My first memory of Ely is the morning I arrived in my new Mexican home. It was a Saturday, I had been flying all night and was still trying to cope with the anxiety of moving to Mexico for five months and the uncertainty of what was in store for me. 

I sat at the kitchen table meagerly eating my breakfast and listening to my host mom ramble on and on, yet not understanding a word of the Spanish she spoke. I was pondering all the events and seemingly regrettable decisions that had led up to my current residence, and suddenly Ely popped into the kitchen with a cheery, "buenos dias!" I was beyond relieved to see another student, let alone an English speaker!

We immediately hit it off and began talking about living in Seattle (that's where she is from) and by the end of the night we were drinking Coronas and meeting the locals at a salsa club.

That whole semester Ely and I got really close. We hand sewed Halloween costumes, went on a few day trips together and commiserated over the occasional Mexican happenstance that would "never happen in the U.S."

I would classify Ely as an all American (or well, Mexican) type of girl. We would discuss Mexican culture and relations between the U.S. and share stories about our lives back home and our families. By the end of my semester, Ely and I had been through so much together and I had heard so many stories about her family, that I felt like I basically knew them.

If anyone was ever meant to be a language and culture teacher, it's Ely-and that's exactly what she's doing in Spain. Learning languages, understanding cultures and telling hilarious stories are her specialties. She has huge goals for her life and is already well on her way to success. 

Even after two years of living in different countries, studying, working and going our own ways, Ely's and my paths keep crossing. A year and a half after Mexico, I happened to be in Seattle. I gave Ely a call, we met up and I actually got to meet her family who I had heard so much about. 

Just a month ago, I discovered via Facebook, that Ely had moved to Spain. I was elated. Visiting Spain was at the top of the list for my trip, and it would be so much more enjoyable to have a familiar face to share it with. I gave her a call and we planned to meet up for a reunion rendezvous!

Ely lives in Algeciras, one of the most important port cities in Spain, as it is only a stones throw from Morocco. Every three months 300,000 Northern Africans pass through the port traveling between Europe and Africa. 

Ely showed me around Algeciras and we had a great night checking out several tapas bars. My favorite was a restaurant where the waiters carried plates of tapas and walked past your table letting you choose whichever tapas looked good off the plate. At the end, they charged you by the number of toothpicks on your plate. It reminded me of the Spanish version of conveyor belt sushi restaurants. 

We had a jam-packed weekend visiting Tariffa-the southernmost continental point of Europe and a famous surfer destination, a castle that had been converted to a small village of 24 people...wow! and the rock ofGibraltar. We visited two countries and saw Africa all in one day!
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Me, Ely and Susana (her roommate) enjoying sweet wine and tapas in a cafe