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Aug 6, 2013

The Homestretch: Sailing, Daniel Radcliffe, and Bleeding Through the Streets of Matera. WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGE

July 21st-August 6th
     Hey there my fine fellows. Guess who comes home tomorrow? That’s right. It’s me. AND Laura is tagging along. This isn’t my farewell post however; I still have two wonderful weeks to write about, so here they are.
Nico and the boat of bambini.
     Last post left off in my leaving the wonderful city of Venice to go to Santa Maria Di Leuca in the very farthest south part of the heel of the boot of Italy (Well that was a mouthful, huh?). It took all day by train to get to Lecce and then after an hour of exploring that cute little town, another bus took me to Leuca just in time for dinner (you know, at 10 PM). Gabriele, the owner of the sailing school, picked me up from the bus and then drove me to the school where I was immediately hoisted on the shoulders of two crazy Italian men. I quickly learned their names were Nico and Mauro, then I met Gabriele’s wife, Lucia, and the other sailing instructor, Arianna. I also met Ivan, a crazy awesome Frenchman who is sailing the world in a blow up sail boat with a tent on top. The dinner included a lot of accordion, dancing, and general happiness. I later found out they chose to have me because they saw one of my YouTube videos of me being crazy and thought I’d fit in great. So pretty much a GREAT first night.
I LOVE GELATO.
Snorkeling and stuff.
Kayaking in some caves, yo.
     I slept in pretty late the next few mornings, but the first day I went sailing with Gabriele and a couple kids I called V and Fran. Gabriele asked me to steer and use the rudder, but what does an Oklahoma girl know about sailing? We’re completely landlocked! I nearly wrecked us, so he took control and then later attempted to teach me how to use it again, but I was slightly terrified. He also asked if I wanted to try sailing, but I said no because all of the lessons were in Italian and I didn’t want to capsize and be eaten by the jellyfish. I am a GREAT watcher. Heh… heh… So uh, instead, the next day I went Kayaking alone on the sea to some caves on the far side of the town. It was kind of scary since I am afraid of fish and I had never kayaked on the sea before. I nearly got knocked over by a huge wave and then had to bail water with an old sponge, but I lived to tell the tale! Sadly no mermaids, but it’s okay. Next time. Next time.
Sailing races!
     The following day I went sailing again and the following I went snorkeling and saw some really pretty purple fish. I also watched some smaller fish try and eat my feet, but in the end they just settled for the nasty dead skin on them instead. I also had an accident when the waterproof bag I had my camera in wasn’t completely waterproof. No problem though. I put it in some rice and then it was relatively fine. Ish. So everything I’ve told you about Leuca is all fine and dandy, but it was really the people who made the place so great (The mosquitoes are what made it not so great). 
     It was fantastic hanging out with everyone, going to bars, taking night drives, and trying new food (even if the tentacles had visible suckers still. GAG). Almost everyone could speak a bit of English and even though Mauro couldn’t, we still managed to have a few fights conversations with Arianna’s help. 
Sunny Leuca.
     It was a little hard to stay engaged in the conversations sometimes when they spoke in Italian, but I could understand some of it and many times someone would kindly stop the conversation and explain what they were discussing. Even though it was supposed to be a work stay, it was definitely more like a holiday. The only work I really did was wash dishes and make grilled cheese once. It was heaven. Every holiday must come to an end though, and after a glorious week (that really deserves a post to itself), I sadly had to say goodbye at 5 AM when Chiara, a friend of Lucia’s, took me with her to Matera where she works.
Matera! Where they filmed the Passion.
     Matera is a city that has been continuously inhabited for 1700 years. The houses are made of stone and there are hundreds of caves that used to be inhabited as well. Several of the churches are inside caves. In fact, you have seen Matera if you watched The Passion of the Christ. The town was used for filming and I visited the spot where Jesus was crucified in the movie. Unfortunately, I had just gotten rid of my sock tan so I decided to wear flip flops. 
Cave at Sunset.
     I realized about half an hour into my exploration of the place that I had made a bad choice because of the difficult and dangerous terrain. I thought to myself: I better go put on my tennis shoes so I don’t get hurt. I need to be careful. Then I promptly tripped down some stone stairs and split my big toe in half. I had to walk back a half mile with my flip flop full of blood, limping like a cripple and muttering to myself like a mad woman. I utilized my first aid certification on my toe and then met my CouchSurfer, Katia, who just so happened to be studying medicine. We had a good laugh about my idiocy and then she took me back to her place to meet her brother and mother. They were charming people and we had a great night, but only one as I was off to Naples the following day.
Seconds after I wounded myself.
After walking a kilometer back to the first aid.

