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Eek! I remember the ailing sensation in my cheeks from grinning from ear to ear till it throbbed rapidly. There were rumors going around class, 703, that we were gonna go on a class trip to Spain. Yeah, the country that is known for its Flamenco music & dance, beautiful artistic culture, bullfights, clear water beaches and it’s one of the most culturally diverse centers of Europe. Yea you read that right, Spain. A bunch of 13 and 14-year-olds running around another foreign continent, parentless for eight whole days. I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to get my hopes up but by the time the announcement came over the loudspeaker that thirty students would be allowed on a field trip to Spain. I lost it! I pretty much felt my heart implode and it was doing a happy dance in my bookbag. That afternoon I ran home with a permission slip basically glued to my hand, my mom had to pry it out clammy hands just to read the textbook-sized permission slip. She was surprised that a school trip could go to Spain. But what did she expect? I did go to a gifted and talented school.
Months passed and I pleaded with my parents day and night. Oh, how I longed to see Spain. I began to notice more Spanish television shows, more Spanish songs, even more, Spanish foods. My whole little life revolved around convincing my parents to let me go to Spain. It became so bad, my obsession, that I distinctly remember falling asleep in my parent's bedroom, on the floor with a “Guide to the Spanish Language” manual on my face. They found my pleading cute. I found it to be an undefeatable obstacle. But I was a relentless bulldog! Like a person with one foot trying to win cross country at the Olympics. But little did I know that all those months of pleading finally paid off. They were paying the hefty $3,000 bill in small increments behind my back. No wonder my mom came to visit me for “lunch” once a month every month.
Eventually, I began to tell myself it was never going to happen. I took the “adult approach” and sat my parents down after a long day at school. I felt sick to my core, like to the point where I looked like I was gonna puke. I'm talking bloodshot eyes, bags to the size of Texas, and the longest face anyone had ever seen. It was time to start the conference. I took a deep breath, a deep deep breath. I began to say “ Mom, Dad it is ok”. My parents were left perplexed, they wanted to know what the heck I was talking about. So my dad being the prominent man that he is he said “Why are you disturbing my sleep you know I have to work harder and longer to send my favorite spoiled child to Spain! Spit it out” All my nausea faded away and the ear- to - ear grin was back Babyyyy. My mom was just laughing at me with a look in her eyes. A look of knowing exactly what I was going to say. That was one of my favorite nights ever! To end the glorious night my parents embraced me with so much warmth and comfort. I also felt the sense of missment, like they had already sent their baby girl off to Spain and I was just a ghost. I knew they were going to miss me but hey its only 8 days, 192 hours, 11,520 minutes, 691,200 seconds. And seconds go by really fast... they’ll be fine. I hope.
It was April, go time babyyyy, aka my first time going to Europe on my own. I was practically bursting at the seams with excitement and anticipation. That ear to ear grin had turned into a thousand watt smile that you could see from Mars. The pain in my cheeks was excruciating, it was so bad that I received smile lines like an old lady. I began to even smile in my sleep. I was fully packed maybe even over packed, I'm talking a whole roll of toilet paper, paper towel, a can of Lysol, three sneakers, 4 pajamas, 7 pants, 12 tops, two bathing suits, 5 dresses, 2 pairs of flats and tons more. And ironically enough it was only an 8 day trip with two days of airfare. My suitcase was bigger than me.
I was so excited for this trip I had dreamed about it for months. When I got the airport there were so many butterflies in my stomach that I was already flying, I didn't even need the plane the get to Spain. It was my dad, my mom, my brother, and my two cousins all in the airport just to see me off. Can you imagine how jam-packed that car was?
My mother with tears welling in her eyes, masking her anxiety and bittersweet regret for signing that permission slip with false excitement. She didn't want me to go, but she also knew that she couldn't hold me back from great opportunities. She grabbed me so tight I felt her heart pounding against my little chest, my bones pulverized with her motherly strength, her warmth consumed me and that feeling lasted the whole 6-hour plane ride that was soon to come. The scent of pretzels and leather suitcases filled the filtered oxygen in the air when I first walked into JFK Airport as the anxiety began to consume me. I was in a daze like I had never seen aN airport before. Everything looked so different, nevertheless, I had flown multiple times before but every market, every velvet rope, every screening station looked different yet it was all the same. The idea of Spain with me in it made me numb with exhilaration. As I took my first steps away from my family it was like a bulky metal invisible chain holding me back. The more I strained and struggled, to walk away the more Niagara Falls gushed from my eyeballs. My brother had demanded I “Man Up...” loudly but whispered, “ it was okay to cry on his shoulder just this one time”. In quiet. Like a scene out of one of the soap operas your granny used to watch late at night, the cheesiest and heartfelt moment ever. In those last few moments of regret, I became wallowed in happiness as those chains slowly dissipated.
