The convict skills of wild animals are highly underestimated. Criticize me for my ridiculousness all you want but those furry little faces aren't so innocent. I am convinced that a step by step guide to warding off wild animals is really what every traveler needs. You will thank me for this next time you get mugged by a monkey.   The British flags, English accents and petite phone booths of Gibraltar were a welcomed change from my previous week in Spain. I was anxious to spend a day exploring the place, however, I was most excited about meeting Gibraltar's famous ape population.

I spent the afternoon traversing the roads circling Gibraltar in search of the legendary apes. Just as I abandoned hope and the gates to the roads were closing for the day, I heard a loud "screeech!" Yards away, a dozen monkeys popped out of the bushes to pay me a surprise visit.  

Let me back up for a minute…I am terrified of monkeys. I have seen far too many Fatal Attraction episodes of monkeys turning fierce and ripping limbs off of their human owners. I would say this is a valid reason to steer clear of the creatures. Either way, when I first spotted my new furry friends I was elated and so excited about the prospect of getting an epic monkey Fb profile picture, my fear vanished. I threw my purse and jacket on the ground and ran toward the animals! 

Ely started snapping pictures of me. I approached the first monkey. Initially terrified, I kept my distance. When he didn't immediately maul me I gained courage and crept closer and closer. Suddenly, the creature leapt from the bush, grabbed my purse and began rummaging through it. He threw the water bottle and bag of mixed nuts aside—obviously this ape had a better target in mind…my passport. Panic overcame me. I had two options: (1) rip the purse from the monkey's grasp and run, or (2) follow the ape to his den, make friends with the monkey family and peacefully negotiate my beloved belongings back. Somehow, I didn't imagine the monkey's den to be homosapien accessible and had an inkling that my new furry friend far outmatched my agility. Frightening images of being stranded in Gibraltar for weeks until I could get a new passport filled my mind. None of these sounded like a good option. 

During my bout of terror, I remembered an email I recently received. You know those large-colored-font-forwarded messages with a hodgepodge of email addresses pasted at the top? It was one of those. I normally delete them immediately, but something about the "Tips for Solo Female Travelers" headline captivated me. If I didn't read it, coincidence would find me in the worst case scenario stranded thousands of miles from home. The one interesting thing I learned was if someone asks for your purse, you should throw it as far as you can and run in the opposite direction. 

Reality suddenly became crystal clear. I WAS GETTING MUGGED BY A MONKEY!

Instinctively, I grabbed the nearest rock and tossed it to the side of the ape, hoping to provide an alluring alternative to my goods. Success! The monkey chased the rock allowing me to snatch my bag. Thank God, no prolonged stay in Gibraltar for me.

I did get a few epic Fb pictures, and made it out of Gibraltar rabies-free, but my monkey-phobia won't be going away any time soon.
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The infamous monkeys of Gibraltar
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In this picture you can see England, Spain and Africa...can you tell which is which?
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This is my best monkey imitation! I think he looks a little more focused than me though!
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This picture is senior photo status complete with a monkey!
 
 
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