On Tuesday morning, at 5:45am, my alarm went off. Stumbling, i felt my way to the light switch, and got ready to leave. At 6:30, we said adios to our host mother and made our way through the pre-dawn darkness into the waiting taxi cab. It was so sad leaving my new family and life in Europe, and I did shed a few tears in the elevator. But I had known all along that this adventure would be as short as it was sweet, and all good things must come to an end.
At 6:45, we arrived at the hotel where few of our classmates were waiting. By 7:00, the bus had arrived, and we began the delicate game of gently cramming all of our earthly possessions into the tiny space under the bus, a game also known as Jam Pack Jam. Trust me, the game’s a lot more fun when the only things at stake are some plastic toys and your pride, not when you’re sleep deprived and it’s 7am and you’re leaving your new favorite country ever. Somehow, we made everything fit and took our seats on the bus….and waited. And waited. Of course, everyone except three individuals had made it on time. And we were stuck waiting for them. And of course, they had ran out of minutes on their phones, so calling them was impossible. 30 minutes later, they finally arrived, and we were able to head out to Toledo.
I slept the entire 6 hour ride. It was fairly smooth, that is, until we actually entered Toledo. The streets are so tiny that the bus had to run over every curb, an experience that probably resembles running over small school children again and again.
Once we had unloaded and hiked up the hill to our hotel (of course the massive charter bus couldn’t drive up the tiny little road), we had an hour to relax and unpack before walking down the street to a church that doubled as a museum for some world famous painting by El Greco. It was a beautiful scene depicting a saint’s death and his ascension into heaven. We sat for a few minutes contemplating the beauty of the church. That’s when Suzy pointed to a poster on the wall…an anti-abortion poster. Anti-choice wingnuts consider microscopic cell bundles sacred enough to protect at all costs, but a beautiful, historic cathedral is not sacred in the least and merely a place to put political literature.
After the painting, we had the afternoon to ourselves. We explored a little bit, visiting souvenir shops and playing with swords and buying jewelry, and then we stopped for some ice cream.
That evening, we ate in the fanciest dining room I’ve ever seen. For our appetizer, we had tortilla de patatas, which brought back memories of all the delicious ones Teresa had made us. Then we had fresh salad, followed by the biggest, fluffiest, most delicious salmon I have ever eaten in my entire life. It was all so scrumptous, I can’t believe I forgot my camera to document the deliciousness.
That night, I had wanted to have a relaxing girl’s night with some wine and a movie, but everyone was tired, and the internet was too slow to stream anything. So I settled for drinking the rest of my champagne at midnight and watching Anatomia de Grey with Pippa in our room.
Wednesday, we packed up and headed on a tour of the cathedral. Yes, a cathedral is exactly how every girl wants to spend her 21st birthday. But I relished the fact that it was the last cathedral I’d ever have to tour for the rest of my summer, and of my life if I could help it, and that was enough of a gift. After the tour, we loaded the bus, leaving tiny, cultural Toledo for Madrid, which is quite possibly the biggest, loudest city I’ve ever been in…besides NYC of course. There were tourists and natives and business men and protesters and beggars and more street performers than I’ve ever seen.
Wednesday afternoon, we had our final Wednesday special at 100 Montaditos. I am dearly going to miss the greatest Spanish fast food restaurant in existence. Where else can you get a sandwich, french fries, and a pint of Tinto for 3 Euro? I guess the tinto counts as my first drink as a 21 year old. After, we made our way to the Palacio Real, the massive, historic, 2800 room royal mansion. The heat was brutal, so we cooled off by jumping in a fountain. While most in our group were eager to take the tour, Erica, Mark, and I didn’t want to spend 5 euro on yet another tour. So we settled for taking pics of the outside and then making our way back to the hotel. I took a lovely siesta before heading out right before dinner to take pics and buy a few souvenirs. We ran into a musical protest, and we stayed and talked to a few of them before they formed a circle and played a few songs.
For dinner, we ate at a restaurant right beside the hotel. We had fresh salads, steak, french fries, and yet another delicious cheesecake. I assume they were trying to get of us back in the swing of american food. It was a lovely meal, and it was nice unwinding from a hectic four weeks of classes and four weekends of trips to just relax with the group.
