Friday, June 11, 2010

The last one, no pasa nada

We all have those points in our life where we grow up. I remember in 5th grade when I told my mother that I needed to start wearing a bra, despite the fact you couldn’t tell my front from my back.

I remember my first college class and how I thought I was so old, sitting there and taking studious notes.

And I remember getting on the plane to come to Spain thinking, “I’m so grown up. I’m going to Europe by myself!”

But here I am, five hours away from a taxi that will come and pick me up to take me to the airport, bring me to my departure from this place that has been my home for six months.

I am leaving a city that has driven me insane for six months. A city where people looked at me as though I was an outsider (which I was), a city where men whistled and shouted, “GUAPA” (cutie) at me, a city where the rain poured for three months.

And a city that has brought me to tears more times in the past week than I can count.

I love this place, and not despite the aforementioned items, but rather because of them.

I am in love with this city that allowed me to realize how different I am, and grow into my own skin a little more every day. I am in love with this city, where I’ve learned to shout boldly at old men, leaving behind any passivity my parents believe I have. I am in love with this city where the rain pours and people dance in it and throw their umbrellas into trash cans and allow the rain to soak their perfectly primped hair.

It is a city that flies by the seat its pants. A city after my own heart. A city that runs the way I live.

Here, sometimes stores didn’t open after siesta. Sometimes the siesta lasted all day, and some days the store-owners didn’t take siestas. You never knew.

The quote Seville lives on day-to-day is: no pasa nada. Basically meaning, “it’s fine, no big deal, everything is alright.” I swear a meteor could have struck the center of the city and the Sevillans would still be saying, “Hombre, no pasaaa nadaaaaa.”

And I have lived with a woman that is traditionally and authentic old-school Spanish. A woman who spent her days cooking food for me and sharing her “adages” at dinner about how cold water will give me sore throats and exercising will make my veins turn into constricted balls.

She is a woman that at my age had a husband and two children. A woman that learned to drive a car during Franco’s tight reign, a time when women needed permission from their husbands to spend a night away from the house. A woman that dyes her hair a deep shade of purple, just because it complements her purple clothes well.

So yes, this is the point where you may expect that I share my wealth of knowledge about what I’ve learned this semester and everyone has an “ah-hah” moment.

But, if there’s one thing this city has taught me, it’s that you don’t learn in the moment. You live in the moment and life happens to you.

Then you learn.

So ask me six months, six years from now what I learned and maybe by then I can put it into words.

And if by then I still don’t know, perhaps I’m just going the Spanish route: taking my time, walking slowly, soaking in everything.

I’m growing up, I know that, and it’s a marathon that I’m doing at the pace of 100-yard dash. And so in five hours I will get on a plane with swollen eyes and a heart that’s thrashing against my ribs, knowing that I will revisit this place constantly in my memories, and whoever is unfortunate enough to sit next to me will probably offer me a tissue and ask if I’m okay.

And, in the typical Sevillano way, I’ll probably just respond: no pasa nada.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Passport to Paris (and Ireland)

I finished my exams last Monday and on Tuesday I headed to Paris with two friends, Haley and Gayle. In favor of saving money and having fun experiences in Europe (fun meaning, things I hope my children never do, but I find quite exciting at this point in my life) we decided to try couchsurfing.

Couchsurfing is a trend that is starting to take over travel in Europe. There is a networking site, similar to facebook or LinkedIn, where people list where they a.) have a couch they would allow travelers to sleep on for a few nights or b.) are travelers looking for a free couch to sleep on while traveling.

So we made an account and contacted a few people in Paris that had couches. After several "no's" we finally received a response offering us a spot on their couch. Rémy and Michael are cousins living in Paris together, they had couchsurfers before and were very excited to have more Americans so they could work on their English.

It was fine until we got to their apartment and realized that none of us had written down Michael's phone number, so while we were standing in front of their apartment door, we had no way to contact. In an effort to get ahold of Michael I began to scream "MICHELLLLLLE!" in the street, hoping they lived in one of the apartments that had an open window.

