Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Madrid, cont.

During my quick trip to Madrid, I only had my iPhone camera. Luckily, Art and Rebecca brought their fancy Canon everywhere we went, and got some great photos (which I got my little claws on!).  And I just realized, Art is not in any of these.  He was there, I promise.
Walking around city park
Gilly face
Pumped for churros 
Talking about something very serious (but probably not)

Bringing it in for a hug

Choosing tapas- no easy task 
Discussing food, or so I'm guessing, because my finger claws are out.
Yes, I really got to eat this. 
Isn't she a beauty?  Seriously.
Hijinks in front of the palace

Like the moment in "The Sound of Music" when Maria leans against the gate and says, "Oh help!"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A story to make you gasp, cringe, and laugh

We took a trip to Europe last October! It was a Graduation gift/"Congrats on surviving the Bar"/"Let's do something fun before the real world starts" kind of a trip. We'd been planning on it for years, and there would never be a better time to go.

I have been meaning to blog about it and relive it, but the whole process of getting to Europe was such a completely insane experience, I had to give it it's own post. It's a lengthy one, but I didn't want to forget a single hilarious/excruciating detail.

Back in May, we decided a Mediterranean cruise would be perfect, and we set about booking the best one we could get. We'd made a strict financial plan that accounted for all the worst case scenarios between graduation and January 2013, and figured out if we were careful, we could definitely save up for it. We chose a Royal Carribbean 12 day cruise that left out of Barcelona, and traveled to southern France, down the coast of Italy, and made a stop in Croatia (in a town called Split, not Dubrovnik or Kotor, like the map says) and Venice before turning around and coming back.

We also managed to work our flights so that we could have a 24 hour layover in Madrid and spend time with Rebecca and Art, who have been living there for almost a year. These cats.

Needless to say, this was going to be perfect.

The months slowly ticked by. Harry graduated, survived (and PASSED! WEEEE!) the Bar, we moved to Las Vegas, attended many a wedding, and had a wonderful time working part time and hanging out with family. I'm so grateful for those months where we lived at Hotel Reynolds with lots of siblings/nieces. It was a unique blip in time, and we really enjoyed it.

Then, the plot thickened. Or, as Harry might say, the thick plottened.

When there are 12 people living in the same house, both love and germs abound. And somehow, a 24 hour stomach virus of the worst kind wound up at the house, and began circulating through everyone's system. It was the kind of bug that no amount of Clorox or Windex wipe-downs can eradicate. Everyone began dropping like flies. The strange thing was, weeks went by, and the bug circulated the family twice, but Harry and I never got sick. I kept assuming it would hit me (I had surely been exposed to it) but I remained healthy, even after one of my nieces vomited all over me one night. She's so cute I just started laughing uncontrollably. In her defense, she was 9 months old, and didn't even cry, and I had volunteered to hold her.

Then, the day before Harry and I were to fly to Madrid, I woke up at 4:00 am and knew. I had the flu. I just remember waking up in a dark bedroom and muttering, "Ohhhhhh nooooooooo." I spent the next 24 hours in absolute misery. After 6 hours of violent illness, chills and aches covered my whole body and I just lay perfectly still on my bed, realizing I couldn't remember what it felt like to just feel good. I didn't get any packing done that night, and just prayed I'd feel well enough in the morning to do it.  Harry worked all day and I forced him to keep his distance.  I went to bed praying I'd feel better in the morning.

When we woke up at 7:00 am the next morning, we had two hours to get it together and get to the airport.

And, of course, Harry woke up with the flu.

That morning really is a blur to me. I began throwing things into a suitcase and trying to pack for him, too. He finally said, "Sarah, I can't get on a plane. I can't fly like this." I knew firsthand that was true. It would have been impossible to even consider leaving the house in that condition.

