I’m here!

August 23, 2011

… but my checked bag isn’t. Thank goodness I had the foresight to pack a couple outfits in my carry-on, although it would have been convenient if I had also packed some toiletries. Luckily, between the hotel in Newark (now that I’m gone I can say where I was, I guess) and my host family’s willing accommodations, I will be fine getting by until they find my suitcase (hopefully tomorrow).

So here’s the story. It’s a long one, so buckle up and hold on tight.

I arrived at the airport, and as soon as I got there they told me that my flight was delayed two hours, so in order to get to all my connections on time (or so they thought), they bumped me up to the previous flight to Newark, one that had been already delayed 3 hours and could be leaving any minute. Yeah right. So I waited in line  to make sure I was at the right flight, and they said I was and they’d be hearing an update from Newark any minute. The update ended up just being that there would be another update in half an hour. That update was that there’d be another update in an hour and a half. That update called for… guess what? Another update, in half an hour. By this time I had already waited in the line once and was told that b/c I had a connecting flight through a different airline, I couldn’t be re-booked until the same flight left the next evening. Then, I waited in line again to see if I could re-book a different flight. The woman said no.

So I called my parents and as I hung up I started crying. I HATE crying in public places surrounded by strangers. And then the fact that I hate it so much makes me want to stop but only ends up making me cry harder. So I was sitting there, staring at the floor, trying to appear invisible, bawling my eyes out. And that moved the compassion of the woman sitting next to me, bless her. She had been already traveling for 20 hours and she was just trying to get home. But she was still nice enough to talk to me and treat me to a delicious mint chocolate coffee cooler at Caribou, and she told me I should talk with the other airline lady who was more competent. I talked with her, and she hooked me up with a flight that would get me to Barcelona by the following evening, rather than leaving the US the following evening. So that was encouraging. Until we got the next update. Which was that there’d be another update an hour later.

So there I was, already having waited in so many lines, and I’d been stuck for 4 hours, and they were telling me I might be able to make my connection if the flight did leave at the next update and I ran my patootie off. So, that’s what happened. I arrived in Newark at around 9:35, and I booked it to the AirTran to get to terminal C, but then I noticed that I was leaving the secure area which means I would have to go through security again, and I didn’t even have a gate number for the flight I was supposed to take, much less a boarding pass. Oh, and I forgot to mention that flight was leaving at 10:05. So by the time I got to security, my flight was scheduled to take off in 5 minutes. And they wouldn’t let me through without a boarding pass. So, needless to say, I missed that flight.

So, off I went to ticketing. They said they could give me a direct flight from Newark to Barcelona that would leave at 7:20 PM the next day. So that would be 22 hours to kill. Oh joy. What I ended up doing was finding another girl who I had met at the other airport, and she missed the same flight, so we just split the cost of a hotel room. She was awesome so it worked out. The next day, we both had a ton of time to kill, so we went into New York. Which was fun! Until we mistakenly boarded the bus to take us to the airport at the wrong place and didn’t realize until we’d already spent about an hour there waiting on the bus.

We spent the entire bus trip from New York to Newark Airport deciding what to do to make sure I would make my flight on time, with my carry-on luggage, which I had left at the hotel (they had a shuttle service where they could bring you your bags to the airport, which was awesome). We finally devised a foolproof plan, and we ran to the place the hotel would meet us with our carry-ons, only to have to wait there 10 minutes for the shuttle to arrive. It did arrive, though, and I ran to get through security. I seriously got through security in 10 minutes, even with them re-running my backpack through their magical scanning machine. So by the time I got to my gate, it was like 6:30. Plenty of time! And then my flight ended up being delayed anyway, so I waited in the terminal for about an hour. I checked with the airline people to be sure my checked baggage from the earlier flight I’d missed would be re-routed to this flight and they said I was all set.

I was so happy to board the plane–finally on my way and all was going to be ok. Or so I thought.

Well, apparently either those airline people were lying or Barcelona is just really bad at re-routing luggage, because when I arrived, I waited for my luggage for about an hour until they made an announcement that there was no more luggage and if we didn’t have ours, we would have to fill out paperwork for lost luggage. So, I waited in line at the lost luggage place, and that took at least half an hour to 45 minutes. Finally, I set out for Barcelona, the actual non-airport city. It was super easy to get out of the terminal–I followed signs and took the aerobus to Plaza Catalunya. And then I walked about 4 or 5 blocks to get to the hotel where my orientation was. Keep in mind I had been awake since 7 am (I couldn’t sleep on the plane), and though it was about 11:30 in Barcelona, it felt like 5:30 AM to me. I was proud of myself. I navigated the largely unmarked streets without stopping to ask for directions or look at a map once. I was determined to not be a stupid tourist. (I have google maps street view to thank for that)

So I arrived at my hotel orientation, sweaty, exhausted, hungry, and thirsty. I was ushered into a room where they were having a meeting. I was barely acknowledged and was told to take a seat somewhere and listen to the presentation which was, of course, completely in Spanish. Then, we walked about 6 blocks over to the University to take a tour there. Where the air conditioning is either not present or not working. So we had like a two hour tour around the inside of one of the branches of the UB in suffocating heat. I was dehydrated and exhausted and on the border of tears the entire tour. So that was awful.

Then, we returned to the hotel to have lunch, which was delicious and wonderful. Best part of the day so far I’d say. And then those of us who didn’t make the earlier visit of the CIEE study center all walked a couple of blocks down to there and back. And then we had a super long, drawn out, and semi-boring meeting in a really hot and stuffy room without air conditioning, and I had to constantly be fighting with myself to not fall asleep. I still dozed off a couple times, but I jerked myself awake after only a few seconds or so.

Then, finally, we prepared to leave with our host families. We all got our luggage together and waited for our families to pick us up. My fellow students compared us to: orphans waiting for our foster parents and puppies waiting at the SPCA. It really did feel a bit like that, since we didn’t know anything about the people coming for us. But then my host mom, Montse, smiled at me and did the cool spanish double cheek kiss thing which I did wrong but will get the hang of soon, and all was well.

So now, here I am. I’ve mostly unpacked my carry-ons, and I’m sitting here on my bed in my room that I will be in for the next 4 months, writing this blog, talking to my dad on skype for a couple minutes, and waiting for dinner. After dinner (which, in Spain, is typically between 8-9:30 PM), I will probably head straight to bed and sleep. And it will be awesome.

I’ve been to tired to take any pictures, but I will send some your way soon! Thanks for reading–this was a long and complicated and exhausting journey, but it’ll make for a good story some day when I’m not incredibly jet-lagged.



  1. Maaaaan. I did not know the full extent of the shitiness that went down on your trip. I am glad you are all settled in now and stuff. And being late and tired and on the verge of tears. Poor tall one! 😦 I never liked that kiss on the cheek thing either. My dad always makes me do it when we are with other hispanic people. Apparently they do it in a bajillion different countries so I’m always like hello random old cuban man, kiss on the cheek to you.

    • Yep. It was pretty awful. But now it’s been so long that I hardly remember it, much less care about it.
      I actually kind of like the whole kiss on the cheek thing, apart from the fact that I’ve mostly just done it with old ladies who like to comment on the fact that I’m freakishly tall.
      But, haha. Random old Cuban man, ftw.

  2. […] the worry about flight delays was legitimate. Read this post and this post if you want to hear about THAT horror. But, sobre todo, it wasn’t so bad. Easy for me to say […]

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