"What are you doing, Chantel?" Gayle asked me.

"Michelle is the French translation of Michael," I explained to Gayle. (Yes, I took a French class when I was eight)

False, the translation is Michael. We discovered this after we finally met Rémy and Michael which involved a Spanish missionary group, a random eight-year old girl and several frantic calls through the speaker box. (Long story)

But couchsurfing turned out to be a great experience. They were able to give us recommendations that only true Parisians would know about.

We only had three days in Paris but we tried our best to fit everything in but my three favorite things about Paris were:

1.) Museé de l'Orangerie: It only houses eight paintings, but they are the eight paintings that Monet painted of the waterlillies in his garden. Monet is my favorite painter and the museum made me drool. For me it was far more impressive than the Mona Lisa.

[One of Monet's massive painting of the water lillies]

2.) Angelina's: Angelina's is a little tea shop right outside of the gardens in Paris (the Tuileries). They are famous for their hot chocolate and teas. And myself, being a lover of sweets and relaxation, found it to be my nirvana.

3.) The Eiffel Tower @ Night: The last night in Paris Rémy, Michael, Gayle, Haley and I met up with some of their French friends for some wine under the Eiffel Tower. Surrounding the tower there are several gardens and every night young people gather to wait for the light show on the Eiffel. It was beautiful and a great way to end our trip to Paris.

The next stop on my "Yay-finals-are-over-and-I-have-to-go-back-to-America-soon" trip was Ireland.

We stayed near the Temple Bar area which is notorious for its nightlife. Our first night in Dublin we headed over to Temple Bar and fell in love with a traditional Irish bar/pub that had live music. My heart melted when I heard Bon Jovi's "Living on a Prayer" and I knew I had found my haven for the rest of the night.

Dublin is a fantastic town for young travelers. There are people from all over and all sorts of characters, young and old. (Emphasis on the old characters)

Haley and Gayle continued their Eurotrip to London, but since I had already been there I flew back to Seville, but not before going on a hiking trip by myself for a day in Ireland.

I went to Glendalough last Monday by myself, excited to explore the Irish countryside. Glendalough is the site of the monastery founded by St. Kevin in the 500's and is also famous for being a thin place.

Thin places are, by Celtic tradition, places on Earth where the separation between Earth and Heaven is thinner than everywhere else. So I was glad to have some time alone to really enjoy this place.


It was quite the switch, going from Dublin's Temple Bar to Glendalough, but after jumping a few fences and climbing the side of a mountain, I found a lovely place to sit by myself. It was probably the first time in nearly six months that I had truly been alone with silence. For an hour I sat and watched the rain fall on one of the lakes. After a while, a giant boxer (dog, not Rocky Balboa) jumped out of the bushes and started to lick me.
For some strange reasons it was one of the first times that I've felt very ready to go home.

There is an old Finnish proverb that goes, "If you never leave, you can't ever return."

So for this, I'm thankful that I will be able to return to the US and that I will be able to leave Seville, so that at some point, I will be able to return to this place that has stolen my heart.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


(Okay, so I wrote this blog last week but didn't have time to upload it until today, so imagine yourself reading this a week ago....)

My travels continued last Tuesday when I packed my bags to fly to London.

It was, as all of my travels have been, eventful.

You see, the volcano (that cancelled the Paris trip and made the Greece trip possible) started to spew ash again last Monday. And somehow all the ash decided to descend upon southern Spain. Yes, it decided the Atlantic Ocean simply wouldn’t do, and keeping that ash inside of the volcano certainly wasn’t an option, so when the volcano decide to vomit some more, it chose to use Andalucia as its bucket.


This meant a 6-hour bus ride to the Madrid bus station, a 1:00am arrival at the airport, two cups of coffee followed by 4 hours of homework (I didn’t want to sleep alone in the airport), a 3-hour flight to London Stansted (the perk of cheap European travel: obscure airports), then a 6-hour bus ride to Brighton, England.

