Okay, this is going to be long. I've got to cover 10 days and a lifetime of memories, so bear with me.
**edited because out band director's name is mr slu.tter, and it changed it to mr. highly availableter. if you see mr. highly availableter anywhere, it means i missed changing it. it should be slu.tter**
We left on Friday, February 23rd. After sitting through 6 hours and 15 minutes, we got dismissed from classes and herded into the auditorium, where the chaperones inspected our luggage to make sure we brought all of the required items for uniform and performance. Then came the two hour bus ride. We went to Newark Liberty International Airport, and we hit traffic, so it ended up taking a little over two hours to get there. Not cool, if you ask me! Then we arrived at the airport and unloaded ourselves and the luggage off of the busses. Anyone whose instrument was not taken along (like me) had to check a box of uniforms or percussion equiptment as our second piece of checked luggage. I got a box of uniforms, in case anyone was wondering.
So then it took an hour to check in and confirm seats and go through security. We were left with two hours to go around the terminal and get food and last minute items before we boarded the plane. I went to Au Bon Pair with my roommate and a couple other people, but we were all too excited to eat. We stopped at Ben and Jerry's (their Mango-Lime Sorbet is to DIE FOR) before heading back to the gate. I filled my water bottle and popped an Airborne tablet in, and then turned over my passport and boarding pass to my trip chaperone.
After goofing around at the gate for half an hour, we FINALLY got to board the plane. I was in seat 25D, next to a Senior flutist named Carol, on the other side of Carol was a senior Euphonium named Drew, and on the other side of the aisle from me was the Band Clown, a Senior saxophonist named Brian. We sat on the runway for TWO HOURS. Our scheduled departure time was 8:10pm. We didn't take off until 10:00. So Carol got bored. She came up with a takeoff song, a "we're sitting on the runway and I want to leave" song, a song to Drew, a song to me, a song to the plane, a song to the flight attendants, a song to the band director, and then I handed her my iPod and she shut up. First she fell asleep and leaned to the left, and was on Drew's lap. Then he pushed off over to my lap. So then we both sat her up and shoved our sweatshirts around her to keep her upright.
Then we FINALLY took off. We got dinner at around 10:30, and airline food is definitely as bad as all of the jokes about it say. And so began the 7 hour flight saga. After an hour an a half of "OHMIGOD OHMIGOD OHMIGOD WE'RE GOING TO SPAIN!!!!!!!!" people finally started falling asleep. I couldn't find a comfortable position, so I was awake. There were little TV monitors in the backs of the headrests, so I watched CSI and then something else...maybe Man of the Year. Then I FINALLY fell asleep. That was at around 1:30am home time, and 7:30am Spain time. By the time I woke up, it was light out, and it had been dark out when I fell asleep. They served us breakfast (a crossiant and fresh-ish fruit) and then told us we had about an hour more before we got there.
And then suddenly the flight was over and we were getting off the plane in Madrid. Getting through the airport was when it really sunk in that we were in SPAIN. The customs people didn't speak English, just like everyone else. I used more Spanish in the airport alone than in three years of taking the language, I swear. It took 45 minutes to get all of our luggage and cargo off of the carousel and out to the busses. I was on Tour Bus #2, and that is where the fun truly began.
We were all assigned numbers for roll call purposes, and I was #7. But that's beside the point. Our bus driver's name was Miguel and he was awesome. His cell phone's ringtone was a rooster crowing. Miguel also didn't believe in speed limits, even as suggestions or rules. They were merely signs on the side of the road. Our tour guide's name was Dania, and as she said "The itinerary says that it should take about one hour and a half to get there...Miguel will have us there in half and hour, three quarters of an hour, tops!" Dania, like I said, was our tour guide for the entire trip. She fluently speaks five languages (Italian, English, Spanish, French, and German) and was so incredibly funny and sweet and great to be around. Occasionally she would switch languages for certain words but it was all good.
Our first two days were spent on either a bus or a plane. When we stopped for lunch between Madrid and Sevilla, it was a middle of nowhere little cafeteria thing, and the food was actually very good. I bought an inflatable neck rest thingy from a vending machine, and it came out in a little plastic ball which greatly resembled a Pokeball (from Pokemon). My roommate pointed this out to me, and so I threw out my arm, ball in hand, and yelled, "Charmander, I choose you! Why -- isn't -- anything -- happening?!...I think Charmander may have Charbroiled himself..." Then we had to get back on the busses.