He got on the phone with the airline to see what we could do, and I, the picture of strength and maturity, burst into tears. I was still exhausted and hadn't eaten anything in 36 hours. I didn't even have the energy to eat, put make up on, or brush or dry my hair, so it remained in a long wet braid. I could see our careful (and expensive!) plans falling apart.

Harry miraculously found a solution with the airline; for a small fee they would reschedule his flight and get him straight to Barcelona the next day, in time to get on the ship, but he would have to completely miss Art and Rebecca in Madrid. They made me the same offer, and I almost took it, but I just knew if I missed seeing Rebecca I would regret it forever. I thought about it for two seconds, and said no, I'll stick with our itinerary, and meet you in Barcelona in two days. And within twenty more minutes, I was packed, and my mother-in-law was driving me to the airport.

I was a complete mess of adrenaline and fear. I've flown internationally by myself before, but never to a country where I'm not fluent in the language. Also, we'd arranged for Harry's phone and credit card to work overseas, but not mine, and I realized at the last second that I had to call our bank/AT&T and make arrangements pronto, before I got to Spain. Things had deteriorated so quickly that morning, these changes hadn't occurred to me.

There was no time at the Las Vegas airport to make those calls, and I prayed I'd have time during my layover in Dallas. Unfortunately, I had to literally sprint through the Dallas airport and I barely made it onto my connection during final boarding. I was on a plane to Spain (where the rain stays mainly in the plain), and had absolutely no money and no working phone. Womp womp.

Strangely, I felt really calm. Becca and I had talked in detail about the airport metro station where she would meet me, and I felt confident that I could find her without mishap. We landed in Madrid and I successfully got my bag and headed to the Metro.

Unfortunately, when I got there, I found out that a new gate had recently been installed, and it required a ticket to even get into the actual Metro station from the airport. I waited for Becca outside the new gate, hoping she'd know where I was, and that she'd somehow know I couldn't pay for a Metro ticket. When she didn't appear, I felt horrible, sleep-deprived, post-flu anxiety creep into my stomach. I tried to use my credit card for a payphone to no avail. I tried the ATM and was denied. I tried to find a wifi signal unsuccessfully. And I started praying, rapid-fire style, that I'd be able to find her.

I thought, "I am in a foreign country, completely and utterly alone with no money and no phone. If I don't find Becca, I am sleeping here tonight and boarding my flight for Barcelona tomorrow, and will not have anything to eat for yet another day." In my exhausted and sick state, I started crying, and I really missed Harry.  On top of it all, I felt really stupid. How does an adult let this happen?

I went up to information desks saying, "Lo siento, ¿hablas ingles?" and asking if there was any way I could please get through the gate to the Metro station, my cousin is waiting for me, my credit card doesn't work, I have no money, no phone. I felt like the prototypical annoying American; unprepared, emotional, and demanding. I didn't know what else to do.

While a man and woman behind the desk were trying to tell me in broken English that they wouldn't let me through the new gate, all of a sudden I looked up, and there was Becca, standing on the other side of the new gate, scanning the room.

I shouted, "Never mind!" and ran to the gate and we hugged and jumped up and down like six year olds. I'll never forget the feeling of utter relief that flooded my being! She loaned me some euros, I purchased a metro pass, and we were off to Becca's apartment, where I emailed with Harry about where exactly we would meet in the Barcelona airport.

The next 10 hours were a dream. Rebecca and I took off on foot and explored all of Madrid. My one regret is that I couldn't stay in Madrid longer. It is one of the coolest cities I've ever visited. The people are laid back and beautiful, and the city is built in a mixture of modern and historical. Like a lot of Europe, there are beautiful cathedrals and churches everywhere, and in Madrid, it's all intermixed with new, funky buildings with experimental color schemes and designs.

