The Puke in Spain Stays Mainly in the Train (Station)
My Travel Insurance: A Too Tiny Dress and a Daughter Who Speaks Spanish

Anna Maria DiDio
© Copyright 2020 by Anna Maria DiDio

Photo of a Spanish beach.

My daughter finally graduated from college in August 2018. I said finally because the day before we were to leave for the ceremony, we were informed that she did not have enough credits to graduate. She would be able to walk with her class, but no diploma would be awarded until a statistics course was completed. We were not shocked at this news.

I said finally because school had always been difficult for her. Reading and writing were especially challenging. Screaming high school homework battles were typical - assignments evaded or sloppily completed. Teachers reported her distracted and chatty. There was a reason for all of this and I tried to be sympathetic. At age seven, she was adopted from an orphanage in Mexico not knowing a word of English.

The last two years of college had been an especially tough road. In the middle of her year-long study abroad program in Mexico, she was forced to depart suddenly due to cartel violence. She did not want to leave Mexico but three decapitated bodies, their heads stuffed in sombreros left in the driveway where she was living, was not the “home” experience we were looking for.

She had been dedicated to mastering her native Spanish language once again. However, this very visible and frightening display of violence prompted the school to pack up all of the Mexican study-abroad students and fly them to Spain where the semester had not yet begun. Suddenly my daughter was in unfamiliar territory. The University of Barcelona campus loomed large and impersonal. She moved in with a Catalan family that was not so welcoming. I visited in October and we bonded over paella and sangria.

But finally, when graduation success had been achieved, including a summer semester of statistics, we made arrangements to travel back to Spain to celebrate. The memory of the trip is even more precious now that we are not able to travel anywhere!

Planning the trip part of the fun. However, I left nothing to chance and purchased travel insurance. My vacation time is precious and so when the adventure is scheduled, I am excited and invested in having a great experience. When the insurance quote pops up and I think…better safe than sorry. So I always take the leap and spend hundreds of dollars to protect my investment. Sounds like a smart move. Or is it?

Our Spanish adventure vacation was mostly in Madrid. We took several day trips but the one we were most excited about was to the beautiful beach town of Valencia. Our train was right on time one early sunny morning in July.

It was the height of the vacation season and the station was busy. We had purchased the familiar “Hop On/Off” bus tour and enjoyed seeing the sites, shopping and taking pictures. At lunch, we ended up at the waterfront and had a meal at a place called “Destino 56” that consisted of salad with chicken and a burger, which together cost 39 euro.

We arrived back at the station by 7:15 pm, which was very early for our 8:15 pm trip back to Madrid. However, my stomach was a bit queasy and I headed to the ladies' room at about 7:30 pm. The entrance fee was sixty cents, which I gladly paid as the bathroom was spotless. However, my stomach distress quickly turned deadly. Twice I thought the worst was over and left the restroom, only to begin digging frantically for another sixty cents to enter again. The attendant could see something was wrong but didn’t say anything as she handed me the change for my third visit. By that time, my daughter had joined me and translated helpfully. She was used to that by now as I was forever asking her to assist with money, menu items and directions. She did it all like a pro and took care of me.

By 8:00 pm there was no way we were getting on the train, and so my daughter went to exchange our tickets. Logical - right? No, this is not Amtrak. There are no exchanges or refunds in Europe and with only two seats left on the last train to Madrid — she purchased two more tickets (110 euro).

At 8:20 pm the attendant unlocked the only air-conditioned “family” bathroom as my daughter told her with a worried look that I was suffering from heat stroke. We paid another sixty cents. I kicked her out just in time for her to avoid projectile puke. At about 8:40 pm the family bathroom needed a hazmat team — and I needed new clothes.

It had been a very hot day and my daughter purchased a pair of shorts and a top which she changed into when we went for a walk on the beach. I texted her to bring the dress that she had been wearing to the bathroom. She is a petite thing, barely five feet tall. I am 5'10" and I rarely wear dresses because most of them are never long enough. Let me say what a treat it was to wear a dress that barely covered my bottom. It looked like I was wearing a very nice blouse but had forgotten my pants.

Did I also mention that it was breezy by the ocean? By now it was about 9:00 pm and the last train to Madrid had departed. Valencia train conductors were unhelpful saying, “I guess you will have to just get a hotel tonight.”

Undeterred, but with excellent Spanish once again, we found a cab (15 euro) to the bus station and purchased two tickets to Madrid (68 euro). Unfortunately, instead of about ninety minutes, this ride was over four hours. My daughter was extremely distressed that she had spent the money for the unused train tickets, plus we had missed the earlier train (110 euro). I told her not to worry because we had trip insurance. HA!

As we boarded the bus, I hoped the other passengers did not have a keen sense of smell. The offending clothes were in a plastic bag stuffed under the seat. I felt sorry for myself during the whole ride and watched Love Actually and Room on the seat TV screen while sipping on a soda. We found a cab at 1:00 am thanks to Spanish persistence and the ability to provide directions, arriving at 2:00 am to our hotel. All I wanted to do was take a shower and sleep.

By now you have probably guessed that there was no way to make a claim to the insurance or the restaurant because I did not have any medical “proof” of my distress.Should I have taken selfies on the toilet? Where am I going to see a doctor at 2:00 am in Madrid?

It turns out, though, I had made the best possible choice in travel insurance. A tiny dress and a Spanish speaking daughter-nurse took care of me the entire time...a priceless investment.

Anna Maria holds a BA in Psychology from Villanova University, and MSW in Family from the University of Pennsylvania. An Adoption L.I.F.E. Coach, she has assisted many families struggling as they wait for the completion of their adoption plan. Anna Maria has also provided valuable input on adoptive family adjustment issues. For over twenty years, Anna Maria DiDio has devoted her time and talents to many non-profit organizations focusing on women, girls, and families in the US and developing countries. She is currently President of Women International Leaders (WIL) of Greater Philadelphia, which provides micro-finance loans and giving circle grants to underserved women all over the world.

Anna Maria is the mother of two young wonderful women and loves to travel, cook, shop and watch movies with them – together or separately – depending on any number of mitigating factors. She never says no to a chocolate chip cookie and lives in Philadelphia with her husband Richard. Anna Maria's travel writing and other essays can be found on The Bean's Talk – her Medium publication.

In June of 2019 Anna Maria published Love at the Border, An Adoption Memoir from Mexico. This is the true story of how her family was created.  Click the link above to see it on Amazon.

Contact Anna
(Unless you type the author's name
in the subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.)

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher