Monday, October 12, 2009

Lathrop: Adios but not for long...

Sorry for having been so M.I.A.. As you can guess, I'm home now safely tucked away under the heavy comforters of my bed - really, it's where I'm at this very moment. Laying in bed still unable to peel the smile off my face because I'm just so elated to be home. The 2 day journey home was enough to make me never want to step into an airport again.

After flying to Zurich to spend a couple hours admiring the beauty of the city, which I plan on returning again some day because WOW it took my breath away, I flew to Boston on an 8+ hour flight where I would spend the night at the airport (on the carpet in some dark corner like a homeless person - minus the warmth of a cardboard box shelter - why do they make it so cold in the airports!?) I woke up at 4am to check-in only to wait to board the plane at 6am. The remaining 6+ hour flight was the most gruelling. Feeling so close to home, yet to so impossibly far as the clock seemed to enjoy torturing me with the slow passing of time.

I vomitted once - on the flight from Zurich to Boston. At least I made it to the bathroom after jumping over the lap of some stranger who's legs were so long he had to sit sideways and into the aisle because there wasn't enough leg room. I don't know why the turbulance was so bad but the nausea was horrible. I must say however, that Swiss Airlines and Lufthansa have amazing service and FOOD! United, Delta, and American Airlines have nothing on the German airlines. But then again, it was their food that I vomited. Perhaps United (the airline I had from Boston to SFO) had it right not to give us food so there was less likelihood of passengers puking up perfectly good food. The night at Boston was spent mostly tossing and turning on the hard ground of the carpet. It was freezing, although I wore extra layers that I fished out from my luggage, making it almost impossible to sleep at all. The thought of home being so close made it all bearable if not ignorable because I knew a warm bed awaited me - I just needed to hang in there and not vomit anymore.

The month abroad flew by quickly although, I couldn't have imagined how I would've felt, had I stuck with my original plan to be away for 3 months. My travels brought with it so much more knowledge than I could've hoped for and a confidence that I couldn't have replicated had I done any of it differently. I don't believe I'll ever travel alone again for there were just too many moments I wished to have shared with a companion but I must say to you that you most certainly should experience something like this yourself.

If it weren't for my job at SAP, I probably wouldn't have met some of the most amazing people who literally packed up their bags and started their life anew in a foreign country, or who've spent a better part of their youth traveling. It's what got me dreaming of similar adventures of my own and suddenly realizing that they were possible. I've got a few more things lined up but I'll be sticking to the U.S.A. for the remainder of this year with a trip to New Orleans in November and Orlando in December. I plan on doing a full fledged road trip next year just as the Autumn season in the East begins so I can see the most historic towns lined with Fall's colorful hues. We'll see how things pan out as so many other life plans are coming together for me.

Starting this Wednesday, I'll be working on my 2nd book (the 1st book to remain one chapter and some serious editing away before being completed - but will be put on the backburner for now). I'll be working it like a job 10 - 7. Don't panic, I swear I'll be up early - it's so that I can hit the gym and wake up those necessary creative brain cells.

For now, I'll be dreaming of the adventures ahead of me, whether by travel or life as it unfolds.

Thank you so much for reading! Most of all, thank you for being the companion that I desperately needed while I was alone. You helped keep the homesick tears at bay and for allowing me to write almost every day. I'll be letting you know when I start up the blog again to update you on some scheduled travels or updates on the novel.

Thanks again! I'll miss you! :)

Purple and Orange - Festive right?

There's La Estacian de Trene - Train Station in Valencia behind me

Oh man, do I love Spain's pastries and treats.

Valencia was amazing. Although, I must admit, I spent most of my time there window shopping.

Valencia's Super Mercado (Market). It was amazing!

The view outside Zurich's airport. I will definitely come back to visit. Zurich is gorgeous!

Here's me smiling just as I'm about to board. It's probably because I haven't puked yet.

Here's me, post-puke before I had to leave the cafe to find my nice little piece of carpet heaven to do the impossible - sleep.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Valencia: Ok I'm Ashamed, Among Other Things

Ok, I'm ashamed.

Ashamed for being awfully lazy and not having posted a blog in the past few days. I'm so sorry! I completely missed updating you in Cordoba which was the city prior to arriving here in Valencia.

I adored Cordoba. It was a quaint historical Roman town with an old part of the city containing the Mezquita, narrow streets, and small shops around every corner, where I stayed in a Hostel room that I was pretty sure was haunted.

Below are some pictures. The Mezquita alone, was well worth the visit. Hands down, it was the grandest church I've ever entered. This former Mosque was converted into a 16th century church (long story, what a pity that such a beautiful mosque had been converted). Cordoba had once been the center of Western Islam and a landmark of the medievil world.

Within the center of the Mosque, sits the pews and elaborate Christian/Catholic symbols of faith

Did I mention how wealthy this town once was? The Mezquita was filled with gold and silver relics

The Mezquita is huge! The arches above me only show one layer in this picture, but they are actually double arches.

I wish my Mom could've seen it. I know she would've loved it!