My sweaty palms could barely keep its composure. My hands were drenched to the point that I couldn’t even feel the cold hard plastic handle of my carry on. When it was time to get our boarding passes we had to line up in alphabetical order. Which meant I was last, I had to let 29 other kids go on the plane before. Oh, the agony. Since I was last I got the best treatment from the flight attendants. One of the nice flight attendants gave me a bag of pretzels before I even boarded the plane. None of the other kids got pretzels. But why was I getting special treatment? Was I going to be separated from my group would I have a bad seat with a loud crying baby. Nope FIRST CLASS BABYYYYYYY. They had overbooked the economy class so I got bumped up to first class with another kid, Jordan Mayor. The was the best way to feel left out, ever.
I was in utter amazement, the plane had two floors. A double-decker plane! And I was living lavishly in first class, Awesomesauce! Like it was yesterday, the seat was as wide as Texas with red plush cushions and a warm fuzzy white blanket. There were two armrests with cup holders and a personally sized television in the headrest. I didn’t know what to do first, whether to sleep a sensational slumber or watch movies that were still in theaters. The smoothest flight I’ve ever been on like I was sitting on an eagle that was soaring through the air.
Remember that Jordan guy, yea him. His glasses began to fog up from the anticipation, so he quickly threw them in his bag, as if I didn't see. I literally see everything. But I couldn't distinguish his behavior from being weird or being scared. Our hands glided across each other, then he gently intertwined his drenched fingers onto mine. Ew cooties! The mask he painted on his face showed courage and strength but with his heart pumping through his chest with his pale face, crooked smile, cold sweats, and constant fidgeting. Yea I threw the poor kid a bone and let him hold my hand during taking off. “Is this your first time flying?” he asked looking for consolidation. “Nahhh my hundredth, you?” I added. “No I just, really hate takeoffs,” he said panting. I guess my hand was comforting because within a few minutes he dozed off. By that time the sweat had dried and hearts stopped rapidly pounding. But the anxious smiles were still plastered on our faces. Those smiles lasted for the whole 8-day trip. About 30 minutes into his nap, my bear trapped hands, I detangled his hand from mine. Firstly, because mama ain’t raise no fool. And secondly, since he’s kind of a weirdo. I definitely couldn't sleep. Thanks, stupid teenage puberty and its hormones! My anxiety kicked into overdrive so I decided to fiddle around with the tv till I found the right movie to watch which happened to be Frozen. I'm such a little kid, I know.
It’s been six hours and the seatbelt light is on. Landing time. My frantic lovesick friend grabs my hand so hard it was in smithereens. “Relax Jordan, I thought you don’t get scared” I teased snarkily. The arrogant brat is gonna say “Nahhhh I’m just making sure you’re ok”. The nerve of him. I tried to pull away but he had my hand in another vice grip. Then he goes on to say “ Please, don't”. I thought it was just another one-liner but the vibrant red blush on his cheeks, his widened watery eyes, and raised eyebrows said he was sincere. Is my life a twilight movie?
We landed in Frankfurt Germany and had to catch a connecting flight to Madrid. Thanks to that layover time I got to buy some souvenirs in the German gift shops. A green and white skinny shot glass for my mom, European car shaped keychains for my siblings, and a black, yellow and red baseball cap for my dad. Everything was so backward, like the toilets, they flush the other direction. Or the fact that I had no clue what anyone was saying. I’m pretty sure I paid too much money and told her to keep the change because the German language just sounds like hiccuping and fireworks. But that flight. Oh boy, That flight. It had me grabbing Jordan’s had before he could even realize we were moving. The plane resembled the cheap movie planes that always crash within 5 minutes into the movie. It was the store brand version of planes. The seats were smooshed together with cracked leather seats and one armrest for two people. We had gone from royalty in first class to squatting in the cockpit like stowaways in a matter of minutes. The worst and uneasy 3 hours of my life.
Now for the best part, we landed in España. There were red and yellow carnation flowers everywhere. So vibrant! So inviting! The airport looked like I stepped into the year 2070. The air breathed innovation, as I began to come out of my shell. As we made our way to the hotel. And I passed all the colorful street merchants and fantasizing foods. That little girl that was crying in the airport 10 hours ago had been reborn into a young lady with the amount of bravery as an astronaut. The responsibility of a parent. And the confidence of a bull tamer. I guess you could say that having faith in your loved ones really does pay off. I mean my parent’s money did get me to Spain. But their lessons got me through the trip, and all the experiences I had in store. I finally understood that I had to be active in my own life in order to grasp the lesson it was trying to teach me. “You gotta be in the race to win the race”(Bill Rodgers)
You would never guess what happened next when we got to the hotel in Madrid. It was the most…