26 hours of travel later, we arrived at our first hotel, Gran Hotel Solucar, in the outskirts of Sevilla. After check-in we had an hour until dinner, so I unpacked some and then went to the gift shop to get a t-shirt and postcards. The gift shop woman asked me if I spoke Spanish, and I took a little to long to respond, I guess, because she muttered something how stupid Americans were, since we only speak one language. To that, I said âUsted necesita saber que yo comprendo y hablo espaÃ±ol y yo se que usted esta diciendo sobre nosotros.â Really bad grammar and lack of accent marks aside, that translates (roughly to) âYou need to know that I understand and speak Spanish and I know what youâre saying about us.â She was so embarrassed that she sold me a shirt that should have cost 12 Euro for only 6 Euro. That was pretty good.
So then came the third day of the trip, but the first two days mushed together so much that I think of this more as the second day. Anyway, this takes us to Sunday, the 25th. We had an early wake-up call because we had to go to a town an hour away to do a parade, a standstill, and then a reception. The parade went really well, and the standstill was pretty good too. We got to play in the town square in Ecija, and that is a place that is normally gated off to the public. After the standstill, the town presented all 142 band members with gift bags, and then we walked a little while to the reception. At first it was sort of awkward because of the language barrier, but then a group in the corner just started playing their instruments, and everyone started dancing and really having fun. Then, of course, it ended JUST as we really started having fun and we had to go back to the busses to go back to Sevilla. That night we had an hour of free time to tour the city before they took us back to the hotel for dinner. My tour group really didnât go far, because we didnât want to get lost and not make it back on time.
The next day, we checked out of the hotel and loaded all of our stuff on to the busses, and then took a bus tour of Sevilla before we started a walking tour. Right before the walking tour we went to a place in Sevilla where part of the Star Wars movie âAttack of the Clonesâ was filmed, and thatâs where we got into uniform and took the official group picture. We caused quite a stir, among locals and tourists alike. It was around 70 degrees out, and we were standing packed in on the stairs in polyester-wool blend uniforms. This was the same day that back home there was going to be a two-hour delay for school openings due to the amount of snow theyâd gotten that night. During the walking tour after that, we stopped by the house that had the balcony that inspired Rossiniâs opera The Barber of Seville. The walking tour concluded with a tour of the cathedral in Sevilla, before we had two hours of free time to get lunch and shop before the 5 hour bus ride to Granada. I got a gorgeous porcelain doll, and then suddenly we had to board the busses again and head for Granada.
The ride to Granada was pretty long, probably because I stayed awake for most of it.
When we finally got to Granada, we checked in to the hotel, and discovered that the first floor of rooms was actually up three flights of stairs. I was on the second floor, so it was five flights. I decided to wait for the elevator, since my combined luggage weighed around 80lbs.
After check-in we had a little while to wait until dinner, and so we had a âpartyâ in one of my friendsâ rooms. In actuality, we just waited until dinner while talking about who knows what and comparing souvenirs. Dinner was uneventful, but the food was better than that of the hotel in Sevilla. It was actually edible, an attribute we all found enjoyable. We had to stay in the hotel for the rest of the night, and that night was when part of my band uniform broke. It was a piece known as a vestee, and the correct use can be seen in the picture on the bottom right (itâs gold with sequins, but the ones we wear are silver) <img src="http://usera.imagecave.com/thederange
drhino/icth_vestee.jpg.jpg">. The neckstrap on mine broke, so I turned it in to a uniform mom to be fixed before the next dayâs performance. That was basically at 11:00, and so I had to be back in my room for bedcheck.
The next morning, we had a bus tour of Granada which concluded at La Alhambra, a 13th or 14th century Arabic/Muslim city contained inside the palaceâs walls. The guided tour was two hours long, and our tour guide, Maria Lourdes, was quite possibly one of the funniest people Iâve ever met. La Alhambra, being an 800 year old structure, has roads that are basically all rocks or cobblestones. I had a difficult time, like most in our group, negotiating these areas in my sneakers. Maria Lourdes did the entire tour in 3-inch heels. She was also walking backwards and telling us the most random stories about other groups. I have no doubt that sheâll be telling stories about us, considering we were all wearing the same bright blue tour jackets and acting generally stupid because we werenât quite awake.
After that, we got back on the busses. This is when my now fixed vestee was returned to me. My bus buddy for the day was Brian, our percussion instructor. Heâs 21 and graduated from my high school in â03, and heâs more of a student than a chaperone, but heâs a great percussionist and a great teacher. So, my vestee was on my lap, and he took it from me and wrapped it around his head. He went, âI want to propose a change to the uniforms. I think weâd look better if we wore the vestees like bandanas,â as seen in this picture <img src="http://usera.imagecave.com/thederange
drhino/icth_DSCN1595.JPG.jpg">. Needless to say, that idea was vetoed.