Pompeii volcano victims.
Mount Vesuvius! The volcano that destroyed volcano.
     My host in Naples was a friend of Katia’s, Davide. During the day he worked, so I would go hang with another CSer named Francesco and during the night I would hang with Davide and have delicious pizza or pasta. The first day, I went to the ruins of Pompeii with Francesco and it was amazing! We even got in free thanks to him. The casts of people were quite unsettling as you could still see the terror on their faces. 
     After Pompei, we went to Fran’s house (which had the most beautiful room I had ever seen; It seriously looked like something out of a castle, with two pianos!) and had a lovely lunch, then went to the Amalfi coast with his sister, Roberta. The next day we stayed in Naples and he showed me Christmas traditions and artisans as well as the fish market. GROSS. The clams squirted me. -__- Davide learned of my castle obsession and took me to a few in town. One was called Elmo. Haha. Elmo. 
The Napoli underground.
     Anyway, the last day, I went with Fran intending to snorkel to the underwater ruins of Baia, but the mean lady didn’t get my reservation, so we didn’t get to go. Instead, we went to the beach and that night we mat Davide for a tour of the underground! It was wonderful! I wanted to wander off. REALLY BAD. But I was good and stayed with the group.
     I should point out, that all this time I was still injured from Matera and from leaning more on the left foot, that big toe developed a horribly painful blister. In turn, I leaned more on the right again and then my feet, which were super dry from all the ocean salt, cracked open in several places in the sole. So I couldn’t walk for a couple days without moderate pain. I pushed through the pain because I HAD to. 
Pompeii and me.
     I couldn’t let that stop me with only a week left. No way. So I left Naples and began my long trek back to England. First I stopped in Milan again and stayed with Darko who I had met last time. We met his friend, Nico, for sushi and a mini tour by scooter. 
Also gelato. Always gelato. But then, after meeting his lovely family, it was time to leave again. I actually told him my train left at 7:45 when it left at 7:25, so he raced me to my train and we barely made it. So, THANK YOU DARKO!! Then I was back in Switzerland: The land of people in parachutes and some of the most beautiful castles in Europe. 
PIZZA! And new glasses.
     But only for two hours and then I was back to Brussels where I helped a bawling girl find a train to Rotterdam after she missed her first one. Then I got lost. Apparently, I was on the completely wrong side of town when I found about 15 policemen outside and asked them for directions. They were very kind and drove me to the bus station, but not before they got lost themselves. At least I felt better about myself after that.
     After once again having no idea where I was (it was a parking garage/ferry boat/mall.I mean come on.You’d be confused too), I FINALLY I made it to England where I then got to wait four hours in a coffee shop for Laura to arrive. Then she did and the reunion was beautiful. Except not really. I said hi and so did she and then we hugged and left the station. We went to her wonderful uncle Adrian’s house and met him and his partner Darren for some dinner and telly and then bed. The following day, I met Paul, my first CS host, again and one of his surfers for some drinks and then it was time. I SAW DANIEL RADCLIFFE IN THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAN AND THEN I MET HIM BY THE STAGE DOOR, GOT MY POSTER SIGNED, PICTURES, I TOUCHED HIS HAND, AND HE SPOKE TO ME. It went like this:
Me: “DAN! HEY DAN! CHRIS RANKIN SAYS HI!” Dan: “Oh does he? Tell him hello back!”
My future husband.
Then I collapsed. Luckily there were so many people that I didn’t actually hit the ground. Truthfully, I had told Chris Rankin, who played Percy Weasley in the HP movies, that I was seeing Dan and did he want me to tell Dan hi for him and Chris said yes, so none of it was a lie. I still can’t think directly about the experience because I’m afraid I’ll lose it. After, Laura and I went to Platform 9 and ¾ for a quick photo shoot in King’s Cross before heading back to Adrian’s place. Then I saw a fox on a fence and skyped Kacy. Now I’m on a train to Birmingham. DANIEL. Sorry. Okay. That’s all for now. I’m too emotional about Dan to continue. WAHHHHHH. DAN!!!!!! More soon! x


He's smiling because he found his one true love. (ME)
Oh Dan. I am ready to get married now.
Russell

Aug 3, 2013

Rome, Redentore, and Rusty. (Because They All Begin With R And Alliteration Is Cool)

