I looked out across the sleek modern buildings, the crowded park with throngs of children and joggers, the beautiful light blue mirror of the Mediterranean now fiery in the sunset… and started to cry.
I wasn't supposed to be welling up. I was on a seven-week exchange program to Spain, my first time out of the country. I had kept it together while I was leaving Indiana. I had even kept it together when I first saw Valencia's ancient cathedral and the beautiful Plaza of the Virgin.
â–º Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
But now was different. The tickets my roommate and I had bought for our host father's birthday, to see Winton Marsalis live at the Jazz Festival, had completely disappeared. They had slid over my pink polyester dress from Zara, my towel damp from a beach day at Las Arenas and my camera filled with duck pictures from the Albufera lagoon into a dark crevice in my dresser that I hadn't known existed. I probed the space with the tips of my fingers, but found nothing. My host father, Enrique, had told me over and over in his lisping Castellano that he was excited for the concert. I didn't want to disappoint him.
My roommate Kayla asked what was wrong. When I told her, she strode over to the chest and began pulling out drawers. "Don't cry, we'll find it, we'll find it". Together we heaved the drawers onto my small bed. In the space below we found a pebble and a gift bag from our host parents' trip to Rome, along with lots of dust. But no tickets. "Where could they have gone?", Kayla asked. I didn't have an answer. I felt homesick, nauseated, and alone. I looked through the drawers for another half hour and then, dejected, went to bed.
In the morning we woke up to the sound of birds — there had been a quick Valencian thunderstorm the night before. Walking out onto the balcony and sticking my head into the breeze, I forgot about the tickets for a second. But only a second. As we walked into the kitchen to retrieve toast and strawberry jam for breakfast, every step felt like a death blow. The crunching of the toast was the beat to my funeral march.
After that horrible breakfast I felt I had to reveal the truth. I brought my host mother, Maria Angeles, to our room. "There's something I need to tell you. The tickets we bought for Enrique's birthday fell through this crack in the shelf. We looked and looked and can't find them."
Maria Angeles looked at me. She was a petite grandmother, but her face was hardened into a mask of determination. "They're in here," she said with such force that I wondered if she were psychic.
Within a minute, Maria Angeles had her miniature vacuum cleaner and was making war against the forces of dust and disorder in my dresser. The ticket didn't appear, however, and after fifteen minutes even Maria Angeles started to wonder. "I don't see them." Kayla frowned and bent over to put the bottom drawer back.
"Wait, what's this?" exclaimed Kayla excitedly, pulling out a slim slip of paper that hadn't been there before. It was the tickets! The combination of Maria Angeles's vacuuming and Kayla's good eye had saved me. The two women had given up their time and love to solve my problem. I thought my family was in Indiana, but in reality I had another family right in front of me.
The concert was great. Maria Angeles, Enrique, Kayla and I walked home holding hands and laughing.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.