Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Final Journey

Well it’s been about a month since I’ve left Fes and it’s been a whirlwind of a time! I will attempt to write about many of my experiences and emotions leaving Morocco and traveling through Portugal and Spain. Saying goodbye to my host family was pretty hard for me. They had been so kind and considerate to me and I had become good friends with my host brother. After promising them I would return, I began my journey.
My plane landed in Porto, Portugal a little after midnight and I realized that I only had the address of the hostel where I was going to stay. So I ended up taking a cab and had a half Spanish, half Portuguese conversation with the cab driver! I was so exhausted when I got to Porto that I didn’t see much of the city except for the mall where I bought some new Europe-appropriate clothes. I had forgotten what it was like to travel by myself and completely enjoyed my new freedom.
Monument in Lisbon
            My experience in Lisbon was AMAZING. Lisbon is a gorgeous city and definitely a contender for my favorite city. I decided to stay in one of the top-rated hostels in the world and it was a great decision! The hostel was located on the main street of the city and I met tons of people right away. I went on pub crawls, ate tapas, and heard the famous fado singers. I became friends with some people from France and most of them spoke English more or less. They cooked a big meal and we had a great time walking around the city and going out at night. Something you all should know about Europe is that if you go out, you must commit to being out the ENTIRE night. Starting in Lisbon and lasting throughout my entire trip, I don’t think I went to bed before 4 am and if I had gone to a club, I wouldn’t get home until 6 or 7 in the morning. And then I would wake up at 8 or 9 to start my day! Needless to say, I drank a LOT of coffee and slept on trains, planes, and whenever I could! I only spent 7 days in Portugal, but what I did see I loved. I know I will be returning very soon because Portugal captured my heart!
            My flight out of Portugal landed in Valencia on 6 pm on a Sunday night. I had my huge hiking backpack, my smaller school backpack, and my smaller purse. I got out of the airport and realized I had no idea where I was going. I checked my wallet to find that I had no cash so I went to an ATM only to find out my debit card had stopped working. I remembered the name of the street that my hostel was on so I tried finding a map. I was able to locate the street and figured that it would take me about an hour to walk to the hostel. With no other options left, I started walking along the deserted streets. With the 30 kilos that I was carrying on my back, the 95 degree weather, and the fact that I had gotten around 5 hours of sleep total in the last week, I found a bench and just started crying. I was a pathetic mess and I just didn’t care what people thought of me. I sat there until I felt like I had enough strength to find my hostel and after a while I came across a few police officers who pointed me in the right direction. I found the hostel, crashed, and left early the next morning for Barcelona.
Gaudi House
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona
Gorgeous streets of Barcelona
            Lucky for me, I found another amazing hostel. About 5 minutes after arriving, I was invited to eat dinner with a group of people from the hostel. They were from Australia, Canada, France, Switzerland, and a ton of other cool countries. That night we all went out and I met up with Colby and her friend Victoria at one of the bars! I was SO happy to see them! I love traveling by myself and doing whatever I want, but it’s so nice to have a friend tearing up the town alongside you. We also met up with our friend Francisco who had also studied with us in Fes and we all had a great time until we all split up and Francisco and I got lost. We spent a little bit of time trying to find the club they were going to, but then we gave up, bought a bottle of wine, and wandered around the streets of Barcelona. The next few days I met a ton of people and went to the beach, went to many more bars and walked around Barcelona many, many times. I love walking. When I travel, I don’t necessarily care about seeing every single famous building. I like walking around the smaller streets, talking with people, and sitting at cafes and watching people walk by. Of course I saw the Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi houses, and Las Ramblas, but nothing can compare with sharing a jar of sangria with a Spaniard you just met and talking about differences in languages, opinions, and cultures.
Festival near Lleida
            When I started planning my trip, I knew I wanted to visit a small town in Spain. I signed up for Couch Surfing, and found a family that wanted to host me in their small town of Lleida. The father picked me up at the bus station and they cooked me a great dinner right away and we had a great conversation switching from Spanish, to Catalan, to English. They had great perspectives since they had traveled so much before and gave me a map and pointed out places for me to visit the next day. The city was so cute and the people were very friendly. I walked up to the castle overlooking the city and went down to the river with a girl I had also met through Couch Surfing. She had two dogs and we hung out by the river for a while and then went to a bar her friend owned. It was great hanging out with someone closer to my age who didn’t speak English but I felt like I got a real, unbiased view of life in the Spanish countryside. That night I met back up with Montse and Albert (my hosts) and they took me to an incredible festival in a town close by. The festival consisted of people holding sparklers and fireworks in very narrow streets. This would NEVER happen in the United States and I completely enjoyed myself! It was really scary being close to all the fire and sure enough, I have burns on my feet and holes burnt in my shirt, but it was totally worth it!! I am so glad I went to a small town and I really hope I will be able to spend more time here in the future.
My birthday in Madrid
Me and Birgit!
            I arrived in Madrid on my birthday and met up with Colby, Victoria, and my friend Birgit (my host sister from Holland). We had a dinner of paella and sangria and then hit the clubs! The night was so much fun with all four of us and it was a great way to celebrate my birthday! Colby and Victoria had a flight the next day, so it was just Birgit and me in Madrid for the next few days. We walked around the city, took a nap in the Parque del Retiro, toured the Palacio Real, and tried navigating through the streets filled with the kids from World Youth Day. We went to an Irish pub to watch the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona futbol game and had such a fun time! We met some people while we were on a pub crawl and I was able to go to a Salsa club where I twirled and danced around the dance floor all night. By the time Birgit left and I only had a half day left, I was exhausted and aching all over my body. But I didn’t let that stop me from going out for dinner with a guy I had met from Cameroon. If I ever have an opportunity to meet someone from a place like Cameroon, I will drop everything and listen to them. He was really interesting and by the time we got back, my flight was in a few hours so I packed up and began my journey to the US.
            The first few days I slept. I slept, and slept, and slept and then slept some more. I hung out with some friends, spent a lot of time with my family, and showed my brother’s host brother from Austria around Seattle. It’s been about two weeks since I got back and the boredom is just starting to hit me. I got so used to always having something fun and interesting to do and now that I am at home, everything just sucks. Don’t get me wrong- I love being with my family and hanging out with my friends, but I also love exploring ruins in Morocco or walking around a palace in Spain. I’m pretty sure the only cure for my boredom is to start planning my next adventure (junior year studying in Colombia??)!

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