That night, I refused to spend my 21st birthday doing nothing. And even though they made us go on a walking tour of some of the historic (boring) parts of the city and we didn’t get back till midnight, Erica, Laura, and I got all dressed up and headed to the discoteca. We were going to go to one a few kilometers down the street, but we didn’t feel like waiting and paying for the metro, so we just walked to a much closer one. It was classy buy empty, so we went to another place with free beer and sangria. It was less empty, but the music was way better, and the guys from our group were there. We realized that the booze was only free before 1:30am, and as it was 12:55am, I said:
We sat in a booth and drank and talked for a while before hitting the dance floor. I of course broke out several of my Just Dance 3 moves. By 2:00am, the guys were ready to roll out to Joy. I chugged my last drink, and we headed out. Unfortunately, while girls were free, it cost $12 for guys to get in, and they didn’t wanna spend the money. So we ventured in without them. It’s amazing how things can change in an hour. The club was packed! The music was blasting! And we found other girls from our group and our old Texas Tech friends: Handy Manny and Monty Python! It was so nice getting to have one last celebration with them. And we danced on tables. It was Laura’s idea, I swear! I was told later that I had a full conversation with a guy in a spongebob shirt, but honestly I have no recollection of this event. We danced and met people until about 3, when we decided it was bedtime (since we had to leave for the museum at 930).
Thursday morning, I had the worst hangover of my life. It was brutal. Free sangria does not a hangover-free morning make. Somehow, I dragged myself the 20 minutes down the street to the Prado museum. I made it about halfway through the visit before needing to pray to the porcelain goddess, but that’s better than getting kicked out for puking on priceless paintings. My praying was not overlooked: we were granted the post-birthday blessing of getting an hour break before tackling the Reina Sophia Museum of Modern Art. After napping in the cafe and drinking plenty of water, I felt a lot better. The second museum was so much easier to handle, most likely because Picasso and Dali are my favorite modern artists, and Fernando was told to abbreviate his lengthy explanations about every exhibit.
After the museum, we went to BK and had the most (surprisingly) delicious chicken sandwich plus fries and a drink for only $3.30. Gotta love coupons. We made our way back to the hotel, and I took the greatest hangover nap ever.
After my siesta, we made a trip to a supermarket to pick up a bottle of wine to bring home. I almost bought one called Sangre del Toro, but it sounded a bit too bitter for my taste. I settled on a pink, rosy wine with an old white dude on it. White dudes know what’s up. We made our way back to the hotel, right as a massive protest was starting. This time it was the UGT, the labor unions, and the CCOO, the coal miners.
At our last dinner, Carlos made a toast, and he called us the biggest and best group he’s ever taken to Spain. It was a delicious dinner of salad, potato wedges, ribs, and the best rice pudding I’ve ever tasted. It was bittersweet, sharing one final meal with my friends, but I knew the upcoming school year would have plenty of reunions and new memories.
Thursday night, we went back to Palace. We went at 12:30, and it was pretty empty, but it was oddly relaxing just getting lost in the music and only ONE glass of sangria. 10 of the junior and senior girls from the trip joined us around 1, and we stayed and danced with them for about an hour. Around 2, Erica went to see if we could re-enter if we left, and she never came back. Alison and Laura were worried, but I figured Erica was fine, and we left. On the way back, we found her. She had gotten side-tracked talking to people, and she told us the reason all the clubs were so dead is that all the international students left that day. Talk about perfect timing for my birthday. We linked arms and went back to the hotel, where I got a full 3 hours of sleep before catching our taxi at 6:45am…
This weekend was our last weekend in Sevilla. It was quite bittersweet, especially since we had two final exams to worry about on Monday. Still, we tried to make the most of it.
On Saturday, Pippa and I spent most of the day in our room studying. We did take a break to watch some TV, and I think we took a siesta. That night, we met up with two other girls from the program and headed down to the river for our last botelleon. On the way down, we stopped by an ice cream place. Pippa and Kylie were ordering, when two Spanish teenaged guys walked over and started exclaiming loudly, “Hey, look at those girls! I like her better!” “The black one?” “No, I like the blonde!”
It was beyond rude! I should have told them off, but instead I just gave them the death stare until they wandered off. I should be used to the propios by now, but for some reason, blatant disrespect like that still bothers me. We shrugged it off and made our way to the tower, where Mark and Jackson were waiting. I had my wine juiceboxes, and everyone else shared a massive bottle of fanta limon mixed with white wine. It was a chill night, just drinking, chatting, and staring out at the river. I learned a hell alot about fraternities at Richmond that I don’t care to know, and frankly it makes me think even less about Greek life than I already do, which I really didn’t think was possible. Apparently, paying hundreds of dollars to let like-minded, similarly dressed white guys from similar backgrounds beat you and force you do demeaning and disgusting activities is a completely normal and desired college experience.
On Sunday, Pippa got her Jesus on and went to church, while I slept in before spending the whole day studying. I learned and memorized every historical event between 1806 to present day Spain: all the wars, the dictators, the kings, the republics, the economics, and every prime minister. Wikipedia became my best friend. We thought about joining some classmates down the street at the Burger King to study, but that took too much work.
On Monday, we took our exams. Carlos’ was surprisingly easy, and Fernando’s would have been easier if half the test hadn’t been about artists and their paintings, most of which I had to guess on. Still, I think I scraped out a solid B.