July 14th-21st
Coliseum and I.
Coliseum!
     Welcome back readers! And me in the future when I try and remember the cool stuffs that happened. Or not so cool. Like when I got to Rome and I had to charge my laptop in a department store in the train station on the floor because I couldn’t contact the CSers I was supposed to meet. Actually, to sum this bit up, they offered to let me share a rented apartment with them and then COMPLETELY flaked and didn’t even get back to me so I contacted Stefano who had offered to host me after I accepted the other offer. He was a lifesaver and picked me up not long after. He gave me enough time to wander before he came and I saw a few awesome places walking distance from the station. I do have to say that the first night was awesome because he took me around Rome on a scooter and everything was beautiful! Since it was my first time on a scooter, I was pretty scared for like five minutes until I decided to not be scared anymore. We visited St. Peter and the Pantheon while they were lit up and gorgeous. Speaking of gorgeous, we all had gelato and coffee after. I wanted peach which is pesce in Italian, but I pronounced it like pesche which means fish. The ice cream man looked at me like I just set my hair on fire. Funny moment. I will not forget those words now. Ever.
Rome, a Roman, and a Scooter.
     The next day, Stefano had to work so I went to see some highlights during the day including the Coliseum (where a gladiator high-fived me and I met some German girls briefly), the forum (where I was run over by a jerk with a stroller), and St. Peters by day (where I melted because you have to wear modest clothing and all I had were sweats and a jumper). All in all, I probably walked about twenty kilometers in about 40 Celsius heat. Okay okay. Sorry Americans. That’s about twelve miles and about 100 Fahrenheit. Better? K good. Stefano and I met after his work and then he took me out to a few places that night and even treated me to true mozzarella. Apparently there is only one that is actual mozzarella while the rest are imitators. Tasty.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
     In the morning, I again went to the city while Stefano worked and saw the Pantheon again and went to the same gelato place because it was so darn tasty. I also went to the Trevi fountain, Piazza Venezia where they have the tomb of the unknown soldier (biggest in the world), and Piazza Espagna where I climbed the Spanish steps. Rome is overwhelming. Overwhelmingly beautiful, overwhelmingly crowded, and overwhelmingly hot. I was glad for the evening when Stefano took me to the Roman Globe Theatre to see Romeo and Juliet in Italian. I loved it! Fantastic acting, great directing, and a wonderful way to bring my time in Rome to a close.
Throwing a Wish to the Trevi Fountain
St. Peters and Me Wearing the Dress Code
The Spanish Ste
The Pantheon and my face.

