Monday, April 7, 2003

The Carthaginian Rose: Vol. 4

Hello everyone!

OK, I know. You're wondering, "Why are you writing Shannon? You just got home!" Yes, yes, it's true. I am now, at LAST, home. :-) But, because there was no email place in Madrid, and because I was in transit all day Saturday and Sunday, I didn't get a chance to send a final email to everyone. So, a few days late-here it is!

First of all, I think Sevilla was my favorite place of the whole trip. The buildings were gorgeous, it was filled with beautiful orange trees, and it wasn't so huge as to be overwhelming, but it still had enough energy. On our last full day there, Jen and I actually had a bit of an unusual experience. You see, I woke up that day and my face was swollen from the sunburn-just around my eyes and forehead-so that I looked pretty much like an alien freak. Great. So, after much consultation with my mom and grandma via the phone and internet, they pretty much demanded that I go to the hospital and get checked out. I think they were envisioning me with a face that was ready to explode or something, which felt true, but didn't really look THAT bad. So, to appease them, and to quiet my own slightly hypochondriac fears, I convinced Jennifer to go with me to the public hospital. Good lord.

Jennifer and I took a taxi there and went into the emergency room. No one spoke English-no more than a few words (despite what my guidebook had said). I tried to give them my insurance card, but they looked at it like they´d never seen one before, which they probably haven´t. They took my name, date of birth, and name of hotel. They directed us to a small waiting area with about 10 people in it. About 5 minutes later, a guy comes out-he could have been a nurse or a nursing assistant, and asks me in limited English what´s wrong with me. After writing down the details, he sends us to this bigger waiting room, where he says I should "Wait for a few minutes and then my name will be called." Yeah right. It was a room with about 80 people in it. Standing room only. There were people on hospital beds, in wheelchairs. Bleeding, coughing, dying right in front of us. I almost turned and walked out then. But, Jennifer said we´ve come all this way, so we might as well stay until 8pm, which is when most restaurants open up. It was 6 then.

We stood around in the mass of humanity, struggling to hear if my name was being called (since it sounds totally different with a Spanish accent). It appeared that they would call your name, take you back for a consult, and then send you back into the waiting room. Then, when your test results were in, or your x-rays done, they would bring them out to you, and explain it in front of everyone, and sometimes take you back again. It was horrible, and degrading to even watch. Almost everyone there was elderly.

Finally, around 7:30, when I was convinced I would never be seen and was ready to leave, they called my name over the intercom. And said a bunch of stuff after it in Spanish that I had no idea what it meant. So, we followed some other people whose names had been called, but they didn´t appear to know where they were going either. Eventually, I ended up standing in line outside of a consulting room.

While we were waiting in that line, some security people came and were hovering around the consult room next door, where some pregnant woman was laying on a stretcher. Eventually, they took the woman away, while she was screaming something about the devil. The security people had latex gloves on. I didn´t even WANT to know what was going on there!

Finally they called my name into the consult room. The nurse or possibly doctor didn´t speak any English, but I had already written down in Spanish what was wrong with me. So, then she had me sit in front of an optomatrist type machine after squirting some orange stuff in both my eyes. She looked at them both, apparently saw nothing wrong, and asked if I had been in the sun and gotten burned. Duh. And then she wrote me a prescription for cortizone cream. Jennifer and I walked out of the room, saw no signs about paying, and then walked right out the front door. I guess they have the name of my hotel, which in turn has my credit info, so I might be getting a charge later. Who knows? We took a taxi back to our part of town, went into the nearest pharmacy (they´re on like every corner) and I got my cream. $5.

So, for the price of two taxi rides and a tube of cream, I got a firsthand lesson in the horrors of public hospitals, in general, and in the way things were done in hospitals in Spain. It was eye-opening to say the least, not to mention depressing. It made us feel guilty for just assuming things would be so easy, as they are for a person in the States who is lucky enough to have insurance. I'm glad I had the experience, but I would never want to repeat it.

