it. I can’t believe I haven’t written about this before, cuz it’s a pretty big deal.

As a result, the American girls have resorted to thievery. Yes, thievery. Although it shames me… I steal the cheap paper napkins from the little metal napkin dispensers at restaurants and store them in my purse for later use as toilet paper. THERE! I admit it! I’m sorry! I just don’t know what else to do! The boys don’t know how easy they have it. But you know what the worst part of it is? The napkins aren’t even soft like toilet paper. They feel more like wax paper; they make crinkly noises.

Also, it’s crazy how we’ve adapted to our environment. Before we figured out the napkin trick (it took us about a week and a half), a lot of the girls would stop drinking water prior to heading out so that they wouldn’t have to use the bathroom.

Just the other day, one of my friends was stepping out of a café’s bathroom when I felt “the urge.” These were the words that came out of my mouth regarding the bathroom: “Is it clean? Scratch that. Is there toilet paper?” To which she responded with an elated, “YES! It actually has toilet paper!”

I’ll never take toilet paper for granted again.

WIG PARTY

The Thursday after my trip to Barcelona, I got invited to the birthday party of one of the Spaniards in my class.  It was all girls, and it was themed: WIG PARTY!!! (Fiesta de la Peluca)  Well, silly me, I didn’t bring any of my pelucas to Spain, so I had to borrow one from my Spanish friend, Maria.  The wig was long and red, and I had a blue/green dress, so I decided to go as the Little Mermaid!

Hear my beautiful siren's voice?You know we're sexy.

The food was “Mexican” — so basically tacos and guacamole.  But it was so good!  One of the girls was going as Nikki Minaj, so she got creative and stuffed a pillow down the back of her leggings to give her a more “voluptuous” figure.  After much picture-taking, we hit the streets of Sevilla and attracted lots of strange looks and playful cat calls. 😉

Friends!Walking the streets of Sevilla. Yup.

We even met up with some of my American friends on Calle Alfalfa! I had a great time with the girls that night, and they enjoyed practicing their English and also teaching us all sorts of words and phrases popular among the young Spanish crowd these days.  A great night!

We met up w/ my friends! LOL @ KatherineThat's a good look for you, Robbie!
Bearded Katherine ^^^ & Robbie was such a good sport with that white wig! ^^^

