It has now been more than 48 hours since I’ve slept. And boy, am I tired! So much has happened in this 48 hours; it’s been like a whirlwhind.
I’ll start from the beginning.
I wasn’t able to post a blog the night before my departure (when was that, again? I’m so off on time…) because I had been having computer troubles and my laptop was in the shop. Thankfully, they were able to fix the problem (the inability to charge) just in time for me to leave. As in, I got my computer back less than 2 hours before I left. Cutting it close!
Anyway, I made it to the airport in plenty of time to catch my flight. Nothing like that scene in Home Alone, where the family goes running through the terminal trying desperately to make it on time. Though, unfortunately, I’ve been there. Nope, this time was easy. I’m a pro at flying now. I flew American Airlines, which was a first for me. The only worry was that there was a ton of wind in Denver yesterday, and I think one runway was closed or something like that, because all the planes were waiting in a ridiculously long queue to take off. As a result, or maybe for a different reason I don’t know of, the plane leaving my gate before my flight was running late. They consequently delayed my flight about half an hour, and, if you know me, that’s more than enough time to freak me out. I was texting my parents furiously, hoping I would be able to make my connection in Dallas. (Side note: I had no idea what time my connection took off. I just always freak out.) My dad responded saying that if I left by 2:30, then I should be fine, so I was counting the minutes until that time!
After boarding the flight, we had to wait in the ridiculously long queue for about 25 minutes, which was pretty mind-numbing considering there wasn’t much to look at. The lady sitting next to me was a middle aged Indian lady who never took her iPhone headphones out of her ear (or turned her phone off during take off/descent- GRRRRR, FOLLOW THE RULES, LADY) and made it clear she didn’t want to talk to me. I responded by eating my smelly Subway sandwich while on the flight. I don’t think she liked that very much.
The flight to Dallas ended up only being 1 hour and 19 minutes. Yay! I got to DFW on time, but the plane at our gate didn’t want to leave for whatever reason, so we ended up sitting on the (uhhhh….I don’t know what the word is…. Place where planes wait) for about half an hour. I got really ancy during that time and ended up using the rapidly diminishing amount of time I had with cellular data to update Facebook, Twitter, and other various forms of social media. Thank goodness for distractions!
If you’ve never been to DFW before, be happy. It’s one of the most difficult to navigate airports I’ve ever been to. Excluding Madrid’s, but we’ll get to that later. First off, as soon as I stepped off the plane, the humidity hit me like a load of bricks. It was terrible. I’m definitely not a fan of that stuff. And the walkway stretched on for about a mile, so I was already not a fan of Dallas or the airport. By that time, it was around 5:00pm central time, and my flight was scheduled for 5:35. I basically skipped through the airport (though not happily due to my nervousness and anxiousness) and somehow managed to navigate to this tram thing, the Skyline or something like that. I followed people who looked like they knew what they were doing and prayed that I could figure out this airport. The tram thing took me all around the outside of the airport, until I arrived at my next gate about 10 minutes later. At that point I was able to see that my plane had been delayed until 6pm. Phew. I also became aware that Dallas is a crazy busy airport. Busier than DIA, and that’s saying something. There was an advertisement for the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, which I found interesting. Even Texas knows Colorado is better. There were also a ton of students in the area, who were obviously all headed to Madrid. I had no idea if any of them were in my specific program or not, but I didn’t recognize any faces. Unfortunately, all these students were taking up all the seats (there’s not too much of them) and although I had been sitting for the past few hours, I still felt the need to sit down after the rush of getting to the gate. The only available seat was at this charger station, which was an added benefit since my phone obviously thought it was a good idea to drop more than 50% in 4 hours.
I still don’t understand the concept of that charger station. There were no outlets anywhere in the airport except for at this tower. I looked. And so everyone who needed juice for their electronics were huddled around this square pillar, reaching over heads and shoulders to plug in a phone or computer. It was a mess. But I managed to find one when this young guy who saw me searching unplugged one of his to let me in the group. I thanked him and we somehow ended up talking. He was from Texas Tech, with pretty much every other student there. He explained that they were going over to Seville for a class in social structure or something like that. Hierarchies, I think. Anyway, I found out a lot about this guy just by chatting with him. He was a senior and is graduating after his month of classes. He has an English Bulldog named Sadie who he loves dearly and weighs 55 pounds. And the only words he knows in Spanish are bano (bathroom) and cervezas (beers). He’s staying with a host family, but told me he hopes they speak English. Instead of taking Spanish in high school, he took Sign Language because both his parents are deaf and so he grew up signing and wanted the easy grade. It’s funny how much you can learn about someone in just a few minutes of talking to them. Anyway, this really nice guy finished charging his phone and left saying, “Maybe I’ll see you on the plane.”
