Back on the Grid (Extensive Post)

I left Madrid on May 7th, taking a train to the southern tip of Spain into Cadiz. The train ride itself was great, lasting about 4 hours. Spanish trains display current speed, and since it was a high-speed train, we were going about 250 km/h on average. I got a kick out of that.

Once into Cadiz, my friend came to pick me up. E’s been living in Cadiz for several years now, teaching English and basically having a great time. She studied abroad for one year while we were juniors in college, and after graduation, she pretty much packed up and left the States to go back to Spain. I can definitely see why, too. Beyond the laid-back Spanish culture, Cadiz is right on the beach, and the people E is connecting with all over the city are outstanding.

My first day in Cadiz was relaxing, with a walk, some grocery shopping, and dinner. I met E’s man-friend, originally from London, and I found him to be quite entertaining. A real nice guy, I’d say. We all ended up staying in that night, since the next day, we were going to Feria de Jerez.

Feria is a “fairly” big deal (ha, pun intended), and people go all-out for it. It’s a festival that centers around flamenco and culture, and all over the plaza, we saw men and women decked out in their best outfits. Many of the women wore showy flamenco dresses, and I said, “I want that dress!” no less than fifty times, I’m sure. The rest of feria is set up kind of like a county fair, but instead of halls with animals and big vegetables, there are impromptu cafes and clubs set up, called casitas.

We parked ourselves at one casita for several hours, eating tapas, drinking rebujito (basically sherry and 7-Up), and watching people dance. Eventually, we wandered over to where the carnival rides were, and E and the man signed their lives away and got on the scariest ride ever. The rest of the day was filled with more eating, drinking, and dancing, and when we finally left, I was dusty, tired, full, and quite content. We grabbed a few drinks at a local bar, and then it was definitely time for bed.

The following day, we made an offering to the sun gods, and in defiance of the weather forecast, the rain stayed away yet again. That day, we had a BBQ on a friend’s terrazzo, and even made it to the beach. At the BBQ, I got to meet even more of E’s friends. Most of them are either students from the USA or are English teachers from countries like Ireland and the USA. One of the guys– I’ll call him Finny– was fun to get to know. E had been talking about him all weekend, explaining that Finny had gone to university in Oregon and knew E’s good friend. E went off about how much fun Finny was, and all that talk did not disappoint. Finny is boisterous, and his outgoing personality, combined with everyone else’s, made for a great BBQ. There was a lot of hyping the West Coast, seeing that Finny grew up in California, E grew up in Oregon, and I grew up in Washington, and it’s times like those that really remind me of why I love home so much. As much as Europe is great, I would like to see some evergreen trees and shop at Trader Joe’s and get some salmon sushi.

Newly-friends, especially in a foreign country, have been a blessing. They have showed me how to get around a city, taught me new customs, opened my eyes to cultural differences, and been all-around good people. The experience is teaching me that proactive networking and my extroversion will help me get along socially in the future; being passive while I lived in Everett was definitely a mistake, as was relying too heavily on my familiar college town, Bellingham. At least I learned that lesson.

Moving on, though–

I neglected to update my blog in the past week or so because I left Cadiz and flew to Germany to see Super Ninja. I took a surprisingly comfy bus to the Jerez de la Frontera airport, and waited for my flight. The Jerez airport is a little thing, with about seven gates. When I say gates, what I mean is “doors that lead to the outside where the planes are parked.” (However, my hometown’s airport is much, much smaller, so don’t get me wrong– I’m not knocking small airports. I wasn’t sure whether Jerez was a huge airport like Madrid or more akin to Bellingham or Wenatchee’s airports.) Anyway, my plane arrived about 20 minutes late, and after a quick turnaround, I finally boarded the plane.

Once in the air, I noticed we were still flying fairly close to the cloud tops. About thirty minutes into the flight, our pilot announced that we were restricted to 5000 meters (roughly 15,000 feet) because of the stinkin’ Icelandic volcano ash cloud. I had forgotten to check the status of the cloud before leaving, so that was a surprise. We made it into Madrid with no problems, although I worried I would miss my connection with the plane being delayed and me not knowing where my next flight’s gate was. However, my connecting flight to Frankfurt was delayed, too, due to the ash cloud.

Leaving Madrid, we were again restricted to lower altitudes, and our pilot finally told us we would be climbing to a normal altitude, then flying over Barcelona, Marseille, and into Frankfurt. The clouds cleared enough that I think I was able to see both Barcelona and Marseille. I say “think” because it’s not like there’s a big label on the cities that tells you what they are. Regardless, it was beautiful. I love seeing city lights at night while in flight (rhyme scheme!).

Around 11:00PM or so, I made it to Frankfurt. I claimed my stupidly heavy backpack and trudged into the airport. That was about the time that I realized I hadn’t told Super Ninja which airline I was flying or from which airport(s) I was flying. Also, I had no phone number for the kiddo.

