“Reverse Culture Shock”

I was told that when I returned to the United States that I would experience “Reverse Culture Shock.” I was even sent a list of things to do to help this so-called shock.

Luckily for me, I flew into Miami from Madrid for 24 hours to visit my sister. It was a nice buffer because Miami feels like its own Hispanic country, not like a state in the US.

Also, it’s been crazy busy for me since I stepped off the plane so I didn’t have time to fight jet lag, stuff my face with all of the food I have missed, or enjoy the incredible humidity I forgot about.

The only culture shock I experienced was when I was on the plane from Miami to St. Louis. I was sitting in my seat in a row of 3 and I was waiting for the other two to sit down. A young man was walking down the aisle and he was looking at me and smiling. I assumed one of the seats next to me was his, so I questioningly pointed to the seat next to me and he laughed. He said, “No, that’s not mine.”

It took me a second to realize that he was just being nice and/or flirting. I have been living in a culture that no one looked at each other while walking. It took me a couple of days to look at people and smile. I wonder how b*#?+y I looked walking around Menards just looking at people he not smiling. I would like to apologize to all of the people not reading this post for not smiling back.

My bad.

To be honest I didn’t experience a culture shock when I was back in the US. The only thing that felt different was seeing my family. I missed them so much and it didn’t seem real sitting with my sister and brother in law in Miami or playing with my nephew back home.

It’s also nice having a home with air conditioning, eating home grown peaches, eating homemade deer sticks, playing with my puppy dogs, seeing my friends and loved ones face to face rather than on FaceTime…the list goes on and on.

I wish I could say I came home to a peaceful place, I slept for days, and slowly got back to normal. In reality, the second I walked off the plane I had things to do and I still have a major to do list two weeks after.

Unfortunately, the GRE won’t take itself, my job won’t do itself, my room won’t clean itself, my books won’t buy themselves, my house won’t remodel itself…and the list goes on and on.

It feels great to be back! I can’t deny that. But it should be proof enough that I’ve been busy since it has taken me 2 weeks to write a small, boring post about the mythical “Reverse Culture Shock.”

I will leave you with this though:
Jet lag is a very, very real thing.

Odds and Ends of Paris

I’m a week late with my post about Paris but I guess late is better than never. Unless you don’t enjoy this post…then it would have been better not to write it.

I have been in Spain for two months and it has been a love-hate relationship between the two of us. I went to Paris for a weekend and fell in love. Would it have been different if I were studying in France and took a weekend trip to Spain? Probably. But I didn’t want to leave Paris. A weekend was not long enough.

I’m pretty sure that Paris might be the only place that you can have a coffee and hangout with Van Gogh, Renoir, Picasso, Monet, Hemingway and many others. I watched Midnight in Paris quite a while before I left for Spain and I loved it! Obviously, I did not time travel but I felt like I did.

I know there are old cities in the world but Paris seemed to be an eclectic version of ancient and modern. You can spend days at the Palace of Versailles and pretend you’re living like the king or you can imagine what it was like to film on set with Kirsten Dunst just a few years ago.

My uncle told me he was deeply jealous of me traveling to Paris. At first, I thought it a because of his artistic nature. Why wouldn’t an artist want to travel to Paris?

Then I realized why. One of the best parts of Paris was doing nothing. The art of nothing is something I have not learned. Paris tried to teach me though.

I didn’t want to sit in a restaurant and eat. I wanted to take my food and sit anywhere in the city and watch the city go by.

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I have been to Rome and Paris now and in neither city I was with a significant other. Rome I felt like I needed to be with a loved one to enjoy most of the sights. Paris wasn’t the same. I felt like I could have been in Paris by myself, with my family, my best gals, or my boyfriend. It wouldn’t have mattered. Because no matter who you are, Paris will wow you.

Sainte-Chapelle

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I know that not everyone is a fan of Paris. How could there be one single thing in this world that every single being loves? Let’s just say I would find it very hard to understand why one may not like Paris.

Maybe those who didn’t like Paris got stuck with too many tourists (like I did in Rome) or didn’t take the AMAZING CultureFish tour like I did. (You can’t do Paris without their tour..you pay by tip only! Check them out!) Or maybe they thought French people were rude (I definitely did not…but then again I’ve grown accustomed to the people in Spain).