Look! Florence!
     My next stop? Florence. Firenze in Italian. I met my host Francesco at the station and we walked to his flat where he made pasta for dinner and then he took me through Florence for a night tour. It was beautiful and a nice break from Rome’s commotion. Francesco was super kind and we visited a massive gothic church then sat on a bridge admiring the view and talking for a long time before we went back for some sleep. While he worked the next day, I retraced our steps and then let myself wander into every open door.
Hey Mom! When I grow up,
I want to stand in front of a map and look cool.
     I think Florence has the most beautiful interiors of churches in Italy. They were all remarkable. While walking to another church, I stumbled upon an open market where I went crazy and bought many wonderful things for people I love. Including myself. I love me too! But sadly, it began to rain and I had to make my way back to Francesco’s place or risk melting. He lives across Ponte Vecchio which means old bridge and it really is old. There are even stores on the bridge still like in the middle ages. Francesco said they used to all be butcher shops, but when the river ran with blood, they decided to change the shops to gold stores. So… really glittery… really distracting. For dinner, we had pizza! And then sadly, I had to leave the next morning.
Venice! I swear I am wearing clothes.
     Don’t be too sad for me! Next on the itinerary was Venice! I arrived and immediately met a German girl, Lena, who walked with me all around Venice getting lost and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. We found many nooks and crannies of Venice and coffee for 85 cents in the coolest little coffee shop. We walked over so many canals and bridges that I couldn’t distinguish one from the rest soon. Eventually, our wanderings took us to the more touristy part of the city and we visited San Marco cathedral/piazza. I tried to go in the exit, but I got caught. Still! I got to look inside for free. I declare Venice’s souvenirs the most beautiful in all of Italy. 
The Streets of Venice.
     With the carnival masks exploding from each store, covered in glitter, papier-mâché, and hand painted décor; there is really nothing like it. Venice quickly became one of my favorite cities. Lena had to leave and meet a friend and I had to go to the luggage locker to retrieve my free gondola ticket from Eurail, so we parted ways and I ran like a mad woman through the streets of Venice, dripping sweat and wild-eyed to arrive at the gondola booth and terrify the poor souls working there.
I like Canadians.
     Before actually going to the gondola, I wiped as much of the sweat from my body as I  could in the bathroom and made friends with the barman to get free water. I also stocked up on napkins just in case I sweat again. Yeah I know. Gross. But shut up cause I was in Venice and you weren’t! (Sob. I’m disgusting.) Anyway, on the gondola at last! I met a cool Indonesian guy and Brad and Jane from Canada. THEY SAY EH. Heh heh. The gondola ride was great and we took tons of pictures of each other and the gondolier. 
Redentore.
     After the ride, we walked the entire island of Venice together on accident because we went the wrong way. Oops. Jane and Brad ended up without a place to stay, so they just took an overnight train to Rome instead while I headed to Verona to meet with Nicole (Welsh girl I met in Milan), Alvaro, and Andre (a Mexican girl who I proceeded to call Lena the next two days because she didn’t correct me). Alvaro took us all to a viewpoint and we admired the city by night. We also walked by the opera house/mini coliseum building and I decided Verona was also one of my favorite cities. Because it was already quite late, the four of us headed to A’s place and went to bed.
Castle of Verona.
     The following day was among the most remarkable of my trip. It began with me preparing grilled cheese for breakfast, going back to Venice, dropping our bags with another CSer that was to host us that night, and me painting my fingernails black. Nothing too special so far, but then Nicole and I got lost on purpose, then met with Alvaro and a couple of his Venetian friends for drinks and aperitifs (like tapas or finger-food). They were really nice and fun to be around and come on! They were REAL VENETIANS! I even got to go inside their house and stand outside on the balcony. Cool huh? That night was special because it was the night of Redentore. Google it. Basically celebrated like the fourth of July. Alvaro’s friends took us out on their boat for beers, food, and fireworks. I could have died and went to Heaven. The experience was phenomenal and the fireworks were better than any I’ve ever seen in the US and lasted over a half hour! We had great conversation and a great time. Then Nicole got drunk and decided to leave with some other people. Okay. Weird but she is a big girl and can do whatever she wants. Lena (Really Andre) and I returned to the other CSers place and went to sleep dreaming of fireworks and beer.
The following morning, Lena and I met Nicole at the train station and then hurriedly kissed goodbye. Once again, I was on the move. Destination: Smare Sailing School in Leuca! Jellyfish and Gelato in the next post. Stay with me! Four days until I’m home! x

Russell
Redentore. How can life get any better than this?

Jul 31, 2013

Accidentally In Switzerland... Wait... What?