My friend Allison is studying at the University of Sussex in Brighton this semester, so my first stop was on the southern edge of the UK. We spent a day in Brighton sipping tea and doing "English-y things", meaning I spoke in a British accent. I enjoyed the freedom of grocery shopping for myself (cheesecake!) and I must admit it was rather shocking to be in a place where everything is written in English.

On Thursday we took the train to London and did a little site seeing before heading off to dinner and a show.

I had a lovely go at musical theatre when I was four, in the North Branch production of Oliver. The director initially said I was far too young to be in the show, considering he was only accepting children ages seven and up to play the all boy cast of the orphans. But my father played Fagan and I had a bowl cut and could actually sing on pitch...needless to say, I had my debut as the littlest orphan.

So I could hardly control my excitement as we headed to see Billy Elliot. My friend Jackie, who’s also studying in England, met us at the show and we all experienced three phenomenal hours of musical theatre.

The show was beyond anything I expected. Everything from the cast to the set to the costumes was perfect, and the 12-year old that played Billy put my orphan musical theatre days to shame. Since arriving back in Spain, I haven’t stopped listening to the soundtrack and have come very close to physically injuring myself while attempting pirouettes around the house.

Friday was a day full of site-seeing. Allison and I did a hop-on, hop-off bus tour and somehow managed to “see” everything “important” in London. I say “see” because we really did just see everything. Since we only had a day, I knew I’d really only get a taste of the city (which makes for a perfect excuse to return). We did make it to an evening church service at Westminster Abbey and later that night bought tickets to see Chicago. Chicago was good, but there were no 12-year old ballerinas or on stage ensembles that included miners, police officers and the grim reaper.

Saturday, Allison and I took the bus to Oxford, England where Jackie is studying. The city is full of history, which Jackie delved into during our 5-hour walking tour. We did get to see the lamppost that inspired C.S. Lewis to write The Chronicles of Narnia though.

And, if you want another interesting fact about Oxford, here’s one: During the reign of some English king, the royal family decided that no one could have deer. Oxford University, which has it’s own field for deer procreation and the hunting season (nothing like making the playing field fair, right?), was enraged. So it did what any normal community would. They fed the deer only cabbage. Eventually the deer were so much cabbage that they were, statistically by weight, more cabbage than they were deer. Thus, they were classified as cabbage, and cabbage was not black listed.

Sunday was another day of travel as I headed back to Spain. And as I landed in Spain I had a very sad realization: I have less than 2 ½ weeks left in Seville. On June 1 I leave for three weeks of Euro tripping, and after that I head back stateside.

This time should be a rather eclectic mix of emotions and memories. Before I leave from Seville on June 1st, I must write three essays, complete 2 exams and write a journal for my creative writing class. I also turn 21 on Saturday and have a birthday party with my family here along with a few visits from friends.

It’s a very, very strange place to be right now. I’m finally at a point where seeing English signs is foreign to me, my dream sequences are in Spanish and my relationship with Chencha (my host mother) is great. And while I do miss my family and friends like crazy, I don’t want to leave.

So, for these two weeks I intend on doing all I can to soak up the last of this Sevillan sun. My friend Haley and I will be starting (and completing) the “99 Thing you MUST do in Sevilla” list we found online and I know there will be moments when I kick myself for not having done it sooner.

I hate bucket lists, but the time has come, and I have my Sevillan list written.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Allowing the rain to pass...

So the rain finally left Sevilla.

Thank the good Lord.

But it was replaced with stifling heat and the blinding sun.

Thank you Helios.

I don’t mind the sun or the heat, but it does make it difficult to focus in class when you’re sitting in a pool of sweat distracted by the lingering scent of body odor. In the United States you wouldn’t have to worry about the body-odor problem thanks to deodorant (well, post sixth grade when both genders actually started using it) but here they don’t believe in deodorant.

Everyone told me that Seville would get hot. I just didn’t realize it would get this hot.