Yes, there were tourists. Yes, it was hotter than you know what. And yes, the language is quite difficult. But you can escape from all of those things.

My cousin and I did Rome in 2 days. It was possible. It was kind of a blur but we did it. On foot.

Paris is all over the place! Don’t want the city? Escape to the neighborhoods.

Sacre Coeur

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Van Gogh’s Home

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Of course I want to return to the city. I definitely won’t be staying in a hostel next time and I won’t have such a short time limit. And hopefully, next time I return will be with a significant other so I can finally enjoy one of the most romantic cities in the world with someone I love.

Famous Lock Bridge

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So This is Where I Have Been Living…

Normally when one goes to a foreign country or city he/she puts on the tourist cap, de-lenses the camera and buttons up the fanny pack. It’s a natural thing to do.

When one has to live in a foreign country he/she should try to think like a chameleon and blend in with the people. The person doesn’t give herself hat hair, uses her iPhone very sneakily for pictures, and I will make no comment on wearing a fanny pack.

*side story for fanny pack:
I’ve got nothing against fanny packs. They are a practical way to hold belongings…apparently men in Spain think that way too. I’ve never seen so many fanny packs in my life. Not even when I went to Disney World. Grown men and young men all wear fanny packs here. I cannot take them seriously knowing that they think it’s fashionable and practical. I’ve seen “murses” (man purses) as well. I know I’m in Europe but after a month and a half I still have to look away so they don’t see me giggling at their carrying devices…if I see a bejeweled one or something of the like I will definitely crack.

Dang…I’ve gotten so distracted about fanny packs I honestly can’t remember what the point of this blog post was…

Oh right! Valencia!

I’ve been here for nearly 2 months and I am continuing to find new places of the city. Most importantly, I’m learning new information about this place. Did you know that the city was founded in 138 BC? Neither did I! Until I had to google it for my culture class.

If my father reads this I know he will be shaking his head. My sisters heads are probably shaking too. I have self-diagnosed ADD so I find it difficult to pay attention in a classroom when being taught in a foreign language that is being thrown at me 100 miles per hour. Forgive me for not picking up all of the facts.

We went to a museum that is a building that is on top of the ancient ruins of the original city. You literally walk through the building on a glass catwalk that is over the ruins. Pretty cool huh? I thought so! My class almost had to drag me out of the building.

Below is part of the ruins that is at the entrance of the building. There was a sign that said no pictures…refer to sneaky-iPhone-non-touristy-usage comment above.

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For many years I have been doing volunteer archaeology work with my father during the summers. My favorite thing to dig/find is ceramics. I was drooling over these.

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After we left that building we went to La Llotja de Mercaders Patrimoni Mundial (Commodity Exchange Building World Heritage Monument) aka the Silk Trade Building. I’ve walked past the building multiple times and never knew what it was. It was beautiful! Time for a fact: It began being built in 1483! Apparently it stopped functioning after a drought killed the majority of the population of silk worms.

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The point of this post is to show that you can never stop learning. If you become bored or complacent then you have closed your books of education. Learning is a never ending book.

Every day that I’m here I’m learning something new, whether it’s about the culture, city, language, or a new set of vocabulary words for my GRE study prep. Should I take this time to quote a famous movie? Oh I think I shall.

“Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while…you could miss it.”
-do I even need to tell you where this is from? If I do, re-read the quote and rent yourself Ferris Buehler’s Day Off for goodness sakes.

I have been meeting great people this month and obviously I’m learning a lot. Next week is a 4 day trip to Paris! No, I do not know any French besides the most basic phrases. No, I do not have a lot of money to spend there. And no, I couldn’t tell you most of the history of anything I will be seeing while I’m there.

But you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be lacing up my sneakers, strapping on my camera bag and ironing out my tourist guide. I will learn an incredible amount of information while I’m there so my dad and sisters don’t strangle me for not knowing what I took pictures of.

So I wonder what will happen when a poor, American college student walks into Paris?

Even the Strong will Fall

If you know me personally you will know that I don’t cry often. And by that I mean ever.

Now that my blog has been put up on the school website and in our local paper the stress of writing is growing. My mom has also been reminding me that I need fresh material for my new readers.