I could only get my phone to charge to 80% before it was my turn to board. Funny enough, that guy was in front of me as we boarded! I was amazed at the plane as soon as I stepped on it. It was luxurious! Comfy chairs, soft blankets, ginormous pillows, ample leg room, and nice décor. Turns out that was first class. Shoot. My new friend and I walked back further and saw a still nice, but not as fancy area. I felt that was still acceptable. But, that turned out to still not be my area. I guess I’m in the lower class seating? My friend and I walked back even further to what was obviously the third-level of the Titanic (aka working people area). Don’t get me wrong, it was still nice. But after seeing the luxury up front, I was a bit disappointed. It was similar to a normal flight, with the addition of a small cotton pillow and thin, red blanket. Plus, we didn’t have tvs on the headrests like I had hoped we would. They were spread periodically around the plane, instead. Kinda like a greyhound bus’.
Part of the plane...I couldn't get a good picture of the nice part.
I kept following that guy back as I walked to my assigned seat. Surprisingly, he stopped just by my aisle! Of the two seats on our side of the plane, 30A and 30B, I was 30A and he was 30B. We laughed at that because what are the chances that the only person I’ve talked to ends up having the assigned seat next to me on a plane full of hundreds of people?
I was immediately grateful, though, because I knew it would be much better flying with someone I know is nice and who I already feel familiar with. And it was! My buddy’s name turned out to be Kurt, and we really got to know each other on the 10.5 hour flight! Which was horrific in it’s own way. Kurt was 26, and I basically learned his whole life story. He was graduating late because he had actually been married before for 3 years. In those years, he worked full time so his wife could focus on school, therefore putting his life on hold. A few months ago, he returned from visiting a friend in New York City to find his wife cheating on him. So, they divorced. Sad story. Anyway, he went back to school to get his degree in sociology. He wants to become a police man and then a Texas ranger, whatever that is. And he loves serial killers like I do, so we spent a great deal of time discussing our knowledge and our favorite serial killer stories.
Oh, and he also told me that the coffee on the flight was free. BEST. DISCOVERY. EVER. I doubt I’d be awake without the plethora of cups I had.
Kurt has travelled a bit, though he’s never been to Europe. Nevertheless, he still thought my reaction to dinner was hilarious. I got very excited when they handed me a cute little tray with adorable side items in addition to the main course I was allowed to choose. (Beef and mashed potatoes vs. cheese ravioli- what do you think I picked?). He also thought it was hilariously funny that I wanted to take pictures of EVERYTHING, and that I was super anxious to see the ocean. He kept insisting that it would be dark, though, and that I wouldn’t be able to see anything. He ended up being right…
Dinner. I'll let you try to guess what it is.
Kurt ended up being one of the best travel buddies I’ve ever had! He gave me his brownie from dinner (apparently he hates chocolate and sweets- proof that crazy people do exist), he offered to charge my phone on his computer, allowed me to watch movies on his computer since the ones on tv were awful, kept updating me on times in Spain, Dallas, and Denver, and he never got mad that I kept opening the window cover, hoping to see the ocean, accidently hitting him in the face with the sun’s death rays in the process.
Guys, 10.5 hours is a long time. Like, really long. I feel like I was on that plane for days. After dinner, the flight attendants turned off the cabin lights, signaling that it was bed time for all of us, I guess. While most people were able to go to sleep, I couldn’t. No matter how hard I tried. I curled up into a ball, I stretched out, I put my headphones in, I took my headphones out. Nothing helped. So I watched whatever was on tv in between attempts to fall asleep. I saw a lot of really terrible tv shows, and then a movie where I think the plot was just Joseph Gordon-Levitt riding around on a bike. Every time I looked up, that’s what he was doing. Nothing else.
Let’s just say, it was a long night. In the morning, the flight attendants gave us all coffee, croissants, and yogurt. The Office happened to be on tv, so at least I got to watch that while eating. Slowly but surely people started moving and opening up windows. It really felt like I was having a slumber party with a plane full of random strangers. But you know what? Everyone I talked to on the plane was incredibly nice and friendly. The lady sitting in front of Kurt is a missionary who lives in Spain although she is American. She gave us a lot of helpful hints about surviving in Spain, especially all the different places on your body to hide money.
Then something awesome happened. I opened the window cover to see the ocean! Seconds before we flew over the top of Spain. The result? A picture of Spain’s coast and the ocean! I’m really proud of that picture, because if I had been a few seconds later I would have missed it. Kurt didn’t think it was as cool as I did, and he laughed at me.
Spain! Mountains in the background.