July 1st-13th
     Hi. I hope you read the last post because it was an epically crazy one. If you haven’t, feel free to check it out and then come back to this one. Okay. Go. I’ll wait for you. So click away my friend. Right meow.
Cathedral in Milan. Not Hogwarts.
     Look! I told you I’d wait. And here I am. So at this point in my journey, I arrived in Madrid, met Leah and went for midnight food. Though it wasn’t very tasty, I was very glad to see Leah again. I had thought I would visit Madrid a few days later, but since my iPhone was stolen, I had no camera. Well technically I did, but I gave it to Leah to take home when I was in Alicante. Lucky for me, she was stopping in Madrid before she headed back to the US and I could meet with her/get my camera from her. Win win! Sadly, Leah had to leave the next day and I was once again on my own.
Egyptian temple! Featuring my new traveler backpack.
     When Leah left, I went to meet my new host, Nadine. She was from Eqypt and I really liked staying with her. During the days, she had class and work so I went to Plaza Mayor and bought a lot of things. I even bought a new traveler’s backpack for 30 euros! I like it. It’s blue and stuff. Pretty much the first day amounted to wandering, spending money, and arroz con leche (So ridiculously tasty). I ate it at a place called Museo de Jamon which means Ham Museum. There was certainly a lot of ham there. Scarily, Pancho wasn’t there. Hmmm. When I came back for the night, Nadine and one of her friends Merijn were hanging out in the kitchen so I made A LOT of tea and we drank every drop. That’s how you know it’s good company. No empty silences and no full mugs.
Homemade pie and homemade friends. Not sure what that means.
     The second day I tried to go to Toronto, but it didn’t work out so instead I wandered again and got lost. It was great. I wandered directly to a metro and made it back just fine. Nadine’s place was literally right in the center of Madrid by Sol, so it was never difficult to find. Also, there was a Sephora nearby, so I used the testers to make myself up. When night fell, we went to a bar and just hung out with a few other people for about an hour or two. Very chill and enjoyable. Sadly, I was to leave the next day and Nadine left when I woke up. I spent the next morning watching all of my television shows and staying in bed. Don’t be mad though because when I left the house, I visited this really cool Egyptian temple, a palace, and a cathedral. All of this PLUS I made it to my train early. #likeaboss
You may now kiss the bride.
     Back in Barcelona, I met with Antonio and Euodia again. This time they were living in a bigger apartment with about six other people. I’d like to tell you all about the week I spent there, but really all we did was go to the beach, watch Dexter, and just generally have a wonderful time. I think Antonio and Euodia are among my favorite new friends and I really hope to see them again in the future. Maybe at my place? Skip forward and I’m on a train to Milan. Kind of. It was four trains. The one to Paris had a night layover, so I stayed with Guillaume again, met a cool dude name Victor from China, ate G’s fantastic cooking, and learned how to make REAL French toast. The next day I went to Lyon first where my train was delayed two hours. This caused me to miss my connection in Geneva. (Side note, I met a cool New Zealander named Gemma on the train and she said their Christmases are in the Summer. WHAT?!!?! SUMMER CHRISTMAS!?!?!? Also, her last train hit and killed a man. And we sat by a New Zealand celebrity named Tina Cross). So basically I was accidentally in Switzerland. I went to the ticket desk because there were no other trains to Milan that evening and the dude said, ‘Get on the train to Brig and we’ll give you free accommodation.’ Alrighty then.
How dare you ruin my picture!?
     So I’m on a train to Brig, but every stop is a tiny Podunk town with no hotels or anything. Soon I am alone on the train with only one other couple. ‘Okay’ I think. ‘Obviously I’m not the only one to miss the connection, right?’ Surely this couple is doing the same thing as m— wait. Where are they… HEY! COME BACK! DON’T LEAVE ME!!!’ Yeah. So now I was panicking. I’m usually pretty good at this kinda stuff, but the only plan I could think of if things went wrong was: Sleep in the high grass til morning. So yeah. I’m alone on a train heading to Brig and I don’t even know which country it’s in. Bleh. Luckily, everything turned out okay, but I was pretty scared searching an abandoned train station for any signs of life. I did finally find the dude who runs the train traffic lights and he found another dude who found me a hotel room.

Martina and I all dressed up for pizza!
     The next day, I finally made it to Milan and met my host, Sabrina. After dropping my things off at her place, we went to the main square famous for its cathedral and so much shopping my brain hurt. There were Prada stores popping up like McDonalds in Texas! Amidst all this shopping, there was a statue of DaVinci and the Scala theatre. Sadly, the Scala was nothing special to look at, but the pictures I have seen of the shows there are the best I could have ever imagined. Martina, a friend of Sabrina’s, was also with us, and though there wasn’t much going on in Milan, they were really a lot of fun. Back at her house, Sabrina’s mother, Grazia, got confused and cooked a feast fit for a king instead of a normal lunch, but I didn’t mind one bit. There were like 5 courses; three of which were pasta. Seriously. I went full food coma and Sabrina had to roll me to the car to pick up another friend, Darku, and another CSer, Nicole. We then went for gelato. Oh my gosh. More food. What the heck? From there we visited the palace and then a club (they all clubs discos). I hate clubs. I tried to not look horrified, but I failed and as a result, they kindly decided to leave and we went off to bed.
Fat. Delicious. Cheesy. And a pizza.
     We woke up in time for lunch the next day and again it was a feast; with three types of pasta, bruschetta, an eggplant thing that rocked my socks off, and a pie which Darku turned up for. Nicole also tried an alcohol called grappa. Apparently even a Welsh girl couldn’t handle it so I didn’t dare touch it. Gelato happened again. Then we all went shopping (I mean come on, we had to: It’s Milan) and bought dresses for the evening. It was a special occasion. My first Italian pizza!!! Ohhhhh sooooooo good! I can’t explain. Just look at the picture and you will know why I had to be rolled out again. This time in the rain. By the time we returned, Nicole went off with Luigi (hahahahahaha Luigi), Sabrina’s brother, to dance and Martina and Sabrina took me to an abandoned parking lot and taught me how to drive stick! Not only this, but we watched excerpts of Harry Potter in Italian. Pretty much fantastic, except for the part where I only got two hours of sleep and then had to get on a train to Rome. Neddless to say, I slept the ENTIRE way. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. In fact, I better sleep now, so I will post more later! xx


