The first 48 hours, heading to Sevilla, Spain…
As I walked through the doors to enter the Philadelphia International airport, I knew there was no turning back. Although I was mostly filled with excitement, I was a bit nervous about being on a plane and crossing the Atlantic Ocean for seven hours, to eventually land in a country whose language I only know modestly. I looked down at my feet and realized I had forgotten my sneakers. But again, there was no turning back at this point!
To my surprise, getting through airport security was not as bad as I thought it would be. I had a 10pm overnight flight, so there wasn’t too much of a crowd. It actually worked out just fine. I got on the plane and sat next to a lovely woman from South Africa, who helped me get through the jitters.
After a few hours of chatting about different countries and cultures and commenting on the “interesting” airline food, we each managed to grab about 3 hours of sleep. In the morning, we were landing in London. When I was planning my trip, I chose London Heathrow as a connecting flight airport to make the transition easier, and in hopes of seeing a smidge of London. But 4 hours wasn’t enough. So, I shopped around the airport and had the best ham and cheese sandwich one could ask for, prepackaged.
A few hours later, I landed in the Madrid Barajas Airport. To save money, I chose to fly the day before the program started. I had booked a hotel room at the Best Western in Barajas, which is where I went after locating my lost luggage. It wasn’t until I didn’t see my luggage on the rack that I realized I didn’t even KNOW the word for luggage. Lucky for me in my exhausted panic, there was someone who understood my broken Spanish and replied with a smile in English that my bags had been taken to another room, since it took me so long to get there. I think I was so delirious from exhaustion that I circled the airport several times trying to find my way out, without having to talk to anyone. To be honest, I only encountered two or three airport employees on the upper level, so there wasn’t really much of an option to do this anyway. Customs was deserted, other than the two people working, and I was beginning to feel like I was in Stephen King’s “Langoliers”.
Eventually I made it to my hotel. I got settled in and called home. I know I talked to my husband for about an hour, probably telling him all of the things I’m telling you now, but I honestly don’t remember any of it. What I do remember is waking up thinking that I had just slept like a baby, and felt a lot more prepared to take on this new adventure! The next morning, I met up with the ISA staff and other group members, who were just as exhausted as I was the previous day. They probably thought I was crazy with energy. I was glad that I had an extra day to rest and adjust, because the next few days would be packed with things to do!