Friday, August 29th was the last official day of ISU. I woke up around 10:30am, meaning to pack and get things together. Pol offered to help me pack, but somehow even with his help, I accomplished nothing except sitting around thinking about how amazing the summer was until about 1:30pm, when I realized I really needed to go de-register.
I went to de-registration with Stephanie, Eric, and Pol, turned in my much-needed fan, picked up a copy of the executive summary (great work, Laurent!), and got my T-Shirt.
Heading back, I was finally starting to feel hungry again after the incredible meal I had had at Patrizia's the day before, so Pol and I headed to Mango for a bite to eat. We both ordered the set lunch menu, which was probably too much food on its own, and also ordered a completely superflous plate of patatas bravas - I couldn't risk heading home without having them one last time.
Somehow, we stayed at lunch until almost 4pm, and with the bus to closing ceremonies leaving at 4:30pm, we had to hurry to Penyafort for some rapid getting ready. To add a nice cyclical feeling to the summer (and because I didn't have time or money to shop) I wore the same dress to closing ceremonies that I had worn to opening ceremonies.
Closing ceremonies were at CaixaForum - a museum near Placa Espanya in Barcelona. We had a bit of a tour, grabbed some much needed espresso, and then went to the auditorium. Closing ceremonies were very nice - they called each person's name and presented them with a certificate.
I actually recieved a special award. I was presented with the "Morla Milne Award for Academic Excellence." The award is given to the person with the highest mark on the written examination. I was proud to have won the award and glad that despite all of my day trips and exploring Barcelona, I showed that I also cared about academics. They asked me to say a few words, which was completely unexpected. I don't really even remember what I said... so hopefully it was coherent.After the presentation of awards ended, we headed out of the auditorium to the reception. The reception was very nice, and gave us another chance to enjoy some cava, watch a slide show of pictures, and enjoy some last face-to-face conversations with good friends.
In some ways, the end was similar to the beginning - at opening ceremonies, everyone was asking the same questions "Where are you from?", "What do you do?", etc. Now that the summer was over, everyone was asking "What will you do now?" "How long are you staying?" or "When do you head back?". So in both cases, you walk around having the same conversation with different groups of people.As the reception was coming to a close, I left with Pol to go back to his house and get his car. He had offered to drive me to the airport, since I was leaving early the next morning. It was fun to drop by his house one last time, and I had the chance to meet his mother and grandmother, who were both very nice.
When we arrived back at Penyafort, people were out on the patio, enjoying our last warm Barcelona night as a big group. We hung out and chatted until the patio closed at 1am. At that point, people started to head out to the garden area, but I said my good-byes. I hadn't packed yet, and I was supposed to leave for my flight around 7am.
I went to pack, and Pol came to help and keep me company - packing late at night before leaving is definitely not the cheeriest activity, but we had fun. I pulled everything out of the drawers and shelves and put it on my bed, and it really seemed like there was no chance I would fit it all into the two small bags that I had brought.
I had to ditch a towell, hairdryer, my travel books, and some other odds and ends, but I made it. Pol said I have some great packing skills (we'd watched Napoleon Dynomite twice in the last few days, and decided packing skills are just as important as bo-hunting skills and computer hacking skills).
At 7am, I woke up to grab my stuff and head to the airport. Dragging my feet, and still in denial that it was really time to leave, Pol and I finally got out the door with all my stuff around 8am. Luckily, in a car, its only about 20 minutes to the airport (Pol saved me from what would have otherwise been a long and lonely train ride).
The woman who checked me in at the airport must have seen I was pretty sad to go. "Returning to the U.S.?" she asked me. "By yourself, I guess," she added. That was not helping my efforts not to cry. She quickly added that I was there early enough to grab a coffee before going through security - prolonging my time in Barcelona just a bit more.
So I ordered my last "cafe solo" (espresso) for the forseeable future, and sat chatting with Pol at the airport cafe. I finally went through to the gate around 8:30am - just as my plane was boarding.
Luckily for me, I ran into Paul McBeth, who happened to be on the same flight as me, headed to Amsterdam. He and I chatted while we waited in line, both slept through the flight, and met up again briefly in Amsterdam as we headed for our next gates. That was my final face to face good-bye with a foreign ISU friend.
I arrived home, finally, around 10:30pm, and Jeff picked me up with a bouquet of red roses. I'm so lucky to have people that care about me so much. As sad as it is to have people I love spread out around the world, I feel really happy and lucky to know them.
It's easy to be sad about leaving Barcelona, and primarily that's how I'm feeling right now - the summer was so amazing, and the people I met and made friends with mean so much to me. But I'm trying to focus on something that Michael said the last night while we were hanging out at Penyafort.
Throughout the whole summer, he would always say "It's only the beginning!". Whether it was lunchtime, dinnertime, or 5am walking home from a club, you'd hear him, "Hey, it's only the beginning!" When we were saying goodbye for the last time before going to the airport, Michael repeated his phrase, which made me laugh. But he said he was serious. Sure, it's the end of SSP '08, and people are heading home, but now we have to visit each other, chat online, and start planning re-unions. "Really," he said, "It's only the beginning."