That’s fine and dandy but a writer can’t just write. If Jane Austen just wrote to write then we would probably have been reading about the romantic way that wax falls from a candle stick. We wouldn’t have been transported to the English country side where we all (yes, ALL) fell in love with Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. If Shakespeare wrote to just write we might have been reading about the smelly, dirty streets and crazy happenings of old English streets. We wouldn’t have been immersed in beautiful writing that taught us about love and horrible, tragic destinies.

If I wrote to write you would be reading about how I’m sweating like a pig in my room trying to do homework or purely survive without dehydrating. Or maybe how many things I’ve been pinning on Pinterest in my free time because if I move a muscle I will instantly fall into a heat stroke.

Today, I received an email saying that there was a letter waiting for me in the program’s office. A letter? For muah? Who could it be from?

I tried to wait and go before my night class but I’m terrible at waiting. Hence why my mother still hides Christmas presents or numbers them even after my 21 years of age.

I practically ran to the office (which resulted in a full body sweat/detox) and found the letter. It was from my second home, aka work. I couldn’t believe it!

I opened it up instantly and walked down the streets back home with a huge smile on my face. The notes from my friends/family made my day/week/month. It’s ironic too because I have another postcard to send to work ready to be mailed!

I haven’t received much in the mail because a) it’s expensive b) hello 21st century, we have technology and c) it takes forever if it even makes it.

I didn’t think traveling for this long would bother me and it really hasn’t. I went on my first trip alone when I was 15 for two weeks and didn’t look back.

It all started to hit me when I facetimed with my nephew and he said “Hi, Aunt Ca-Ca!” Before I left he couldn’t even say ca-ca. Holy moly. How was I going to live without seeing him for 2 months?

Then I was trying to find an outfit for him and realized I don’t know how big he is! I haven’t held him in 1.5 months! I shrugged it off. He can’t be getting that big. I’m overreacting.

THEN my sister Jess went home from Miami to go to a John Mayer concert with my other sister. Cool! Of course I wanted to go but I’m in Spain!

Jess asked to FaceTime me with the whole family only to find out that SHE’S ENGAGED! I was so excited. But then it hit me that I’m not there to hug her or Paolo! I cried. I cried like a baby. I was the only one that cried out of the entire family, which is the most unusual thing.

Then I receive this letter from work and it only makes you realize how much family and friends mean to you. I have missed out on 3 of my best friends’ 21st birthdays, I will be missing another birthday, an engagement, celebrations for passing major exams, new houses, etc. Not to mention all of the fun I have every time I’m at work.

I’m not exactly home sick but I only wish that I could experience these things with the people closest to me. Maybe everyone should go away for a while to realize how many people they truly love. What’s the saying, “distance only makes the heart grow fonder?” Well I’m figuring that out the hard way!

The FaceTime moments with family and friends, the card from work, and comments on my blog make me feel so lucky. I’m grateful to know that I have great family and friends waiting for me to come home (possibly because they know I’ll come bearing gifts…) and that I have people sharing my adventures with me.

My sappy post is over and I hope to have an exciting post coming soon. Tonight Cassi and I will be going to a friend’s apartment (my friend Amber from Texas who I met in Rome…I’ll let that soak in). We are going to have homemade fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, Colombian cuisine for her roommate’s birthday, mojitos made by one of the roommate’s German girlfriend, and a tequila concoction made by the Americans. If we survive that we will be heading over to a flamenco show.

Let. The. Games. Begin.

2 Americans Walk to the Beach…

Have you ever woken up with a plan and watched it work itself out? If yes, good for you! If no, I feel ya!

Sadly but excitingly we are winding down on the amount of weekends left in Valencia. Yesterday, we stayed inside and enjoyed the art of nothing while we watched the heat rays seep into our room.

Today we had the plan to go to the center of the city and then to the beach for fireworks….the first part worked.

This morning we headed to the center of the city (our favorite). I could barely sleep I was so excited because my first stop was an amazing coffee shop hidden in the side streets of Valencia. We had success in finding last minute gifts and we were finally able to experience the market.

The market is a large building (resembles Union Station in St. Louis) that is packed with food vendors, hanging meats, fresh everything, an overwhelming smell of fish, bunches of people, and random souvenir shops hidden within. It’s an experience to say the least!