Honestly, in the past two months I’ve experienced polar opposites on the climate graph. It’s like the Amazon Rainforest and the Sahara Desert got together, fell in love, had a child and named it Seville.

I’m a Minnesota/Michigan girl. I like the heat when it’s accompanied by a lake, pool or cookout. Not when I’m walking to my 9am creative writing class.

In my contemporary design class (please don’t ask me about the subject matter of this class, because I’m still not entirely sure) my professor walks in, shuts the windows and closes the blinds so that we can better view his slideshows. No one else seems to mind, everyone in Seville is accustomed to the drastic heat, the suffocating feeling of your throat closing.

But I’m still getting used to it. It’s been a gradual change, my adjustment in becoming more like the Sevillanos.

Unfortunately, one thing I can’t help is that with the blinding sun comes the lightening of the hair. Already, my blonde hair stuck out like a neon sign that screamed “NOT FROM SEVILLE!” but now that neon sign is turning into a billboard above my head.

Which wouldn’t be so bad if said billboard provided a bit of shade every now and then…

But, I would take the Sevillan heat over anything in Michigan right now.

Yes, all my Wolverine classmates have finished exams and moved home, started relaxing or working while I still have 4 more weeks of class. But I can’t imagine not being in Sevilla right now.

There have been points during the semester when I’ve thought about what this semester would have looked like had I stayed in Ann Arbor. I would have taken classes, written at the paper, been involved with other organizations on campus and enjoyed life in Ann Arbor.

It would have been a fun semester, I’m sure of it.

But, instead I’ve been able to see a part of the world in a way that few people ever see any part of the world other than America — I’ve lived here. I’ve been a part of a culture rather than a visitor. And I’ve experienced the lifestyle of a Sevillana rather than just letting it all pass by freely.

This, I am thankful for.

I’m thankful for the daily struggles of trying to learn a new language, trying to understand a different culture and learning more about the people around. All of which have helped me learn about myself.

I always thought, “I need to get out of the Midwest. I’m so sheltered.”

Now I think: I don’t need to get out of the Midwest, I just need to get out of that frame of mind. Maybe I’ll live in China, maybe I’ll raise my kids in Ireland. But maybe I’ll grow old in Minnesota, which I would be perfectly happy with, as long as I do so with the knowledge that there is more to life that what we see out of our front door and there's more to experience that what we watch on the morning news.

When my sisters and I were born, my father gave us each life philosophies. Mine was, and is, “May she discover the wisdom that comes with happiness, and the happiness that comes with wisdom.”

Wisdom isn’t just smarts; it’s experience, sound judgment and clear vision, which this experience has given me.

Yes, the photos are beautiful and the stories are nice, but no matter how much I write or explain, I will never be able to translate this experience into something forthright. Because these kinds of experiences in life aren’t straightforward or simple, they’re difficult. They bring wisdom and happiness, disappointment and sometimes tears, elation and confusion.

And for that, I will take the rain, heat and anything else Sevilla wants to throw at me.

Friday, April 30, 2010


One of my favorite things about Seville is the temporal difference I feel everyday. Not only between the American ideals of time and the European, but also between old and new.

I walk down the street, seeing 21st century cars, wardrobe, machinery to the backdrop of a mixture of architecture formed over the past 2,000 years by the Romans, Moors, Catholics and most recently Franco.

The chasm between old and new is sometimes shocking and I feel sad whenever I see a piece of graffiti art drying on walls that are older than anything that exists in my home country.

But the third part of my spring break was just that: young art performing on a stage much older than itself.

Friends, I would like to introduce you to La Feria de Abril (April’s Fair) in Seville.

It started in 1847 as a livestock exchange, but let’s get serious, whenever the Sevillanos even sense an opportunity to party, they grab on like there’s no tomorrow. So in no time, La Feria became a cultural phenomenon full of flamenco dresses, drinking, dancing and tradition.

And this year was no exception.

On Saturday, Lyndsay and I (clad in flamenco dresses thanks to Chencha) walked three blocks to the Feria and sauntered past the casetas and dodged the horse drawn carriages.

