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New York Step One: Survive Shuttle Ride

I’m writing this post on my phone from inside a shuttle on my way to Manhattan.

I got in the silent shuttle and the driver fought through the leminscate loops of the airport’s pick-up/drop-off system. The drivers love their horns here and the traffic directors love their whistles. A girl in cute boots was unbelievably enthusiastic with her whistling and arm windmills.

The four other passengers sat quietly until we picked up a British guy whose hacking cough led to conversation.

“I was barking like a seal last week,” he told the irritable Peruvian  girl sitting beside him in the backseat. “I don’t think I’m contagious anymore.”

A friendly group of four piled in at the final terminal stop and one of the guys started asking questions with a wide smile. It turns out his group is from Orange County. We chatted and when I said I was here for Social Media Week the girl next to me chimed in and said she was here for SMW as well. Though her trip from Dubai trumps my short trek from San Diego.

We started to leave and then stopped again, our driver disappearing to speak to another person from Super Shuttle. We watched the haggling through the van windows and it appeared that he had traded the new group of four to another driver.

“They make comission,” said the British guy.

I hope he traded them for something good.

After swapping people and baggage, we were back to fighting the JFK traffic. I should have been concerned but I was really just amused and impressed by the aggressive car dance. Cars squeezed into spaces that seemed impossible and created their own lanes across the suggested lines. No one seemed offended by being honked at.

I’m intrigued.

The man on the radio says it was two degrees in Central Park today, a record low, and that there’s snow in the near future.

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1/100 Crystal Palace – Madrid, Spain

Crystal Palace, Madrid, SpainOn my last day alone in Madrid, after all my friends had dispersed back to their respective homes and extended adventures, I wandered through Retiro Park.

There I found El Palacio de Cristal. This building of almost entirely steel and glass is a whimsical and airy building planted in the foliage of the park. It was originally built in 1887 to hold exotic plants and now houses temporary exhibits.

The exhibit on display in this utilizes your imagination and the surrounding trees to create an artistic space. The different colored circles come in pairs and are meant to create an illusion of columns that represent the tall trees outside the building.

And so begins my newest challenge

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The last two months have been a whirlwind of change. I spent one week traveling up the California coast, came home only because I had a job interview, realized that I didn’t fit the agency at all, had an interview for a different company fall into my lap, went to Vegas and, while en route to Sin City, received an email offering me my first post-college job. I’ve been working as Lead Writer for nearly two months now and have been enjoying the 9-5 stability and steady income that comes with it.

The downside to my new life of fully-embraced adulthood is I’ve stopped writing for fun. In order to revamp my blog and jumpstart my creativity, I’ll be posting a new photo from my world travels and sharing a little piece of my story each day for the next 100 days.

Follow along as I recount my life on the road.

German pit stop. Hello Dresden!

Our normal routine of driving for two hours and then stopping at a gas station for 45 minutes before hitting the road again was changed up. We left Berlin and made an hour-long pitstop in Dresden. It was absolutely gorgeous. Since I wasn’t crazy about Berlin, it was a nice, redeeming stop in Germany.

This is another city that was destroyed and completely rebuilt. Apparently it had no military significance and was bombed heavily by the British out of revenge. Can we all agree to stop blowing things up please?

Missing the bus in Amsterdam

“When you need a hammer, they’re perfect. They’re safe and comfortable for work. We love them in the garden because you can sit on them. They also make a great flower pot.”

This tall and tan Dutch man knew how to sell his clogs.

The small town of Edam, just outside of Amsterdam, is a picturesque village on a canal. Having a dairy with clogs and cheese served by blonde girls in traditional Dutch garb really completes the image.

20130803_095931Our group cruised the town on rented bicycles and posed in front of a windmill before going for a cheese tasting/clog making demonstration. It’s surprising how many of us made it to the early-morning tour after the previous night’s activities.

“The drugs and the pimps are strong,” warned our tour manager before the group went out.

And we’ll leave it at that.

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The type of Americans that give us a bad name

Photo credit to Bonaventura Leris

I am on the train to Barcelona and I am sitting with the most embarrassing American students. It’s one of the girl’s 21st birthday…which means they are trying to turn the night train into a party train.

I could excuse the poorly concealed bottles of alcohol, but they are talking so loudly about how much they hate Spanish and how they are hoping to blackout by 2 in the afternoon tomorrow.

It’s so frustrating to see things like this when I work so hard to be a good global citizen.

There are elderly people and babies on this train, and these people are being so inconsiderate.

To all the Americans out there that plan on studying abroad, please remember to keep the obnoxious level to a minimum. Have fun but don’t be a jerk. We want the world to like us.

That one time I spent the night in a Spanish hospital

Surviving a medical emergency in a foreign country

There are so many other things I want to write about that come chronologically before this, but it was so crazy that I want to write about it before the memories become jumbled fragments of the past tense.

We were a couple plates of tapas and a few too-loudly-told stories in to the night when my group of girls collectively spun around in horror.

I can’t quite figure out why we all turned around, but we did so in time to see one of our friends faint and hit the floor with an uncomfortably loud thud of head against tile.

We rushed to help her as we saw her body seizing and her eyes roll back into her head. The girls started yelling,

“Help! Help! Call 911!” but these screeches were meaningless to the crowd since we were in a Spanish bar.

I don’t know how or why I was able to think clearly with all the confusion, but the Spanish side of my brain emerged and I yelled,

“Ayuda! Ayuda! Ayuda! Llame uno uno dos!”

I think I also threw in a “necesitamos una ambulencia!” but it’s hard to distinguish what was said and what was thought.

My friend quickly regained consciousness and we took her outside to give her air and get her away from the gawkers. I asked her questions about her symptoms and medical history with a calmness that surprised me more than the fainting/seizure itself.

We didn’t know if anyone had called for an ambulance, but there were two police officers down the street that a couple of the girls ran to get.

They came over and we explained what happened in a mix of Spanish and English. Once our friend was in the ambulance being examined, the police officers were chatting with us about what we were doing in Madrid and where we are from (the San Diego Zoo really is world famous apparently!).

I kid you not, my friend was being evaluated in the ambulance and I was trying to think about our next move and one of the police officers asks me if we want to go out with them this upcoming weekend. I don’t know whether to be flattered (because Spanish cops are, admittedly, unusually handsome) or to be disgusted that he thought this was an appropriate moment to ask me out. I think I’m just going to add it to the list of awkward situations that have happened to me here and laugh at them all.

Only one person could go in the ambulance and it ended up being me – despite the fact that my Spanish wasn’t the best in the group.

 I have now gone down Grand Via by foot, bus,  taxi, car and ambulance. Anyone have a tandem bicycle or a hot air balloon to chauffer me in and really complete the experience?

We arrived at the hospital and went through the series of nurses and doctors. I ran through my pantomime accompanied by my limited medical Spanish over and over for the different crowds that came to attend to my friend.

After about 12 hours of translating, gorging on vending machine food and trying to simulate a bed by using a wall, a plastic chair and a high desk, the representative from our university arrived (still not completely sure how she knew we were in the hospital) and lovingly took over.

I know everyone says you grow while you are abroad, but I am always a little stunned when I see it in action. I survived a situation that would have been difficult under normal circumstances in America let alone in another country with a young friend who didn’t have her license, student ID, passport, insurance card or a phone.

My friend is going to be fine and as soon as I finish writing this I can try to get some rest.

All is well.