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I bought some organic olive oil and also nearly became drunk off of about 2 tablespoons of homemade wine…I think I discovered Spain’s version of moonshine.

We returned home to go to the beach. The plan was to meet new students at 4 then hang out until fireworks at midnight.

Wellllllllllll we got there at 4 and no one showed up. So this is how our night actually turned out..(in a nutshell)

We ran into a Gelato World Tour. Yup. You read that correctly. I tried a roasted pumpkin (not that good), a blackberry lemon (AMAZING…but too sugary for me), nougat (still not sure what that exactly tastes like but not bad), and “grandma’s cookies” (the name should tell you how that was). All for €5!

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From there we ran into an Egyptian Fair where I played with some falcons/owls? (I couldn’t tell you what I actually played with…)

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After I got my pictures with the giant bird we enjoyed the sun for a quick moment. I wasn’t feeling good after all of the sugar from gelato so I wanted to head home. Well not so fast! We ran into an International Rugby Tournament on the beach.

When I say we ran into things I mean it. These things pop up like chia pets.

We ended up sitting for 2 hours watching a sport we knew absolutely nothing about and screaming Oohs and Ahs when no one else did. It was a men and women’s tournament so it was quite interesting!

The most interesting part was when an old lady sat down right next to me and constantly whacked me with her umbrella. Oh no ladies and gentlemen. Not just a normal umbrella. An umbrella with Asian baby faces on it…see picture below…sometimes people just can’t make this stuff up.

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After the tournament was over we walked back home after passing a costume volleyball tournament, people of different ethnicities in authentic garb, and a bunch of bicyclists. One never knows what you will find at the Valencia beach.

Our walk home was interesting because I had to walk our 30 minute walk without shoes because I had cuts on my feet. Who knows why…

About a block away from home 3 little ladies asked me why I had no shoes on. They were genuinely concerned! It took me by complete surprise that a) someone in Spain addressed me b) they were genuinely concerned and c) they were incredibly nice. I’m not saying all people in Spain are rude, but it’s just not the same as in the US.

I received an incredible amount of looks because I had no shoes on. I have seen minor porn break out on park benches, children using the restroom in the middle of a sidewalk, and nearly naked people walk around and they receive not a second glance. But Oh No! Walk around without shoes and you might as well just wear a neon sign asking to be stared at. Maybe I will walk around naked next time with sneakers and see how many stares I get. (Just kidding mom!)

I understand why the ladies were concerned now…see below….

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After I jumped straight into the shower only to fill it with black grime, I enjoyed a wonderful FaceTime with my entire family.

Life is great and maybe not having your plans work out is for the best. If my plans wouldn’t have fallen through I wouldn’t have done any of the unique and exciting things today.

Tomorrow we might be heading to a medieval festival…who knows what might actually happen!

Stay tuned!

Kitchen Survival

This post may be offensive to some but I wanted to share my stories in the kitchen. Please don’t take these stories as being ungrateful or disrespectful, but as humorous and entertaining.

As you may know from my previous post, my nickname is Tickeys-Mickeys. Some days it’s funny, some days it’s irritating.

My roommate and I have had a few encounters in the kitchen recently and at the time we couldn’t stop laughing. Where to begin?

The first story is about how I clogged the kitchen sink with a rice pudding and had to become a plumber…

My roommate does not like rice at all, so our host mom made a rice pudding thinking that Cassi would change her mind about rice. As it turned out, Cassi still does not like rice! That meant that I had to eat all of the rice pudding.

Don’t get me wrong, I like desserts but after a large meal I physically can’t fit any more food. There was enough rice pudding made to last me a week of desserts…the dish wasn’t bad but I didn’t like it THAT much.

One day while our host mom was out of the house we had a large lunch. Of course, there was a cup of rice pudding left for me. There isn’t a trash can in the kitchen, it’s either recyclable or you put the food in the compost bin. Well if I put the rice pudding in the compost bin then she would know! What to do, what to do?

I honestly considered dumping it out of the window but unfortunately there were people below eating at the cafe that we live on top of. The only thing I could do was put it down the drain! That had to be easy right?

WRONG!

I put a little by little of rice pudding down the drain. I had to dump it or she would have made me eat it again for dinner or for lunch the next day. I’m running the water to help it go down. I get the whole cup down to realize that the water won’t drain anymore!

