Let’s just start from the beginning…
On January 11th, I left Seattle for España! I woke up in wee hours of the morning (4:45 am), after getting a solid hour of sleep, for my 24 hours of traveling to come. I wheeled my two overly stuffed bags up to the counter at the airport and was proud that neither were over fifty pounds…although one was very close at forty nine but whose counting, right? Since my mom insisted I be at the airport at 5am even though my flight didn’t leave until 8:35am I sat in the empty terminal for a while before going to get my bagel fix. I ran into two of the girls from my program and we giggled to each other about how “oh my god we couldn’t believe we were actually going to Spain!” Overall there was about eight of us in my program all on the same flights (Seattle to Chicago, Chicago to Madrid, Madrid to Jerez). I spent most of the flights in and out of a groggy sleep, although on the Chicago to Madrid flight I made friends with a German girl sitting next to me.
She is sixteen and was flying back from the U.S. where she was helping out her relatives with their new, twin babies. I could not believe she made the trip all the way from Germany to the U.S. to help her family over her Christmas break. She told me how she envied my ability to buy peanut butter and chocolate chips both of which are not sold in Germany. My immediate reply was, “how do you make chocolate chip cookies?” and her answer was, “We don’t!” WHAT. She explained it was because they also do not have brown sugar, which is a necessity in the delicious cooking making process. Major bummer for Germans. She pointed to her carry-on bag above us and said she had packed many, many jars of peanut butter and bags of chocolate chips to take home with her. Smart thinking. I immediately regretted the decision not to make room for peanut butter in my suitcase. I smiled as I told her I was in fact also German and my last name is even a German word. It was insightful to compare our lifestyles growing up in different countries. She said she was thinking about going to a university in the U.S. and asked if they were free. I replied with a confused “Um no??” and she said ALL public universities in Germany are free! This amazed me. The U.S. and European systems seem more and more different to me every day.
Our flight landed late in Madrid and we missed our last flight to Jerez. Thankfully a woman working in the airport gave us tickets to another flight and some free lunch vouchers. We were all beyond tired, bored, and dirty after endless hours of flying and layovers. The last thing we wanted was to sit in another airport for hours. We played name games and said fun facts about ourselves- some interesting ones from my group “I cannot smell and I have never been able to. The doctors don’t know why” and “I have been a youngest, middle, and oldest child in my family.” Muy interesante. We also guessed the definitions to random words in one of the boy’s Spanish-English dictionaries. Leave a group of UW students stuck in a Spanish airport without wifi to resort to studying. Once we landed in Jerez we took a bus ride organized by our school to Cadiz (finalmente right). After about forty minutes we arrived in Cadiz! We got off of the bus and hugged/ double cheek kissed our new Spanish host moms. My host mom silently judged me as we dragged my two GIANT suitcases over the cobblestone streets and up eight flights of stairs to my new house. Oh so shameful in my American over packing ways. She showed me around their flat style apartment and I went straight into my bed at 7:30 pm and woke up at 9am the next day.