An Unexpected Arrival

The first time I traveled internationally (other than to the neighboring state of Canada 🙂 ) was my year in Spain. Now, I could tell you about how I chose to travel as an exchange student, rather than one of the other opportunities that presented themselves, or about the stages of my trip as I went from Minnesota to Ohio to DC and on to Madrid. But, really, the best part of the story is the trip from Madrid to Sevilla, where I finally met my host family.
I think most exchange students receive information about their host families at least a month before they arrive in country. But not me. I left Minnesota still not knowing even what part of Spain I’d be living in. (That might be why I forgot to pack any type of jacket….) Finally, when I arrived at Grandma’s house, there was a message on the machine from AFS, telling me about the Martinez Borrás family. I’d be living just outside of Sevilla, and would have two little sisters, ages 10 and 4. That was Monday, August 30th. I met them on Monday, September 3rd.
One night/day of orientation in DC, a short layover at Heathrow, then three days of orientation at a monastery-type place in Madrid. Monday afternoon arrived, and of all the students taking trains out of La Puerta de Atocha,

Puerta de Atocha

In case this scene looks familiar - it’s in the front of the Level 2 book in a popular series of HS Spanish texts. Not my photo, but one that looks very similar.

I was the only one going to Sevilla. I hung out with the others in the tropical-forest-area in the lobby, not realizing that was the most humidity I’d experience for quite a while. Eventually, the lady from AFS Spain walked me down to the trains, but the ticket man said we were at the wrong platform. There were two trains leaving south from Madrid around two o’clock, and my ticket was for the one at the other end of the row. Thankfully, we were there early.
On the train, a nice man helped me put my bags up on the rack (both weighed roughly 70 lbs) and I settled down with my stitching. Or, at least, that’s what I was doing at 6:30, at which time, I had decided beforehand, I packed up my stuff to find a restroom so that I would be nice and refreshed when we pulled into Sevilla at 7:20. My first long train trip had been an interesting one. A boy up the aisle smiled at me when I pulled Cappuccino out of my bag and sat him next to me on the seat. (Cap is a stuffed monkey who goes with me everywhere, and has since I was a baby. Other than his cataracts, he’s in very good condition.) The old lady across from me may have been commenting on my stitching, or not. It truly sounded like gibberish to me, and not anything like the Spanish I’d been studying in school.
She got off at the last stop before 6:30, so she wasn’t there to react to me repacking my daypack. I had just put the last item in when the conductor announced the next stop: Sevilla.
Yes. I heard correctly, and the signs on the platform also said Sevilla. But, the AFS people had clearly told me my train would arrive at 7:20. How did we get there 50 minutes early? I’d have to worry about that later. Everyone was getting off the train. I think the same nice man reached for my bags again. (A disadvantage of being short, or is it an advantage?) Zip the daypack onto the big backpack, lift, roll and get off the train.
I had arrived at Santa Justa station. Now I needed to find my host family.

Next time: How long it took to find my family at the train station.


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