I broke the sink! I take a kebab stick and try to snake the drain…that didn’t work. I try to run really hot water…that didn’t work. There must be a plunger somewhere! I go to the bathroom and there isn’t one to be found. Who doesn’t have a plunger in their bathroom?

There is no Spanish version of Drain-o here either. Crap! I look under the sink one more time and I finally find a plunger. Thank goodness!

I put the plunger in the sink and press down….only to create a fountain of water from a random hole on the side of the sink! You can see the small holes on the left side of the sink in the picture. I’m talking fountain! Like almost hitting the ceiling fountain!

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How in the world is water coming out of that hole?! I finally grab my host mom’s pink rubber gloves and cover up the hole and plunge with the other hand. The entire time my roommate is laughing hysterically at me, finishing her lunch with a show.

Finally, I get the sink unclogged and clean up my huge mess. Goes to show I shouldn’t be eating that rice pudding if it clogs a kitchen sink!!!

Turns out…2 days later…there was more rice pudding and she served it to me again. Crap.

My second story in the kitchen is about potato salad. Alright, so in the United States potato salad is normally a side dish. As it should be because it is a heavy dish since it is made with mayo. In Spain it is made with about double the mayo! They put mayo on everything here! If you’re studying nutrition like I am, you tend to steer clear of mayo, especially the full-fat-feel-guilty-just-by-looking-at-it kind.

Our host mom served us a LARGE bowl of potato salad that was made with potatoes, peas, cheese, raw onions, pickles, a bunch of spices, and about 2 jars of mayo. No exaggeration. Not only did she serve us the large bowl but there was also 2 slices of bread each with mayo and tuna, peanuts, fruit, and bread with condensed milk on it…

I wasn’t feeling good that day already because of who knows what. I didn’t sleep that night because of bad acid reflux and my stomach was not happy with me about anything. I made it about 5 bites into the potato salad and it just hit my stomach like a ton of bricks. Oh good, only 245 more bites to go to finish. I push my food around and nibble on it and look at my roommate. She was doing the same thing and she wasn’t even sick. How were we going to make it through the potato salad and everything else?

I had to take measures into my own hands. Unfortunately, there were people outside again so I couldn’t dump the food out the window. I couldn’t put it all in the empty compost bin either. Definitely wasn’t going to try the sink exit plan again!

Then my cartoon lightbulb went off! I went to the other side of the kitchen and grabbed a bread bag. That’s right. I dumped my mayo salad into a bread bag and then handed it to my roommate to do the same. After our bowls were empty I ran the bag to our room that was later put into a dumpster by my roommate. Success!

I know most of you are thinking…why not just tell her you couldn’t eat all of it?

Well it doesn’t work like that with our host mom. For instance, she came in while we were trying to eat the rest of the food and she loudly exclaimed in Spanish, “you didn’t eat the nuts?!” I explained to her that we were getting to them after the bread. Then she walked away mumbling something in Spanish.

Get the picture?

What would she have said if we couldn’t even eat the main dish?

There will probably be more kitchen adventures to come because we seem to be on a downward slope (in my opinion) with the food situation. For instance, I just ate lunch and it was cabbage and pork. Not my favorite but it’s food!

My host mom explained that I probably wouldn’t like it since I’m Tickeys-Mickeys (which begs the question as to why would you serve it to me then?). I ate it anyways but came across one bite of questionable pork that was cartilage and I nearly spit everything out onto the plate. When she saw me do that she just laughed and laughed about how I’m Tickeys-Mickeys.

In my profile I stated that I would prefer a vegetarian diet but yet I’m being served very questionable pieces of meat that she knows I won’t like. After she got done laughing at me she asked if I wanted more. When I said no, she laughed again. I think she might be enjoying me struggling through meals. If that’s the case…there will be more creative exit plans for future meals.

Game on.

Lost Without Pants

Now that I have your attention with my title, I would like to explain before I receive a text from my mother asking why I had no pants on while lost in Valencia.

The truth is: I really didn’t have pants on because I was wearing a dress. Bam! Tricky, tricky, I know.