Getting dressed up was kind of like getting ready for homecoming in high school. Chencha did our hair and we put on lots of make up. When I put my dress on Chencha grabbed my butt and said it looked nice but then tried to explain to me that I am, how shall I say this, not well endowed up top.

And by tried, I mean she looked at me and told me I'd need to stuff the dress with more than oranges if I wanted it to fit my chest. So needless to say, for the first time in my life, I wore enough coverage to fit a woman that just had triplets. So if you're looking at this picture and thinking, "wow, Chantel has changed a lot since she went to Spain." You're wrong, it's all fake.

[Dressed like Sevillanos with friends, Bryan and Matt]

Casetas are little tents that groups of families buy. They exists as their social gathering point for the week. They hire bartenders and have their caseta catered. In the background the hired music plays flamenco as the women, also dressed in flamenco dresses, dance the traditional Feria dances, the Sevillanos.

However, these casetas are very elite — you must know someone on “the list” in order to bypass the security guard. But there are also public casetas (mainly politic parties) that anyone can go to.

On the outskirts of the hundreds of casetas is the fair, which is not unlike most county fairs in the US. Children flock here when the dancing gets boring and it’s not uncommon for them to spend several euro on carnival rides, games and treats.

(Also, let’s be clear here, I’m only 20, I still qualify as a child…)

[Riding a roller coaster in full flamenco get up with Matt, Bryan and Lyndsay]

On the final day of The Feria, Lyndsay and I stopped by to enjoy buñuelos (a traditional feria treat) and to watch the fireworks. It seemed like a good ending to my whirlwind of a spring break — I was a part of the temporal divide of Sevilla, I had finally been mistaken for a Sevillano and I had made a fool of myself dancing in casetas with old men.

So, if you ever come to Spain and have questions about the Madrid airport, the Feria, or how to make a flamenco dress fit....send them my way.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

ACT TWO: My big fat Greek vacation

A continuation...

We got to Athens on Saturday around 6pm without a map, without a hostel, without an idea of how to get to the city center and without a lick of Greek knowledge.

Napoleon once said, “Over preparation is the foe of inspiration.”

Over preparation, preparation, baseline knowledge or know-how….toe-may-toe, toe-maw-toe.

We asked for a bit of help from a few bilinguals then boarded the train to the city and before we knew it we were in the town square.

Next task: find a hostel.

We had the names and addresses of six hostels and finally found our way to the Athen’s International Youth Hostel. We put our stuff in our room, emailed our parents to let them know we were still alive and headed off to dinner.

We found a quaint little restaurant a few blocks from our hostel. The waitress spoke no English, Lyndsay and I spoke no Greek, but luckily we are well trained in the art form of charades and were able to get two good plates of food.

Our third plate was our biggest failure of the trip. As many of you know, I am afraid of fish and have been facing my fear here on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, I also hate seaweed and that was our third plate. No getting over that fear.

The next morning we awoke and started our hike towards The Acropolis. In one day we saw almost every big monument in Athens: The Parthenon, the Theaters of Herodes Atticus and Dionysus, Hadrian’s Library and Arch, Temple of Zeus, the National Gardens and several more.

[In Hadrian's Library, built 132 A.D.]

While the site seeing was nice I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of Athens. Luckily, Lyndsay wasn’t either, so on Monday morning we boarded a ferry to the Island of Santorini.

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. But for the sake of space, let’s just say we set the alarm to the wrong time, couldn’t open our door and then experienced a high speed chase in a taxi with a man who spoke even less English than our waitress the night before.

But all's well that ends well and by 2pm on Monday afternoon Lyndsay and I stepped into the sun at the Port of Santorini.

Santorini is a small caldera in the Aegean Sea, meaning at one point in time it was a volcano, but it collapsed, so now is sort of resembles a crescent moon.

If you’ve seen photos of Grecian islands, you’ve probably seen Santorini. It’s hundreds of little white houses jetting out of the dark mountainsides into the perfect blue skies. The pathways are fine, stone paths that zig-zag in between the houses and restaurants leading down to old ports when tanned aged men fish with cane poles and large boats during the day and drink Ouzo at night.

