By Brittney Durbin
I woke up to the sound of the pilot saying, “Please fasten your seat belts and prepare for arrival; We will be landing in Madrid shortly.” Clearly the Tynenol PM did its job, as I slept for the majority of the flight. Once we landed, I was thrilled to finally be in Europe, and to go explore Madrid before making my way to Alicante.
After getting off the plane, we proceeded to customs… Oh, that reminds me. I forgot to mention that my wonderful mother came along to explore Spain with me. Make fun all you want, but I don’t know many people who get the opportunity to have an European adventure with their mom.
And boy, did we have an adventure.
Here’s where the whole “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” comes into play.
We approach the customs officer, only for him to say that my visa’s entry date is Aug. 24 and he is not sure that I can enter the country.
Cue the panic.
As I stood there, waiting for him to check with his superior, I didn’t even know what to think or say. Luckily, he came back and informed me that I was good to go, and thank goodness because I’m not sure what would have happened if he denied me access.
After we made it through customs, my mother and I proceed to baggage claim, where a lady selling calling cards asked us if we would like to purchase one. Since our phones were not working (which, by the way, they were supposed to be active) my mom went ahead and bought the card. We picked up our bags,and made our way to the area where the hotel shuttles pick up/drop off guests.
Only the shuttle never showed up.
An hour later, we decided to return inside the airport to call the hotel and check the status of the shuttle.
However, we couldn’t get the calling card to work. Despite many attempts, we could not figure out how to use the phone and calling card. We found one of the salesmen to help us,but he couldn’t get it to work either. Tired, hungry and frustrated, I tried one more time and FINALLY got through to the hotel.
Turns out the shuttle is broken, and will not be fixed until Sept. 1.
By this point we had been at the airport for three hours, so my mom canceled the reservation in Madrid and went to the train ticket booth to purchase two tickets to Alicante.
A short bus ride later, we arrived at the train station to see that the train left at 12:45 p.m. It was about 10:30/11 a.m. so we attempted to eat, which was unsuccessful because it was about 4:30/5 in the morning Midwest time… Obviously not lunch time.
We proceed to go board the train, only to be stopped by the people at security because our ticket was not for 12:45, it was for 2:25.
Turns out the man at the ticket counter sold us tickets for the later train.
I somehow managed to fall asleep on one of the chairs, only to be woken up to get on the train. I yet again fell asleep when I sat down.
By this point you probably realize that I sleep A LOT. Ask any of my friends or family,and most of the time if they cannot get ahold of me its because I’m taking a nap or went to bed super early.
I mean, why do you think I decided to study abroad in a country that encourages nap time? It was a no-brainer for me.
Anyway, back to my story.
I woke up a short distance from the train station, and once we had our luggage we went outside to catch a taxi. We told him where we needed to go, and a short distance later he pulled right outside the university. He said that it was a little walk, but that since the gate was up he could not drop us off at the entrance to the hotel.
Well, that little walk became a two hour journey.
We walked in the direction the taxi driver pointed us, and did not see the name of the hotel. We asked a security guard, who in turn said to go a completely different direction. We then asked a couple sitting on a lawn, who told us that we were close and to keep going the way the security guard had previously mentioned. We then asked another couple, who pointed us in the opposite direction, towards the entrance where we started.
This pattern continued for about four more people, until we end up at a random university housing complex. The woman working the reception desk was extremely nice and helpful. She gave us directions, but at that point my mother and I were so tired that we called yet another taxi.
This driver actually knew where we needed to go, and got us safely to the hotel. However, I say safely with a grain of salt, because I almost got ran over by a car. Apparently it’s not like Mizzou where you have the right away to cross the street whenever you please… oops.
Since the phone wasn’t working, I booted up my computer in hopes of contacting my dad. I couldn’t get through, but luckily I got ahold of my best friend via FaceTime, who in turn called my dad and let him know that we finally made it to the hotel.
I left my house Monday morning at 9 a.m., and arrived at the hotel Tuesday at about 7 p.m. It was an extremely long journey, but I learned a few things along the way:
- Pack lightly. I was definitely regretting bringing so much luggage when we were pulling it all over the university in 100 degree weather.
- Bring an adapter for the outlets. I thought the hotel would have them, but it turns out that the adapters provided do not work for my computer charger, or even my phone charger. This morning, (which is now Wednesday), the CIEE office directed us to a hardware store so that we could purchase the proper adapters. It all ended up being okay in the end, but sitting in a room with no means of communication was not a fun experience.
- Bring a calling card. I’m pretty sure the one we bought was not worth how much money we paid for it, and the ones in the states are reasonably priced. I know you can purchase them on any military base, but if you don’t have access to one, I think Walmart and Sam’s Club has them for sale as well.
- Do some research on the euro. It seems like a simple thing to exchange money, but when you don’t have a good understanding on how much one euro is in comparison to U.S. dollars, it is difficult.
- Bring the address of the place you want the taxi driver to take you. I think that if I had been more prepared, I probably could have avoided all the walking around campus.
After making it through my first 24 hours in Spain, I look forward to what lies ahead in the days to come.
Hopefully more adventures await, but Murphy and his law can stay at home next time.