Thursday morning the bus left at 8:00 to go to the theme park and Justin, Ryan, and I waved it off since our flight left at one that afternoon. We had said tearful goodbyes to friends, teachers, and volunteers from ESDES and then had a few hours to gather our suitcases and meet the van to head to the airport. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny as I stood on my balcony looking out over the oranges and the Mediterranean one last time. Rachel from our group was also leaving on our flight and she and I sat in the lobby and talked while we waited for the boys. The deans came out to say goodbye to us and told me to tell my mom and Grandma hello. Then we were off in the large school frugoneta headed towards the Valencia Airport. 

Ruben drove us, the same Ruben who picked us up that midnight only nine months ago. He spoke to us in English and translated for us when we talked to airport security about our lost luggage. I remember thinking he looked really young and must have been from the high school. In that van I met Seth and Jon, who Justin introduced to me as his friends from Walla Walla. I had no idea that they would become some of the best friends I've ever had. Anyway, this time in the van was a little different. We all knew each other. Rachel, Justin and I had been in a group together all year, jumping the gap between D and E and encouraging and helping each other each step of the way. Ryan and I have become best friends. Justin and I had lived in the same place for the first time since we were five. Things had changed, and that morning in the van I couldn't believe how far we'd come. We all spoke in a mix of English and Spanish, remembering funny moments in the last weeks and comfortably talking to Ruben in Spanish. The radio was on, and during a lull in the chatter, the ukelele version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow came on. Being from Kansas, I actually have always sort of hated that song and the typical Wizard of Oz comments I get when I mention my home state. But it was a good moment, and we all sat quietly taking everything in.

We were all on the same flight to Paris but Rachel had a connection straight to LAX while Justin and Ryan and I stayed the night in a hotel next to the CDG airport. I was actually pretty excited about having one last adventure with my two all-time favorite travel buddies. Getting to the hotel with our 5 suitcases and three backpacks (not to mention purse, pillow, and random boarding passes and hotel reservation papers) on a free shuttle in the rain was a bit of a chore. We had planned on heading into Paris for dinner and to see the Eiffel Tower one last time, so after finally arriving in our tiny room and dropping off our luggage, we took the shuttle back to the airport where we caught the RER train into the city center. 
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Photo Credit: Ryan Marais The tiniest hotel room ever. Taken from the loft, which turned into a small sauna since apparently "air conditioner" means "heat system." Anyway, our four nearly fifty-pount suitcases plus my small carryon really didn't fit that well in our tiny abode.
While in the hotel we decided that Chipotle sounded perfect for dinner. We had heard Paris had one and hadn't tried it the first time we were there, so we looked up the metro stop and made that our first priority. We decided that it probably gets most of its business from American tourists because all of the employees spoke perfect English (one even had an American accent) and they were the first restaurant I'd been in all year that actually sold Dr. Pepper. Nine euros for a burrito? Yeah, it was a rip off, but it was the best Chipotle I'd ever had, and I even ate the whole thing! We sat there for awhile, listening to people chattering in English all around us (a preview of what it would be like to be home again) and talking and laughing. The good food left us almost giddy and we decided to head out to see the tower. Just before we stepped outside, it began to rain again, but it didn't matter. It was one of the happiest moments of my year to be with two of the most special people and to know that we actually did it. We were done, we were relaxed, and we were happy.
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Photo Credit: Ryan Marais
At the tower we stood in the rain for awhile. My hoodie got pretty soaked but since we had unknowingly left the heater in our room on, it dried off quickly that night. I love the Eiffel Tower, and even in the rain it's incredible. There was no better way to end our time together. When we'd had our share of walking around and being offered umbrellas by street vendors, we took on last glance and duked into the nearest metro stop. One metro ride, the RER, and the shuttle bus and finally we were back in our room. We reorganized and watched two Modern Family episodes before heading to bed before the Longest Day Ever.
Sheri Seibold
6/6/2013 03:09:02 pm

I'm so glad you got one last quick trip in with your two favorite travel buddies before leaving Europe. And what a good city to end those travel adventures, in Paris, even in the rain. So I guess the rain in Spain stays mainly with your plane.

What a year! You've described it so well in words, you've captured it so beautifully in photos, and you've let us experience the moments as though we were there all year as well.

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