Here's me near the Alcazar (Palace)

I'm currently in Valencia in a particularly nice hostel. Except of course for the co-ed bathrooms - trust me, I was quite shocked when there I was washing my hands and a dude walks behind me to go pee. I remember gasping and running out to check to see if I went into the wrong bathroom. I must be the only female on this floor because I haven't seen any other girls go into bathrooms, only horrified guys who after having seen me at the sink get that deer-in-headlights look on their face and quickly leave to check the sign on the door. But that's the problem! There are NO signs on the door - only a picture of a boy and girl holding hands - like any normal bathroom symbol except it's confusing. It's the only co-ed bathroom I've ever been in. I recall a specific moment when this guy almost tripped as he jerked back to look for a sign on the door. I said, "It's ok, I'm confused to." To which I realized was a terrible thing to say...So I reddenned embarassingly and followed up with, "I mean...not like that."

Anyway, after a 6+ train hour ride, I arrived yesterday afternoon past 5pm to find that the tourist information booth was already closed for the day. I gawked at the closed office, stunned and just a little panicked.

Because I didn't have a map...

All I had were vague directions to the hostel from the train station, directions like; straight ouf the train stay on your left side until you reach a fountain; keep this fountain on your right side; you will reach a 4 fork street - take the left fork (which one? aren't there technically 2?); you will then see a castle-like building up ahead - you will need to pass this building etc...

I was exhausted and refused to spend 4€ on an impossibly hard to read map being sold at the souvenir shop. I bit my lip and trudged forward in the heat to search for my hostel, walking quickly to avoid the uncomfortable stares from the passerby's and the invulnerable feeling I have yet to shake when walking around with my luggage - it's like a neon sign that reads, "I'm a Tourist! I'm not familiar with my surroundings and I am not trying to walk and read a map that's upside down..."

I managed to find the hostel without too much confusion - took the wrong street a coulple times, but if there's anything I can at least do, it's backtracking.

I spent the rest of the evening uploading albums by city/location on Facebook, showing some signs to my parents that I'm still alive somewhere. I miss them. I miss my Mom and her cooking, my fat cat, walking my dog, my bro's and dad (all in that order)...Just Kidding! :D I can't wait to see you all soon!

While I spent the evening creating albums a large group of girls and 3 guys walked into the lobby seating themselves around me. They began talking loudly, only slightly tipsy, and I tried not to cringe everytime they told a disgusting raunchy joke or said something completely racially inappropriate - guess H.R. doesn't leave you...even when you leave it.

There was an 18 year old caucasian female from Chicago (I can't help but be politically correct - so sue me) who said things like "ugly-hot" and brought up stories like the time when a guy said to her, "I'll buy you a drink if you show me a boob." The responses from the crowd that followed were, "Only one boob? " "Did you do it?" and "I like the word boob." I laughed to myself a lot that night.

Especially when the same girl said, "I tried to steal figs the other day."

A German girls shouts, "You know the German word for fig is f*ck?"

Her eyes widen, "I went around and tried to steal some f*cks!" People laugh and I roll my eyes.

The German girl gives her words to hunt their meaning for such as, ax-cel-hag-gen and ol-lip-hien.

They made her repeat the last word over and over again as they tried to correct her pronounciation - parts where it required some strategic hawking and grunting. Chicago girl giggles, "I like German, I should learn it - seems like I got the enthusiasm that's for sure." They all laugh.

It was the older gentleman that creeped me out the most. The girls around us were likely no older than 25 while he on the other hand seemed to be nearing his 40's. He kept trying to interrupt me asking, "Are we too loud for you?", "You're awfully quiet for a California girl" (another one of his irritating habit of placing people in categories). It was late, I was beyond annoyed with Facebook and I was in no mood for stupid conversation. I gave him my best tight lipped response without so much looking at him as I kept my gaze on my laptop. He seemed to get the hint.

They ended up leaving to go bar hopping, politely asking me to come along, although I probably wouldn't have asked me, "How about you California girl? Wanna come show us how wild the Cali girls party?" even if Mr. Creepy wasn't going.

Today I spent a better part of the day exercising...

My credit card...

Just kidding. I really tried not to. I just window shopped...and occassionally, I let Mr. VISA do his thing - didn't want him to feel left out.

I just finished doing something I haven't done in probably 4 years.

I painted my nails.

Apparently, it's a good way to show your festive side and seeing as I was happy to be due home in a couple days, and home will be festively deco'd out in FALL, I thought I'd be a girl for once and partake in a very useless and girly endeavor. It felt so foreign, as I sat there with the tube between my knees, my hand shaking as I tried to keep the paint ON my nails and not on my jeans, sheets, or my face (don't ask). And success!

Except of course I forgot that you can't do anything as they dry. I remembered then, exactly why I never painted my nails, other than because I was utterly lazy and I enjoy my tomboyishness, it's because I don't know how to do nothing for however ungodly long it takes for painted nails to dry. After 5 minutes I gave in and opened a book.

I now have several lines crossing along my painted nails, and even some where it's been scraped off...Yikes! But it's ok. It was a worthy sacrifice.

Thanks for reading! :)

Look what I bought my last night in Seville when I was so bummed from having caught a pretty nasty cold.

It made me feel soooo much better. Who cares if I was so sick that I couldn't even taste the chocolate! Pfff...