That afternoon, I made it home in time for lunch. It was just Pippa and our host parents, and it was nice having a final meal with them. We finished packing and made our way to Super Sol to buy a box of wine juiceboxes, but alas, it was siesta time, and Super Sol was closed. So we went downtown to get some churros, which were extremely disappointing because they were actually frozen microwave churros. Then, we went down to the Plaza de Torros and took a tour of the bullring.
The tour was very informative, even though the tour guide had the weirdest british/australian accent i’ve ever heard. It was nice learning the history and secrets and legends of the ring. On the way home, we stopped by a supermarket, and I grabbed a bottle of pink champagne to celebrate being done with classes. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it was on sale…for 2 Euro!
That night, I tried to convince a certain someone to come hang out with me one final time. But alas, he was “too tired,” leaving me to spend the evening with my Richmond gang. The plan was set to meet up at the tower at midnight. We arrived at 11:57…and no one was there. We sat. We gossiped. I popped open the champagne. We waited. But no one showed up. Around 1:15, we decided to head over to the bars on the other side of the river. That’s when I saw the saddest thing I’ve ever seen since being in Spain…Long Island was closed. The only thing that stopped me from having a complete mental breakdown was seeing Emmy and Anna walking down the street towards up. They weren’t able to find anyone either, and they were bummed out when they saw Long Island. We peeked in one of the only open bars on the street, and we found a couple UNC kids. But with my half open bottle of champagne, they wouldnt let me in. So we decided just to leave since it was getting late, and we had to catch the bus at 6:45am the next morning. On the way back, we saw Cristina and CiCi, who were on their way to the river. We sincerely considered going back with them, but after spending almost two hours doing nothing, we were bored and tired and just wanted to go home. It was a pretty anti-climatic night, but it could have been worse.
On the way back, I said my silent goodbyes to my favorite parts of Sevilla: the beautiful river that had served as a gorgeous backdrop to many a evening, the bars that had kept me from going thirsty, the tram line that had carried us so many times when it was too hot to walk, the park that I had gotten locked inside, the tapas restaurants we had dined in. I couldn’t believe 4 weeks had gone by so quickly, but then again, time really flies when you’re having fun. Still, I know deep in my heart that one day I’ll be back.
Since coming to Spain, my eyes have been opened to quite a few possible career options. Sure, most of them are improbable, but a girl can dream!
1. Flamenco dancer- our last week in Sevilla, we went to a Flamenco show. Although it wasn’t at all what I was expecting, the passion and beauty of the dancers and singers was more than enough to get me hooked.
2. Stage manager - I could put my years of stage managing experience to use in Spain, possibly working in a traditional field like flamenco shows, or working lights and sound at a discoteca
3. English teacher- the good old standby for American college kids who don’t want real jobs just quite yet. I’ve met multiple Americans who teach English here, and all of them love. A few said they even get paid better than US teachers
4. Actress- Now that I’m totally, definitely, 100% bilingual, I could totally sell my soul and become a commercial actress, selling toothpaste or salsa or smartphones. Or I could retain some dignity and act on one of the thousands of comedy and drama tv shows.
5. Voice actress- Speaking of being bilingual, I could just work as one of the voice actors that dub over English shows. And if I’m lucky I could do it in my pajamas!
6. Tour guide- we went to Portugal with an awesome travel agency called Discover Sevilla, and it would be so cool to move to Sevilla and work for them. What would be cooler than getting to go to Portugal, Morocco, and other parts of Spain every weekend, all year long?
7. Vet- this is my intended career path, and I could do really well here in Spain. I’ve seen so many pets here, and there’s a vet office on my host family’s street that is always filled with clients.
8. Animal wrangler- they could really use someone to round up all the stray cats around here. And getting rid of the ten million pigeons would be nice…
Let’s try something new.
Monday: Class. Adventures in the park. May or may not have included an attractive gentleman.
Tuesday: Class. Siesta. Flamenco show. New goal in life: become a Flamenco dancer. Favorite restaurant in the world. Least favorite waitress in the world. Cheesecake.
Wednesday. Class. Homework. Grocery store. In Europe you have to pay for plastic bags. Learned how to say “super diahrea” in Spanish thanks to American Dad. 1 Euro Sandwiches and drinks at 100 Montaditos. Realized I hate certain people significantly less than previously determined.
Thursday: Class. Frantic working on presentation. Midnight trip to the ATM to take advantage of recently plummeted Euro to dollar conversion rate. Host mom called us the lamest exchange students she’s ever had.
Friday: Presentation in class. I talked about Teh Gays. Weird as fuck surrealist movies in other class, “Destino” and some black and white film I can’t recall. Thought I liked surrealism till it literally gave me a headache. Siesta. Goodbye dinner at fanciest restaurant ever. Drank wine and beer with professors. Attempted to party at two bars and a discoteca. Missed someone too much to have a lot of fun. Talked some deep talk with roommate on 45 minute walk home.