We were driven back into the center of the town after that. Then we were given three hours of free time to shop and get lunch before we had to be back at the hotel to get into uniform for a performance that night.
Granada is a beautiful place, and I loved walking around and being able to see everything. Shopping wasnât bad either, and I got some good stuff. Then we had to get back to the hotel in order to get into our uniforms for a performance at a music conservatory.
The performance went incredibly well. It was also the first time we got to use the rented instruments, which was exciting because one of the keyboards was a 5 Â½ octave Honduran Rosewood Marimba, which is truly any mallet percussionistâs dream. It doesnât get any better than Honduran Rosewood. After that, Symphonic band had a rehearsal with the conservatory students, so the rest of us were taken to the top of a mountain for a walking tour. That was a 45 minute bus ride, and then we were dropped off in a high-traffic, low-light area of the town. We walked down the mountain for half an hour, got nowhere, and then turned around and walked back up. After that was a reception with the anti-social conservatory students and the most disgusting food Iâve ever had. That was supposed to be our dinner, but the chaperones realized that no one ate any of it, so they ordered pizza back at the hotel.
The next day, we drove for an hour to a beach town south of Granada. We took a walking tour, and then went down to the ocean. I took off my socks and shoes and ran into the Mediterranean, decided it was cold, and ran back out. We had time for lunch, and then we boarded the busses back to Granada. When we got back, we had some free time in Granada, but February 28th is a holiday in Andalucia, the part of Spain we were in, so nothing was open. So, we wandered up the street for 40 minutes, and then went back to the hotel and hung out in various peopleâs rooms until it was time go get changed to go to a Symphonic concert. That was a long concert if you ask me. We were only there for three hours. Then came another âreception,â but this time it was more of a basement/balcony gathering where we were given sandwiches and bottled water.
The next day, we had to check out to leave for Madrid. We stopped in Cordoba on the way, and when we were walking around, a guy walked out of a store, and all of these teenage girls started screaming and crying and taking pictures with him. I took a picture OF him, and then asked our guides and drivers who he was, but no one knew. So we just call him âFamous Guyâ and itâs still a mystery. Then we got back on the bus and drove for a few more hours to Madrid.
Madrid was not my favorite place. Itâs the largest city in Spain, and I really did not like the urban feel. We checked in to the hotel, which was pretty pathetic, and then waited around until dinner. I checked out the hotel gift shops after dinner and picked up a pretty awesome track jacket that says Madrid on the back for 15 Euro.
The next day, we took a guided tour of Madrid, and we were dropped off at the Prado Museum. This was the part I was looking forward to most, because I am doing my graduation project on two paintings in the Prado. Seeing them in person was incredible, and I am so glad I got the chance to do so.
The other interesting painting at the Prado was âThe Garden of Earthly Delights,â which was described by Mr. Slu.tter, our band director, as being âvery, very, very, very, very, very, very, very drug-induced,â and by Mrs. Short, my principal, as being âlike Dr. Seussâ¦but the porno versionâ¦â That was an odd experience, to say the lease. The artist seemed to be a fan of bestiality, bright colors, and nudity.
After that, we had free time in the city. I walked around with two of the girls in my section, and we got horribly lost. We stopped at a supermarket, where I bought a watermelon.
On the band trip to California three years ago, they dropped the students off at a strip mall with a supermarket once they left the airport. My friends Rosanna and Lauren (who graduated last year) bought a watermelon at the supermarket, not realizing that they had nothing to cut it with. It sat in their mini-fridge for a few days, and then it fell out and cracked. Someone got the idea to draw Mr. Slu.tterâs face on it, so they did, and presented it to him. Thereâs a picture somewhere of him with the original Slu.ttermelon. Lauren and Rosanna made me promise that we would do that this trip.
So we did. I bought the watermelon and we turned it into a Slu.ttermelon back at the hotel. We gave it to Mr. Slu.tter, took a few more pictures, and then went back to our rooms to get ready for another performance.
We performed in a park in the city at the request of the Madrid City Administrationâs Department of Youth. The set-up and break-down of the pit instruments took longer than the actual performance, but we still had fun. After that we went back to the hotel for dinner, and then a bit of free time before bedcheck.