Barcelona: Arrival

This is going to be a very long, detailed post. My posts about Barcelona will be this way, for the most part, because I don’t want to forget anything. OK, warning’s over. If you feel like reading, great! I had an adventure during my first night in Barcelona, filled with suspense and danger!

~~~~~

I left Sevilla on Thursday night. My friend who I’d be traveling in Barcelona with, Katherine, had already arrived the day before, so I flew there on my own. I met these two American chicks who were going to be on the same flight as me on the aerobus that took us to the Sevilla airport, and since they already had experience navigating the Sevilla airport, I decided it’d be best for me to stick with them. Our flight was delayed about half an hour, so it was nice to spend the time waiting with people to talk to. I flew with the airline Ryanair, which is pretty much the cheapest airline in Europe. It’s awesome. The bad thing about it (besides poor customer service) are the carry-on restrictions— they’re VERY strict, so I had to pack smart. Everything I’d need for the next 4 days had to fit into my backpack. (For great tips on how to pack in order to avoid those extra Ryanair fees, check out this post by Jessica on her blog, ¡Hola Yessica!)  I also layered my clothes, and I actually had two complete outfits on. The good thing about Ryanair, besides the price, is that you don’t have an assigned seat; you just sit wherever you find a spot.  I sat with the American girls.

The flight itself was fairly uneventful. Little to no turbulence — THANK GOD FOR SMALL MIRACLES — and we flew at night, so I got to see the lights of Spain’s Mediterranean coast.  When Barcelona came into view I was in awe, 1) Because it was a beautiful glimmering gem in the darkness, and 2) HOLY CRAP IT’S BARCELONA!  You know, no big deal.  It was awesome too because of the way the plane came in for landing: we passed over the middle of the city before banking to the left to land in the airport, a little bit south of the city.  Ryanair likes to boast about how 98% of its flights get their passengers to their destinations on time.  Even though my flight had been delayed for 30 minutes, we still arrived 15 minutes before my original expected arrival time.  Hmmm…

Barcelonaaaaaa

Blurry Barcelona

So we land (hurray!), I grab my backpack and skedaddle.  Thank goodness I didn’t have any checked luggage, because I was in a race against the clock.  In Barcelona, the metro stops at midnight on weekdays, and I had landed at 10:00 PM.  I still needed to get out of the airport, take a train to the metro station, take that metro to another metro station, and then from there connect to the line that would take me near my hostel.  There was another group of Americans who were trying to get to their hostels, too, and I was initially going to tag along with them, but they ended up deciding to take the bus to Plaça Catalunya.  My friends who had gone to Barça the week before had warned me not to use the bus because it was more expensive.  I was tempted to stay with a group because this was my first time traveling on my own, but I decided to stick to my gut and look for the train that would get me to the metro.  So with a smile and an exchange of awkward shrugs, I bid adieu and good luck to the other Americans.

I found some young people chilling in the airport and asked what was the best way to get to where I needed to go.  They said the best way was the metro, but I had to rush. One guy was Brazilian, so I practiced my Portuguese with him and he gave me great directions.  The last thing he said to me (all in Portuguese) was, “One more thing. Be very careful. Barcelona is very, very, very, very dan-ge-rous. Don’t talk to anyone on the street. Only police. Or businessmen in suits with briefcases or something. Use your judgement. I don’t want to frighten you, but just be careful. (HA! Didn’t want to frighten me?! I’m pretty sure my face had blanched and all I was thinking was ‘ohcrapohcrapohcrap’) Now go! Run! With luck you’ll be able to catch the metro! Run! Run!”

[Keep what the Brazilian said in mind, because it becomes important later.]

Of course, what do I do if someone tells me to run?  I walk very briskly.  Duh.  Plus, my backpack was heavy and I was not going to run the risk of jogging, losing my balance and doing a face plant in the middle of the airport.  I get to the train station (connected to the airport) and get my ticket with the help of the attendant (who also says I’ll be able to catch the metro if I have luck on my side). I see two young American guys I recognized from the flight and immediately joined them to wait for the train. I was scared out of my mind after the warning the Brazilian had given me, so I was thinking “American students = safety,” and I wanted to be near the safety.  Nice boys, from Wisconsin.  One was studying abroad in Córdoba, the other in London.  After waiting around for about 15 precious minutes, we hopped on the train and found seats together.  It was at this point that I turned around and asked the Spaniards around me what stop I should get off on in order to eventually get to Camp Nou (my hostel was a few blocks south of Camp Nou).  The whole section I was in erupted with Spaniards trying to give me advice, each with their own opinions, talking over each other, arguing about which way was the best.  I just stared at them, slack-jawed, unsure of who to believe and feeling stirrings of despair.

This one elderly gentleman (SAFE! He was old and couldn’t move quickly) was getting off at the stop I (apparently, hopefully) needed to get off on, and he said that he could guide me.  I said goodbye to the American boys and got off the train at the stop for the metro.  Mind you, I had been underground the entire time, and had yet to see the city.  I tried calling my friend, Katherine, but no answer.  I bought a 10-ride metro pass for the weekend, and the old man guided me to the metro stop.  Apparently he needed to get on the same one, then get off on the exact same stop I needed in order to connect to my second metro line, so I was very happy. Katherine called me back, and told me to get on the L5 Purple Line. I asked her if she’s sure, then she said she’d call me back.  My elderly companion and I got on the metro and then stepped off a few stops later, where he then told me where I needed to go next, and finally bid me farewell and good luck.

As I headed off in the direction I needed to go, Katherine called me back, saying, “Nevermind! The hostel people told me it’s the L2 Blue Line Metro!” I laughed at her for almost getting me lost while silently thanking every divine being I could think of that the old man had guided me in the right direction.  She agreed to come meet me at the metro stop so that I’d have someone to walk with me to the hostel.

At this point, it was almost midnight. I felt like Cinderella, hoping I’d be able to get to the carriage before midnight… My carriage came in the form of the most beautiful pair of blinding lights that thundered out of the dark tunnel, followed by the sleek shiny form of the L2 Blue Line metro train.

I hopped on, and, two stops later, hopped off at my destination.  It was just a few minutes to midnight, and I’m pretty sure I had caught the last ride of the night.  PHEW!  I went to the exit, up the stairs, and there, waiting for me with a big smile, was Katherine!  I was so happy!  During my entire time traveling I’d had a “stank face” on (Stank Face example 1; Stank Face example 2).  My hopes were that I looked mean and disinterested in the world so that I could fit in as a stressed out, over-worked and under-paid Barcelonian.  I did not want to bring attention to myself as a bright-eyed bushy-tailed tourist with a fat wallet.  But when I saw Katherine I was overcome with relief and gave the biggest, brightest, tiredest, touristy-est smile!

We walked out of the metro station and into the warmer-than-expected Barcelona air. I had finally set foot in the city! She and I walked together to the hostel. It was the same hostel some of my friends had stayed in the week before (Yellow Nest Hostel), and it was about 5 minutes from the metro stop. When we got there I finally let out the nervous breath I hadn’t been aware I’d been holding for those crazy two hours since my plane had landed.  There were two hostel employees working the reception desk; both were Italian.  One man was older, I’d say in his 40s, while the other was in his 20s.  The younger one checked me in to the hostel.  After I had paid and been given my keys and everything had been explained to me, I bounded up the stairs to my 12-bed co-ed hostel room.  Katherine led me to our bunk bed, where I was happy to see she had left me the bottom bunk.  I sat down and unpacked, took off one of the outfits I was wearing, and stuffed everything into my locker.

My first legit hostel room! :)

Guess which bed is mine?
Hint: It’s the tidy one.