We walked through the city park, and it puts Hyde Park to shame. There were giant lakes and historical marble fountains, people paddle boating and walking their dogs, paths that veered off in every direction, and stunning gardens around every corner. We got churros con chocolate, and met up with Art for more exploring. Sadly, with my body clock completely off, and some flu left over, my appetite was completely gone, so I wasn't able to eat more than a few bites that day. And Becca had splurged and bought me a box of Spanish pastries from an amazing bakery! I also brought a pound of Bridge Mix from See's.

Last minute hair curling before going out on the town

Churros con chocolate

Attempt #1


Spanish palace at night

We talked and walked all day. She showed me all her favorite sights, old palaces, the city center, beautiful neighborhoods, and everything in between. That night we all walked down to an old train station that had been converted into a farmers market/restaurant area and shared some fresh shrimp paella. I'd never had it before and it changed my life! It was amazing and I'm going to make it myself someday. We got tapas with quail sausage and herbs and soft white cheeses I couldn't even pronounce.

And then suddenly, around 6:30 pm Madrid time, I hit a wall, and stammered that I think I needed to lie down, and we walked back to the apartment where I crashed and fell asleep. I remember Becca had asked if I wanted to watch "French Kiss" on her laptop, and she snuggled with me on the couch bed, and then, I was out like a light.

The next morning at 5:00 am, Becca walked me to the bus stop and I rode the bus back to the airport, successfully boarding my flight to Barcelona where I'd meet Harry. Becca gave me an apple to eat for breakfast and I had to snap some pictures of the ceiling-- Barajas Airport really is so beautiful.

The flight was short and when I got there, I hung out at baggage claim, keeping an eye on the marquee that announced when flights were arriving. Harry's flight was delayed, so I waited in baggage claim for four hours, trying desperately not to fall asleep, and reading "The Poisonwood Bible," which was fantastic, by the way.

When Harry's flight arrived, I planted myself right next to his baggage carousel with all my stuff, and scanned the incoming crowd for his face. When I finally saw him, we had one of those slow motion running scenes, where the theme to "Chariots of Fire" is playing in the background.

We hugged and laughed really hard at how tired and worn out and sick we still looked, and snapped a picture.

Then we hopped in a taxi to our cruise ship.

Now I can laugh looking back at this, remembering how silly I must have looked, sniffling as I wheeled my suitcase around the Madrid airport, trying to use a useless credit card and waving my phone around looking for wifi. I'm so thrilled I got to spend time with Becca and Art in such a great city!  The rest of our trip was completely wonderful. More on that to come.

To be continued...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

This Just In!

When you've been absent from your blog for this long, any good idea for a post title always feels pretty lame.

It's 2013! And for the first time in a long time, the new year is coinciding with huge life changes for us, so I am taking a leaf out of my sister-in-law's book and making blogging a regular thing again.

Here's where we are:

For the first time ever, Harry and I are really on our own in the real world. No more classes, no more loans/subsidies, no more student housing, no more school/certification deadlines. Since I was 18 I've been accustomed to distant, hovering, school deadlines that are years away, and didn't realized how much I'd settled into the student life mindset. That's all over now, and it's thrilling and terrifying.

We are in Los Angeles until we deign to leave, and we honestly don't know if/when that would occur. There's an inevitable struggle for me when I move to a new place. No matter how many times you do it, learning a new place and making new friend is intimidating. Provo and Stanford took major adjusting, but when the time came, I desperately didn't want to leave. Irvine and Las Vegas are always hard to drive away from too. I don't know L.A. at all, and I don't identify with anything here, which is strange considering I grew up only one hour away. But I'm excited to love it here too.

I saw this on the internet a few weeks ago and haven't been able to stop thinking about it. It's definitely a bit trite, but it's something I'm constantly reminding myself of when I get discouraged or scared of all the adjustments looming ahead of me.

This is the first January where I'm really starting completely fresh, and I want to make it the best year possible for us. Time to get comfortable being out of my comfort zone.

So if you like to read the awkward ramblings of a woman trying to figure out what to do with herself in the face of huge life changes, you've come to the right place.