We finally touched down after a sleepless flight, safe and on time! As we were descending, the flight attendants played a video of what to do after de-boarding. Unfortunately, I was too busy taking pictures to pay attention. Thankfully, I am smart and just follow the crowd because that’s all I needed to do. Kurt had to wait in a specific area for his group (they were going straight to a hostel together) so we wished each other a fun trip and then I was on my own again. Madrid’s airport is humongous. There’s so much extra space, too. I was very tired, but I somehow managed to make it through passport check, customs, and a few tram rides before I was able to get my baggage. Then I had a problem finding my program, CIEE. There weren’t a ton of signs up, and I got pretty confused. A few people asked if I needed help but I was taken aback by their accents and fast way of talking that I blanked and couldn’t ask for help. I dug out the emails I had printed off (thank goodness I did, since there was no wifi and I couldn’t access my email for instructions.) It turned out that I had flown into Terminal 4, and needed to be at Terminal 1. I managed to ask a lady how to get to Terminal 1, and in her long rambling answer, I managed to understand “green bus”. I followed her gestures outside to the bus areas, and after spending way too long than I’d like to admit trying to figure out where the green bus goes, I got on. It took me on a 10-15 minute drive on the interstate to where apparently the other part of the airport is. I would never have been able to find that. I went to the door we were supposed to meet at, but after another 10 minutes of confusion, I realized I was on the wrong floor. I went down the elevator (since I couldn’t find an escalator or stairs) and after walking a bit confused-like, was bombarded by this tiny Spanish lady embracing me in a tight hug. Turns out it was Cristina, our Resident Director at the Universidad de Alcala, who had memorized all our faces from our ID cards. She led me to the group, pulled up a seat for me, and had managed to make me the center of conversation in a group of CIEE students, all while I was still trying to adjust to my surroundings. I must have looked dazed and like a wandering zombie. I finally realized we were in a little gathering area, and most students were already there. It turned out there were three other CIEE students on my flight, but I had beat them to the meeting area. Cristina asked me something about if I knew where they were and I’m pretty sure I just shook my head.
While we waited for the other students, we got to talk to those around us in English. One of the girls near me was a girl named Lacy, who is a friend of some of my friends, and who I had been Facebooking and texting in preparation for the trip. There was also Beth, a girl who I had a class with once and who is really nice, who came up and asked about my flight. I began talking to the other students and really clicked with a lot of them immediately. There was a guy from South Carolina, one from Virginia, a girl from Iowa, and a girl from Wisconsin, all sitting near me, and we had fun learning about each other.
Finally, the last few students showed up, and we all boarded this bus to our hotel. The guy sitting behind me, Cody, who looks exactly like Orlando Bloom, (picture included below) arrived two days ago and was already able to point out sights to us. One interesting thing is you cross the street by walking under it. Apparently it took him two days to figure that out.
Once at the hotel, we got our room assignments. We’re just spending one night in this hotel, and my roommate is a girl named Sarina, who is really nice. We both fell on our beds and took naps as soon as we got to our room. At 2:45, we left to go eat lunch. We went to this restaurant close by, where we went to an upper room. We had two courses and then dessert. We were able to choose from a few options for each course. The first course had options such as chickpea soup, mixed salad with vegetables, or spaghetti with meat sauce. Not sure how that last one fits as an appetizer, but I ordered it. So much came that I couldn’t eat it all!
The water at the restaurant
Kristin with the soup
Spaghetti with mystery meat.
The second course consisted of fish, ham, or chicken. I ordered chicken and it came with French fries. Unfortunately, I didn’t eat much of it because I was so full! The fish looked really gross in my opinion. You could still see the fins and the eyeballs were still there.
I see Orlando Bloom here.
Taylor with the "ice cream"
Dessert also had multiple options. I ordered strawberries, while others had pears, pineapple, or watermelon. There was also flan, pudding, or ice cream bars.
During dinner we were given our agendas for the next few days. It also came with our housing information! My Spanish host mother’s name is Teresa Espejo, and that’s pretty much all I know. Tomorrow we have orientation during the day, and then our host families will pick us up from the hotel tomorrow night.
After dinner we had our siesta. Not wanting to miss out on exploring Alcala, I went with a group of students to the Corte Ingles, or the shopping mall. We really got to bond while looking at all there was to see. It was like a ginormous, upper class Walmart, Best Buy, and IKEA combined.
Walking under the street!
El corte ingles
Decoration? Not sure.
I knew my mom would like pictures of flowers.
The guys got bored while the girls shopped and tried to be cool.
I have never seen a Furby this huge before.
Alcala from the window!
When we got bored with that, we walked up and down the streets of Alcala, and ended up at a fitness park where we played with some of the equipment. We all realized we were super tired, so we came back to the hotel, where I am now writing this. We have dinner in 25 minutes, which is a choice of fish or pork. I chose pork.
The daffodils (I think that's what they're called) here are ginormous!
And that has been my busy past few days! I can’t wait to see what the next few days bring!
P.S. My computer is now in Spanish....when did that happen?