And he was nowhere to be seen at the Gate D arrivals waiting area.

Commence mini-freak out.

After toying with the ideas of sleeping in the airport, asking the Hertz rental agent if I could use his internet, and continuing to pace back and forth, I noticed there were internet kiosks available. After shoving a few euros into the kiosk, I logged onto Facebook and found a wall post from Super Ninja asking, “Um, which airport were you flying into?”

He had gone to pick me up at Frankfurt-Hahn, which is where airlines like Ryanair fly into, and the airport which he flew into several weeks earlier from Madrid. Oops. I had enough time to tell him I had flown Iberia, my flights out of Jerez and Madrid weren’t canceled (Ryanair’s Madrid-Hahn flight was), and that I was going to plunk myself down at the 24-hour bar and bistro. He told me to get comfy, and I did.

Also, I realized that I: 1. had my laptop, and 2. It was cheaper to buy an hour of internet through the hotspot than it was to buy 10 minutes on the kiosk. Excelente.

Super Ninja showed up, looking a bit bashful, around 1:30AM. The entire situation was too funny for me to be mad about, and in the end, I made it to Rodenbach in one, albeit tired, piece.

The next several days were spent in very good company. Super Ninja and I traveled to nearby cities, checking out Kaiserslautern, Trier, and Heidelberg. I ate a lot of German food and drank even more German beer. Super Ninja picked my brain about all sorts of things and even conned his way into getting me to play several Chopin nocturnes at a music shop in K-Town.

The German landscapes around Rodenbach were delightful. The green hills contrasted with brick red roofs and white walls, and even with the gray sky overhead, I couldn’t help but be in awe of the place. The pictures I took in Germany were some of the best I’ve taken this whole trip. Maybe it was the lighting, or maybe it was that peaceful sense of contentment that crept up while I was in Germany. Is it crazy that I’ve already thought about what sorts of student affairs options are available in that country? Especially with US military presence, there may be a chance for me to do some international work after all. Oh, student affairs, you continue to amaze me.

After my much-too-short jaunt to Germany, I got on an early flight back to Jerez. The plan? Meet up with my fellow bloggy/Internet/travel buddy, The Pirate King, in Madrid. He just wrapped up a year teaching English in Korea, and we coordinated the two-week whirlwind through Europe a few months ago. We met up in Madrid’s airport and got on our flight to Jerez.

Everything was fine and dandy, and we landed sometime after 1PM. “Bienvenidos a Jerez,“ the pilot said, and shortly after, the scent of an electrical fire reached me. A flight attendant sprinted past me and all the way to the front of the aircraft, where I noticed (and the rest of the passengers noticed) a gray cloud filling the front half of the plane. Another flight attendant grabbed a fire extinguisher and stood in the back as the first flight attendant talked to the pilot. Some of us were standing, poised to make a quick escape out the rear emergency exit. Again, the captain came in over the speaker, simply stating, “Welcome to Jerez. Please stay seated until one of the doors is opened.”

And that was that. We parked the plane and disembarked. I’m still not sure what happened, but something on that plane was definitely on fire.

Back in Cadiz, I introduced The Pirate King to E, her man, and the group of newly-friends. We had a fine time, complete with another BBQ. I was exhausted, so I went to bed while the rest of the group went out to karaoke and dance. Sounds like they had a brilliant time, as the Brits would say. Today, we did nothing but sit outside on the picturesque beach. It’s a hard life.

Now, it’s on to Barcelona. From there, Paris and northern Italy. If the ash cloud cooperates, I’ll make it to London and back to the PNW. I am still considering canceling my return ticket and pushing my return date to early June, in order to make it to a few more cities, but we’ll see. I have a hair appointment on June 5th that I’m really looking forward to, and I still need to alter my bridesmaid dress for T’s wedding. However, this trip is making the world seem so much more full of possibility.

Conclusion?

I must find a way to make student affairs and international opportunity come together for me.

Also: schnitzel is delicious.

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2 thoughts on “Back on the Grid (Extensive Post)

  1. Brandon says:

    Jealous of your international travels. I’ve never been abroad, and I desperately want to. Some students at Seattle U have put together a way to get internships/etc abroad, which I think would be fabulous. A friend of mine is actually student teaching Germany right this very moment, but that’s teaching not student affairs. I’m sure you could work something out at OSU. Hope you continue to have an awesome time. (Oh, did I mention I’ll probably be living in Seattle come June, like, blocks away from you?)

    • Ardith says:

      This is my first time abroad; it’s definitely an adventure. I would absolutely love to do at least one internship abroad, and I’m sure if OSU isn’t 100% sure how to pull off what I’m thinking about, there are networks that I can go through that will help both me and the school.

      I’ll be back in Seattle in early June, so that would be great to meet up.

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