For about two weeks I have been stressing over school, travel arrangements, my 38 ginormous mosquito bites, and not having something to write about. Well, the big man upstairs (not my noisy neighbor who moves his furniture around everyday…the other man waaaay upstairs) must have heard my silent plea because last night happened.

On Wednesday nights I go to a bar called, Portland where there is an intercambio night. You sit down and mingle with Spanish people and you help each other with English and Spanish. I love it and might be going to it on Tuesday nights as well.

The story begins…well actually it began that morning. Does anyone else accidentally foreshadow their day like me? Maybe it’s the Pisces in me but hot dang I should really start seeing the signs quicker.

Every morning I seem to have a different carrying device. I was switching things over from my backpack to my purse and I put my map of Valencia away and said to myself, “I don’t need this anymore! I know my way around!” Like a Big. Fat. Idiot. This is the point where someone should have smacked me on the forehead like a V8 commercial. But, alas, no one was there to tell me to bring the map.

My roommate and I head to Portland and we have a great time (we’re completely sober, which makes me think how in the heck drunk people get home…). Then we leave and there’s always the spot at the end of the bridge and we cross the street to go home. Well, we’ve been trying to have small adventures and take new routes home. We were soooooo wrong. And by we, I mean me. I chose the road. I take all blame.

Let me explain a few quick things to help you understand what comes next:
– roads are not parallel here. They’re not even close to being parallel.
– streets have about 3 different names here and they can change on a daily basis (fact, not exaggeration)
– bus stop maps (or any public map for that matter) DO NOT show you, “this is where you are now!”
– all maps only show about 1/3 of the street names in Valencia
– some maps have north pointing in the most random direction so you have to look at it upside down with your head tilted to get your bearings correct
– street names are in Valencian…which is not the same as Spanish. So when you do suck up your pride and try to ask for directions no one really understands what you’re saying.

Alright, keep all of these in mind.

We take the unknown-at-that-time very wrong turn. It takes about 30+ minutes to walk from the bar to the house. We walk and walk and the street starts to get a tad sketchy. The people become dirtier looking, more men are present, there are inappropriate drawings on the walls, etc. We keep walking and I look at my watch realizing we should have hit a major road that is close to our house.

After about 25 minutes of walking, I stop at a bus stop map only to find out it’s completely useless (refer to list above).

Let me explain something else. I’m a very easy going person (for the most part) but there are a few things I can’t handle just like everyone else. For example, with my sister Stephanie, you never want to be in the same car as her when there’s a) traffic, horrible drivers, slow drivers, etc or b) you’re lost.

I always thought that I would be ok with getting lost. I was wrong. I’m fine with getting lost if I have a map that actually tells me things and I can figure it out eventually. Walking around Valencia at 11pm with no map, no GPS, no cell phone, no compass, no sundial, or etc to tell me where I’m going is one of the worst things in this world. I started to get angry.

From our house to the ocean is about 20-25 minutes of walking. The ocean to Portland is about 1 hour+. We ended up very close to the ocean…practically on the beach.

I find a map at a bike station but north was pointed southwest…is that a joke? A sick joke. So I tilted my head and turned myself around to only have no clue where I was and to have no street names on the map.

We finally stop at a bus stop and I caved…we asked for directions. The lady told us we could hop on a bus to get home. That’s fine and dandy but which direction do we catch the bus? She didn’t know. Great.

Then I really broke down. I stuck my arm out and caught us a freaking taxi.

Remember my list?

We get in the taxi and we tell him our street name. Well we can’t say it right because it’s Valencian. Finally, he understands us but we called it Calle Tarrongers and it’s Albalat Tarrongers. So then we tell him just to take us to the university by that street because it’s only a block away from the house. Then he continues to tell us that there are many parts of the university…yadda yadda yadda.

After many explanations in Spanish as to where in the heck we live, we made it home on a €6 cab ride.

This is what I’ve learned:
– don’t try to find new ways home at 11pm. Wait until the sun is shining bright.
– swallow your pride and carry your dang map
– carry your phone so you at least have your compass (you’d be surprised how many times my electronic compass has gotten me home)
– my mom will like this one…when your gut says, “umm excuse me, I think you’re going in the wrong direction…” Don’t continue to walk even if someone you’re with thinks it’s the right thing to do.

I will keep my thoughts even more silent next week while trying to figure out what to write about…