Russell

Jul 22, 2013

The Very Bad Week: Shoveling Human Excrement, Almost Being Raped, And My Stolen iPhone

The Workaway house. Totally primitive.
     Hello again. So at this point in my journey, I’m basically headed out to the middle of nowhere, to meet this guy who I have never even seen in a picture nor ever learned his name and I’m on the second and last bus of the day so I’m thinking ‘This better work or I’m sleeping outside.’ When I get to the station, I’m not even sure I’m at the right one and I walk around lugging my rolly backpack back and forth several times in front of a group of rocking chair, card-playing locals who are having a good laugh at my expense. Picture this: There is like one building in this place and a gang of children on bicycles are actively surrounding you and jabbering away in Spanish. Yes. That was my situation. I mean, I may have had three years of Spanish, but that was five years ago and I am super rusty. (Haha. Rusty.) But anyway, some of the kids spoke a little English but it didn’t matter because I didn’t know the name of the dude I was meeting. About seven minutes later, this super dusty (not rusty) jalopy pulled up and a dude with crazy hair and dirty clothes stepped out and introduced himself as Arnau, the guy I was going with.
Arnau's daughter, Clara.
     So I went with him even further away from anything anywhere and eventually got to this place pictured or I hope pictured. It depends on if I remember what I typed. Arnau’s wife, Bibiana, was really nice and their daughter Clara was really cute, but there was work to do even though it was sunset so I didn’t get to talk long. After not working with bees and doing other stupid stuff, I went to bed in my own house/cave place with a nice layer of grime on everything. As I went to sleep, I tried to enjoy the absolute silence, but the sound of my thoughts racing and blood rushing through my veins was too loud, so instead I went to sleep.
     The night before, Arnau said to be ready early, so I woke up at 7:30ish and went to their house as he instructed. I didn’t see anyone, so I just assumed they were already out working on the land. Apparently I assumed wrong, because when I went to wash a peach, oh look. There’s Arnau with his man-meat swaying in the breeze, staring at me from his room. Lovely… Fantastic... SOMEONE GET ME OUT OF HERE. But alas, that didn’t happen, though if it did I could have skipped the shittiest part. Haha. Pun. The rest of the day included weeding in the deathly hot sun, working with bees for one full minute blowing smoke, and no breaks whatsoever. Workaway specifically states 4-6 hours work a day. We worked triple that. I did NOT sign up for this. Other horrors included no WiFi, solar power/no electricity at night, and always feeling like I was covered in Plague. And another day has passed.
I guess the funny looking H is not so H-looking after all...
     The next day, another Workawayer from Germany, Lisa, arrived and I didn’t feel so alone anymore. After another full day of horrible, back-breaking work and medicinal flower picking (don’t ask), I went to take a shower. I learned the hard way that the funny looking H is actually an F meaning Fria in Spanish. So that’s why my shower was cold. C isn’t cold, it’s caliente. Oops. So far the plusses included only getting to babysit inside for a few hours out of the heat and learning to roll candles from the beeswax. The minuses were a long list including shameful sock tan lines, tea made from weeds, an outdoor toilet, and everything else. In the night, Arnau threw ‘parties’ with Lisa and I in his basement. All he did was serve nasty beer and play dub step as loud as his speakers could go. Yes. I know. My circumstances may have seemed dire, but I promise, the worst was yet to come.
Arnau. -_____-
     On the last day, Arnau had me shoveling donkey shit into horse feed bags at the bottom of his property and carrying the shit up his steep-as-a-mountain hill to his house. I got angry and went on strike for an hour or two and only filled four bags instead of six. Maybe because we didn’t get along or because he is the worst person I have ever met, Arnau told me he would “teach me to not fear shit” by forcing me to SHOVEL HUMAN SHIT FROM THE CESTPOOL OF DEATH HE SHAT IN. We will not discuss the smell, nor the sight of what I went through that day. It was highly traumatizing and I am actually not kidding. I cried. Not in front of the asshole Arnau though. You might be laughing right now, but just stop and put yourself in my situation. At the risk of indecency, I will mention that none of this shit was mine. I held it for three days. THREE DAYS. I have intestines of steel. Ugh  Ugh UGHHHHHHH. WORST DAY EVER.
      The next day, I left the house of horrors, but not without incident. Arnau was either going to take me to the bus station I came from or his friend, who was a complete stranger to me, was going to drive me to a town 45 minutes away to catch a train. Arnau never heard from his friend and when I told him I was ready to be driven, he said we were too late and if his friend didn’t contact him, I was to hitchhike to that town or just walk. There was NO WAY I was about to stay there with him, but there was also no way I could walk to that town. It was 45 minutes away by car… It didn’t matter because his friend showed up and took me to the station and everything worked out, but I hated every second.