The first night we were there Lyndsay and I sat out on the balcony of one of the restaurants eating brownies and ice cream, laughing about how ironic it was that we were sitting on top of an old volcano, not unlike the volcano in Iceland that forced our hands in coming to this place.

[Enjoying the Greek volcano much more than the one in Iceland]

For the next three days we were there Lyndsay and I rented ATV’s and explored the island. The island is small enough that we were able to make it from central Santorini (where we were staying, a small town, Fira) to the south side of the island in 25 minutes.

We tanned on the beach (read: burned), ate great Greek yogurt and Greek salads, traveled the island and spent time with two friends we met in Athens that also made the trek to Santorini.

Our last night on the island we went to the north side to watch the sunset in Oía. We were told by several people, that it was voted the best sunset in the world. Despite not having a source as to whom these “people” actually are, I agree with them. The colors were incredibly vibrant and we watched as the sun dropped behind a small island on the horizon.

There is something so peaceful about watching the sun set over water. I love the way the water reflects the sky and magnifies the colors. It was almost like the reds and oranges against the dark sky were in a contest with the white houses against the dark mountain, as to which could be more beautiful.

Thursday morning we woke up, assuming we would need to take the ferry back that afternoon in order to get to Athens in time for our flight the next morning.

Well, the ferry workers went on strike. Apparently, it happens quite often and honestly, after how the beginning of our trip went, this seemed like nothing.

So we ended up flying back to Athens later that night (a 45-minute plane ride vs. a 7-hour ferry ride), sleeping on the floor of the Athens airport, catching our flight back to Madrid on Friday morning and then taking a 7-hour bus from Madrid to Seville.

It was an exhausting trip home. I guess the best way to explain our big fat Greek trip was that it was an amazing sandwich on stressful bread.

But once we finally got off the bus in Seville, we could see the lights from the world famous Feria and our exhaustion turned into anticipation and excitement for the following day’s festivities.

[Cue lights in the distance as the stage fades to black]

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring Break 2010: A Dramatic Monolgue presented in three acts

Most days I feel pretty prepared for life. I attribute a lot of that to my parents. For example, one of the things my parents truly prepared me for: roadtrips. After moving to Michigan when I was younger, we would make the mecca back to the homeland (Minnesota) at least twice a year. Sometimes it was 16 hours but recently we've made it in sub-12 hours. (The number of DQ Brazier signs acts in an inverse relationship with the time of travel. It's nearly impossible for the Jennings family to drive by three DQ billboards without someone ending up with a blizzard or chocolate malt.)

But year in and year out we've made the trip in our van. Sometimes we went through the UP, other times the southern route. One winter we made the trek without heating in the van. Ironically, the next summer the van overheated during rush hour traffic in downtown Chicago. Needless to say, I've been well trained in the fine art of sitting in a small area for a long period of time.

Thanks mom and dad.

But when spring break came around this year, I felt pretty prepared and figured I wouldn't need to bring out such skills. Lyndsay and I were only supposed to go to Paris to see one of my childhood eu pairs (Aisha), a mere 2 hours by plane. Key word: supposed....

But then a volcano exploded in Iceland, the cloud covered Europe with a black fog and tens of thousands of flights were cancelled...including ours.

Happy Spring Break 2010. Thus begins, my monolgue.

ACT ONE: The Travel

Early day: a volcano explodes in Iceland.

6:00pm - We get on a bus in Seville to go to Madrid completely oblivious. Good music, Andre Agassi's autobiography and 20 minutes of sleep later...

12:30am - We arrive in Madrid at the bus station.

12:30-1:15 am - Bus station > Airport via metro.