On Saturday, March 3rd, we went to Toledo, which is about an hour out of Madrid. We had a guided tour of Toledo, an hour of free time to do lunch and maybe a little bit of shopping, and then a performance. We had free time again after that, but the area of town we were restricted to really had no shopping. So my friends and I sat on a bench and made idiots of ourselves. Then we watched the drum major fall into a massive fountain. That was pretty much the highlight of the day to that point.
When we boarded the busses again, we headed back to Madrid for our farewell dinner, which was actually a Flamenco show. That was so much fun, and an awesome way to say goodbye to Spain. We convinced Mr. Schram, our Dean of Students, and Mr. Slu.tter, to dance with the pros up onstage. That made for some of the best video footage Iâve ever taken. We went back to the hotel to finish packing, and then got to do some last minute souvenir shopping before a meeting where the schedule for leaving was outlined.
On Sunday the 4th we had an extra-early wakeup, and we checked out of the hotel before breakfast started. I took a picture with our bus driver, Miguel, because heâs the coolest guy on the planet, and the with our tour guides, Dania and Saria. By then I was crying, and so were Dania and Saria. Itâs crazy how attached you can become to people in 10 days. Then we got on the busses to head to the airport, and the same procedure as before, as far as luggage was concerned, took place. I, once again, also had to check an overweight box of uniforms.
We had about 45 minutes to check out the duty-free shops before boarding once we made it through security. At the security check, they made me open my bag and show them the doll I was bringing as carryon, because apparently on the x-ray screen it looked suspiciously like a baby. Yes, ladies, I am a baby carryon smuggler.
Once we boarded the plane it really started to hit us that we were leaving. None of us wanted to, because we were having such and incredible time.
Then we had an 8hr flight home. For some reason, it felt way shorter than the 7hr flight there. I watched one episode of each of the CSI franchises, and then Employee of the Month, and then I did some homework, and then suddenly we had landed.
It took an hour to get everyone through Customs after baggage claim, and I got detained because I brought food into the country. Ferrero Rocher chocolates from the duty-free shop in Madrid. They inspected them and let me through.
We waited for the busses for half an hour, and then waited on the busses for another 45 minutes before we finally started heading home. When we finally got back to the school I was crying again because I didnât want the trip to be over. I got my stuff, moved in my box of uniforms, and then my mom picked me up and took me home.
We got to the house at around 6:30. I unpacked souvenirs for my family and neighbors, and then my mom put my clothes in the wash. I went upstairs to get changed, and never came back down. I slept from 6:30pm to 3:00am, because my body was still on Spain time, so it felt like it was already 12:30am. When I woke up at 3:00, I was like âthis isnât going to workâ¦â so I went back to sleep, and woke up again at 6:30.
And so began my normal school and home life. And so ended the trip. I already miss it. I want to go back to Spain. Whoâs with me?
did you guys win any awards? I only got a little less than 1/2 way through.
It was just a performance tour, not a competition tour, so we didn't have any awards to win. International recognition? Yes (sort of...they hung posters advertising our performances EVERYWHERE). Awards? No. The show didn't translate as well as we'd hoped. People still enjoyed it, but the specific reasons the songs we played were chosen ended up being a lost cause.
ehhh that's ok, if it wasn't a competition then it's not like you lost points for general effect or something. People losing the message of the music does suck, but the music is still fun to perform I'll bet. And yeah, sometimes recognition is almost more worth it than the awards, like when we went to wgi, that was fun to be around bands all over the world.
It was definitely still fun to perform. We had a 5 1/2 octave .Honduran .Rosewood marimba...I actually screamed when .I saw it. That made the whole trip worth it. Then, of course, when we came home and .I had to play on our crappy fiberglass marimba when less than 48 hrs before .i'd been playing on .rosewood, .i was a little less than pleased.
that's funny that you remembered all those details, like who was sitting next to you, it's definitely a good idea to write every little detail that you can remember down. That's what I did when I came home from maine, i wrote down everything in order that i could remember, including what we wore, what we said (that i could remember) and what we ate lol i love vacation, but coming home after is usually depressing.
All of my pictures from .Spain are there, in case anyone is bored enough to skim through them.
And my absolute favorite place out of everywhere we went was .Granada. I'd like to become a .Spanish teacher, and so .Spain was a great experience for me. But now .i'm looking almost exclusively into schools that have an exchange/abroad study program with the .University of .Granada...I loved it there and would love to study there. there's no way to learn a language better than immersion...even my .spanish teacher said my .spanish had improved markedly after only 10 days!