Terrible week. 
     That was bad right? Okay. No. It’s not over. I arrived in Barcelona late in the afternoon and met my CouchSurfing host, Juan. He seemed pretty nice and relatively normal at first. We went to a bar and ate some sandwiches and split a bottle of wine first so I didn’t get a chance to drop off my bags. After we finished at the bar, I thought that’s where we were headed, but apparently he had other ideas and took me to another bar and bought two rounds of shots. At this point, I am tired of lugging my stuff around and feeling kinda tipsy. All I really want is to go back to his place and go straight to sleep since it is now near or past midnight and all I had done that day was Arnau’s chores and hours of train rides. He still didn’t take me back, but instead to another bar for mojitos. Once we finished the mojitos, he made no move to leave. He grabbed my head and started making out with me. I told him no, that’s not okay, but he continued raping my mouth. Ugh. I feel dirty typing this. He mentioned something about how he wasn’t sick so I shouldn’t worry and at this point, my Ravenclaw-ready mind got to work.
     I pulled out my iPhone and showed him a video I took in Dachau of my tonsils infested with tonsillitis and moldy looking white patches on my throat. This was intended for my doctor, but this was a perfect use as well. Man repellant. I told him it was a disease that ran through my lymphatic systems and could be transferred through bodily fluids. Ha. Perfect. I had his full attention. This is how our conversation went.
Him: So… Can I get this from kissing you…?
Me: No I don’t think so. (pause) But actually, I got it from my ex-boyfriend and all we did was kiss so maybe…
Him: So. If I go to the pharmacy tomorrow, what should I get?
Me: Nothing. Once you have it, you have it for life.
Him: (pause) But if I go to the pharmacy, what would help?
Me: Nothing. Sorry.
Him: (longer pause) Okay. But if I go to the pharmacy, what do I tell them the disease is called?
Me: (I think: He’s Spanish. He doesn’t know diseases in English, so I say) Tonsillitis.
Him: That sounds bad. (He puts a pillow between us on the couch and laughs nervously. Here’s the kicker. He asks) So… does your vagina still work? I mean does… does stuff come out? Or like. Does it smell funny?
Me: Only sometimes (YOU PRICK)
Harry Potter saved my life. Hehehe.
     So that’s the conversation. None of this is elaborated on or made up. While we were walking back to his place to go to sleep, he kept calling me AIDS girl. WOAH WOAH WOAH. Before you go all crazy at me for staying with him, remember that it is like one in the morning in Barcelona. The streets aren’t well lit and I had all of my belongings with me. If I left him, I would have had to wander alone in the dark looking for a hotel or hostel. It was better to take my chances with a dude who thought I was contagious than muggers who only saw a vulnerable young girl with her life on her back. See why I made the choice I did? I was between a rock and a hard place and I chose the one as stupid as a rock.
     Back at his apartment, I asked if I could use his WiFi (to email friends to alert them of the situation and where I was just in case) and he said sure, but I’d like a massage first. He then took off his shirt, lay on his bed , and pointed to a bottle of lotion. With gritted teeth and bared nails, I gave him the damned massage and then accessed the WiFi. After messaging like seven people of the situation, I went to sleep on his stupid couch fully clothed. I barely slept and the next morning I woke up early and tried to sneak out. He caught me but basically shoved me out his door anyway. I promptly went to Subway (free WiFi) and Skyped Pancho, Brendan, and Kacy, telling them about the Workaway and the CouchSurfer. After contacting a couple friends in Barcelona to stay with and orienting my mood once again to positivity, I headed out to La Rambla to do some window shopping. Kinda. There weren’t windows since they were all in tents. I saw a cute pocket watch for 12 euros and slipped my phone into my backpack so I could pay for the watch. That must have been when the pickpocketer struck. Seconds later, my iPhone 5 was gone and the pocketwatch became my only source of time. So ironic, I guess. I went to the police, but there was no point since the people in front and behind of me in line were all victims of theft as well.
     I went back to Subway, Skyped Brendan again and felt a little better. Finally, I left Subway and met Antonio and Euodia (friends from the pyramid on the beach last time in Barcelona) and through iCloud I was able to retrieve all of my photos and contacts. After the worst week of my life and nearly giving up on travelling, I once again saw the silver lining. And then I went to the beach.
If you read all of that, just know that I am okay now and this was all three weeks ago. Aunt Sami and Mom, don’t cry! I’m a Ravenclaw for a reason. Quick thinkers and ready minds are what we’re known for. More soon! Until next time! x

Russell







Jul 16, 2013

Spain! Beaches, Castles, and An Old Friend.