Anyway, as a treat to ourselves after that ordeal, we ate again at the Italian restaurant. This time I feasted on gnocchi in three cheese sauce (gnocchi is a type of potato pasta). We sat next to two American guys and tried to have a normal conversation with them, but as my face looked like a nuclear testing site, I sort of kept a bit quiet. :-) One of them ordered what he thought would be cheese sticks, but it turned out to be just a plate of hunks of parmesan cheese. It was hilarious, and it cost him $8. :-(

We spend Friday night in Madrid, not doing much but just resting for our journeys home. Saturday, I spent the entire day on a train, traveling a total of 13 hours from Madrid to Paris in order to catch my plane on Sunday morning. The scenery was amazing, plus I made friends with a Scottish couple and their accents were equally as amazing. :-)

Sunday was a nightmare. I'm telling you-I didn't think I was going to fucking make it home!! I got to the airport (after taking the wrong train and having to switch over halfway there!) about 2 hours before takeoff. What a mistake! I should have gotten there about 4 hours in advance so that I wouldn't have to stress out.

First, I had to take a bus to the right terminal. Then, I had to wait in a line of at least 100 people to check in to Air Canada, while *1* fucking person was at the front of this line, looking over people's passports and tickets before letting them through to get in another line to actually check in and get boarding passes, etc. The man doing this was such an asshole. Every time somebody got up there that wasn't totally white, he actually examined their passports with a zoom lens/microscope thing! And looked them up and down like they were garbage. It was utterly laughable and disgusting. Not to mention, it made the line slow as fuck. I spent an hour waiting in that line and then he took 20 seconds to look over my stuff. And then I had to go over to the security line so that I could get into the terminals. There was another 35 minute wait. So, that by the time I was cleared of everything, there was only about 15 minutes before my plane was taking off!!! I ran to the gate and made it in, of course, but I hate being that stressed out. Not to mention the fact that that of course left me with absolutely no time to buy food, water, batteries for my CD player-nothing for my flight.

When I got to Toronto, it was more of a nightmare, but what else could I expect? I had to retrieve my luggage from the belt (despite the fact that the lady told me it would checked in through to KC), put it onto another belt so that it would go to another building. Then, I had to take a shuttle bus to the other building, walk the length of the building all the way to US Customs. Retrieve my luggage, fill out a US Customs form, lug my bag (which was wrapped in plastic and couldn't be worn) down many hallways to the actual US customs line, wait in it for about 25 minutes, be interrogated by the agent there as to whether or not I support the war in Iraq (I think it was a test-he kept looking at me rather fishily), and then drag my bag some more before depositing it on another conveyor belt. Then, I had to go through security again, where the guy looked at my boarding pass and didn't believe that I was in the right place because he didn't recognize that the abbreviation for the KC airport was MCI. He asked me if I had ANOTHER boarding pass to show him, but I said, "They only ever give you ONE, so that's the only one I have!" and he let me go through, obviously not keen to deal with someone as potentially dangerous as a very stressed-out Shannon.

Then, I had to look on the TV to see where my plane was leaving from. Terminal E, which meant going downstairs and catching another fucking bus. As this lady (also going to KC) and I went downstairs together, and saw the bus sitting outside, we made a run for it-not wanting to wait for another one. Then, this guy comes out from behind this random desk and says, "WHOAH LADIES! Let me see your boarding passes please!" We explained that we needed to catch the bus, but he was feeling very important, so he made us stop to show him our passes. There was no sign up saying we needed to show them, by the way. So, I snatch my pass back from him, and turn to run to the bus. And he yells out, "You know, you have to show your pass. It's not my fault you don't want to. But you don't have to be rude to me lady!" And I turned around and said, "I'm not trying to be rude, but I've been waiting in line all day, and I'll be damned if I'm going to miss this bus!" And I ran outside and hopped on the bus just before it pulled away. What an asshole. And then our flight was delayed anyway, plus it was a tiny plane and was bouncy all the way, and we got in over an hour late. It sucked. I could have collapsed from exhaustion by the time I made it out to my mom's car. For dinner, we ate at Applebee's, and I was amazed by all of the overwhelming options!! I never thought I'd say that about Applebee's, but there you are. I guess that's what a week of being surrounded by nothing but jamon will do to a girl! :-)

Anyway, WOW, this was a long email....but there were a lot of loose ends to tie up. So, now I'm home, and I am excited to get together with everyone again! I have missed being here so much that I don't even think I can fully express it! :-) My pictures won't be developed for a day or two, but I can't wait to show them. I think I'm even going to post the best ones on my website so that far away people can see them.

Thanks for listening to all of my ramblings these past two weeks. Writing things down made me feel a lot better, and more connected to home. Take care everyone and I'll hopefully be seeing you all soon!!

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