1:20 am - We settle into a corner of the airport. Lyndsay promptly falls asleep. I read for a bit then try to sleep. If you've ever spent the night at an aiport before, you know what I mean by TRIED. I laid down on a scarf, used my other scarf as a blanket, put my leather jacket over my head and as anti-theft for my luggage, I had no choice but to spoon with my rolly bag. As you can probably guess, it didn't go well. I slept 30 minutes and decided it would be more restful to sleep in the cage of a famished gorilla. Back to the book.

5:00am - Quick hot coco and OJ for breakfast before we go to check in for our 7:15am flight.

5:30am - Our flight is cancelled. We reschedule to 6:40am Saturday morning. Easyjet (our airline) gives us the name of a hotel to go to and we go to look for the shuttle stop.

6:30am - We realize we've been waiting in the wrong place the entire time. Upon our arrival at the correct shuttle stop, we board a shuttle in minutes.

6:50am - They don't have rooms. In fact, they don't even know why our airlines sent us to their hotel. But, they say in the most courteous way one can be at 6:50 in the morning, you may return to the airport on the 7:30 shuttle. And by may, they mean must.

Note: At some point in here I loose my cell phone in the hotel lobby. Icing on the cake. Still not sure what happened.

7:45am - Back at complaints desk. New hotel that WILL have rooms, they promise.

8:30am - We check into a hotel in Coslada, Spain. Haven't heard of it? Not surprised. Well that's because its the louse that lives on the hair growing out of the armpit of Spain. At this point, Lyndsay and I are beyond tired.

10am-1pm - SLEEP. FINALLY.

1:00pm - We wake up and call our friend Jenny who's studying in Madrid. We inform her that she WILL be spending the day with us, she WILL make us feel better about our situation and she WILL enjoy it.

We spent most of the rest of the day doing retail therapy and drinking coffee to fend off the delusions. Later that night I speak with both my mom and Aisha. Both confirm that the cloud has shut down the airport in Paris and that there is absolutely no way we will be flying there in the morning. But, my mom tells me, you must go check in so that they give you a refund.

1:00am - Bed time.

5:30am - Taxi to airport to recieve said refund.

5:45am - You're flight's cancelled. So we wait in line to talk to customer service. Fed up, I decide to wander the airport in search of the cheapest flight. It's like an Easter egg hunt for a stranded tourist. Lots of flights are out there, I think, I just need to search high and low for them. But at 6am few airline service desks are open, but I walk to the first one I see and talk to a woman in Spanish.

"What's the cheapest flight you have today?"
"Where do you want to go?" she asks.
"I really don't care."
Her head tilts, she is evidently confused/bothered by what she thinks may be a prank."When do you want to leave?"
" is the earliest flight?"
"And you don't care where you go?"
"I really want to go anywhere that isn't Madrid. I just need two seats on your next flight. Please tell me you have something leaving today."
"You can go to Tenas."
"Where's that?" I ask.

I tell Lyndsay of my luck.
"GREECE!" I nearly shout.
"Yeah, but where's Tenas?"
"I don't know but it's in Greece and Greece isn't in Spain and Tenas DEFINITELY isn't in the Madrid airport!"
She shrugs her shoulders and tells me that she's all in as long as I find out where this unknown destination is.

I return to the woman who still slightly thinks I'm joking. And after asking her where Tenas is, she now looks at me as though I'm both insane and stupid.

"It's one of the MOST important cities in Europe, in the world," she says, putting emphasis on world.

"Eurpeans," I think. "They put a rock in the middle of a city and call it famous just because it's old."

I look at the map. Atenas....Athens.

In Spanish, the preposition "a" means "to." So when she said we could go "a-a Tenas, Grecia" I just heard her stumble on the word "a."

2:00pm - We board our flight to Athens. And so that's how our trip started.

By the time we got to Greece you could carry groceries with the bags under my eyes but I guess that's what 9 hours of sleep in 64 does to you.

So to Greece we say yassas (hello). To Spain we say adios. And to Iceland we say, with the utmost respect, up yours.

But give it a few days and I have a feeling we'll be sending thank you cards and a fruit package to a little country up north that forced us to be spontaneous.

[Close Scene]