June 22nd-25th
Pyramid on the beach.
Leah and I the castle.
     Annnnnnnnd we’re back. So that sleeper train? Yeah. Slept like a baby. It was great. When I made it to Port Bou, Spain, I knew it was going to be great. The ocean was reflecting the sunrise and it was gorgeous. I was staring out the window like a dog stares at anything that moves. Unfortunately, the super long Port Bou-Barcelona train was much longer than expected and I met Michal, my host, about an hour or two after I told him I’d be there. Oops. It was okay though! He was very nice and let me take a shower before taking me to the beach! Yay beach! It was great. Everything you expect it to be. Sun, Sand, Waves, and even beach volleyball. Surprisingly, I wasn’t half bad at that part. Loni must’ve rubbed off on me. Somehow, in conversation, they found out I was a cheerleader before and they enlisted in my help to build a pyramid. Pretty cool, huh?

Leah and I at the festival.
     We met for tapas a few hours later and then proceeded to a rooftop party in the city. Though it was fabulous and the people were great, I was exhausted from my travels and went back to go to sleep. I had an early train the next morning to Alicante, so I was careful not to wake up Michal. On my way to the station, a weird old lady caused me to miss my stop by yelling at me in Spanish when I tried to get off. I had no idea what she was trying to tell me, so I rode the metro until she let me leave and then back tracked to my station. Luckily, this did not make me late and I continued on my merry way to Alicante, Spain where I met Leah!! I found her in the station before she found me and it was great to see a familiar face.
I want a cactus.
     She took me to her host family’s house, pointing out awesome paper sculptures on the way, and when we arrived,  I promptly took my siesta nap like any good, respectable Spanish person would. An hour later, Leah and I bought some ridiculously good ice cream and then began our long trek up a mountain/hill thing to the castle at the top. We chattered and sweated nonstop the entire way and then, when we finally reached the top, we took about a thousand pictures of the views and each other. In this blissful fog of happy, we watched the sun set from atop the roof and probably took a thousand more pictures before eventually clambering back down into the city of Alicante, to our respective showers and beds.
Castle at sunset.
     Every day is beach day in Spain, so who were Leah and I to deny ourselves of that? On the next afternoon, we went to the beach and did beachy things after watching a massive fireworks display in the middle of the day. Leah said it was in the day because during festival (which it was), no one was supposed to sleep, not even for siesta. Back to the beach though, the waves were mean. They knocked me over and pulled off my top. Bad waves. Down boys. Down! They didn’t get down, so Leah and I went to go get a pina colada with her host sister, Kristina. That was funny because she didn’t speak any English which left Leah and I to speak to her in Spanish. She learned about the legend that is Rusty and Kacy through stories such as the water in the purse, fart in the box, and hairbrush on fire stories. Ahhh. The classics. AND I told it entirely in Spanish. With help from Leah. And a lot of sign language.
Spanish girls in cool dresses.
     With the past two days behind us, it was time for me to pack for tomorrow’s journey. Leah’s host mom saw that I had no clean clothes and very generously and sweetly washed and folded all of my laundry. It was so nice of her! She then took us all to the festival to watch more fireworks, this time from the castle, and to watch the sculptures burn. It was sad to see the beautiful pieces burn to the ground, but I know there will be more next year and the next and every year as there has been before, so I guess I shouldn’t be too sad. Before long, it was over and we were back at the house one more time. 
Me gusta la playa.
     I wrote a Google translate postcard for Leah’s host family and gave Leah a few things to take back to Oklahoma with her on her impending flight. Then I finally drifted off to sleep. Before I knew it, I was waking up and Leah was saying good bye to me at the train station. It had all happened so fast. My time in Alicante with Leah was wonderful but way too short. I wanted to stay, but the train was already taking me back to Barcelona and a whole new set of problems.
Seriously. Bad problems. Like worst week ever problems. Tune in for my next post.

Russell