Sick on a Sunday

A Long Story About Falling Down. In Spain.

Posted in Geography, Random Rants by jamie on December 29, 2010

The summer between 11th and 12th grade, I participated in a student exchange program and spent five weeks in Spain.  I stayed with a (fantastic, loving, generous) family in a small beach town called Cullera, about 30 km outside of Valencia for the majority of my stay.  The first and last few days, however, were spent just outside Madrid at youth camps with other American students in the program and a few chaperones.

We were all good kids on paper – the exchange program had fairly stringent standards and we’d all been accepted not only based on academic performance, but on personal recommendations as well.  With few exceptions, we were good kids IRL as well, and therefore weren’t exactly given strict boundaries by our chaperones.  Between meeting a chaperone at the Madrid train station and going back to the airport for our flights home, we were spending the night reunited with each other at one of those camps. We were permitted to leave camp, unaccompanied, to go find ice cream.  Or whatever.  We didn’t have any “lights out” time or anything like that.

Spain is fucking fantastic all around, but one of my favorite things about it is that you can’t go anywhere without being within walking proximity to both an heladeria (ice cream parlor, more or less) and a bar (that’s Spanish for “bar”).  One of my favorite things about Spain when I was 17, however, was that the drinking age was 16 (technically, it’s 16 for wine and beer, and it’s 18 for hard liquor, but I never saw the hard liquor law enforced).

Our plane back to the States was leaving early in the morning, and our trip took us from Madrid to Zurich to JFK.  From JFK, we’d all go our separate ways, and I was flying into Long Beach.  That’s a 2 hour flight, a 7 hour flight, and a 5 hour flight in 4 different time zones with hours-long layovers in every city.

And so, we decided to blow off sleeping the night before in order to go find a bar.

A group of about 6 of us had noticed a group of buildings a few hundred yards in the distance, down an old road. Despite the fact that the buildings looked like warehouses, I’m still pretty sure there’s some zoning law in Spain that requires at least one bar per three buildings, thus three warehouses = one bar.

The camp was surrounded by a not-very-well-maintained chain-link fence, and outside was pretty much nothing.  Just fields. We found a hole in the fence and squeezed through.  The road looked like it had been paved some time ago, but the old school way where they just stuck little rocks to the ground with tar.  They had obviously not maintained this road, and the little pebbles were all loose. In fact, the road was completely abandoned – it was hardly wide enough for two cars, let alone parking, and there were neither moving nor parked cars

About halfway to our destination, we came across an unoccupied, seemingly abandoned car parked in the middle of the road: a single lone car in the middle of an old, empty road. As we got closer, we noticed that there was a small, strange red light blinking inside the car.

Hesitantly, we pressed on despite being totally creeped out. When we were within, oh, 15 feet of the car, we heard the car ticking.  NO SHIT, TICKING.

Tck tck tck tck tck.

We all exchange glances and someone (all of us?) yelled, “RUN!!!” And we all turned around and ran as fast as we could away from what could only have been a time/car bomb.

Except me.  I turned as fast as I could, took two steps, and fell face first into the road.

I fell, while sprinting, face first into an unpaved road scattered with pebbles while a car bomb was waiting to go off, in a foreign country, outside of the very clear boundary of where I was supposed to be.  This is terrifying and stupid, but also hilarious.

My friends kept running until they heard me laughing.  A few turned around to come get me and they helped me to my feet.  My knees stung and I had tweaked my hip, but in our haste to get away from the ticking car, I just ran/limped until we got back to camp.

Once we were back in the light, I realized my jeans were completely destroyed at the knees and I was covered in blood.  But still, hilarious.  Seriously, it’s okay to laugh.  I was laughing, my friends were laughing.

But despite the humor, my friends realized that maybe I was in need of medical attention, or at least first aid.  My knee was completely split open and if there had been any skin left, I would have probably required stitches.  But we really didn’t want to wake up Fernando, our chaperone, since we’d obviously been fucking around and been where we weren’t supposed to.

Instead, my friends decide to wake up this girl we (affectionately, although behind her back) referred to as “Mom” (because she acted like one), because we knew she’d have first aid supplies.  Which, of course, she did.

My memory gets sort of fuzzy here, and I can’t remember if we decided we needed to wake up Fernando because my knee was full of rocks and Mom’s first aid supplies proved to be insufficient, or if Fernando just caught on to the commotion and came outside to tend to it.  But point is, Fernando came outside to help.  I did not get in trouble (unless you count almost seriously injuring myself).

Fernando was very proficient in English, but struggled a little with medical terminology.  And the first thing he did when he saw my knee was stick his fingers in the open wound and move them around.  This is when everything stopped being hilarious and really started to hurt.  However, it was necessary because he did manage to get the rocks out, pour peroxide on my leg, and apply a large band-aid.

A few hours later, I had 3 international flights to catch over a 2-day period.  If this were today, and not 2002, someone would probably have an iPhone video of me hobbling around airports trying to make my flights, and it would be awesome.

Have you ever let an open wound sort of just hide under jeans while you’re walking around airports and riding planes for 2 days?  It was yellow and oozing pus through the bandage and through my jeans by the time I got home.  Fortunately, my dad fancies himself an EMT, so with his medical attention I did not lose my leg.  However, I totally get why all those amputations were necessary before the days of readily-available peroxide and sterile band-aids.

8 1/2 years later, I still have a pretty visible scar on my left knee.  As well as a hell of a story about falling down.

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