~~~~~~

And there you have it! I have finally arrived in Barcelona, and safely made it to my hostel. I know in the beginning of this post I said I had an adventure filled with suspense and danger, but the “danger” part didn’t come until later that night… Guess you’ll just have to read my next post to get the details! 😉

Itálica is dead.

It’s a dead city, I mean.  It used to be one of the most important cities in the Iberian Peninsula during the time of the Roman Empire, and two great Roman emperors (Trajan and Hadrian) came from here.  Now, nobody lives here.  It’s just some Roman ruins chilling right outside of a town called Santiponce, a little bit north of Sevilla.  Methinks the ruins here are probably the oldest things I’ve ever touched.

A bustling Roman city used to be here.Incredible how it's lasted so long

Gods the weekdays are named after.Man v. Animal, battles to the death.Gladiators passed through here.Emperor Hadrian. What's left of him.
In any case, I think my favorite fun fact I learned was that none of it has been retouched.  All of the colors, all of the stones, all of the designs have been left completely alone for the past couple thousand years.  There are no coverings, so it’s all completely exposed to the elements as well.  So, taking that into consideration, the fact that I can still clearly see the murals and such is really quite impressive.  Way to go, Romans!
Owl!Awesome centaur.
Vivid colors, thousands of years oldTiger, Tiger, Burning Bright

Leap Year 2012

Well, the night started out well enough.  We all decided to meet at Plaza de España near the Parque Maria Luisa.  Except, nobody knew that the park closed at 10:00 PM.  Robbie (remember the nice guy who walked me home after my first night clubbing in Sevilla? He ended up becoming one of my best friends!) had arrived early and as a result had still been inside when the park was locked up for the night.  When we got there, we came to the realization that Robbie was locked inside the Parque Maria Luisa!  We searched for a place where he might safely be able to climb out without skewering himself on the sharp tips of the gate surrounding the park, and after an impressive feat of acrobatics, he managed to get out and we were able to start our festivities!

We crossed over a bridge and into Triana, where we went to a pub called Phoenix and had a grand old time watching fútbol highlights and chatting.  Next we walked along the party street, Calle Bétis, situated right on the Guadalquivir River.  This night we discovered what was to become our favorite bar: Alambique. On Mondays and Wednesdays you get either a beer or sangria plus a shot of tequila for only 1.50 Euro, and on Tuesdays tequila shots are only 50 centimos. Needless to say, we made a habit of frequenting Alambique on weekdays. We stayed there until about 3 AM (early for a Spaniard’s standards), but not without making art first. Enjoy our glass, salt, and lemon sculpture. Even the bartender joined in!

Robbie walked me home, as usual, and I had a wonderful and memorable Leap Year!

Note: The legal drinking age in Spain is 18.

Robbie's escape attempt.A masterpiece.Katherine, Kevin, me, StevaughnI laughed so hard at Robbie's face!