David's Download - My feelings at the end of our first trip

At last, the end has finally come. Spain seemed so far away in the beginning, but now we're almost ready to leave. I can't wait to get home and see my friends and family, but I am also very excited about going to Australia and Asia. It's hard to believe (even for me) that after traveling for 133 days away from my friends and family that I would be anxious to travel more. It's funny how a spark can start a fire.

Now that I'm looking back on the trip, I realize that we really had no trouble at all. Sure we got a little homesick and on each other's nerves, but we soon got over it. Being with my family now for four months straight has definitely brought us closer together. We were forced to live and put up with each other, which was occasionally too much to deal with. We never missed a flight or had hotel trouble, and although we have been sick a couple of times it didn't stop the Koppels! We followed itinerary very closely and never really had a problem getting from one place to the other. We all had ups and downs, slumps and peaks, but we still continued through our travels. We were all worried about the hard stretch of our travels (Russia through Rome), although we all greatly enjoyed the exciting adventures that we encountered. Parts of Russia, the heat in Athens, and some sites in Rome were difficult, but we were rewarded with Tuscany and Provence. It feels so good to be done and to look back at everything we've done. I feel triumphant! I feel adventurous! I feel good!

I can't believe how much we have gotten out of this trip. We have learned so much about Europe and its long history. Not only have we managed to learn about each country we visit, but we have also kept up our Spanish, math and writing skills thanks to our strict teacher (Mom). I have written over 15 long essays, studied 13 countries, learned 500 new vocabulary words and kept up my algebra skills.

My Spanish is now also paying off. My sister and I order meals, ask directions, buy things and also read sighs. My conversations with waiters, shop owners and taxi drivers have not only helped me to remember my studies, but also taught me some new words. It's really cool to be able to talk to someone in a different language. It has also been difficult times. The Spanish speak really fast, and I can only pick out a word or two. I also don't know enough to be able to understand everything someone says, and sometimes I will just blank out. But everyone seems to like it when I try to converse with them in Spanish. They are always very patient, and compliment me. Although I'm not perfect, they usually understand what I'm trying to say and appreciate it.

One of my favorite conversations was with a waiter in a small restaurant a couple of days ago. I'm sure you have read about the pig. The waiter was talking very fast and using complicated words, so it was hard for me to understand him. I eventually got him to understand that we wanted two chickens and two legs of pork, after he showed me the roasted pig on the counter. I felt very proud when we got exactly what we wanted, but we didn't expect to get the toes. We took the toes off as a souvenir and memory of this adventure.

Well, I have to admit that we didn't get quite exactly what we wanted. Mom wanted some hot tea with her meal. She also likes a little milk with her tea. I told the waiter she wanted "te con leche" (tea with milk). He gave me a confused look then asked me something that I didn't understand. I just nodded my head and said "Si." When he came back he had a glass of hot milk with a tea bag in it! Oh well, at least we got the right meals!

This trip has been a wonderful experience for me. It's so cool to look back at everything we have accomplished. I am still amazed when I look back at the journals and see everything we've done. Until next year, this is David signing off.